In the Footprints of Jnanoba and Tukoba1 (The Journey through Maharashtra)
After seven years of travel round India I reached Maharashtra (in
March 1958). I said to the people: ‘Here I want nothing from you
except your love. Up to now I have been asking for gifts, gifts of
many kinds, and all of them very much needed, but all of them must
be given as tokens of love. I am hungry for love from one and all. I
have come before the people of Maharashtra as a man with only two
possessions, his thoughts and his love; I have nothing more. I stand
before you in freedom of spirit, ready to reopen and reconsider even
those principles of which I have become fully convinced. I have no
organization of my own, and I do not belong to any. I am simply a
man, as God made me. I possess only two conveniences, my spectacles
and my dhoti (loin-cloth), and I do not feel easy in my mind that I
should possess even these. But I keep them, out of regard for
people’s feelings, or for some such reason.
Forty years ago, in 1918, I had made a walking tour in some
districts of this state. I was at that time greatly interested in
seeing historic sites and examining historical documents, and I took
every opportunity to do so. This time, however, my research is not
into the past but into the present. I am trying to discover the
needs of today, and how they can be satisfied. My first step was to
say, give a little land. Then I began to ask for one-sixth of the
land. After that I said to people, see to it that no one in your
village is without land. Next, I began to tell them that it was
wrong to think in terms of land-ownership at all, that land is for
everyone, like air, water and sunlight. Then I began to talk about
Gramswarajya (village self-government), Shanti-sena (Peace Army),
and now of Sarvodaya-Patra (the welfare pot). I saw a banyan tree by
the roadside one day, and I thought that bhoodan works very much
like the tree does. Bhoodan is a tree of living thought which is
always putting out new branches and new leaves.
So, at the age of sixty-three I came to Pandharpur2 for the first
time in my life, for the Sarvodaya Conference. Nevertheless, if
someone were to conclude from that, that all these years I have
absented myself, it could only mean that he understands nothing
about my life. I affirm that I have really been in Pandharpur all
the time, from the day I started thinking for myself up to the
present. I hold that ‘Pandharpur’ is present in every place, and
every place is therefore for me a place of pilgrimage. The holy
shrines are not to be found only in Pandharpur or Rameshwaram, Mecca
or Jerusalem. Every village and every house is for me a holy place.
Some people had announced that Vinoba, on reaching Pandharpur, would
visit the temple with people of any caste or creed, and so pollute
it. How could they have so misunderstood me ! My satyagraha, my
campaign for truth, is not like that. Satyagraha means that I will
go nowhere which is forbidden to me, no matter how much reverence I
may feel for the place. But while I was still on my way to
Pandharpur the authorities of the Vitthal temple sent me a written
invitation and in this way the people of Pandharpur won my heart
I have no words to express what I felt then, as I stood in humility
before the image of Vithoba. I told my hearers that I had never
received a more precious gift, or a greater boon than this. With me
were Christian, Muslim and Parsi women, and we all looked upon this
holy image together. Maharashtra had given me the best gift it could
possibly have made. As I see it, the event was without precedent in
the Sarvodaya movement. Not long afterwards, some people from the
Moral Re-armament movement came to see me. I told them that the
inhabitants of Pandharpur had greatly strengthened the moral armoury.
‘Yes,’ they said, ‘there is no doubt about it, our moral armoury is
re-inforced by what has happened.’
In this age of science the experience of Samya-yoga,3 of universal
harmonious unity, is not to be sought only in the depths of
individual meditation. It should be experienced by the whole of
society. In former times, Samya-yoga was regarded as the apex; now
it must be taken as the foun- dation, and the whole of life must be
built upon it. The age of science demands nothing less.
In Gujarat, among Gandhi’s People
When at last I set foot on the soil of Gujarat (in September 1958)
it was the fulfilment of a desire of many years’ standing. I can’t
describe how happy I felt to see the people of Gandhiji’s native
land. ‘It is true,’ I said, ‘that the whole world was his, he
belonged to the world; and of course he belonged to India, but in a
special way he belonged here in Gujarat. And I too belong to you
all; I have spent many years outside, in other states, but now I
have come home.’
I decided that so long as I was in Gujarat I would speak Gujarati.
