MAHATMA GANDHI MEDIA AND RESEARCH SERVICE

MAHATMA - Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948

Chapter 03, Emerging Of Gandhi, 1915-1921, 19min 37sec, Reel 7, 8

The film depicts Gandhi's return to India from South Africa and his emergence on the Indian political horizon. He kindled the flame of pride in the Indian masses and taught them lessons in self-reliance and Satyagraha - the new gospel of action. People rallied round him and spontaneously called him Mahatma - the Great Soul.

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Commentary

Reel 07

 

Sequence 01 Gandhi and Kasturbai were given an imposing reception at the quay when they landed at Bombay on January 9, 1915.

 

2 Gandhi bound himself by a promise to Gokhale not to express any opinion on public questions until he had gained sufficient experience in India ... and proceeded to Kathiawad to meet relatives and friends.

 

3 He received a warm welcome. People spontaneously addressed him as Mahatma - the Great Soul.

 

4 Soon after Gandhi's Phoenix disciples took shelter at Shantiniketan Ashram, Poet Tagore wrote to Gandhi that they would form a living link in the Sadhana of both of their lives.

 

5 On their arrival at Shantiniketan to meet the Phoenix family, Gandhi and Kasturbai were honoured in the traditional manner.

Delighted with the artistic atmosphere of the Ashram, Gandhi hoped that through her oriental culture, India would establish friendly relations with the eastern and the western worlds.

 

6 He exhorted the inmates to adopt self-help and Shantiniketan became a busy hive but on February 19, it was immersed in grief at the news of Gokhale's sudden death. Gandhi bemoaned "I set out to find a true hero and found only one in India".

 

7 The Kumbh fair at Haradwar attracted many pilgrims. Gandhi too attended the fair - not with the sentiments of a pilgrim but as a volunteer to do sanitation work.

As an act of self-denial, here he pledged himself to limit his diet to five items and not to eat after sunset.

 

8 Seeking his own hermitage in an atmosphere of renunciation and service, Gandhi founded the Satyagraha Ashram at Kochrab near Ahmedabad on May 25, with twenty-five inmates bound by vows of truth and celibacy, non-violence and non-possession, swadeshi, Khadi and the removal of untouchability.

 

9 Soon, difficulty arose over the use of the well on the admission of an untouchable family as inmates of the Ashram, Gandhi was put to the test, but gradually the storm passed away. Untouchability was shaken to its foundation.

 

10 In 1917, Gandhi found a congenial task in the service of the oppressed peasants on the indigo plantation of Champaran in north Bihar. His arrival for investigation into their grievances roused new hopes in the peasants and they thronged to him to tell their woes.

On being served with a quit-order, Gandhi refused to comply with it out of a sense of public responsibility and expressed his determination to proceed with the inquiry.

At his trial for disobedience Gandhi said, "I have entered the country for rendering humanitarian and national service, in obedience to the higher law of conscience," and pleaded guilty.

The compulsory growing of indigo was abolished on the recommendation of the Inquiry Committee. The century-old stain of indigo was washed away, ... and the country had its first object lesson in individual civil disobedience.

 

11 In the middle of 1917, on the outbreak of the plague in Kochrab village, Gandhi shifted his ashram to the bank of the river Sabarmati.

Amidst the neem and the tamarind trees was situated Gandhi's bare hut "Hridaya Kunj" along with the simple dwellings of the inmates.

Life at the Ashram gave full play to the emotion and intellect of the residents. There were gardens to till and cows to tend. Throbbing with an active spirit of sacrifice, everyone performed his obligatory task of weaving.

As evening fell, the inmates congregated to pay their respect to the different faiths of the world at the sanctuary. The four directions were its walls and the canopy of the sky its dome. The sermons of Gandhi and the hymns of the Gita created a spirit of peace and love.

In this community where work was prayer and prayer love, Gandhi's personality was fully reflected.

 

12 In 1918, unrest prevailed among the textile-workers of Ahmedabad who were under-paid and overworked. Gandhi espoused their cause, conducted a peaceful strike and exhorted the workers to abide by their pledge never to resort to violence. The strike situation began to grow critical.... Twenty days passed by; hunger had its effect on the strikers and they began flagging.... Gandhi spontaneously announced, "I will not touch any food". Three days after the fast commenced, the millowners accepted arbitration and without any ill-will, the righteous struggle achieved its end.

 

13 Gandhi expressed his views with fervour advocating swadeshi in language, dress and thinking. The inhuman destruction of the ancient art of hand-spinning was corroding his heart.

The discovery of the spinning-wheel consigned to the lofts as useless lumber in a remote village gave him new hope for as the loss of the spinning-wheel had brought about India's slavery, its revival meant India's freedom.

 

14 Gandhi arrived in Bombay for medical treatment as hard work coupled with uncooked food had ruined his health. His refusal to take medicine and the vow not to take milk came in the way of his recovery. He yielded to Kasturbai's suggestion that he should take goats' milk.

During the convalescent period at Mani Bhavan, he learnt and practiced spinning and the wheel hummed merrily in his room spinning peace, goodwill and love in every revolution.

 

Reel 08

 

Sequences 1 On his sick-bed, Gandhi was roused by the publication of the notorious Rowlatt Bills in February, 1919 which sought to crush the civic rights of Indians and to gag the voice of revolt ... A wave of anger greeted the Bills all over India.

Describing them as aggravated symptoms of a deepseated disease in the ruling class, Gandhi informed the Viceroy about his desire to offer civil disobedience in protest.

In spite of the united opposition of all elected Indian members, on March 18, the black Bills were pushed through and became law.

