Mohandas Gandhi wrote this book in his native language, Gujarati, while traveling from London to South Africa onboard SS Kildonan Castle between November 13 and November 22, 1909. In the book Gandhi gives a diagnosis for the problems of humanity in modern times, the causes, and his remedy. The Gujarati edition was banned by the British on its publication in India. Gandhi then translated it into English. The English edition was not banned by the British, who rightly concluded that the book would have little impact on the English-speaking Indians' subservience to the British and British ideas.
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.
Perhaps timely to read in our present day of saffron revivalism. Interesting to see the trajectory of Gandhi's reputation in the past two decades. I sometimes think that at this point, Gandhi's teachings have almost become memes in the public sphere. The essence of his works and thought has receded into obscurity. Plus the saffron party does not shy away from a jab or two at the man either, unfailingly. Maybe that's what happens when you become a saint.
Anyway, the first thing that becomes indisputably clear is the impossibility of separating Gandhi's religion from his politics. His interpretation of religion is the underpinning of the dual nature of swaraj that he advocated for: one, swaraj as the capacity for self-governance; and two, swaraj as the capacity of self-restraint and moksa, or salvation.
And for all this vehement conviction in religion, to the point of rejecting modernity, refusing to be separated from the caste system, etc (something my atheistic sensitivities find insufferable), it must be said that there is some uniqueness to his interpretation of politics and religion. To his religious understanding he called anasakti yoga, which he made the distinction, was different from theologizing and from the revivalist ethos of people like VR Savarkar, BG Tilak, Aurobindo Ghose, et al. His approach is founded in the Jain doctrine anekantavada: which states that ultimate truth is complex and many-sided. And this allowed him for some double-conversions. Take for example how he couples of idea of ahimsa from the Jain and Buddhist doctrine, with the Christian idea of caritas. Which was in turn wedded with Hindu concept of anasakti (non-attachment) and nishkam karma (action without desire). Another would be his idea of fasting for penance which was inspired from ancient Hinduism, mixed with the Christian value of suffering love and vicarious atonement.
In the domain of his political thought, his originality perhaps lies in his experience of South Africa. His idea of nationalism wasn't borne of the locality and the nation, like most other popular nationalists of the time, but from his stay in South Africa. This enabled him to articulate the nationalist struggle in a different vocabulary than that of his contemporaries.
A crucial foundation of the idea of swaraj or self-rule is Gandhi's critique of Western civilization. His critique, as is commonly misunderstood, is directed toward modern, industrial civilization than Western values itself. Modernity, not Western foundational values, was to be blamed for the state of affairs in colonial India and around the world. He made a distinction between British people and the modern corrupted version of it, he attributed to the downfall what he saw as "de-Christianization" of Britain. He saw urban centres as antithetical to the development of a self that would be the conducive to the growth of swaraj in terms of personal growth and awareness. Urban civilization and the its focus on machine-like materialism, Gandhi believed, would lead to the dehumanization of man. His conviction was that it would behove India to cling to traditions of old, Indian civilization rather than adopt a value system of the Western world, and that reform of religious superstitions would begin not by discarding religion but by respecting it. The nature of some of the contradictions of his arguments against modern, Western civilization notwithstanding, Gandhi did understand the hypocrisy of the system: he criticized how though Europe championed ideals such as liberty and freedom, they still used it to justify colonialism, slavery, racism, etc.
But since Gandhi's focus was on the darker aspects of modern civilization, he clearly overlooked some of its great achievements such as: the quest for personal autonomy, a non-hierarchal social structure, and social justice. He failed to note that swaraj as the realization of human rights was based on the ideas of universalism and individualism that was shaped by modernity (in line with thinkers like Rousseau, Locke, Ruskin, et al). This left him in a paradoxical position where he appropriated part of the ethos of modern civilization, while rejecting the very institutions that nurtured such ideas. His idea of swaraj in terms of its political and administrative structure was modelled on rural and self-sufficient communities. This seems impractical in a world connected by globalisation. He also acknowledged the need to combat poverty and economic inequalities, ensure social justice by abolishing social practices like untouchability; but such idea of ensuring welfare does not seem likely in a decentralized model of government. A considerable level of a system of national planning, an effective bureaucracy, and structures that articulate public spaces and opinion: such growth is capable in a strong, central government.
And his unfailing conviction in the truth of religion subsumed issues that were unmistakably the cause of conflict in the social sphere, something BR Ambedkar criticized him for. Though Gandhi was undoubtedly against the practice of untouchability, he hesitated in discarding the caste system itself. His interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita omitted the charge by Lord Krishna that the failure of duty leads women to caste confusion. The patriarchal undertone also extends to the absence of any realization for women as an active part of the economic and public sphere.
