Harilal Gandhi in 1912
23 August 1888
|Died||18 June 1948 (aged 59)|
|Other names||Hiralal Gandhi|
|Children||Rani, Manu, Kantilal to, Rasiklal, Shantilal.|
|Parent(s)||Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi|
Harilal Mohandas Gandhi (23 August 1888 – 18 June 1948) was the eldest son of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi. He had three younger brothers: Manilal Gandhi, Ramdas Gandhi and Devdas Gandhi.
Harilal was involved in the Indian independence movement, and was imprisoned as a satyagrahi six times between 1908 and 1911. His willingness to endure these sentences earned him the nickname of 'Chhote (Little) Gandhi'.
He too wanted to go to England for higher studies, hoping to become a barrister as his father had once been. His father however firmly opposed this, believing that a Western-style education would not be helpful in the struggle against British rule over India, leading to tensions between father and son. Eventually rebelling against his father's decision, in 1911 Harilal renounced all family ties.
In 1906 he married Gulab Gandhi, with whom he had had five children: two daughters, Rani and Manu; and three sons, Kantilal, Rasiklal and Shantilal. Rasiklal and Shantilal died at an early age. He had four grandchildren (Anushrya, Prabodh, Neelam and Navmalika) via Rani, two (Shanti and Pradeep) via Kantilal, and one (Urmi) via Manu. After Gulab died during the 1918 influenza pandemic, Harilal became detached from his children. He contemplated marrying his wife's sister Kumi Adalaja, who was a child widow, however this did not materialize. This led to Harilal's further descent and he gradually began to slip and became an alcoholic. He stayed in touch with his father sporadically through the years, sometimes through commonly known people, right up to 1947.
Harilal appeared at his father's funeral in such a derelict condition that few recognized him.
Neelam Parikh, the daughter of Ranibehn, the eldest of Harilal's children, wrote a biography of him subsequently, entitled Gandhiji's Lost Jewel: Harilal Gandhi.
In May 1936, at the age of 48, Harilal publicly converted to Islam and named himself Abdulla Gandhi. However later in 1936, on his mother Kasturba Gandhi's request he converted back to Hinduism through the Arya Samaj and adopted a new name, Hiralal.
In June 1935, Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter  to Harilal, accusing him of "alcohol and debauchery". In the letters, Mahatma Gandhi stated that Harilal's problems were more difficult for him to deal with than the struggle for an Indian republic.
In 2014 three letters written by Mahatma Gandhi to Harilal in 1935 were offered for auction. A translation of one of the letters (which was written in Gujarati) suggest that Gandhi was accusing Harilal of raping either his own daughter, Manu, or his sister-in-law. Tushar Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi's great-grandson) has suggested that the letter was poorly translated, and that the word being translated as rape may not have actually meant sexual assault.
Harilal died of tuberculosis four months after Gandhi’s death, on the night of 18 June 1948, aged 59. He died at a municipal hospital (now the Sewri TB Hospital) in Bombay. His death certificate is preserved at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s archives in Vakola. Harilal’s death certificate reveals that he was admitted to the hospital after being found unconscious in Kamathipura. Harilal did not reveal to staff that he was Gandhi's son, and his family only found out about his hospitalisation after his death.
The troubled relationship between Harilal and his father is the subject of the film and play Gandhi, My Father. The film adaptation was released on 3 August 2007 and directed by Feroz Abbas Khan and produced by Anil Kapoor. Harilal is portrayed by Akshaye Khanna. Khan's play, Mahatma vs. Gandhi, while different from this film, had a similar theme. There is also a Marathi play named Gandhi virudh Gandhi.
Gandhi, Gopalkrishna (28 April 2007). "Review: A Son's Story: Harilal Gandhi: A Life". Economic and Political Weekly. 42 (17): 1501