Lal Bahadur Shastri

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Lal Bahadur Srivastava Shastri (Hindi: लालबहादुर शास्त्री , pronounced [laːl bəˈɦaːd̪ʊr ˈʃaːst̪ri]; 2 October 1904 - 11 January 1966) was the second Prime Minister of the Republic of India and a significant figure in the Indian independence movement.


Early life

Lal Bahadur was born in Mughalsarai, United Provinces, British India to Sharada Srivastava Prasad, a school teacher, who later became a clerk in the Revenue Office at Allahabad[1] and Ramdulari Devi. When he was three months old, he slipped out of his mother's arms into a cowherder's basket at the ghats of the Ganges. The cowherder, who had no children, took the child as a gift from God and took him home. Lal Bahadur's parents lodged a complaint with the police, who traced the child, and returned him to his parents[2].

His father died when he was only a year and a half old. His mother took him and his two sisters to her father's house and settled down there[3]. Lal Bahadur stayed at his grandfather Hazari Lal's house till he was ten. He studied up to class IV in Railway School Mughalsarai. Since there was no high school in their town, he was sent to Varanasi where he stayed with his maternal uncle and joined the Harischandra High School. While in Varanasi, Shastri once went with his friends to see a fair on the other bank of the Ganges. On the way back he had no money for the boat fare. Instead of borrowing from his friends, he jumped into the river and swam to the other bank[4].

As a boy, Lal Bahadur loved reading books and was fond of Guru Nanak's verses. He revered Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the Indian nationalist, social reformer and freedom fighter. After hearing a speech of Mahatma Gandhi at Varanasi in 1915, he dedicated his life to the service of the country[5]. He also dropped his surname Srivastava as it indicated his caste and he was against the caste system[1]. During the non-cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi in 1921, he joined processions in defiance of the prohibitory order. He was arrested but let off as he was a minor[6]. He then enrolled at the nationalist Kashi Vidyapeeth in Varanasi. During his four years there, he was greatly influenced by the lectures of Dr. Bhagawandas on philosophy. Upon completion of his course at Kashi Vidyapeeth in 1926, he was given the title Shastri ("Scholar"). The title was a bachelor's degree awarded by the Vidya Peeth, but it stuck as part of his name[3]. He also enrolled himself as a life member of the Servants of the People Society and began to work for the upliftment of the Harijans at Muzaffarpur[7]. Later he became the President of the Society[8].

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