In South Africa, Gandhi began to wear sandals with trousers. At that time it was unusual. He preferred sandals to smart shoes because during summer they kept the feet cool and during winter they could as well be worn with socks. He himself made the sandals. General smuts, Prime Minister of South Africa, heard that these hand -made sandals were strong yet comfortable and wanted to use a pair. Gandhi got a pair made with special care and presented it to him.
Gandhi had a way of doing things in a manner different from
the accepted traditional form. Some of the fashions set by him were followed by
others, some lapsed due to in acceptance.
When he first attended a Congress session, he was
astonished to see that separate Kitchens were set up not merely for different
castes, but for catering to the different tastes, but for catering to the
different tastes of the delegates and volunteers. He attached importance to the
small things of life and felt that there could be no swaraj till people gave up
this separatist mentality and developed a sense of oneness. He wanted to stop
this wastage of money, time and labour by simplifying food habits. He made
experiments on diet. In his ashrams, simple spicelss vegetarian food was
cooked in a common kitchen. Muslims, Hindus, parsis and Christians shared the
same vegetarian food, seated in a common dining hall.
Gandhi stressed the food value of raw salads, fruits, nuts,
boiled vegetables, hand pounded rice and hand ground wheat flour. He explained
how fresh gur or honey contained more vitamins than refined white sugar and thus
tried to train people to appreciate the substance more than the look of a thing.
In the Faizpur Congress, delegates and visitors were for the
first time served unpolished rice and whole meal bread. to hold the annual
gathering of the Congress in a village was Gandhi's idea. Previously, for
50 years, highly educated group of leaders and intelligentsia formed the bulk of
the audience, Congress sessions were held in big cities like Calcutta, Bombay
and Madras. Gandhi changed it into a people's Congress and gave it a mass
character. Clad in simple Indian style of dress, he addressed the audience in
He planned out the details of the Tilak Nagar at Faizpur. it
was built by village artisans out of materials easily available in a village.
Artist Nandalal Bose gave concrete shape to Gandhi's dream. The walls and the
roof of the tents were made of bamboo. Colored bamboos made the archway which
was decorated with upturned wicker baskets. The National flag flying aloft the
gate was Gandhi's own creation. A few years earlier he had given the flag the
final shape. It was to be three coloured saffron, white and green arranged
horizontally. The white was to contain, in the centre, a dark blue imprint of
the spinning wheel that symbolized non-violence and the common man in India.
To Gandhi goes the credit of evolving our simple yet dignified
national dress. When he led the epic march in south Africa, hundreds of miners
and indentured labourers, mostly South Indians, joined the struggle. All were
tortured, many were jailed, some died. In sympathy with them and for identifying
himself with them, Gandhi suddenly decided to don a kurta and a dhoti worn in a
lungi fashion. He replaced the walking stick with a lathi and carried a satchel.
Gandhi developed satyagraha non-violent non-cooperation and
mass civil disobedience as a powerful weapon to meet the organised violence of a
mighty authority. He cited the ancient examples of Prahlad and Bibhisan as
staunch non-co-operators with evil and brute force. He claimed no originally in
doing so. But his bold effort to apply that technique of resistance to evil on
amass scale and to impress it in the political field was original. Its success,
too, was striking. A foreign journalist your faith in truth and non-violence?"
Gandhi replied : " No, I swear by non-violence and truth together standing for
the highest order of courage before which the atom bomb is of no effect.
Non-violence is the only thing that the atom bomb cannot destroy." Gandhi
had contributed more than anyone else to mobilise the strength of the great mass
of humanity in India.
Under his leadership, India gained independence through
non-violence. He wanted India to remain the hope of all t exploited races of the
earth, whether in Asia, America of Africa : " struggle for the emancipation of
all the oppressed races against superior might." After India's independence,
many colonies gained freedom without blood-shed. The movement for securing human
rights is spreading successfully among the American Negroes.
Along with his experiments in bringing a change of heart in an
adversary, Gandhi's dress underwent a significant change. After his return to
india from South Africa, Gandhi took to wearing a dhoti, kurta, long coat and
huge Khathiawadi turban. He soon found that dress unsuitable for a warm climate.
Moreover, yards of cloth were wasted on that turban. He then changed over to
wearing a dhoti, kurta and cap. So called genteel folk were shocked to see him
attended important meetings and public gatherings in that dress. When Gandhi
learnt to spin and weave, his entire dress was made of khadi. The Gandhi cap was
something very akin to a kashmiri cap without its embroidery. Gandhi insisted on
its being white. People complained that the white cap got easily soiled. Gandhi
argued: " I choose the white cap for maintaining high standard of cleanliness.