When I first met Bapu (Gandhiji) I had to talk with him in Hindi,
but I noticed that at that time he did not know Hindi very well. So
I set to work to study Gujarati, and mastered it in a short time;
from then on I always talked to him in Gujarati.
Gujarat has given me a great deal, so I told the people there not to
expect me to offer them knowledge; I would try to the utmost of my
power to give them service. All the people, of all political parties
and of none, helped to strengthen my hands. I told them that the
ideas I had brought with me were the ‘highest common factor’ of
their various ideologies. There are many differences of opinion in
the world, but the main principles, which I have been trying to
spread during my tramp around India, have now won general
intellectual acceptance. It now remains to win for them the love of
the people’s hearts.
Last year, when I went to Kerala, the four Christian churches issued
an appeal to their people, asking all Christians to give me their
full cooperation, because I was ‘doing the work of Jesus Christ’.
When I was in Uttar Pradesh and went to Sarnath, the Buddhist monks
there welcomed me, saying ‘Baba, we accept your claim that you are
carrying forward the work of the Lord Buddha, and turning the Wheel
of the Law.’ They also gave me a token of their love, a copy of the
Dhammapada which I took with me to Bihar. Then, when in the course
of my bhoodan pilgrimage I reached Malabar, the Muslims there told
me, ‘What you say is exactly what is said in the Koran.’ ‘I have
read the Koran,’ I replied, ‘read it with reverence, and I am very
happy that you should think so.’ In Tamilnadu the man most revered
is Tiruvalluvar;4 a book was published which said that Vinoba was
preaching just what Tiruvalluvar taught, and that all Tamilians
should cooperate with him. This principle of mine has thus been
endorsed by various schools of thought which hold sway in the world.
What remains to be done is to endear it to the people.
My travels in Gujarat took me to Bardoli, and I spoke there about
how Gujarat combines a pious heart with a practical turn of mind.
When the two are yoked together, Krishna the Lord of Yoga, and
Arjuna the bearer of the bow, become one; so there assuredly are
fortune, victory and prosperity.5 Then I visited the Sabarmati
Harijan Ashram.6 I told its inmates that it had almost become a
village, and had the same problems as any other village; so if they
were to decide on gramdan, these problems could be solved. Gramdan,
in fact, means abhaya-dan, the gift of fearlessness.
In Dargah Sharif
During my journey through Rajasthan, a Sarvodaya conference was
arranged at Ajmer, because the Dargah Sharif7 there is a famous
Muslim holy place (just as, if a Sarvodaya conference were held in
Palestine, it would naturally be at Jerusalem). I am no sectarian,
but I hold such places in great honour because they are the site of
austerities undergone with reverence and faith.
I had an invitation from the Nazim (manager) of the Dargah Sharif,
who wrote to one of my companions: ‘We very much wish that Vinoba
will come to the Dargah, we want to welcome him here because our
great Saint (whose Dargah this is) was a devotee of peace and love.
Along with Vinobaji I am inviting all his companions; they are all
welcome.’ I therefore invited all who were attending the conference
to go with me, and insisted specially that the women should join.
Just as all castes and creeds had gone to the Pandharpur temple, so
it should happen here. Islam has a high and holy message. It makes
no distinction between the rich and the poor. It strictly forbids
the charging of interest on loans. It is an example of true
democracy. I wish to proclaim myself both a Muslim and a Christian.
I visited the Dargah once ten years ago, when people’s minds had
lost their balance in the aftermath of the partition of the country
in 1947, and I spent seven days there. I used to hold my prayer
meetings in the Dargah.
The next day therefore I was accompanied to the Dargah by thousands
of others belonging to all faiths. We were very cordially welcomed.
I said to the gathering: ‘There are some temples and mosques which
do not allow all people to enter. That is not right. Everyone
without distinction should be allowed to enter any place of worship.
All these distinctions must go.’ The truth is that worship does not
need either a temple or a mosque, one may worship God anywhere.
Devotion, as the Holy Koran says, requires only three things: sabr
(patience), raham (compa- ssion) and hak (truth). I call it love,
compassion and truth.
In the Beautiful Land of Lalla8 (Kashmir)
No words could describe the joy I felt when (in May 1959) I entered
the state of Kashmir.9 Some Muslim brothers came to Pathankot to
meet me, and nothing could have been better than the gift which they
brought me. It was a beautiful copy of the Koran, and I took it as a
blessing on my entry into Kashmir.
