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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section VII : Economic Ideas > Khadi and Hand-spinning

48. Khadi and Hand-spinning

Khadi connotes the beginning of economic freedom and equality of all in the country… It must be taken with all its implications. It means wholesale Swadeshi mentality, a determination to find all the necessaries of life in India and that too through the labour and intellect of the villagers… The latter (villages) will be largely self-contained and will voluntarily serve the cities of India and even the outside world in so far as it benefits both the parties.

This needs a revolutionary change in the mentality and taste of many. Easy though the non-violent way is in many respects, it is very difficult in many others. It vitally touches the life of every of every single Indian, makes him feel aglow with the possession of a power that has lain hidden within himself, and makes him proud, of his identify with every drop of the ocean of Indian humanity.

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.

Constructive Programme, (1961), pp. 12-13

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.

Young India, 17-9-25, p. 321

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 than 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, p. 329

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 reintroduce spinning in their homes and every village must repossess its own weaver.

Young India, 21-7-20, p. 4

If the reader would visualize the picture of the Indian skeleton, he must think of the eighty percent of the population which is working its own fields, and which has practically no occupation for at least four months in the year, and which therefore lives on the borderland of starvation. This is the normal condition. The ever recurring famines make a large addition to this enforced idleness. What is the work that these men and women can easily do in their own cottages so as to supplement their very slender resources? Does any one still doubt that it is only hand-spinning and nothing else?

Yong India, 3-11-21, pp. 350-51

Cottage manufacture of yarn and cloth cannot be expensive even as domestic cookery is not expensive and cannot be replaced by hotel cookery. Over twenty-five crores of the population will be doing their own hand-spinning and having yarn thus manufactured woven in neighbouring localities. This population is rooted to the soil, and has at least four months in the year to remain idle.

If they spin during those hours and have the yarn woven and wear it, no mill-made cloth can compete with their Khadi. The cloth thus manufactured will be the cheapest possible for them.

Young India, 8-12-21, p. 405

What is claimed for spinning is that:

1. It applies 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 title and splinter.

6. The people have no repugnance to it.

7. It affords immediate relief in times of famine and security.

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 saves 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, p. 277

The disease of the masses is not want of money so much as it is want of work. Labour is money. He who provides dignified labour for the millions in their cottages, provides food and clothing, or which is the same thing, money. The Charakha provides such labour. Till a better substitute is found, it must, therefore, hold and field.

Young India, 18-6-25, p. 211

Idleness is the great cause, the root of all evil, and if that root can be destroyed, most of the evils can be remedied without further effort. A nation that is starving has little hope or initiative left in it. It becomes indifferent to filth and disease. It says of all reforms, ‘to what good? That winter of despair can only be turned into the ‘suns-shine’ of hope, for the millions only through in life-giving wheel, the Charkha.

Young India, 27-8-25, p. 299

The spinning wheel is an attempt to produce something out of nothing. If we have save sixty crores of rupees to the nation through the spinning wheel, as we certainly can, we add that vast amount to the national income. In the process we automatically organize our villages. And as almost the whole of the amount must be distributed amongst the poorest of the land, it becomes a scheme of just and nearly equal distribution of so much wealth. Add to this the immense moral value of such distribution, and the case for the Charkha becomes irresistible.

Young India, 17-2-27, p. 52

Indeed, in some places, there are to be found weavers who are classed as untouchables on account of their occupation. They are mostly weavers of coarsest Khadi without any pattern. This class was fast dying out when Khadi came to the rescue and there was created a demand for their coarse manufacture. It was then discovered that there were numerous Harijan families that even subsisted on spinning. Thus Khadi is doubly the poor man’s staff of life. It helps the poorest, including the Harijans, who are the most helpless among the poorest. They are so because many occupations which are available to the others are not available to the Harijans.

Harijan, 27-4-34, p. 85

Spinning would spell the organization of crores into a joint co-operative effort, the conservation and utilization of the energy of the millions, and the dedication of crores of lives to the service of the motherland. The carrying out of such a gigantic task would, further, give us a realization of our own strength. It would mean our acquiring a thorough mastery of the detail and innumerable knotty problems which it presents, e.g, learning to keep account of every pie, learning to live in the villages in sanitary and healthy conditions, removing the difficulties that block the way and so on. For, unless we learn all this, we would not be able to accomplish this task. The spinning wheel, then, provides us with a means for generating this capacity in us.

