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The Music of the Spinning Wheel
I think of the poor of India every time I draw a thread on the wheel. The poor of India today have lost faith in God, more so than the middle classes or the rich. For a person suffering from the pangs of hunger, and desiring nothing but to fill his belly, his belly is his God. To him anyone who gives him his bread is his Master. Through him he may even see God. To give alms to such persons, who are sound in all their limbs, is to debase oneself and them. What they need is some kind of occupation, and the occupation that will give employment to millions can only be hand-spinning… I have described my spinning as a penance or sacrament. And, since I believe that where there is pure and active love for the poor there is God also, I see God in every thread that I draw on the spinning wheel.
Young India, 20-5-‘26
I feel convinced that the revival of hand-spinning and hand–weaving will make the largest contribution to the economic and the moral regeneration of India. The millions must have a simple industry to supplement agriculture. Spinning was the cottage industry years ago, and if the millions are to be save from starvation, they must be enabled to reintroduce spinning in their homes, and every village must repossess its won weaver.
Young India, 21-7-‘20
I can only think of spinning as the fittest and most acceptable sacrificial body labour. I cannot imagine anything nobler or more national than that for, say one hour in the day, we should all do the labour that the poor must do, and thus identify ourselves with them and through them with all mankind. I cannot imagine better worship of God then that in His name I should labour for the poor even as they do. The spinning wheel spells a more equitable distribution of the riches of the earth.
Young India, 20-10-‘21
I… claim for the Charkha the honour of being able to solve the problem of economic distress in a most natural, simple, inexpensive and businesslike manner. The Charkha, therefore, is not only not useless... but it is a useful and indispensable article for every home. It is the symbol of the nation’s prosperity and, therefore, freedom. It is a symbol not of commercial war but of commercial peace. It bears not a message of ill-will towards the nations of the earth but of good-will and self-help. It will not need the protection of a navy threatening a world’s peace and exploiting its resources, but it needs the religious determination of millions to spin their yarn in their own homes as today they cook their food in their own homes. I may deserve, the curse of posterity for many mistakes of omission and commission, but I am confident of earning its blessings for suggesting a revival of the Charkha, I stake my all on it. For every revolution of the wheel spins peace, good will and love. And with all that, in as much as the loss of it brought about India’s slavery, its voluntary revival with all its implications must mean India’s freedom.
Young India, 8,12-‘21
What is claimed for spinning is that
1. It supplies the readiest occupation to those who have leisure and are in want of a few coppers;
2. it is known to the thousands;
3. it is easily learnt;
4. it requires practically no outlay of capital;
5. The wheel can be easily and cheaply made. Most of us do not yet know that spinning can be done even with a piece of tile and splinter;
6. the people have no repugnance to it;
7. it affords immediate relief in times of famine and scarcity;
8. it alone can stop the drain of wealth which goes outside India in the purchase of foreign cloth;
9. it automatically distributes the millions thus saved among the deserving poor;
10. even the smallest success means so much immediate gain to the people;
11. it is the most potent instrument of securing co-operation among the people.
Young India, 21-8-‘24
‘‘If hand–spinning is all you say, how is it that it has not already been universally adopted? asks the critic. The question is quite fair. The answer is simple. The message of the wheel has to be carried to a people who have no hope, no initiative left in them, and who would, if left to themselves, starve and die rather than work and live. Such was not the case before, but long neglect has made laziness a habit with them .That laziness can only be removed by the living contact and example of men of character and industry, plying the wheel before them and by gently showing them the way. The second great difficulty is the absence of a ready-market for khaddar. I confess hat it cannot for the time being compete with mill cloth. I will not engage in any such killing competition. The capitalist may, for capturing the market, sell his calico for nothing. The manufacturer whose only capital is labour cannot afford to do so. Can there be any competition between the dead artificial rose, however symmetrical it may be, and the living rose whose two petals will not be a like, or can there be any competition between a wax statue of Cromwell and the living one? Khaddar is a living thing. But India has lost her eye for the real art and is, therefore, satisfied with the glossy exterior. Revive the healthy national taste for Khaddar and you will find every village a busy hive. As it is, the resources of khaddar organizations are taxed to the utmost, in order to create a market for the article… The marvel is that, in spite of heavy odds against it, the movement is making headway.
I have the summarized the case for the spinning wheel as a supplementary industry as against the hand-loom. Let there be no confusion of thought. I am not against the handloom. It is great and thriving industry. It will progress automatically if the spinning wheel succeeds. It is bound to die if the wheel fails.
Young India, 11-11-‘26
The spinning wheel represents to me the hope of the masses. The masses lost their freedom, such as it was with the loss of the Charkha. The Charkha supplemented the agriculture of the villagers and gave it dignity. It was the friend and solace of the widow. It kept the villager from idleness. For the Charkha included all the anterior and posterior industries – ginning, carding, warping, sizing, dyeing and weaving. These in their turn kept the village carpenter and the blacksmith busy. The Charkha enabled the seven hundred thousand villages to become self-contained. With the exit of the Charkha went the other village industries, such as the oil press. Nothing took the place of these industries. Therefore the villages were drained of their varied occupations and their creative talent and what little wealth these brought them.
Hence, if the villagers are to come into their own, the most natural thing that suggests itself is the revival of the Charkha and all it means.
This revival cannot take place without an army of selfless Indians of intelligence and patriotism working with a single mind in the villages to spread the message of the Charkha and bring a ray of hope and light into their lusterless eyes. This is a mighty effort at co-operation and adult education of the correct type. It brings about a silent and sure revolution like the silent but sure and life-giving revolution of the Charkha.