I told the people there what I hoped to do. ‘On my own account,’ I
said, ‘I want nothing. What God wills comes to pass, as I have seen.
I have cast all my cares and all my life upon Him, and nothing has
ever happened to me which has not been good for me and for the
country. I rely on Him. If it should be the will of Allah, I want to
do three things: I want to see, I want to hear, and I want to love.
I want to use, here in Kashmir, the whole power of loving with which
God has endowed me.’
During my travels I usually covered nine or ten miles each day, and
it was my custom to eat something in the early morning before
starting my walk. On the day I entered Kashmir however I gave up
eating one meal. My stomach does not allow me to eat double at the
second meal when I have given up the first, so I cannot make up for
what I have missed. Still, I thought, I will fast a little and so
purify myself. So I gave up one meal in the name of Kashmir.
To enter the Vale of Kashmir one must cross the Pir-Panjal pass.
Before I reached it I was held up by rain for six days in the market
town of Loran. I decided that if the rain continued and we could not
cross the mountain range, I would take it as a sign from God that I
should not enter Kashmir itself, and I would return to Punjab. I am
guided by such signs, and made up my mind that if I could not cross
the Pir-Panjal range I would not go by any other route. But in the
end the rains stopped, and I was able to cross the mountains and go
A man came one day to give me land because his wife had told him to
do so. She had seen a photograph in some newspaper which showed
someone giving me a hand to help me over a difficult stretch of
road. The picture made her feel that when a man is taking so much
trouble to help the poor, it would not be right to refuse him land.
That woman, who was inspired by that picture to do something for the
poor, was she at all wanting in culture? In my view, her human
stature touched greater heights than that Pir-Panjal which I had
crossed at an altitude of 13,500 feet !
I am happy to say that every group I had the opportunity to meet,
political, religious or social, large or small, all of them felt me
to be one of themselves, to whom they could open their hearts and
speak their minds without misgiving. They trusted me and told me
what they thought, so I was able to get what I wished, and hear what
I wanted to know.
My third aim was to love, and during those four months I know of no
occasion when anything but love entered my mind. By the grace of
God, my wish to love was fulfilled.
The people there reminded me three or four times that Shankaracharya
had once come to Kashmir on the same kind of mission as mine. I
agreed with them that my mission could be compared with his in its
purpose, but I cannot be compared with him. He was a great master; I
am a mere servant, a slave of Allah. I claim no knowledge, but I do
claim to practise the little that I know. I myself am nothing, but
the mission on which I have come is not nothing, it is something
which offers freedom not only to Kashmir, but to India and to the
world as well.
When I entered the state of Jammu-Kashmir I was given a book, an
English translation of the sayings of Lalla. Lalla lived six hundred
years ago, but even today the people have not forgotten her. In the
meanwhile many rulers have come and gone, but which of them do the
people remember? Everyone remembers the name of Lalla, the Saint,
the great Soul. So as soon as I set foot in Jammu and Kashmir, I
began to describe the fundamental purpose of my pilgrimage in this
way: ‘The problems of Kashmir, of India and of the world will not be
solved by politics, but only by the recognition of spiritual
principle. The days of sectarian religion and of politics are over.
From now on only spiritual principle, and science, will be of any
use to the world.’ Only when our hearts become large enough to get
rid of our disputes about religion, nationality, language etc., only
then will Kashmir and India become strong. And when they do, that
strength will be such as to bring ease of mind to everyone in the
At the Feet of Guru Nanak (In Punjab and Himachal Pradesh)
I came down from Kashmir to the Punjab, and was there from September
1959 to April 1960. While there, I visited the Gurudwara in Amritsar.
I had once been consulted about the affairs of the Gurudwaras.
‘These quarrels which are going on nowadays,’ I said, ‘show a lack
of wisdom. They are a danger to the Sikh religion and to India as
well. In politics people quarrel for majorities, but it is a very
dangerous development that the same quarrels have started in the
field of religion. I have begged the political leaders over and over
again to give up the present party politics and find non-partisan
ways of managing public affairs. So long as politics are based on
minorities and majorities, India is the loser. It would be extremely
unwise to let this same party spirit take hold of religion; I cannot
imagine anything more disastrous. Can questions of religion ever be
decided by majority vote? In Guru Nanak’s mind a living seed of
religion germinated and grew. The basic principle of the Sikhs is
this-and a very great one it is-that the whole world belongs to one
race, one community, in which there are no divisions, no caste
distinctions. The worship of images is neither enjoined nor opposed.
