ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Interpreting Gandhi


‘Interpreting Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj’ by Rudolph C Heredia (EPW, June 12, 1999) is an excellent piece of well-researched writing on Gandhi’s life and thought, but I would like to comment on a few of the points made in it. First of all I will, take up the question of celebrations in the austere life of Gandhi’s ashrams. Heredia remarks, “ rightly emphasising the need for renunciation, certainly a message that our consumerist and self-indulgent world needs more than ever today, the Gandhian ashram seemed to miss out on the need for celebration, which our tired and alienated, dispirited and pessimistic world needs almost as much”.

Ashram life was not as sombre as people are apt to think. I quote from Narayan Desai’s reminiscences. He had spent his entire childhood at the Sabarmati ashram. Sant Sevatan Sukrut Vadhe, in Gujrati, has been published by the Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad. In the chapter ‘Sharing Joys and Sorrows’, Desai writes,

When I think about the festivals and celebrations observed at the ashram my entire childhood passes before my mind’s eye as a succession of gorgeous festivals. Among these Janmastami comes to my mind first. On this occasion all inmates of the ashram used to recite the entire Gita together. Also, children five to seven years older than us recited the Govinda stotra composed by Shankaracharya. We (the younger children), having put on white dhoties, tied red turbans on our heads and bare bodied, went to the fields to tend cattle. On returning we feasted on the ‘pedas’ of the ashram dairy instead of curd and butter (that Shri Krishna and his mates used to feast on)...

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