Message of Khadi
"I have given up all those things which were only a means for securing swaraj. You must, however, pursue that which helps the attainment of self-purification — khadi, the abolition of untouchability and Hindu-Muslim unity. Practise these as your ordinary dharma regardless of whether swaraj is secured or not, otherwise we shall surely perish. Hinduism will be destroyed if untouchability is not ended and, without khadi, there will be such starvation in the country that our flesh will be eaten up by crows and dogs, leaving only bones behind."
(Speech at Bardoli, 17-1-1925; 26:9.)
"Universalization of spinning means the automatic solution of many other questions. Take the untouchability problem. It is impossible to universalize the wheel without tackling untouchability. Do you know that the untouchables would have nothing to do with khadi if we had not made them our own? They would say, "What shall we do with khadi when we are treated as untouchables?" And unless they co-operate, you cannot achieve the full khadi programme. And so also for the Hindu- Muslim question. The two things hang together. You can thus see that spinning alone does lead to swaraj. . ."
(Speech at khadi workers' meeting at Taltola on 9-5-1925; 27:67-68.)
"Very few people have any notion of what khadi means to Harijans. Simple weaving is almost an exclusive speciality of Harijans, and even though mill spinning and weaving have deprived many Harijans of a source of livelihood, thousands of them are still dependent upon weaving. But a friend argues: 'What is the use of keeping alive a perishing industry? Why not give them instead an industry that may be growing? Surely, you do not intend to confine them to worn-out occupations even when you are devising all manner of means for their uplift otherwise'. Indeed, I have no desire to confine Harijans, or for that matter, anybody, to spinning and weaving or to any one occupation, if they can be more profitably employed in any other; only I do not take the gloomy view of hand-spinning and weaving which the objector takes. I personally believe that hand-ginning, hand- carding, hand-spinning and hand-weaving have a brilliant future, at least in India. If the millions are to live with any degree of comfort, the mills must seek main custom outside India."
(Harijan, 27-10-1933; 56:146-47.)
"What can a swadeshi exhibition do for Harijans, you may ask. I think khadi has got a great deal to do with it, because the introduction of hand-spinning and hand-weaving of cloth, you will be surprised to know, has brought a ray of comfort and light into the dark homes of thousands and thousands of Harijans. I had the good fortune to go to many Harijan homes even during this brief tour and discovered the potency of khadi for Harijans. You will also be surprised to know that there are many things — I hope those things are exhibited here — at which Harijans have worked for the most part, if not entirely."
(Speech at All-India Swadeshi Exhibition, Madras, 20-12- 1933; 56:359.)
"I also heard a rumour that I have changed my opinion about the absolute necessity of khadi. I can give my assurance that my opinion has not undergone any changes whatsoever. On the contrary, the opinion that I expressed in the year 1919 has become strengthened by experience. And I am convinced that khadi is the only solution for the deep and deepening distress of the untouchables. Khadi is cheap at any price, for every pie that you spend in buying khadi goes directly into the pocket of the poor people. But I must not tire you with the arguments that I have advanced so often from the various platforms. I am only hoping that in this great movement of self-purification we shall not only get rid of untouchability but many other impurities from which our society is suffering. And I hope that those Harijans who are present at this meeting will fully bear in mind that they have also to contribute their share in this movement."
(Speech at public meeting, Tirupur, 6-2-1934; 57:123.)
"Those who, apart from the whole programme of anti- untouhability, are interested in the economic betterment of Harijans should know that khadi gives employment to thousands of Harijan men, women and children who otherwise had no employment. It entirely supports some families and supplements the slender resources of many more and keeps the wolf from the door. Its capacity to be the only universal source of employment to the starving millions is not now seriously questioned. It is this poor man's stay which is being undermined by unscrupulous methods. I learnt in Madura that some dealers in cloth were palming off khadi cloth woven from mill-spun yarn as hand-spun and hand- woven. I was shown specimens which were exact copies of special khadi varieties. Lovers of khadi and Harijan servants who believe in the potency of khadi to serve Harijans are requested not to buy khadi which does not bear the hallmark of the All-India Spinners' Association."
(Harijan, 9-2-1934; 57:133.)
