Hind Swaraj is Mahatma Gandhi's fundamental work, and a key to the understanding both of his life and thought, and South Asian politics in the twentieth century. This volume presents for the first time the original 1910 edition of this work, including Gandhi's Preface and Foreword, not found in other editions. This is the first fully annotated edition of the work, and the volume also includes Gandhi's correspondence with Tolstoy, Nehru and others. Anthony Parel's introduction sets the work in its historical and intellectual contexts. Short bibliographical notes on prominent figures mentioned in the text and a chronology of important events are also included as aids to the reader.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.
The son of a senior government official, Gandhi was born and raised in a Hindu Bania community in coastal Gujarat, and trained in law in London. Gandhi became famous by fighting for the civil rights of Muslim and Hindu Indians in South Africa, using new techniques of non-violent civil disobedience that he developed. Returning to India in 1915, he set about organizing peasants to protest excessive land-taxes. A lifelong opponent of "communalism" (i.e. basing politics on religion) he reached out widely to all religious groups. He became a leader of Muslims protesting the declining status of the Caliphate. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women's rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, increasing economic self-reliance, and above all for achieving Swaraj—the independence of India from British domination. His spiritual teacher was the Jain philosopher/poet Shrimad Rajchandra.
Gandhi, in today's India, is in a weird position: nobody really likes him anymore, though everyone pays him lip service. The modern Left considers him the original culprit of spiritualising nationalism, and thus alienating minorities. The Right ironically cites Ambedkar in their attempt to "delegitimate the Mahatma", who for them, represents the old Indian distrust of private capitalist enterprise.
Admittedly, it is tough to form an independent opinion about such a freethinker, and all too easy to disregard him based on whatever brand of politics we prefer. After reading Hind Swaraj, though, I am really interested in exploring more of his thought. What interests me the most is not his non-violence or spiritual nationalism, which are both quite obviously inspired by Tolstoy and Vivekananda respectively, but his deeply original critique of modern civilisation. This is unfortunately the aspect of his thought that is least well-known (good luck finding stuff about this in your NCERT textbooks), yet it forms his core reason for rejecting colonial rule. Gandhi provides an extensive list of literature towards the end of this book, including works by Tolstoy, Plato, and Thoreau, but not Rousseau. Yet I think his critique of modern civilisation is a development from Rousseau's Emile.
Gandhi accurately identifies the problems of modern civilisation, and I can only think that he would be deeply disappointed by the industrialisation, Westernisation, and imminent corporatisation of India. As long as we do not decolonise, for the Gandhi of Hind Swaraj, we are as good as still under colonial rule, with Britishers being replaced by big business. His writings on the menace of railways, doctors, and lawyers, along with his unflinching advocacy for chastity, can seem weird to modern readers only because we inhabit a thoroughly colonised (or Westernised) mind-space. A step out of the crisis of the modern world, I suggest, would be taking Gandhi seriously: to grapple with his thoughts on alcohol et al, instead of laughing him away as outdated while continuing to overtly respect the man but not the message.
As with Martin Luther King, I found it very interesting to read Gandhi in his own words. Although he originally wrote Hind Swaraj in Gujarati, he also translated it into English himself.
In this short book (written in the form of a dialogue), Gandhi takes up the issue of swaraj, or "self rule." At the time he was writing, Indians talked about swaraj as the expulsion of the British colonial government and the establishment of an Indian government. Gandhi, however, takes issue with this definition, and defines swaraj in a more metaphysical way, to mean self-government in the sense of an individual living rightly. His main assertion is that if the Indians overthrow the British and establish self-government "in their image," it won't really be a beneficial change. (I guess he would be very disappointed today.)
Gandhi is extremely critical of modern civilization in this book, including machinery, medicine, and courts of law. Interestingly, he draws mostly on British and American critics of modernity such as Ruskin and Thoreau rather than Indian thinkers. He also draws on religious thought, including Christianity and Islam as well as Hinduism. There is no escaping the fact that Gandhi is an extremist, and he can even come across as quite unfriendly, particularly in the chapters on doctors and lawyers. (He basically says that doctors and lawyers are immoral and eroding society.) In reading these sections, I think it's important to bear in mind that Gandhi is drawing a sharp line between individuals and the roles they play in society. Thus, he is not saying that all lawyers are bad people, but rather, by playing the role of "lawyer," people hurt society. There is no identification between the individual and the profession. Even with this caveat, it's still a pretty extreme position--but Gandhi was a pretty extreme guy.
In contrast to the Jane Jacobs book that I just read, I thought the dialogue format worked well here. The dialogue in HS is much more like one of Plato's. There are only two voices, "Editor" and "Reader." Editor is the Socratic figure who espouses Gandhi's positions, and Reader is the interlocutor who voices conventional wisdom and learns from Editor. It certainly seems contrived, but then again, verisimilitude is not the point. The simplicity of the format clarifies Gandhi's arguments.
