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PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > The Gospel of the Charkha

 

The Gospel Of The Charkha

Unto The Poor
I THINK of the poor of India every time that 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 is his God. To him any one 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. (YI, 20-5-1926, p. 187)


...The spinning-wheel enables us to identify ourselves with cores. The millionaires imagine that money can bring them anything in the world. But it is not so. At any moment death might come and snuff them out…. Losing one's life…is not the same thing as shedding 'self'. One has to learn to efface self or the ego voluntarily and as a sacrifice in order to find God. The spinning-wheel rules out exclusiveness. It stands for all inclusiveness. It stands for all including the poorest. It, therefore, requires us to be humble and to cast away pride completely. (H, 13-10-1946, p. 345)


Revival of the cottage industry, and not cottage industries, will remove the growing poverty. When once we have revived the one industry, all the other industries will follow…. I would make the spinning-wheel the foundation on which to build a sound village life. I would make the wheel the centre round which all other activities will revolve. (YI, 21-5-1925, pp. 176, 177)

Message Of The Charkha
I … claim for the Charkha the honour of being able to solve the problem of economic distress in a most natural, simple, inexpensive and business like manner….. It is the symbol of the nation's prosperity and, therefore, freedom. It is a symbol not of commercial war but of commercial peace. (YI, 8-12-1921, p. 406)


The message of the spinning-wheel is much wider than its circumference. Its message is one of simplicity, service of mankind, living so as not to hurt others, creating an indissoluble bond between the rich and the poor, capital and labour, the prince and the peasant. That larger message is naturally for all.
(YI, 17-9-1925, p. 321)


The message of the spinning-wheel is, really, to replace the spirit of exploitation by the spirit of service. The dominant not in the West is the note of exploitation. I have no desire that our country should copy that spirit or that note. (YI, 2-2-1928, p. 34)


I do feel that it has message for the U.S.A. and the whole world. But it cannot be until India has demonstrated to the world that it has made the spinning-wheel its own, which it has not done today. The fault is not of the wheel. I have not the slightest doubt that the saving of India and of the world lies in the wheel. If India becomes the slave of-the machine, then, I say, heaven save the world?
(H, 17-11-1946, p. 404)

Return To Simplicity
If I preach against the modern artificial life of sensual enjoyment, and ask men and women to go back to the wimple life epitomized in the Charkha, I do so because I know that, without an intelligent return to simplicity, there is no escape from our descent to a state lower than brutality. (YI, 21-7-1921, pp. 228-9)


I believe that no other path but that of non-violence will suit India. The symbol of that DHARMA for India is the spinning-wheel as it alone is the friend of the distressed and the giver of plenty for the poor. The law of love knows no bounds of space or time. My Swaraj, therefore, takes note of Bhangis, Dublas and the weakest of the weak, and except the spinning-wheel I know no other thing which befriends all these.
(YI, 8-1-1925, p. 18)

Wheel Of Life
Take to spinning [to find peace of mind]. The music of the wheel will be as balm to your soul. I believe that the yarn we spin is capable of mending the broken warp and woof of our life. The Charkha is the symbol of non-violence on which all life, if it is to be real life, must be based. (H, 27-4-1947, p. 122)


Some will recall through the wheel the name of that Prince of Peace, Ashoka, the founder of an empire, who ultimately gave up the pomp and circumstance of power to become the undisputed Emperor of the hearts of men and became the representative of all the then known faiths. We would call it a legitimate interpretation of the wheel to seek in it he Wheel of Law ascribed to that living store of mercy and love.

The spinning-wheel thus interpreted adds to its importance in the life of billions of mankind. to liken it to and to derive it from the Ashoka disc is to recognize in the insignificant-looking Charkha the necessity of obeying the ever-moving Wheel of the Divine Law of Love. (H, 3-8-1947, p. 266)


… Spinning has become a part and parcel of the Ashram prayer. The conception of spinning as sacrifice has been linked with the idea of God, the reason being that we believe that in the Charkha and what it stands for lies the only hope of salvation of the poor. (H, 18-8-1946, p. 263)


It is my claim that the universalization of hand-spinning with a full knowledge of all that it stands for alone can bring that [conquest of inertia] in a sub-continent so vast and varied as India. I have compared spinning to the central sun and the other village crafts to the various constellations in the solar system. The former gives light and warmth to the latter and sustains them. Without it they would not be able to exist. (H, 31-3-1946, p. 58)

Duty Of Spinning
Just as every one of us must eat and drink and clothe himself, even so everyone of us must spin himself. (YI, 28-5-1925, p. 182)


I do not know whether I am a Karmayogi or any other Yogi. I know that I cannot live without work. I crave to die with my hand at the spinning-wheel. I one has to establish communion with God through some means, why not through the spinning wheel? Him who worships Me, says the Lord in the Gita, I guide along the right path and see to his needs. (H, 8-5-1937, p. 99)


