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Mahatma Gandhi


Taking up Sarvodaya as our duty

Welfare from Lowliest of the lowest to Welfare of all

- By Balamurali Balaji*


What is Sarvodaya anyway? Is it relevant in today's democratic society run by elected governments? How do we take up the Gandhiji's principle of Sarvodaya to the people of India or even the world? This article hints at certain viewpoints one need to develop in order to implement Sarvodaya. It also indicates how Sarvodaya can be globalized in order to sustain social equality, economic equality and political stability.


Gandhiji's concept of Sarvodaya is the superset of Antyodaya, what one has to expect from Sarvodaya.  While Antyodaya sets the scene for the downtrodden, Sarvodaya creates wealth for the common good of the all. A society, community, a neighbourhood or the whole state can benefit from the principles of Sarvodaya.
Sarvodaya is not an illusion or hallucination, for it contains Antyodaya, an aspect that needs to be realized by every individual, rich or poor.

It is a social philosophy that characterizes a synthesis between the needs, urges and aspirations of the individual and of the society of which the individual is an inseparable and indivisible part.  He called it sarvodaya - the rise and well-being of all.1 Sarvodaya is a learning process for those who do not know about it. It is an approach for those who seeks to solve the problems; a solution for a self-contained person. It is wisdom for those who searches for knowledge; a tool for those who put their beliefs in its methods and principles.

Pioneer of Sarvodaya:

The landless poor of this country could get a place for living when Vinobaji believed that Sarvodaya begin with an individual who contributed his land in a meeting at Pochampalli in 1951. Eventually Vinobaji could collect thousands of acres of land from many individuals who believed that the welfare of the poor is the foremost necessity for the welfare of themselves, the rich, the class and the royals.

It was Vinobaji who took Gandhiji's Sarvodaya to the nook and corners of the country in the form of Boodhan, GramDhan movements. Independence was a right to freedom whereas owning a land is the right to live. Landless poors could not taste freedom without peaceful living. Sarvodaya purified millions of land owners and Zamindars who owned surplus land; it gave them opportunity to purify their hearts by the means of Dhan and Dharma.

Sarvodaya as a duty:

While it is the duty and responsibility of society to plan for the fullest possible development of the best in every individual, it is equally necessary that the individual render back unto society what he, in fact, owes to society. Thus there needed a balance in both the rights and obligations between the individuals and the society which they compose. We must work for a “casteless classless society”. I believe this is the desire of our people. The Government has made substantial contribution to the solution of the problem of the “outcaste”. However, the sarvodaya movement might do much more. Harijan Seva is one of the main ingredients of Gandhiji's Sarvodaya.2

Through Harijan work, Gandhiji served all other disciplines such as health, education, Gram Dhan and village economy. It ensured not just "equality of all", but "everyone gets all".

The insistence of the need for “Sarvodaya” is the fact about who really follows it. For example, today, uncultivable lands and the fertile lands of poor farmers are being grabbed by the multinational companies and the government bodies. Do the people have any idea of their participation on how the land is to be used? Do the farmers ever have any participation on the usage of lands? No! They are being given promises on some jobs, and converted from their original occupation to some newer lines of work, after losing their lands. Neither have they become the owners of the company or the government. Gandhiji's Sarvodaya is about sharing and using the lands between the landlords and the landless. Lands can be used for the common purpose what the people define.

Today, Sarvodaya principles are very much needed in the world. There are many countries in the world, in which communities are built under the guidance of the same dominant powers that had caused disintegration and damages to the community. People are following the pattern and social setup dictated by the same powers that had melted down their rights and self-rule. India must do more to take Gandhiji's model of Sarvodaya to such places for the common good.  We must make the world a nicer place by creating self-reliant communities that had been torn apart by violence, war and racial conflicts.

Centuries ago, John Ruskin in his book, “Unto this last” clearly stated how the economy can be seen through moral perspectives. To become rich, according to him, have various dimensions with many shortcomings. Earning wealth becomes greedier and greedier when it is compared with that of the rest of the society. When everyone wants to become rich, greed alone becomes a rule. We never consider the fact that there are always certain powers like natural intrusions and unpredictable future that reins over our lives. Gandhiji, after studying this book, decided to follow what is said in it. Thus the idea of Sarvodaya emerged, a philosophy that holds good for all - removing inequality, greed and dominance of unruly means in building the economy of society.

Globalizing Sarvodaya

Sarvodaya brings a way of life to the lowliest of the lowest; it brings welfare to a poor man who could meet his day-to-day needs through moral standings.  To observe morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. We notice that the mind is a restless bird; the more it gets the more it wants, and still remains unsatisfied.3

For Sarvodaya to be successful around the world, we must globalize the Gandhian principles. We must take the principles of truth and nonviolence in our blood. It shall start from the ground. People in the lowest order must be taught to carry on these principles so as to globalize themselves. Without these twin principles, Antyodaya is illusive. People's power will be a myth. All welfare and developments will have no humanity infused with them. A soul-less, unconscious welfare and development would be an insult to Gandhiji's Antyodaya.

Gandhiji's political order of Sarvodaya encompassing Swaraj, Panchayat Raj, Decentralization and more importantly a non-violent statehood will be the basis for the solution to ailing communities all over the world. While doing so, Sarvodaya could well be downsized and minimized to suit the smaller communities. Our duty is to globalize Sarvodaya and then localize it to create and flourish neutral villages.

Jai Hind! Jai Jagat!


  1. Taking Sarvodaya to the People By R. R. Keithahn
  2. The Relevance of Gandhi By R. R. Diwakar
  3. India of my Dreams By M. K. Gandhi
  4. The King of Kindness – Vinoba Bhave and his Nonviolence revolution by Mark Shepherd

* Balamurali Balaji is a Founder-Director of 'The Center for Information Technology and Gandhian Philosophy of Nonviolence and Peace'. Email: