Gandhian philosophy, rooted in the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, is a profound and influential ideology that emphasizes nonviolence, truth, and self-reliance. At its core, Gandhian philosophy advocates for the pursuit of truth through nonviolent means, promoting the concept of ‘Satyagraha’ or the force of truth. Mahatma Gandhi, often referred to as the Father of the Nation in India, was the principal architect of this philosophy, leading by example during India’s struggle for independence. Alongside Gandhi, there were key personalities who played pivotal roles in shaping and disseminating his ideals. Vinoba Bhave, known for his Bhoodan (land gift) movement, carried forward the legacy of nonviolence and social reform. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as the “Frontier Gandhi,” was a stalwart advocate of nonviolence and worked tirelessly for the empowerment of the oppressed in the North-West Frontier Province of British India. These personalities, among others, were instrumental in perpetuating Gandhian values and contributing to the broader global understanding of peaceful resistance and social justice.
In 1937, Mahatma Gandhi seeded an important idea to revamp the education system, at a conference in Wardha, Maharashtra through Nai Talim. Gandhi felt a need to nullify what education at the time of the British Raj was trying to create – distinctions between knowledge and work, teaching and learning, among others. He also considered education as a medium to combat the dominant societal malice of ‘untouchability’ associated with caste-based vocations, such as spinning, weaving, basket-making, leather-work, and pottery.
He envisioned his scheme of education as the one that would lead to a silent social revolution by eradicating poisoned relationships between classes. He was a believer in the power of education and wanted education to be accessible to all. This, he thought, would then help change the dominant mindset that considered:
- Manual work is inferior to mental work
- Education to be a prerogative of upper castes alone
“By education, I mean an overall, all-around drawing out the best in child and man, in body, mind, and spirit,” Gandhi said. He wanted an education system in which education and labor are complementary and felt this move, in turn, would help in eliminating the unnatural division between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, the rural-urban divide through equitable balances. The dignity of labor and skill-based learning were the hallmarks of the Gandhian approach.
Swaraj for Gandhi was not freedom from the British. He said, clearly, “Real swaraj will come, not by the acquisition of authority by a few, but by the acquisition of the capacity by all to resist authority when it is abused. In other words, Swaraj is to be attained by educating the masses to a sense of their capacity to regulate and control authority.” Although the word swaraj means self-rule, Gandhi gave it the content of an integral revolution that encompasses all spheres of life.
- At the individual level, swaraj is vitally connected with the capacity for dispassionate self-assessment, ceaseless self-purification, and growing swadeshi or self-reliance.
- Politically swaraj is self-government and not good government (for Gandhi, good government is no substitute for self-government) and it means continuous effort to be independent of government control, whether it is foreign government or whether it is national. In other words, it is the sovereignty of the people based on pure moral authority.
- Economically, poorna swaraj means full economic freedom for the toiling millions.
For Gandhi, swaraj of the people meant the sum total of the swaraj (self-rule) of individuals and so he clarified that for him swaraj meant freedom for the meanest of his countrymen. And in its fullest sense, swaraj is much more than freedom from all restraints, it is self-rule, and self-restraint and could be equated with moksha or salvation.
Swaraj means vast organizing ability, and penetration into the villages solely for the services of the villagers; in other words, it means national education i.e., education of the masses. In the Gandhian discourse, education of the masses means conscientization, mobilization, and empowerment, making people capable and determined to stand up to the powers that be.
Sarvodaya is a term meaning ‘Universal Uplift’ or ‘Progress of All’. The term was first coined by Gandhi as the title of his 1908 translation of John Ruskin’s tract on political economy, “Unto This Last”, and Gandhi came to use the term for the ideal of his own political philosophy. Later Gandhian, like the Indian activist Vinoba Bhave, embraced the term as a name for the social movement in post-independence India which strove to ensure that self-determination and equality reached all strata of Indian society.
Inspirations from Ruskin’s Book:
- That the good of the individual is contained in the good of all.
- A lawyer’s work has the same value as the barber’s in as much as all have the same right to earn their livelihood from their work.
- That is a life of labor, i.e., the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living.
Objects of Sarvodaya Movement:
The Sarvodaya Movement has as its target the establishment of a whole network of such self-supporting village communities.
- The family relationships which are confined at present to the blood group will be extended to cover the whole village where distinctions based on race, creed, caste, language and so forth will completely be eliminated.
- Agriculture will be so planned that all the people will have enough to consume. Industry will be conducted on a cottage basis till all the people in the village are gainfully employed.
- The needs of the village will be determined by the people of the village themselves, through the Village Council, representative of the whole village.
Principles of the Sarvodaya:
- Politics will not be the instrument of power but an agency of service and Rajniti will yield place to Lokniti.
- All people will be imbued with the spirit of love, fraternity, truth, non-violence, and self-sacrifice. Society will function on the basis of non-violence.
- There will be no party system and majority rule and society will be free from the evil of the tyranny of the majority.
- The Sarvodaya society is socialist in the true sense of the term. All calling will be the same moral, social, and economic values. The individual personality has the fullest scope for development.
- The Sarvodaya society is based on equality and liberty. There is no room in it for exploitation and class hatred.