If every woman in India spins, then a silent revolution will certainly be created, of which a Jawaharlal [Nehru] can make full use. Unless steam generated is put to proper use, the engine will not run and the person generating the steam may himself be scalded by it even unto death. (H, 14-4-1946, p. 88)


A scientific study of the spinning-wheel will lead on to Sociology. The spinning-wheel will not become a power for the liberation of India in our hands unless we have made a deep study of the various sciences related to it. It will then not only make India free, but point the way t o the whole world.
(H, 31-3-1946, p. 59)

'Livery Of Freedom'
…While Khadi is good for the poor as an honourable occupation for earning bread, it has an additional and far greater value as an instrument of winning Swaraj through non-violence means. (H, 28-4-1946, p. 104)


In 1908, in South Africa, I conceived the idea that, if poverty-stricken India were to be freed form the alien yoke, India must learn to look upon the spinning-wheel and hand-spun yarn as the symbol, not of slavery, but of freedom. It should also mean butter to bread. (H, 22-9-1946, p. 320)


Khadi to me is the symbol of unity of Indian humanity, of its economic freedom and equality and, therefore, ultimately, in the poetic expression of Jawaharlal Nehru, "the livery of India's freedom."

Moreover, Khadi mentality means decentralization of the production and distribution of the necessaries of life. Therefore, the formula so far evolved is, every village to produce all its necessaries and a certain percentage in addition for the requirements of the cities.
Heavy industries will needs be centralized and nationalized. But they will occupy the least part of the vast national activity which will mainly be in the villages…..

Since the wanton destruction of this central village industry and the allied handicrafts, intelligence and brightness have fled from the villages, leaving them inane, lusterless, and reduced almost to the state of their ill-kept cattle. (CP, p. 12)

Economic Regeneration
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 saved from starvation, they must be enabled to introduce spinning in their homes, and every village must repossess its own weaver. (YI, 21-7-1920, p. 4)


It bears not a message of ill-will towards t he nations of the earth but of good-will and self-half. 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 curses of posterity for many mistakes of omission and commission, but I am confident of earning its blessing 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, inasmuch as the loss of it brought about India's slavery. Its voluntary revival with all its implications must mean India's freedom. (YI, 8-12-1921, p. 406)

Hope Of Rural Masses
I have often said that, if the seven lakhs of the villages of India were to be kept alive, and if peace that is at the root of all civilization is to be achieved, we have to make the spinning-wheel the centre of all handicrafts. (H, 19-2-1938, p. 11)


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 villagers from idleness. For the Charkha included all the anterior and posterior industries-ginning, carding, warping, sizing, dyeing and waving. 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 villages are to come into their own, the most natural thing that suggests itself is the revival of the Charkha and all it means. (H, 13-4-1940, p. 85)


I have no doubt in my mind that the wheel can serve as the instrument of earning one's livelihood and, at the same time, enable the worker to render useful service to his neighbours…. In order to ply the wheel intelligently, he should now all the processes that precede and succeed spinning. (H,17-3-1946, p. 42)


The conviction dawned upon me even before I came to India that the revival of hand-spinning alone could restore India to its pristine glory. I have since compared the spinning-wheel to the central sun round which the solar system of our village economy revolves. It provides the golden bridge between the rich and the poor. (H, 21-7-1946, p. 231)


The Charkha is not like either the small or large machines of the West. There cores of watches are produced in a few special places. They are sold all over the world. The same tale applies to the sewing machine. These things are symbols of one civilization. The Charkha represents the opposite.

We do not to universalize the Charkha through mass production in one place. Our ideal is to make the Charkha and all its accessories in the locality where the spinners live. Therein lies the value of the spinning-wheel. Anything that goes wrong with it should be put right on the spot and the spinners should be taught how to do so. (H, 20-10-1946, pp. 363-4)

Mill Industry
Our mills cannot today spin enough for our wants, and if they did, they will not keep down prices unless they were compelled. They are frankly money-makers and will not, therefore, regulate prices according to the needs of the nation. Hand-spinning is therefore designed to put millions of rupees in the hands of the poor villagers. Every agricultural country requires a supplementary industry to enable the peasants to utilize the spare hours. Such industry for India has always been spinning. Is it such a visionary ideal-an attempt to revive an ancient occupation whose destruction has brought on slavery, pauperism and disappearance of the inimitable artistic talent which was once all expressed in the wonderful fabric of India which was the envy of the world? (YI, 16-2-1921, pp. 50-51)


Do I seek to destroy the mill-industry, I have often been asked. If I did, I should not have pressed for the abolition of the excise duty. I want the mill-industry to prosper-only I do not want it to prosper at the expense of the country. On the contrary, If the interests of the country demand that the industry should go, I should let it go without the slightest compunction. (YI, 24-2-1927, p. 58)


In my opinion, the mill-hands are as much the proprietors of their mills as the share-holders, and when the mill-owner realize that the mill-hand are as much mill-owners as they, there will be no quarrel between them. (YI, 4-8-1927, p. 248)