God is One, that is the message. This basic idea is bound to spread,
but the very group of people which has given it to the world is
itself becoming infected by politics and its tricks, and this is an
extremely dangerous thing. I would like to warn you all against it.
If I had my way, I would have everyone leave his politics along with
his shoes outside the Gurudwaras. Politics are worth no more than
shoes. The politics of today, whether in India or in the world, are
not something to be carried proudly on the head; at the very most
they are for the feet, and such footgear is not fit to enter either
Gurud- wara or Church, Temple or Mosque. Don’t take it in, for if
you do, the house of God will become a place of devils.’
In Punjab I made public a decision I had come to, which I had been
thinking over for a year or two, and which I now placed before the
Sarva Seva Sangh in a letter from Pragpur in Kangra. ‘I have now
been walking for the last eight and a half years,’ I wrote, ‘and I
have visited all the states except Assam. I have been dwelling among
the people (janavas), though in our traditional language it could
also be called dwelling in the forest (vanavas). What I need now is
to dwell in the unknown (ajnatavas). I would go on walking, but all
that the country outside would know is that I am somewhere in
Punjab, and all the people in Punjab would know is that I am
somewhere in Kangra (or elsewhere). The Kangra people would know the
details for five or six days ahead, so I should not be completely a
dweller in the unknown; I should not be like either the Pandavas10
or those modern Pandavas who go under- ground; my whereabouts would
not be entirely unknown.
‘It is clear that there will be drawbacks. The gains may be
spiritual, especially considered as research in non-violence,
provided that the mind can absorb this magni- ficent idea. Whether
it can or not, can only be known by experience, and I would be
watching for it. I propose to begin the experiment from Amritsar.
There is to be a meeting of writers there, and after that I shall
cease to be a forest-dweller and become a dweller in the unknown.’
A man who is a dweller in the unknown may go wherever he pleases,
but it was in my mind to go towards Indore. Whether I went by a
round-about route, or as direct as Euclid’s straight line, would
depend on circumstances and the actions of those around me.
This experiment of mine lasted for four or five months. I let people
know my plans for three days in advance, no more. There is no doubt
that it was a great benefit as a help to reflection and meditation.
Then I crossed a corner of Uttar Pradesh and entered Madhya Pradesh.
Was it a Dream, What I saw in Madhya Pradesh?
What happened in Bhind-Morena, after I had been walking there for
ten or twelve days, moved me to the depths of my heart, for I saw
how the light of God indeed shines through all. In former days I had
accepted this in theory; now it was demonstrated in practice. In
former days I had read about non-violence in books; now I
encountered it in my own experience. Three times I witnessed its
power in human society; the first time was in Pochampalli, the
second in Bihar, and the third here in Bhind, in Madhya Pradesh.
In this part of Madhya Pradesh the ravines around the Chambal river
were infested by dacoits, armed robbers, some of them followers of
the rebel11 leader Man Singh. My peace campaign in the area had a
totally unexpected outcome. Non-violence is a spiritual force of
great power. Mahatma Gandhi used it in the political field, and
later it has been used in the social and economic field. Now I tried
it out in what is commonly called the dacoit region. Something new
happened which had never happened before. Hard hearts were melted;
the whole atmosphere was saturated with the spirit of God. People
for whom dacoity had become a means of livelihood repented, came to
me completely transformed, and abandoned their former ways. One can
only conclude that God had penetrated their hearts with His divine
radiance. As for me, I can only feel profoundly thankful to that
Lord of All, in whom I put my trust as I try to walk in the way of
truth, love and compassion.
While I was still in Kashmir Tahsildar Singh, the son of dacoit
leader Man Singh, wrote to me from jail. He had been condemned to
death and he wanted the privilege of seeing me before he was hanged.
At the time I had with me in my party General Yadunath Singh who
comes from this same area, and I asked him to go and see Tahsildar
Singh on my behalf. Tahsildar Singh told him of his desire that I
should visit the Chambal ravines and meet his dacoit comrades. I
went there in response to his request, and spoke to the people about
the principle of love, and I appealed to the robber gangs to come to
me as their friend. I assured them that they would be treated
justly, without brutality, and that their families would not suffer.