I am sympathetic to Gandhi's argument to a certain degree. I definitely agree with his position that a moral society has to be founded on individual morality. I agree to some extent with his critique of modern society (which is largely founded on Ruskin). But I do see it in a somewhat more moderate way, through the lens of Yoder and Berkhof: "modern society" (including things like the law, medicine, the capitalist economy, and machinery) as a set of Powers that are not inherently evil, but that are evil to the extent that they claim ultimate allegiance. A good society would not be one in which these things were done away with, but one in which they were properly ordered and did not make claims of ultimate value.
Reader: I would like to know about Mahatma Gandhi's Socratic dialogue Hind Swaraj and the arguments he makes in it about Indian Home Rule.
Editor: Clearly you are too impatient for knowledge but if you will pay careful attention, you may learn a lot from my wise words on this matter.
Reader: This has given me a great deal to think about and I will take this valuable lesson to heart. Tell me if Hind Swaraj is a Goodread™.
Editor: Gandhi argues that Home Rule will not come about merely through the expulsion of the English from India. Modern civilisation must be cast out in favour of India's ancient civilisation. Hind Swaraj expounds a radically different form of politics centred around individual spirituality. Modern civilisation, in Gandhi's view, is profoundly irreligious and enslaves people. It is civilisation in name only.
Technology makes man spiritually weak by making him physically lazy. In one memorable passage, Gandhi warns of a future world where newspapers and food are available at the press of a button. In 1910, Gandhi predicted the internet. Medicine, law, and science are - somewhat bizarrely - also singled out as weakening man's soul. Instead, education should be religious and focus on building character.
To fight back against this corrupt modern civilisation, Gandhi eschews using brute-force for what he interchangeably calls 'truth-force' or 'soul-force' or 'love-force' or, as we may know it, 'passive resistance'. This is where it gets a bit hokey but Gandhi's point here is that means correspond to ends so we must use fair means to win fair ends. Unlike the body, love is indestructible. Passive resistance requires an ideal passive resistor. You need to observe perfect chastity, adopt poverty, follow truth, and cultivate fearlessness. Essentially, the opposite of Boris.
It is revealing that much of Gandhi's thought revolves around courage and manliness. Machinery is immoral and makes you unmanly. Disobeying unjust laws and sacrificing yourself is manly. Indeed, the Mother of Parliaments is shown to be part of the immoral Western civilisation because it is a 'sterile woman' as it hasn't done anything good and a 'prostitute' as it is under the control of ministers who change from time to time.
Gandhi's tract delivers a profoundly different vision of how modern politics should be organised (he even rejects cities for small villages) based around a grand, Manichean narrative of conflicting civilisations and the effect this has on the soul. It is also profoundly weird.
Reader: Thank you for sharing your deep and wise thoughts on this subject that will have me thinking about this matter for a long time. This review has truly rocked my world. Your parody of Hind Swaraj is absolutely hilarious and has given me a great joy. I will now like, comment, and subscribe.
Mixed feelings, and none of which confirm with popular perceptions.
On one hand, I've been a fan of Gandhism (before it become fashionable to be so). What strikes me as being the most relevant is Gandhiji's insistence on improving and cleansing the self - premonition tells me that once the inner world is sorted, the outer world can go take a hike. Gandhiji's nuanced approach to several (most?) issues, emphasis on patience and search for (largely spiritual) peace resonate very strongly with my own (premature, half-baked) beliefs.
At the same time, I do find Gandhiji to be rigid while addressing several issues - particularly those relating to science. A lot of these ideas will not find any relevance in today's India. For instance, Gandhiji's views on the railways or on the medical profession seem to be an over-simplification.
Perhaps, I myself am at fault for reading the book too critically - "reading to respond, not to absorb". But ultimately, mixed sentiments. Some parts I agree with, some I disagree with - and I am not sure if Gandhiji himself would have been in support of the disagreement.
What he said 100+ years ago still rings true today. His ideas, vision has no parallel and has mix of everything with love as a binding force. He criticized British parliament to behaving like prostitutes. Nothing much has changed in England and now, India is also following it. "The tendency of Indian civilization is to elevate the moral being, that of Western civilization is to propagate immorality." India can't be ruled by an iron hand. We let Britishers rule us because of our selfishness and greed. He criticizes machinery, modern civilization which creates inequality and make monsters out of human beings who are isolated, scared, defeated. Gandhi pointed out in the first part of the book that he does not consider people of England to be cruel or immoral in general but the politics been played out in their name by their politicians is cruel, gruesome, beyond any moral compensation.