- Sarvodaya stands for the progress of all. All individuals should do individual labor and follow the ideal of non-possession.
- Then it will be possible to realize the goal of each according to his work and to each according to his needs.
- There will be no private property, the instrument of exploitation and the source of social distinctions and hatred.
- The gain to the individual would be small. The development of each quality depends upon every other. If all the qualities are improved a little, then the individual would gain more.
Gandhi’s ideals have lasted well beyond Indian independence. His followers in India (notably, Vinoba Bhave) continued working to promote the kind of society that he envisioned, and their efforts have come to be known as the Sarvodaya Movement. Anima Bose has referred to the movement’s philosophy as “a fuller and richer concept of people’s democracy than any we have yet known.”
Sarvodaya workers associated with Vinoba, J. P. Narayan, Dada Dharmadhikari, Dhirendra Mazumdaar, Shankarrao Deo, K. G. Mashruwala undertook various projects aimed at encouraging popular selforganization during the 1950s and 1960s, including Bhoodan and Gramdan movements. Many groups descended from these networks continue to function locally in India today.
Gandhi called his overall method of nonviolent action Satyagraha. This translates roughly as “Truth-force.” A fuller rendering, though, would be “the force that is generated through adherence to Truth.” Nowadays, it’s usually called non-violence. But for Gandhi, non-violence was the word for a different, broader concept, “a way of life-based on love and compassion.” In Gandhi’s terminology, Satyagraha- Truth-force-was an outgrowth of nonviolence.
Satyagraha, when used as a tool for social and political change, aims to win over an opponent. There are three stages in this process:
- The first stage is that of persuasion through reason.
- The second stage is characterized by persuasion through suffering. The satyagraha, at this stage, dramatizes the issues at stake by willingly undergoing self-suffering instead of inflicting suffering on the opponent as a test for the truth element in his cause.
- If neither persuasion through reason nor self-suffering succeeds in winning over the opponent, the satyagraha resorts to non-violent coercion characterized by tools such as non-cooperation or civil disobedience.
According to Gandhi, “Satyagraha is literally holding on to Truth, and it means therefore Truth-force.” Truth, for Gandhi,
was God. Gandhi defined his personal goal as “seeing God face to face.” Gandhi, in his experiments with satyagraha, both in South Africa and in India, became more and more aware of the relative character of truth as an operative principle. The relative character of truth became evident to Gandhi as each time the social and political problems he took up for reform differed. In this respect, satyagraha is not a dogma. It is neither static nor substantial. For Gandhi, holding on to truth in satyagraha is a dynamic concept and satyagraha is a technique of action.
In satyagraha, self-suffering is willingly accepted by the satyagraha himself with the specific intention of the moral persuasion of the enemy. Self-suffering is neither an inability to win over the opponent through violence nor a meek submission to the will of the evil-doer. It is a fight against an evil system and a tyrant with one’s soul force. In other words, self-suffering is the way of the strong. Gandhi says, “Non-violence cannot be taught to a person who fears to die and has no power of resistance.”
Emphasizing on the inseparableness of truth and nonviolence in satyagraha, Gandhi considers truth and nonviolence (love) as the two sides of the same coin. Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them.
Nevertheless, ahimsa is the means; Truth is the end. Means to be means must always be within our reach, and so ahimsa is our supreme duty. If we take care of the means, we are bound to reach the end sooner or later.”
In short, in the Satyagraha movement for Gandhi, truth is the ultimate goal and non-violence is the means to it. Satyagraha as a technique for social and political change, has certain definite characteristics and features among which adherence to truth, non-violence, and self-suffering have paramount importance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Q: Who is considered the father of Gandhian Philosophy?
A: Mahatma Gandhi, often referred to as the “Father of the Nation” in India, is the key architect of Gandhian Philosophy. His principles of non-violence (ahimsa) and truth (satya) form the core of this philosophy.
2. Q: How did Vinoba Bhave contribute to Gandhian Philosophy?
A: Vinoba Bhave, a prominent disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, played a crucial role in promoting Gandhian principles, particularly through the Bhoodan Movement. He advocated for voluntary land reforms and the donation of land by landowners to the landless, aligning with Gandhi’s vision of social and economic equality.
3. Q: What role did Jawaharlal Nehru play in relation to Gandhian Philosophy?
A: While Nehru and Gandhi shared common goals during the Indian independence movement, Nehru’s approach to nation-building differed. Nehru emphasized modernization and industrialization, while Gandhi leaned towards rural self-sufficiency. Despite differences, both respected each other, and Nehru acknowledged Gandhi’s influence on the Indian ethos.
4. Q: Who are some contemporary figures following Gandhian Philosophy?
A: Prominent figures like Anna Hazare and Vandana Shiva have embraced Gandhian principles in modern contexts. Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movements and Vandana Shiva’s advocacy for sustainable agriculture reflect the enduring relevance of Gandhian ideals in addressing contemporary challenges.
5. Q: How did Martin Luther King Jr. draw inspiration from Gandhian Philosophy?
A: Martin Luther King Jr. was greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent resistance. King adopted these principles in the American civil rights movement, leading to significant social and legislative changes. The connection between King and Gandhi illustrates the global impact of Gandhian Philosophy on movements for justice and equality.
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