GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

 

Charkha Jayanti and Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

I know nothing about my birthday. I see it only as the Charkha Jayanti. The reason why you take an interest in observing the day is not that you are my kinsman but so that the charkha which is as dear to you as it is to me may gain impetus in your vicinity. In the sluggish atmosphere that prevails today this is an arduous, maybe even a rather dreary task. But faith can make a difficult task easy and a dreary task interesting. May your faith make the people around you see the power of the charkha? 1 

‘Gandhi Jayanti’ is just a pretext; the real thing is Charkha Jayanti. Had there been no charkha, there would perhaps have been no Jayanti (Birthday) celebrations, and even if there had been such celebrations, they would have had little importance. There is no point in having birthday celebrations of any person without any definite end in view, otherwise they must be confined to just the innocent rejoicings of relatives and friends. But because Gandhi Jayanti has been turned into Charkha Jayanti a great and comprehensive end the celebration has assumed a national importance. The Charkha Sangh has decided to celebrate the Jayanti by collecting funds for khadi work, by enlisting self-spinners, and making yarn collections. In fixing up its programme it has had before it the example of Shri Narandas Gandhi’s annual work in this direction. He and those who associate with him pledge themselves to do a certain amount of work each year, and he has had more and more success every year. There is no reason why such success should not attend the Charkha Sangh’s efforts. Only it needs workers with a will to bring the work to fruition. Without khadi there may come a time when people may have to go without any clothing. Only the Charkha Sangh can prevent this catastrophe. I hope that all will co-operate with the Sangh in its noble endeavour. 2 

Plying the charkha on the Charkha Jayanti Day is amounts to ceremonial worship of it. To introduce into it a ritual is to bring the charkha into disrepute. If you ask me why, when they spin, I permit them to have a lamp with ghee during broad daylight, my answer will be that in a large measure it is due to my sense of tolerance, also to my weakness. I have always opposed the ceremonial worship of the Gita or the manner in which Gita Jayanti is celebrated at present. I have also forbidden the composing of a hymn in praise of the Gita to be recited on the Gita Jayanti Day. 3

The Rajkot Rashtriyashala appeal about the Charkha Jayanti of this year is as follows: Narandas Gandhi is khadi-mad. There are two ideas governing my conception of a yarn bank. First, that all yarn in whatever quantity, of whatever quality and from wheresoever’s it comes should be collected in one place. From there it should be sent to the weaver in such a condition as will enable him to weave it with the same speed as he weaves mill yarn. For this purpose all yarn has to be doubled and twisted. Yarn that has not been subjected to this process should not really be reckoned as yarn. There will thus be two kinds of yarn, one doubled and twisted and one single. The former will have a higher value. It will, of course, take time to achieve this desideratum. In the meantime, yarn will have to be separated and the single thread doubled and twisted and then woven into cloth at the yarn depot or wherever it may be suitable. The second thing to remember is that just as gold and silver emerge as coins from a mint, so khadi alone should emerge from a yarn bank. Not until such time as this happens will the defects in hand-spun yarn be removed and the quality of khadi improved beyond expectation. This work cannot be accomplished by compulsion. Khadi must be selfless, true and of a scientific mind for the easy, quick and voluntary achievement of this noble end.

To achieve it is the real goal of the Charkha Sangh. It will not matter if, in working up to this end, all the sales bhandars have to be closed and khadi-wearers reduced to a handful. Even so, there will be no shame attaching to the endeavour. On the other hand, if khadi is sold as a symbol of hypocrisy and untruth it will drag the names of both the Charkha Sangh and the Congress in the mud and khadi will no longer be able either to deliver swaraj or be the mainstay of the poor. Unbelievers will ask: ‘Then why take so much trouble over khadi? Why not let it remain as one of the many occupations of village India, instead of being fad of non-violence?’ Those who are khadi-mad must learn the secret of the science of khadi and be prepared even to die for it and thereby prove that it is the true symbol of non-violent swaraj. 4 Your resolve to present yarn on the occasion of Charkha Jayanti is indeed commendable and I hope it will succeed. My faith has ever been increasing that if we all take to spinning with the right understanding we can make greater headway along the path of freedom. 5 