Some of the ideas will surely seem outdated like discarding railways, lawyers, doctors but he is talking of their origination and why they exist. Like for railways, he says that evil has wings, truth walks at the pace of snail which is true. We have distanced ourselves from truth which is ever present in front of us by luring ourselves into luxuries and indulgences which are basically the traits of last man of Nietzsche. For doctors, he says that we should allow the disease to take its course so that our body learns to cure itself. For lawyers, he says, lawyers rather than settling the issues by speaking to our human nature, tend to spread division or inflame our passions so that their shop keeps running. All these he is talking at an ideological level, kind of like a metaphor that what should an ideal home rule will be where we do not have so many deadly diseases, so many disputes which basically means so much hostility towards each other.
Brute force vs Soul-force(love): "History is a record of the wars of the world. A nation which has no history, that is, no wars, is a happy nation." All the rulers who ruled over India or anywhere else in the world be it Hindu rulers or Muslim rulers fought wars and any war was an interruption to the existing soul-force. Soul-force is what still runs the society because if we, humans were really those savages as wars clearly indicate, we would have not survived until now. What is gained through fear, lasts only while the fear lasts. It is a bubble which will sooner or later bursts.
India nation: It is India where many religions - Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism found their footing and spread from east to west, south to north. Indian civilization is far superior than western civilization because it survived so many brutal shocks over time which others like Greek, Roman empires couldn't. It even survived Britishers after they have literally sucked blood out of us. Britishers wanted to divide Hindus and Muslims because if they unite, they will fight their common enemy, that is, Britishers. They saw fault lines and exploited them to distract us from our real enemy which the today regime is using brilliantly. We have a British rule through Indian rule. India was one nation before Britishers from east to west, south to north and remained one after them. There is an attack on this idea of India - 'Unity in diversity' today by the government of India itself which want to impose one doctrine over whole country. We, who feel pride to call ourselves Indian, for whom Gandhi and other national leaders fought and die to give us Independence, Constitution have a moral duty to abide by their vision. Can you pray in one room of your house if another room is on fire?
Swaraj - Real Home Rule is self rule or self control.
Hind Swaraj is the writing that helped make Gandhi famous, as he created a sort of Socratic dialogue the way that Plato did, except this was far less conceptual. Gandhi legitimately seeked to create a better conversation surrounding the subject of Indian independence, and I think any historian would say that he did a good job.
This book definitely requires some historical context, it's not always a fun read, and Gandhi comes off occasionally as containing what I can only call questionable character. I really did not enjoy the multiple references to prostitutes as the end-all-be-all of awfulness. However, there's so much to learn about imperialism from this book, and Gandhi's perspective on Western civilization is as interesting as Marx's. Definitely worth the time for those that are interested, but I believe that as far as historical documents go, there are better options for those more casual about their reading.
Written in Dialogue form, Hind Swaraj is very easy to read. It embodies Gandhi's philosophy, his belief in non-violence and passive resistance. Gandhi's view of life is very ascetic and although I've had great admiration for the way he led the national struggle for independence, I can't say I agree with all that he believes. Gandhi was a master strategist and an extremist to the core. His idea of non-violence and passive resistance is not cowardly as is popularly believed but requires a strength of will not easily possessed by all. His vociferous rejection of machinery, railways, the medical profession, and courts of law I find a little simplistic. I understand the reasoning behind denouncing machinery as detrimental to Civilisation, of medicine and the immoral practices involved in devising various life-enhancing drugs, of lawyers and their lies, but I think this denunciation is rather extreme and does not take into account the merits of these developments. His views on peaceful co-existence and Hindu-Muslim unity are still relevant. On the whole, I'd say the book is still applicable if an examination of government and society today is to be made. It raises questions that have resonance for the present times as well, especially in Gandhi's staunch endorsement of realising the core of our religion sans the religious teachers, and also understanding the significance of the ancient Indian Civilisation.
"I believe that the civilization India evolved is not to be beaten in the world. Nothing can equal the seeds sown by our ancestors, Rome went, Greece shared the same fate; the might of the Pharaohs was broken; Japan has become Westernized; of China nothing can be said; but India is still, somehow or other, sound at the foundation. The people of Europe learn their lessons from the writings of the men of Greece or Rome, which exist no longer in their former glory. In trying to learn from them, the Europeans imagine that they will avoid the mistakes of Greece and Rome. Such is their pitiable condition. In the midst of all this India remains immovable and that is her glory. It is a charge against India that her people are so uncivilized, ignorant and stolid, that it is not possible to induce them to adopt any changes. It is a charge really against our merit. What we have tested and found true on the anvil of experience, we dare not change. Many thrust their advice upon India, and she remains steady. This is her beauty: it is the sheet-anchor of our hope. Civilization is that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty. Performance of duty and observance of morality are convertible terms. To observe morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. So doing, we know ourselves. The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means “good conduct”."