This thin cap is easily washable and does colour get equally dirty but conceal
the dirt." Khadi dhoti or pyjama, kurta and Gandhi cap became popular and were
accepted as the national dress..
Many Biharis, Mavaris and Gujaratis discarded their elaborate
turbans for Gandhi cap and many Muslims their fez. Bengalese and South Indians,
normally not used to ahead gear, began to wear it. During the swadeshi days the
Gandhi cap worked as red rag to john bull. Volunteers wearing this white cap
were cruelly handled by the police and their caps were forcibly removed.
Schoolboys were punished for sporting it. Gandhi himself wore it for a short
time. His final change in dress ended in wearing a khadi loin cloth, wrap and
chappal. He believed a leader should be a true representative of his people. He
moved in Europe and England and even met the Emperor of India in that dress.
When foreign dignitaries and diplomats , renowned poets and authors wanted to
meet him, he invited them to his ashram. Once a distinguished visitor from
England was brought to his ashram from the railway station in a bullock cart.
These visitors squatted on the floor of Gandhi, the man of the masses. They ate
the ashram food. This sage of Sevagram was a good host, very considerate to the
needs of his guests but never felt ashamed in extending a rustic's hospitality
to sophisticated westerners. He did not think that the dignity of a nation or
state, especially of a poor country, could be maintained by an exhibition of
pomp. On the contrary, this display of false prestige, sham show and concealment
of poverty hurt him. From his village abode Gandhi often had to run to Delhi and
Simla, Bombay and Calcutta to hold important discussions with the Viceroy,
Governors, British diplomats and foreign dignitaries. To speed his ideas and to
keep in touch with his countrymen, he more than once traveled all over India,
but never boarded a plane. He traveled third. Before
independence, other leaders followed his examples. He wanted to change the whole
system of administration: In democracy, a kisan should be the ruler. A kisan
Prime Minister would not ask for a palace to live in. he would live in a mud
hut, sleep under the sky and work on land whenever he is free."
Gandhi knew how persons bred and brought up in sophisticated
surroundings lacked the courage to adapt these bold ideas. He wanted to start
right from the beginning by educating children in a different way. He gave
enough thought to the experimental methods of education tried by some noted
educationists and suggested a basic method of training the minds of the
youngsters. He called it Nayee Talim. It gave less importance to literary
training. Eradication of ignorance, not only of illiteracy was his aim. By
teaching through crafts, he hoped to develop the personality of young pupils and
to create self-confidence in them. He wanted to initiate in them tolerance for
all religions, love for all races and respect for all work.
In mass prayer meetings, he tried to introduce a prayer culled
from different religions of the world.
Gandhi untiringly spoke of his ideas in hundreds of public
meetings and wrote numerous articles in his journals. In the many weeklies he
edited successfully, he left out all advertisements which fetched good revenue.
He spurned money but loathed wastage in any form. He once advised the organisers
of meetings to avoid altogether expenses on decoration: " Flowers may be avoided
altogether and yarn garland may be presented. yarn must not be damaged by being
tied in knots. flags and buntings, out of waste khaddar, can be used. Money can
be saved by avoiding the printing of addresses. The best calligraphists can
write out the address on simple handmade paper and the paper can be nicely sewn
on a piece of khaddar or boys and girls can embroider the letter on a piece of
His ideas about interior with carpets, with did not like a
room stuffed with carpets, crowded with furniture and curio collection. Window
curtains had no fascination for him. Once he was the guest of a rich South
Indian merchant. He disliked the hotchpotch collection of decorative pieces and
said; " I have felt oppressed with the excessive furniture. There is a in the
midst of it hardly any room to breathe in. Some of your pictures are hideous. If
you give me a contract for furnishing all the palaces in Chetti Nad, I should
give you the more comfort and fresh air and secure a certificate from the best
artists in India that I had furnished your houses in the most artistic manner."
This claim of Gandhi was justified by Nandalal Bose's appreciation of Gandhi's
hut at sevagram: " the floor and walls were plastered with cow-dung. There was
no picture, no photograph, figure or statue in the room. A mat was spread in the
corner with folded Khaddar sheet and a cushion for sitting. On one side of the
packing-case covered with Khaddar, to serve as a writing desk, was a small
polished lota of bell metal covered with an iron sheet shaped like a pipal leaf.
The room had an atmosphere of cleanliness, tidiness and quite beauty. He was
sitting in the room sparsely clad in apiece of khaddar cloth worn tightly round
the waist. A pleasant smile was always playing on his lips. He appeared to me
like a sword of fine temper, kept unsheathed, having all the attributes of the
sword save that of himsa."