"Spinning is such an activity that both Hindus and Muslims can take equal part in it. In respect of some crafts, Muslims lead the world and weaving is one of them. The Dacca muslin used to be woven by Muslims alone. That is exactly why the weavers bore the sweet and dignified."
(Navajivan, 27-7-1924; 24:450.)
"I have not known many Muslim organizations devoted specially to khadi work. Nor are many Muslims found to take lively interest in this much-needed nationat work. Indeed during the Bakr-Id in Ahmedabad, a friend tells me, Mussalmans could be counted on the fingers of one hand who were dressed in khadi. They were not even dressed in Indian mill-cloth. It was all foreign. Let me hope this committee will change this state of things. I hope, too, that the members are all spinners and khadi weavers."
(Young India, 31-7-1924; 24:480.)
"You can win swaraj only with non-violence and never with violence. If you are convinced of that, you will not take time to be convinced that by spinning alone can you win swaraj. For, non-violence in action can be achieved by nothing but a successful working out of a peaceful programme of the universalization of the spinning-wheel. How will you solve the Hindu-Muslim question but by getting the Hindu to work in the cause of khadi for the Mussalm'an, and vice versa? And in order that you get the Mussalman and the Hindu and the untouchable to work together, you have to plod away in faith and confidence in yourselves."
(Speech at Khadi Workers' Meeting at Taltola on 9-5-1925; (27:68.)
"Maulana Shaukat Ali has asked me to say everywhere, where I meet Mussalmans, that he had joined the Spinners' Association. He has got unlimited faith in the charkha because he knows that, so long as both the Hindus and Mussalmans are not wholly clad in khaddar, India cannot be free. . .
. . Only they can be 'A' Class members of the A.I.S.A. who contribute to it one thousand yards of self-spun yarn per month — in all, twelve thousand yards in the year — and are habitual wearers of khadi. The Maulana hopes that he will be able to bring around three thousand members from among the Mussalmans before the year closes. It has been complained that, whereas there are many Hindus in the khadi service, there are but few Mussalmans. Therefore, the Maulana wants me to declare this also that all such Mussalmans whose hearts are pure and who are industrious had got their place in it. But they who want to come into it must obey its laws. Hindus, Mussalmans, Christians, Parsis, Jews and all have their place in this A.I.S.A., if they believe in khadi."
(Speech at public Meeting, Bhagalpur, on 1-10-1925; 28:276.)
"Wherever I have gone I have asked managers of khaddar organizations whether they have Mussalman workers with them and they have invariably complained of the difficulty of getting Mussalman workers for khaddar. Khadi Pratishthan has some but they belong to the humbler walks of life. The Abhoy Ashram has one or two. I cannot multiply these instances. The thing is that khadi service has not yet become a popular service. There is not much money to be had for service. In the figures I analysed some time ago the highest pay given was Rs. 150/- per month. That was paid to a very able organizer. The best khaddar workers are all volunteers everywhere. The terms of service must necessarily be stiff. You cannot have whole-time khaddar workers who do not themselves spin or habitually wear khaddar. I would love to have many Mussalmans of the right stamp offering their services. Let them all apply to the Maulana Saheb. He has undertaken to examine every case personally and make his recommendation to the Council. But I give due warning to all concerned whether Mussalmans, Christians, Parsis or Jews, that they must not blame the Council if the khaddar service becomes a Hindu preserve for want of efforts, ability or love for khaddar on the part of the others."
(Young India, 8-10-1925; 28:308-9.)
"I only pray for their goodwill. I need much help from them. I get some, but it is still too little. When Hindu and Muslim sisters have adopted the spinning-wheel and come to look upon khadi as their adornment, I shall feel that I have got all I wanted. I shall then certainly please my correspondent by wearing a dhoti and a long shirt with a collar, for I believe that, when the women have fallen in love with khadi, swaraj will have been won. Meanwhile the correspondent should be kind to me and to those like me who wear a loin-cloth and, even if he regards the loin-cloth as indecent, should look upon people who wear it as his brethren, overlooking their indecency."
(Navajivan, 27-7-1924; 24:458.)