Young India, 27-5-26, p. 190

The only universal industry for the millions is spinning and no other. That does not mean that other industries do not matter or are useless. Indeed from the individual standpoint, and other industry would be more remunerative than spinning. Watch making will be no doubt a most remunerative and fascinating industry. But how many can engage in it? Is it of any use to the millions of villagers? But if the villagers can reconstruct their home, begin to live again as their forefathers did, if they begin to make good use of their idle hours, all else, all the other industries, will revive as a matter of course.

Young India, 30-9-26, p. 341

The revival (of charkha) 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 in to 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.

Twenty years’ experience of Charkha work has convinced me of the correctness of the argument here advanced by me. The Charkha has served the poor Muslims and Hindus in almost an equal measure. Nearly five crores of rupees have been put into the pockets of these lakhs of village artisans without fuss and bottoming.

Hence I say without hesitation that the Charkha must lead us to Swaraj in terms of the masses belonging to all faiths. The Charkha restores the villages to their rightful place and abolishes distinctions between high and low.

Harijan, 13-4-40, p. 85

The spinning wheel 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 goodwill 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 curses 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 take my all on it. For every revolution of the wheel spins peace, goodwill and love.

Yong India, 8-2-21, p. 406

It is my claim that (by reviving Khadi and other village industries) we shall evolved so far that we shall remodel national life in keeping with the ideal of simplicity and domesticity implanted in the bosom of the masses. We will not then be dragged into an imperialism which is built upon exploitation of the weaker races of the earth, and the acceptance of a giddy materialistic civilization protected by naval and air forces that have made peaceful living almost impossible. On the contrary we shall then refine that imperialism in to a commonwealth of nations which will combine, if they do, for the purpose of giving their best to the world and of protecting, not by brute-force but by self-suffering, the weaker nations or races of the earth… Such a transformation can come only after the complete success of the spinning wheel. India can become fit for delivering such a message, when she has become proof against temptation and therefore attacks from outside, by becoming self-contained regarding two of her chief needs-food and clothing.

Young India, 29-6-21, p. 206

When once we have revived the one industry (Khadi), 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 center round which all other activities will revolve.

Young India, 21-5-25, p. 177

My experience tells me that in order to make Khadi universal both in the cities and villages, it should be made available only in exchange for yarn. As time passes I hope people will themselves insist on buying Khadi through yarn currency. If, however, this does not happen and they produce yarn grudgingly, I fear Swaraj through non-violence will be impossible.

Swaraj Through Charkha, (1945), p. 5

The Charkha is the symbol of non-violent economic self-sufficiency. If we and the people grasp this significance of the Charkha not a pice need be spent on propaganda for the Charkha. Nor need we look to the rich for alms. We shall without effort become the centre of hope, and the people will come to us of their own accord. They will not go elsewhere to seek work.

Every village will become the nerve-centre of independence India. India will then not be known by her cities like Bombay and Calcutta, but by her 400 millions inhabiting the seven lakhs of villages. The problems of Hindu-Muslim differences, untouchability, conflicts, misunderstandings and rivalries will all melt away. This is the real function of the Sangh-1 we have to live and die for it.

Khadi-Why and How, (1959), p. 150

Now I feel that Khadi alone cannot revive the villages. Village uplift is possible only when we rejuvenate village life as a whole, revive all village industries and make the entire village industrious.

Khadi- Why and How, (1959), p. 181

Our reason for putting forward Khadi is that it is the only way to redeem the people from the disease of inertia and indifference, the only way to generate in them the strength for freedom. I other crafts are also thus revitalized; our villages could be made self-sufficient and self-reliant.

Khadi-Why and How, (1959), p. 185

What we are required to prove above all is the necessity for Khadi for establishing a strong, non-violent village economy.

Khadi-Why and How, (1959), p. 189

Ponder and realize wealth this would mean to India, if 300 crores worth of cloth is produced by their own hands in the villages. This is a veritable mint of gold for them and if Khadi became universal, the villages will rise to unknown heights. Today our masses are poverty-stricken, without the luster of hope or intelligence in their eyes. The pure hands of the spinners could create this miracle for them and everyone could help. They should have understanding hearts and seeing eyes to detect the beauty in Khaddar even if it is coarse and not be allured by mill finery which could never clothe their nakedness in the true sense of the term. The only way to clothe their nakedness and drive away the hunger is for them to grow their own food and make their own cloth. If this happy consummation can be achieved, the eyes of the whole world will be turned towards India.

Harijan, 22-9-46, p. 322

1. All India spinners Association