By the grace of God, twenty of them came to me at Kaneragram on the
nineteenth of May (1960). They laid down their guns-costly weapons,
equipped with powerful gunsights-and surrendered themselves to me.
Then they met their wives and children, and we went with them to the
jail, where they gave themselves up. They will reap the fruit of
their misdeeds, but they will have earned the forgiveness of God. A
way has been opened.
In the City of Ahilyabai12
During my tour of Madhya Pradesh I was able to stay for some weeks
at Indore. This city has a good climate, it is beautiful, and its
citizens are well-disposed. Bhopal is the administrative capital of
Madhya Pradesh, but to my mind Indore is the cultural capital; I
asked its citizens to make it a Sarvodaya city.
But as I went round the city during those five weeks I saw an ugly
thing which shocked me deeply. In a number of places filthy cinema
posters were on display; how could such a shameless thing be
tolerated? My eyes were opened: India would never be able to stand
upright so long as such dirty sights and dirty songs were the order
of the day-all the country’s vigour would be drained away. There
seemed no bounds to the dismay I felt at the sight of those filthy,
Along with the bhoodan movement, I decided, there must be a
purification campaign. If I had not come to Indore, I would not have
thought of it. I told the public that their children were being
given ‘free and compulsory education in sensuality,’ and that they
must undertake satyagraha (non-violent action) against it. I asked
the Municipal Councillors to get all these objectionable posters
removed from public places, and not to be swayed by greed for the
income they might lose. I made a special appeal to the women. ‘The
very basis of the householder’s life,’ I said, ‘is in danger. Our
sisters and mothers are being depicted in public places in a very
bad light. I am giving you women the task of guarding the peace and
the purity of this country. Wake up, women of Indore ! Don’t put up
with all these posters for one day longer. Tear them down ! Burn
I also held another kind of purification campaign in Indore. We
observed a ‘Clean Indore’ week, and went to various parts of the
city, to do what people called ‘plucky deeds’. I decided to clean
latrines, and went to a place where faeces, urine and water (sattva,
raja and tama)13 were all mingled. The women scavengers who worked
there daily must be using their bare hands for the job; I did the
same, except that I wore gloves. Even so, when I got back to my
lodging place I wanted to wash my hands many times over. For
scavenging I also took off the rubber slippers which I was wearing,
even though Appasaheb14 said that I should have something on my
feet. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘The things are called slippers, and they
would be sure to slip, and then there would be a regular scene-so I
won’t wear them.’ But what with the rain falling from above, and all
the nightsoil below, my feet got extremely dirty. Back in the house,
I felt like putting them in the fire, to refine them like metal and
get rid of the filthy scum.
A number of people had joined me in this work. ‘You have shown
plenty of pluck,’ I told them, ‘but now you must show some
intelligence as well. We must discover how to relieve humanity
completely of the need for such work. You must all put your heads
together and find some way of eliminating scavenging altogether.’
I chose Indore as a Sarvodaya city, and spent a compa- ratively long
time there, because it not only has links with the good Queen
Ahilyadevi, it is also the site of Kasturba- gram, the centre of the
work being done in memory of Mother Kasturba,15 where I stayed for
The Eastern Frontier Region
When my time at Indore was over I resumed my pilgrimage, but I had
not gone far when I received a letter from Pandit Nehru. He
suggested that I should go to Assam, which at that time was in a
disturbed state. I replied that in any case I needed to go to Assam,
which up to then I had not visited, to do my gramdan work, and that
I could do the peace work which he desired at the same time. ‘But,’
I said, ‘the tortoise will go at its own pace; it will not compete
with the hare.’ When Rajendrababu heard this, his comment was: ‘It’s
always the tortoise, not the hare, that wins the race.’ My
companions were eager for me to reach Assam quickly. ‘If I did
that,’ I said, ‘it would make the people of Assam feel that they
were badly at fault, so that I had had to put aside everything else
and go there. It seems to me, however, that they have not gone badly
wrong; they were carried away by an evil current.’ Meanwhile,
someone had told Panditji that I had set out on foot, not by the
direct route but according to the plan I had already made. ‘If I
were in his place I would do exactly the same,’ he replied.