"Were our mothers mad that they used to spin? Now when I ask you to spin, I must appear mad to you. But it is not Gandhi who is mad; it is yourself who are so. You do not have any compassion for the poor. Even so you try to convince yourself that India has become prosperous and sing of that prosperity. If you want to enter public life, render public service, then spin on the charkha, wear khadi."
(Speech at women's conference, Sojitra on 16-1-1925; 26:2-3.)
"I know hundreds of husbands who have been delighted to find their wives in khadi clothes. Their household expenditure has been reduced and their love for their khadi-clad wives have grown . . .
"I appeal to the sisters who think like her to take boldly to khadi and realize that beauty does not 'consist in dress but in purity of character, and clothes are not meant for adornment but for protecting the body from heat and cold."
(Navajivan, 22-2-1925; 26:185-86.)
"I assure you that in the days of Rama and Sita there was nothing but khaddar, hand-spun and hand-woven. When Sita traversed the length and breadth of India she was not dressed, as you are, in foreign cloth. For sita what cloth her country produced was quite enough for her decoration. It was reserved for the modern women of India to tell me that khaddar is too coarse for them. But do you know that by your ceasing to wear khaddar millions of our sisters and brothers have been reduced to poverty? It is all very well for you who are fairly well-to-do, to attend functions and to go about in saris of 18 cubits. But remember that your sisters in the villages of India have not only no saris such as you have, but have not even enough food to eat. And I am telling God's truth when I say that I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of women in India who have no clothes to wear but rags.
"I, therefore, ask you for the sake of those sisters, for the sake of your religion, and for the sake of God, to throw away all the foreign cloth that you are using and to wear such khaddar saris as you can procure . . .
"I ask you once more to restore the spinning-wheel to its proper place. Your presence here pleases me. But it will soon become painful and intolerable for me to attend such meetings if sisters continue to besiege these meetings dressed in foreign cloth. I have no desire to hear my own voice, and if I still continue to address meetings, it is because I have still a hope lingering in my breast that some words of mine will penetrate the minds of those that I address. May my words uttered this afternoon produce such an effect upon your mind."
(Speech at women's meeting in Madras on 22-3-1925; 26:368.)
"A woman is adorable, not for the jewellery she wears, but for the purity of her heart. I therefore urge you, if you believe that khadi will solve all the distress of India, to a certain extent, to part with the money that you have brought and your jewellery also, if you can give it to the cause. If you will go a step further, I would ask you also to spare some time to turn the spinning- wheel. It is a fine occupation for women in their leisure hours and it would be much better for you to pass your time in this useful occupation than idle talk. Now, you will give what you can to the volunteers who will go in your midst."
(Speech at women's meeting in Trichinopoly on 20-9-1927; 35:11.)
"What I ask you all is to consider your own dharma and henceforth make a sacred resolve that for the sake of these poor sisters you will wear nothing but khadi. But then khadi needs something more than merely wearing cloth spun and woven by the sacred hands of these villagers. If you will, through this khadi, think of these poor sisters with a true heart, then khadi will be a symbol not only of your outward change but the whole heart will be changed. If you do that you will again revive the age of Sati and Sita. And that is what I am incessantly praying God to make you like. But even God cannot make us what we should be, against our own wills. God only helps those who are willing to help themselves. . ."
(Speech at women's meeting at Karaikudi on 24-9-1927; (35:27.)
"Immediately the spinning-wheel is reinstated in all its glory and with all its implications in the millions of cottages of India, woman recognizes her definite power and her place in India's regeneration. For she is then able to say to men, 'you depend for your food and your clothes as much upon us as on yourselves.' 'We', she may say, 'clean and cook your food, we spin the yarn from which khadi is prepared.' Then she is clothed with dignity which is hers by birthright and of which we, men and traitors of our womanhood, have deprived her. For in our stupidity and in our ignorance we removed from each cottage spinning-wheels and became infatuated with the foreign fineries. . .
"... I have come to you to wake you up to a sense of duty by the starving millions on whom and on whose labour you and I are living. Even your money, your jewellery, your rings and your necklaces can be of no earthly use to me unless both men and women will wear khadi and nothing but that. This collecting of purses for the spinning-wheel is only a brief and intermediate interval. When every man and woman in India naturally takes to khadi as they all take to the grains that are grown on India's plains there will be as little use for these collections as there is for collection in order to carry on propaganda for cultivating rice and wheat in India."