Shri Giriraj informs me that some examinees resent the holding of the Hindustani examination of the Gujarat Vidyapith on 22nd because that date falls on Charkha Jayanti, i. e., Bhadarva Vad 12. According to me, those who sit for the Rashtrabhasha examination are doing pure work. Khadi is the highest symbol of ahimsa. The same is true of all the other constructive activities of the nation. Khadi is the nucleus of all the activities. I therefore hope that on that day the number of examinees will go up and not go down. Bhadarva Vad 12 should never be a holiday. It is certainly not a day of enjoyment. On that day we should become more alive to the cause of service. And to sit for Hindustani examination is as much a matter of glory as it is a work of service. 6 As usual Narandas has asked for someone in connection with Charkha Jayanti. He is asking for Saraladevi Ambalal. The other is Mavalankar. I think Mavalankar cannot go, nor should he be bothered with such functions. You should therefore find someone and send him. Dada Dharmadhikari, Gopalrao, Shriman, Janakibehn, Kaka send any of these. These names are not in any order of preference or otherwise. I have dictated them as they have occurred to me. 7 

What is known as Charkha Jayanti is not Gandhi Jayanti. It is true it has become linked with my birthday, but the reason for this is clear. Formerly the charkha bore no relation to freedom. If anything it stood for the slavery that lay behind it. For a crust of bread our women had to go through the drudgery of spinning. They span and a few cowries or pies were thrown to them each day. I remember watching, in my childhood, the Thakore Saheb of Rajkot throw to the poor on the Shili Satam day. I considered this throwing of money a game and it was fun to watch the game. I can imagine how, much in the same way, cowries must have been thrown to women spinners for their yarn and how greedily they must have pounced on them. It was in 1908, in South Africa, that the idea came to me that if the poor of India were to be delivered from serfdom, we would have to learn to look upon the charkha, and the yarn produced on the charkha, not as a symbol of slavery but as a symbol of freedom and plenty. The person who to my knowledge understood this most fully was Narandas Gandhi. From this he understood the significance of the Charkha Jayanti. Before the date Bhadarva Vad 12 became associated with the charkha neither he nor anyone else, to my knowledge, had celebrated that day as my birthday. I was well known among the people in South Africa but I do not recollect anyone there celebrating my birthday. It was only here that the charkha was associated with it and Charkha Jayanti began to be observed on the day. It was then thought that my birthday according to the Western Calendar should also be observed and so two days, namely Bhadarva Vad 12 and October 2, came to be observed as Charkha Jayanti. Narandas took, as he still does, a leading part in all this.

As I write this I can remember the observances in Rajkot on Bhadarva Vad 12 and October 2. But Charkha Jayanti will be truly observed when the charkha, which is the symbol of freedom and ahimsa, hums in every home. What can the observance signify if a few poor women, or even a million poor women, spin to earn a pittance? What great work will have been accomplished? This is possible even under a tyrannical regime and is indeed the normal thing in the capitalist system. The doles have given to the poor help in sustaining the affluence of the millionaires, even if such doles be in the form of wages. The observance will have meaning only when both the rich and the poor understand that all created alike by God, that all must work to attain glory and that the freedom of all will be protected not by guns but by the ball of yarn, not by violence but by non-violence. If we consider the atmosphere of the world today, what I have said above will sound ludicrous. But if we think deeply, this alone is right; this alone is true for all time. For the present it is only devotees of the charkha like Narandas who show this faith. Let us all observe Charkha Jayanti and October 2 in a similar spirit. 8

It was in 1908, in South Africa, that the idea came to me that if the poor of India were to be delivered from serfdom, we would have to learn to look upon the charkha, and the yarn produced on the charkha, not as a symbol of slavery but as a symbol of freedom and plenty. The person who to my knowledge understood this most fully was Narandas Gandhi. From this he understood the significance of the Charkha Jayanti. Before the date Bhadarva Vad 12 became associated with the charkha neither he nor anyone else, to my knowledge, had celebrated that day as my birthday. I was well known among the people in South Africa but I do not recollect anyone there celebrating my birthday. It was only here that the charkha was associated with it and Charkha Jayanti began to be observed on the day. It was then thought that my birthday according to the Western Calendar should also be observed and so two days, namely Bhadarva Vad 12 and October 2, came to be

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