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31. Orthodox Yet Reformer
When Bapuji returned from South Africa, he had neither the lock of hair on the top of his head (kept after tonsure) nor did he wear the sacred thread. At the time of ‘Kumbhmela’ (an assemblage of religious minded people at the pilgrimage, after every twelve years) a Sadhu (a holy man) persistently asked Bapu to have both of them. Bapu agreed to keep the lock of hair but declined to wear the scared thread. Telling me about this incident, he said, “Although I am a staunch Hindu myself I want to introduce so many reforms in Hindu society. If required I would even set about a hunger strike against this society. That would be the only way to reform it. So I would better abide by their traditions and keep them happy until then. Nothing can be achieved by refusing a trivial thing like keeping a lock of hair. But regarding the sacred thread, he said, “We have unnecessarily made a number of compartments in Hindu society. We divided it into pieces. Some of the people have the right to wear the sacred thread and some don’t have it. This divide is unaccounted for.” Gandhiji was a great reformer but basically he was a ‘baniya’ (a tradesman by caste). That is why he called himself orthodox, but accepted the profession of a reformer.