(Speech at public meeting, Pagneri on 27-9-1927; 35:44-45.)
". . . And if I could but induce you to understand the tremendous importance that khadi has to millions of starving people living in 7,00,000 villages in the whole of India, you will understand that enthusiasm and effort are not only necessary but indispensable. Remember the fact that it is calculated to serve not the city-dwellers but millions of starving people living in the villages."
(Speech at Ernakulam on 13-10-1927; 35:128.)
"Only those women who have drunkards as their husbands know what havoc the drink devil works in homes that once were orderly and peace-giving. Millions of women in our hamlets know what unemployment means. Today the Charkha Sangh covers over one hundred thousand women against less than 10,000 men.
"Let the women of India take up these two activities, specialize in them; they would contribute more than man to national freedom. They would have an access of power and self- confidence to which they have hitherto been strangers.
". . . They will find when they study the subject of foreign- cloth boycott that it is impossible save through khadi. Mill-owners will themselves admit that mills cannot manufacture in the near future enough cloth for Indian requirements. Given a proper atmosphere, khadi can be manufactured in our villages, in our countless homes. Let it be the privilege of the women of India to produce this atmosphere by devoting every available minute to the spinning of yarn.
". . . If the women of India will listen and respond to my appeal, they must act quickly."
(Young India, 10-4-1930; 43:220-21.)
". . . Men may well spin, but for generations the profession
of spinning has been practised by women and men's hands do not possess the same skill in this that women's do. Women alone can bring about this solidarity among their own sex. I would, therefore, advise women to make this their special field of work.
". . . Therefore, all those sisters who have faith in the spinning-wheel and the takli and who wish to devote themselves to saving sixty crores of rupees every year, should take up this work of boycott and the task of propagating spinning."
(Navajivan, 13-4-1930; 43:249.)
"We have lived through that golden age when, in this land, there were not these semi-starved millions as they are today. The creed of the spinning-wheel is that there should be a bond established between yourselves and the villagers; that is the meaning of village reconstruction - that is your another question. And the village reconstruction must dance round your charkha as the centre. You may not go to the villages, unless you take a little bit of bread to the semi-starved villagers. They will starve. During six months, if Sir P. G. Ray is to be depended upon, for six solid months cultivators of India, i.e., eighty per cent of the population of India - have no work. They are idle. Do you suppose that the peasantry of any part of the world can possibly enjoy four months' holiday and make both ends meet. Not even a millionaire in this age will be able to enjoy four months' holiday. They soon find there is a deficit to meet or there is some hopless mismanagement of their estate. If you want to take a little bit of life into these little cottages of India, you will only do so by the revolution of the charkha and, therefore, I say, whoever draws one yard of yarn per day, has added to the wealth of India. . .
"You ask me a question about mill-cloth, versus foreign cloth. You have not studied the recent economics. I place mill-cloth and foreign cloth in the same category. I will not have you wear mill-cloth that comes from Ahmedabad, Bombay or even Banga Lakshmi. That is meant for those who do not think of India, who do not think of her future. Therefore, for you the real economics is to wear khaddar. When you wear khaddar, you are supporting the labour of a poor weaver. If you are to wear khaddar, you will be supporting many widows, you will be supporting many of your cultivators who may spin during their idle hours. You will be supporting many weavers who are not getting today sufficient for their labour. Study any history - economic history - and it will tell you that the majority of weavers have died out. . .
"... I tell you, the real economics for you are that you should wear khaddar. You should spin and spin. Spin in order to make khaddar cheap. That is discipline for you. It will enable you to create your purity. Sit at the spinning-wheel calmly for half an hour and watch the transformation of your heart. I can quote to you instances of many men and women, of brilliant administrators, one of whom was a member in the Bombay Executive Council. He is as old as I am. He learnt spinning only a few months ago. He said: 'After I began spinning at the wheel, I have somewhat got rid of my insomnia. I returned from office tired, sometimes at mid-night and, then, I was dozing, thinking of many problems which I did not want to think of. Now I sit at the spinning wheel and spin away. Immediately comes the all- refreshing sleep - the sleep of innocence.' Find out for yourselves what it can do. Find out what it cannot do."