"Hind Swaraj" constitutes seminal and most basic writing of Mahatma Gandhi. And yet there are important issues with this book that need to be understood in the context of Gandhi's practical life. It appears, and please mark my words, there is not enough acknowledgement that Gandhi went on changing with times. Especially after Gandhi wrote "The Hind Swaraj" and came back to India he continually evolved in response to his circumstances and challenges he faced.
Evolution of Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most fascinating things that one needs to understand. It is only in the dynamics of the evolution of Mahatma Gandhi (which he fully acknowledged) that "Hind Swaraj" makes sense.
I have written a blog entitled "Mahatma Gandhi and The Hind Swaraj" that throws some light on how he evolved and continued to infuse new meaning to "The Hind Swaraj". Pl read the blog on the following link.
A perfect way to introduce yourself to Gandhi's vision, "Swaraj" is a term he coined for "self-rule." Although this is a book that pleads with his contemporaries, it should resonate with many. He is pleading for the individual to rule his or her self, before demanding a thing from his or her oppressor. With this, a society should work beautifully, from the bottom up. I don't remember if he says anything like this in the book, but it's helpful to read this with the understanding that Gandhi was aware of the perceived naivety of his goal. This is why he said, "It may be taunted with the retort that this is all Utopian and, therefore not worth a single thought... Let India live for the true picture, though never realizable in its completeness. We must have a proper picture of what we want before we can have something approaching it."
Originally written in Gujrati, Gandhi himself translated it into English as the Gujrati version got banned in India. Basically, its a conversation between Gandhi and his interlocutor or a common man. It makes us understand the ideology of Gandhi. Why he had so much faith in non violence? Why he emphasized self reliance? why he opposed modernization? and many such questions get answered in this book. "A must read to understand Gandhi, his thought, his thinking."
I read this book because it was required reading for a class. I expected it to be long and tedious and hard to get through, but it surprisingly wasn't. The dialogue format of the book made the reading actually enjoyable, and I learned a lot about Gandhi's position and role of that time period. While I didn't completely agree with him in all of his views, his views were very interesting.
Fascinating. Written in dialogue form and very blunt. Gandhi's thought is terribly misunderstood, especially his beliefs on nonviolence. His concepts on civilization bring me back to preachers of Negritude in the 1960s.
Recommended to anyone who believes they're a pacifist, sees Gandhi as a hero (most people have not read his own words) or wants to see Hinduism in modern context.
I only had to read a few parts of this, but I like that even though he's speaking of how India can be liberated from the British, we can learn how we as individuals may also be liberated, from any oppressor. Also, I learned not to accept modernity without a critical eye. This is hard, considering I live in a modern world. It makes me think about the motives of doctors and lawyers...
A must read if we are to change for the better! The editor enlightens the reader on true swaraj, the corruption of western civilization, and most importantly: self-rule! Written in 9 days on a ship from London.
One can't really talk about Gandhi without having read it, at least not intelligently. It's a magnificent read, honestly. He does make some points. Not many that most Westerners will appreciate, but he makes some points.
Gandhi's position on passive resistance and his place politically in history came about because of this document. I was amazed that his clarity of thought was such that he wrote the entire document, without any major revision! What a mind.
The many thoughts and ideas Gandhi had about India are very much so transferable to everyday Western living. He makes clear and valid points that are enlightening, yet also passive-aggressive. A true leader.
The central thesis of this world-changing book is that political struggle should not -- and ultimately, cannot -- be separate from spiritual/ moral struggle: that political self-rule ("swaraj") must grow out of personal, spiritual self-rule. Bayard Rustin (the Black, gay, Quaker activist) was among the many Black activists and journalists who studied Gandhi's work, and he personally recommended it to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Gandhi's condemnation of modern civilization as the blind pursuit of money and power at the expense of physical, mental and spiritual health, and his recommendations for spiritual self-rule (simplicity, slowness, minimal use of technology, preventative health, non-violence, fidelity to conscience, and devotional practice) echo those of Thoreau, whom Gandhi acknowledged as an important source for him (Thoreau was a devotee of the Bhagavad Gita, Gandhi's primary sacred text). And though Gandhi's strong expression of these recommendations in this early work (1910) was tempered in later writings, the principles behind them are absolutely sound. They are common among most of the world's religious and wisdom traditions.
Gandhi is a great thinker and quite underrated. even if you fundamentally disagree with him -which i do- theres a lot from his ethical standpoints that i believe one may take great value in. he's staunchely anti-materialism, and anti-pragmtism which is certainly imteresting and he's takes all his reasonings to the extremes. Theres obvious issues with this, first and foremost, the insistance on suffering as honourable, even when it is utterly avoidable. It's honestly eggregious and illogical to argue against medicine... it just seems unneccessarily cruel. Which is clearly the opposite of what he's going for. but his positions on immateriality and desire for self-transcendence are almost reminiscent of kierkegaard's phenomonological approach, but with a post colonial flavor. that i feel is interesting in and of itself