So I travelled to Assam by my own route, and passed through Bihar on
the way. ‘You gave me a pledge,’ I said to the Biharis, ‘to get
thirty-two lakh acres of land in bhoodan, and you have not yet
fulfilled it. You had better get busy. I suggest that you should ask
every land-owner for one kattha in every bigha of his land (i.e. a
one-twentieth part of it).’ This started a new ‘one in twenty’
campaign. I also spent two days in Samanvaya Ashram16 at Bodhgaya,
and visited the Buddha temple, where I recited the Dhammapada
Navasamhita in full.
On my very first day in Assam (5th March 1961) I spoke of gramdan as
something which could raise the level of the whole of society. ‘A
man who makes himself out to be a landlord,’ I said, ‘is no true
Vaishnavite. It is Vishnu who is Lord of the land, Lord of all
creation.’ (Most of the people there are Vaishnavites, worshippers
The State of Assam is almost surrounded by foreign countries, and is
joined to the rest of India only by a narrow corridor. Its frontiers
with Burma (Myanmar), China, Tibet and East Pakistan17 add up to
about two thousand two hundred miles, while its link with India is
only fifty or sixty miles across. Assam is the bottle-neck of India,
so that India needs to keep in touch with it and attend to its
When I reached Assam I found that one matter was being talked about
everywhere: the problem of ‘infiltration’. There were differing
estimates of the number of people who had come in from Pakistan;
some said that they were very numerous, other thought not, but all
recognized the problem. This ‘problem’ however would solve itself if
land were all owned by the village and there were no buying or
selling of it, for then those who came in order to get land would
find that they could not do so. That was the best possible solution;
nobody need worry about how to control the frontier-about putting up
barbed wire, or building a wall, or providing armed police or
calling in the military. The solution, I repeat, lies in gramdan.
The land would all be owned by the gramsabha, the village assembly,
and no individual would be allowed to sell it. And if land cannot be
had, there is nothing to attract people from outside to come and
I found Namghars (shrines where Names of God are recited) in every
village; I also found that just as Jnanadev and Tukaram exercise
much influence on the Marathi people, and Tulsidas on the
Hindi-speaking people, so Shankaradeva and Madhavadeva18 have a wide
influence in Assam. These great souls derived from the Gita their
gospel of Ek Sharaniya, ‘total surrender’, and established in Assam
a great tradition of devotion. Even in the smallest village there is
a Namghar, and this promotes a family feeling in the village as a
whole. Even now, in every house, the women sit weaving on the
handloom. It seemed to me that the foundation for gramdan had
already been laid, and that if along with the Namghar we were to
build a Kam-ghar, a centre for village industries, this State could
soon stand on its own feet.
While I was at Indore I had received a letter from a sister in
Assam. ‘If you want to build up women’s power,’ she wrote, ‘you
should come here.’ She proved to be absolu- tely right. There was
and is a very good group of spiritually-minded women who observe
chastity and engage in social service. Amalaprabha Das is the source
of their inspiration; the influence of her work is felt throughout
One thing I did there was to try to teach Marathi to two Assamese
sisters who accompanied me on my travels, by using my Marathi Gitai
as the text-book. It’s a long way from Assam to Maharashtra !
Nevertheless I noticed that there were some Assamese words which
were not unlike Marathi ones. The two sisters knew the Nagari
script, so I used that script, along with the ideas of the Gitai, in
teach- ing them, and they began to read, write and speak Marathi.
I do not think that India can be united by using a single language,
but I do think that a common script might do it. What is needed is
that all the languages of India should be written in the Nagari
script in addition to their own. I am not a hee man, I am a bhee
man; I don’t want the Nagari script only (hee) to be used, I want it
to be used also (bhee), alongside the local one. If the great
spiritual literature of every language were also available in the
Nagari script, it would make it easier for people to learn one
another’s languages, and it would help to increase the sense of
I stayed in Assam for a year and a half, up to September 1962. I
made the round of the whole state almost twice over, and then the
time came to move on. I was right on the frontier of India, and I
could have gone on to China, Burma or Pakistan. I decided, however,
to go back to West Bengal, and the way led through East Pakistan. I
planned to take that route, and the governments of India and
Pakistan both approved. I set out for East Pakistan.