(Speech at Krishnath College, Behrampur on 6-8-1925; 28:42-44.)
"I do not mean to suggest that one should give up one's studies and devote oneself immediately to khadi work. I suggest that a student who has courage, strength and faith should take a vow from today onwards that he will become a khadi worker when he has finished his studies. If he makes this resolve one can consider that his service in the cause of khadi has already begun, because he will then choose whatever he decides to learn with the object of acquiring the necessary capacity for this particular type of work."
(Navajivan, 3-7-1927; 34:98.)
"Now, consider for yourselves what you owe to these men who pay for your education. I suggest then that you should render ceaseless service to these starving millions and that you should not be satisfied till this gnawing poverty is banished from our land. And, I have told you that khaddar is the easiest and the only way. I ask you not to allow your minds to be befogged by all kinds of specious reasoning that will be advanced against the spinning- wheel and against khadi in these days of rush for machinery."
(Speech to students, Madras on 3-9-1927; 34:444.)
"All over India, it has been my good fortune to enjoy the confidence and friendship of the student world. But I mention my pleasure over this address, because it contains a promise about khadi. The students have made a solemn promise in their address, henceforth to use nothing but khadi. Let me remind the students of the sacredness of promises. It is the custom very often in our country as also elsewhere especially for enthusiastic students to make all sorts of promises. This habit of making promises is really a vicious habit unless it is accompanied by a firm determination to fulfil them at any cost. If my recollections serve me right, it was from a teacher in Calicut that I received a pathetic letter asking me to speak to the student world, and put an emphasis on some of their failings. Day after day, it is being realized by educationists all the world over that mere literary education, unless it is built upon a solid foundation of character, is not only of no avail but is a mischievous accomplishment, and the beginning of character-building is surely made by complete adherence to truth."
(Addressing a public meeting in Calicut on 25-10-1927; 35:185.)
"I can say with certainty, if you wish to bring glory to this effort, take up some constructive work. By doing so, you will set an example to other students. Khadi is the first thing I shall talk about. You can render much service by wearing and selling it. Until settlement is reached, you can carry on that work and collect foreign cloth from house to house. And if you wish to go a step further, bring it here and make a bonfire of it. The burning of foreign cloth will bring much credit to you. You will see an article about the ruin that we bring upon India by using foreign cloth. There must be at least some of it left with you. When you take up this work, the Government will also be convinced that students have now begun to work.
"Among Tolstoy's stories, there is one in which Satan climbs on the top of a house to give a speech and, falling down, becomes unconscious. When he collapses, people say he has toppled down.
"Even if you tumble down people will say that you have achieved something. The nation will certainly admit that these students have at any rate done something. You can take a vow to clean up the streets of Ahmedabad or do prohibition work. You can undertake many such tasks."
(Speech to Gujarat College students in Ahmedabad on 30-1-1929; 38:414.)
". . . If you will express the requisite purity of character in action, you cannot do it better than through the spinning-wheel. Of all the myriads of names of God Daridranarayana is the most sacred inasmuch as it represents the untold millions of poor people as distinguished from the few rich people. The easiest and the best way of identifying yourselves somewhat with these starving millions is to spread the message of the spinning-wheel in the three-fold manner suggested by me. You can spread it by becoming expert spinners, by wearing khadi, and by pecuniary contributions. Remember that millions will never have access to the facilities that Malaviyaji has provided for you. What return will you make to these your brothers and sisters?. . .
". . . You need clothes. If you wear khadi worth one rupee, 13 annas will be paid out of that to the poor people. But if you were to buy foreign cloth that money would go out of the country. The poverty witnessed in this country is not to be found elsewhere in the world, and if you wish to remove it, you should wear khadi.
"I am aware that amongst those who wear khadi many men may be hypocrites, impostors, frauds and scoundrels. But those are common faults. Even those who do not wear khadi can have them. Even those who do not use khadi can be impostors or scoundrels. So, if such a man is an impostor or a fraud at least one good thing about him would be that he does wear khadi. I came across a prostitute who wears khadi. She said to me: 'Pray to God so that fallen women like me are absolved of our sins.' "
(Speech at Hindu University, Benaras on 25-9-1929, 41: 462-463.)