 

2 At Gandhi's call, the country observed April 6 as a day of humiliation and prayer. Vast multitudes united into common action solemnly affirmed their resolve to disobey the bill and refrain from violence to life, person or property.

True to the pledge, prohibited literature consistent with Satyagraha was selected.

Gandhi went round the city to sell the prohibited literature and the movement was inaugurated.

At a Satyagraha demonstration, Gandhi emphasized the importance of sacrifice for the eternal ideals of justice and liberty, for no nation had ever risen without being purified through the fire of suffering.

 

3 To defy the Indian Press Act, Gandhi published the weekly "Satyagrahi" in which he expressed his opinions unhampered by any other consideration than that of his own conscience.

 

4 The country was astir. There was an orgy of arrests and convictions.

 

5 On Sunday April 13, Brigadier General Dyer marched with his armed force through the tortuous, torried streets and mazy lanes of Amritsar. He entered Jallianwala Bagh in the heart of the city by the narrow entrance with a firm determination "to do all men to death".

 

6 Debouching from the passage, he ordered the troops to fire upon the seething mass of humanity gathered for a peaceful meeting. The bagh suddenly resounded with bullet-fire, carrying death and destruction among the unarmed, unwarned people. The firing continued till the ammunition was exhausted killing 375 and injuring over a thousand helpless men and women.

 

7 And when all was over, heaps of wounded lay near this wall. The massacre and the terrible indignity of the martial law inflicting the humiliating punishment of making people crawl on their bellies and the public flogging of innocent victims shocked Gandhi.

 

8 When the terror-stricken people indulged in violence it suddenly dawned on him that it was a "Himalayan miscalculation" on his part to have called upon his countrymen to launch the civil disobedience movement prematurely and he suspended the Satyagraha on April 18.

 

9 The weeklies Navajivan and Young India were launched by Gandhi to expound the meaning of Satyagraha and swadeshi. They soon reached the farthest corners of India and put heart into the people.

 

10 The Amritsar Congress, held in December, 1919 under the presidentship of Motilal Nehru, adopted Gandhi's gospel of 'Swaraj through Swadeshi' and his plea for the revival of the age old cottage industries as India's prosperity was founded on the plough and the spinning-wheel.

 

11 The slogan "Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai" began to dominate the Indian political horizon and the national movement took a new shape and developed a new orientation.

 

12 "The spinning wheel", Gandhi said, "is a national necessity. Not on the clatter of arms but on the reintroduction of the spinning wheel depends the economic and moral regeneration of India ... Slowly, the music of one of the most ancient of India's machines once more permeated society.

 

13 In April 1920, when Poet Tagore visited Ahmedabad to attend the Gujarati Literary Conference, Gandhi greeted him with deference and affection and appealed to the people to donate generously for the poet's Vishva-Bharti.

 

14 Gandhi identified himself with the Muslims when they launched the Khilafat agitation against the unjust peace-terms imposed on Turkey by Britain.

The Khilafat movement adopted Gandhi's doctrine of non-violent non-co-operation as an infallible remedy.

 

15 In pursuance of the resolve, Gandhi reiterated that non-co-operation would be inaugurated on the first of August.

 

16 At 12:40 in the night that very day, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak-Gandhi's strongest bulwark passed away.

 

17 Lamenting his death. Gandhi observed, "A giant among men has fallen ... He will go down to the generations yet unborn as the maker of modern India ..."

"No man had preached the gospel of Swaraj with the consistency and insistence of the Lokmanya."

 

18 On the appointed day, Gandhi gave the signal for the non-co-operation campaign by returning the Kaisar-i-Hind gold medal and the decorations received in South Africa to the Viceroy, for he could retain neither respect nor affection for the Government which was moving from wrong to wrong to defend its immorality.

 

19 India responded to Gandhi's call. People straightened their backs and raised their heads.

Schools and colleges were emptied and the courts abandoned.

 

20 Persuading the people to adopt India's real weapon of love and truth to fight the Government, Gandhi condemned the doctrine of the sword. "I want India to practice non-violence of the strong-her title of nobility...

If she takes up the doctrine of the sword, she may gain momentary victory but she will cease to be the pride of my heart."

 

21 With a view to lay the ground work of truly Indian education, Gandhi founded the Gujarat Vidyapeeth at Ahmedabad.

Its object was to preserve the languages of India and to use them as sources of national regeneration.

Manual work which formed a part of the curriculum fostered a spirit of self-help and independence among the students.

Gandhi looked upon the institution as a place where the sacred fire of India was to be consecrated in order, afterwards, to radiate throughout the world.

 

22 Swaraj was very much in the air and in people's thought when in December 1920, the Nagpur session of the Congress unanimously approved Gandhi's resolution on the attainment of Swaraj by legitimate and peaceful means within one year and the constitution as revised by him turning the Congress into a mass organisation.

Thus began the Gandhi era in Congress politics.

 

23 While touring the country incessantly and tirelessly, Gandhi did not lose sight of India's gravest problem - poverty. "India as a nation" he observed "can live and die only for the spinning wheel ... The womanhood and the masses of India have been awakened as never before at the call of the wheel. Its restoration alone will feed the millions of hungry mouths... The wasted hours of the nation should be utilised in converting cotton into cloth in our cottages".

 

24 And at Gandhi's suggestion, the spinning wheel found a place in the Swaraj-flag with a white, green and red background symbolising peace, purity and the unity of all faiths in India.

 

Thus was born a flag for the non-violent revolt in 1921 representing an ideal to live for and die for.