Life of My Father: Dr. Jagdish Gandhi, a Pioneer in Education




A little over a month ago papa passed away and as I sit down to reflect on the remarkable journey of my father, Dr. Jagdish Gandhi, I am overwhelmed with a sense of pride and admiration, and the need to share his extraordinary life.

Born in 1934 in the quaint village of Barsauli, nestled in the heart of Aligarh district, his story is a testament to the power of dedication, compassion, and unwavering determination to make a difference in the world.

I remember countless evenings spent with him, engrossed in discussions about education, peace-building, and the importance of serving others. His enthusiasm was infectious, and his dedication to his mission served as a constant source of motivation for me and my siblings. My father taught me the true meaning of leadership – as a responsibility to uplift and empower those around you, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Growing up under the influence of his uncle, a Gandhian freedom fighter, my father was instilled with values of simplicity, service, and social justice from a young age. His longing to meet Mahatma Gandhi was shattered when he fell to an assassin’s bullet in 1948, leaving behind a nation mourning and a young Jagdish grappling with the loss of his idol.


It was this loss that motivated him to become an agent of change in his own right. Inspired by Gandhi’s teachings on service and selflessness, he embarked on a journey of grassroots activism, mobilizing his peers to engage in community service projects aimed at uplifting the lives of those around them. His unwavering commitment earned him the endearing moniker of ‘Jagdish Gandhi’, a name that would become synonymous with his lifelong mission of service to humanity.

Despite the hardships he faced living in a temple and wearing humble attire, he pursued higher education and his tenure as the President of Lucknow University’s Students Union was a testament to his popularity and leadership qualities.

In 1959, he embarked on a new chapter of his life, founding City Montessori School in Lucknow alongside my mother, Bharti Agarwal. What began with just five students blossomed into an educational institution that today serves over 62,000 pupils, with the motto of ‘Jai Jagat’ echoing the principles of peace and unity that defined my father’s vision.

Driven by a fervent belief in the need for a world government to ensure global peace and prosperity, he ventured into politics, winning a seat as an Independent MLA in 1969. However, it was a journey fraught with disillusionment, as he realized that true change could not be achieved through partisan politics alone.

In 1974, during a conference on World Peace Through Education in London, my parents were introduced to the teachings of the Baha’i Faith, which emphasized the importance of unity, spirituality, and global governance. This encounter marked a turning point in my father’s life, leading him to renounce politics in favor of a more holistic approach to peace-building through education and interfaith dialogue.


Freed from the constraints of political ambition, my father devoted himself to the cause of peace education, pioneering initiatives such as international exchange programs and annual International Conferences of Chief Justices of the World to promote the rule of law on a global scale. His efforts were recognized with numerous awards and honorary doctorates, including the prestigious UNESCO Prize for Peace Education. But beyond the accolades and achievements lies a man of remarkable humility and integrity, whose life serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who aspire to make a difference in the world.

My father was so many things to so many people. To his children and grandchildren, he was a doting, loving and sacrificing father and grandfather; to his devoted wife, he was a considerate and protective husband; to his employees, he was a generous, just and empowering boss, instilling in them a sense of their own capacities, believing in them, giving them autonomy and agency and trusting them. To his critics, he was forgiving, charitable and munificent. He rarely disappointed anyone and never turned away any soul. He went to every wedding and family celebration he was invited to, from the humblest employee to the highest.

As his daughter, I am proud to carry forward his life’s work, knowing that his spirit lives on in the countless lives he touched and transformed. His example continues to inspire me to stand up for what is right, and to never lose sight of the power of love and compassion to create positive change in the world.

Let us all remember the profound impact that one individual can have on the world, and strive to emulate my father’s unwavering dedication to service, justice, and peace. May we be guided by his example, and may his legacy inspire generations to come.

Authored By: 
Professor Geeta Gandhi Kingdon,
Chair of ‘Education Economics and International Development’,
University College London


Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, Chair of ‘Education Economics and International Development’ at UCL Institute of Education, excels in the economics of education. Prior to this, she served as faculty at the Department of Economics, University of Oxford for 10 years. She advises global organizations like the World Bank and the EU, focusing on education aid in developing nations. Recognized for her impactful contributions, she received an Honorary Doctorate from Kingston University London. Notably, she manages the City Montessori School, Lucknow, the world’s largest school, recognized by UNESCO for peace education.


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