Swaraj, for Gandhi, was the persistent and proactive effort independent of governmental control, be if foreign or national. He believed moral insight and political acumen crucial for moksha in which swaraj is seen as a part of one's dharma. Self-rule and true democracy was possible only in a non-statal polity that was federally constituted: in which citizens conducted local affairs, with minimal authority for higher levels of governance. In terms of education, swaraj would be attained when the masses are educated to the capacity of regulating and controlling authority.
All in all, although weakened by inconsistencies, Gandhi's ideas on problem of the self, the praja, modern industrial civilization, colonialism, legitimization of terroristic violence by extreme nationalists--were novel and controversial in their interpretation. This separation from the then popular Moderates and Extremists, indelibly changed and strengthened the course of the struggle for Indian Independence, and Indian history.
5 stars because of Gandhi's incredibly unique perspectives, many of which felt incredibly insightful and straight-up genius. However, I was surprised but how much of his ideas I disagreed with (also he was not exactly a feminist king lol)
As far as expostulations on ideologies go, this is a nice go-to summary in a highly digestible format, clearly intended to be read by the then-educated masses.
The book succeeds for the simplicity of the language, the clarity of thought and the nuanced counter-arguments presented to the imaginary critic.
The book also provides a handy insight into Gandhi's psyche. We understand how dated the book is by the casual sexism (directed at both the sexes), the willingness to accept religious principles at face value as axioms and his interesting reaction to a quickly industrializing world. The last bit is a running theme as Gandhi rails against modernization without compromise, going as far as to completely disown entire professions of law and medicine and this is while he isn't bemoaning the existence of the railways, hospitals and Western education. It is extremely interesting to watch his argument evolve in a relatively plausible manner.
The book annoys with several circular arguments and appeals to emotion as basis in lieu of logic. This is a huge problem in a book trying to sell a hard-to-execute ideology to a beleaguered population.
It is a quick, smooth read that definitely helps give context and clarity, even if unconvincingly, to positions Gandhi would later take up more vociferously.
"We want English rule without the Englishman. You want the tiger’s nature, but not the tiger; that is to say, you would make India English, and, when it becomes English, it will be called not Hindustan but Englistan. This is not the Swaraj that I want." Many insightful points that are still relevant in present. His ideas on Satyagraha and Education are a must-read.
I dont agree with most of his ideas about the ideal civilization , modern economy and industrialization. His ideas simply doesn't allign with basest of human natures which is the main driver of our actions. The problem with Gandhi is that he is 'too good'. His ideas looks only on paper and is nearly impossible to implement. I gave a extra star because Gandhi has an open mind and he says he willing to change his views if he is proved wrong.Gandhi's intentions are good but his ways to materialize it are not.
If you ever wondered what Gandhi was thinking, this is an important look at where he was at in 1908. He was against modern civilization. I guess he was also a Luddite and an isolationist. He was able to 'liberate' India from British rule, but so far, modern civilization seems to be gaining ground.
I often found it difficult to empathize with a number of Gandhi’s opinions on modern civilization and his outright loathing for all things Western. The subject matter presented in this text, that is, the Indian self-rule, is not something I am particularly interested in either, which could be among the many reasons I found this to be one of the more tedious required readings to get through.
After completing the first part of Gandhi's Biography by Guha that chronicled Gandhi's early life and his trials, tribulations and triumphs in South Africa, and before moving to the times of Gandhi's later life in India that truly made him the Mahatma and the father of today's India, I thought of reading his first book that he wrote in 1909, before he left South Africa and came to India for good. It was important for me to understand Gandhi's thoughts, that he even doubled down in the subsequent reprint of the booklet. And Boy, it left me confused.
My attitude to Gandhi and Gandhism has never been linear. I have found my thoughts moving sinusoidally while understanding Gandhi and his stands - one time from deepest of admiration to complete disbelief and disdain in some other. A journey from WHAT A MAN! To WTF and a back to WOW, won't be an aberration for any honest student of Gandhism. This book, probably, would fall into one of those WTF instances. I was completely baffled by Gandhi's thoughts on judiciary, education, modern medicine, machinery and education. His stands not only appeared regressive, repressive and ignorant, but also, sadly hypocritical. You would object my criticism by saying that one shouldn't judge the 20th century views of a leader of an occupied territory, with the lenses of a 21st century liberal, but, calling modern machinery and railways evil, doctors worse than quacks and comparing lawyers to the agents of Satan is far from being a visionary leader, rather thoughts of a retrograde religious orthodox. These can't be the thoughts of father of a modern nation. Take for example some of the duties that Gandhi had advocated -
1. He will only on rare occasions make use of the English language. 2. If a lawyer, he will give up his profession, and take up a hand-loom. 3. If a lawyer, he will devote his knowledge to enlightening both his people and the English. 4. If a lawyer, he will not meddle with the quarrels between parties but will give up the courts, and from his experience induce the people to do likewise. 5. If a lawyer, he will refuse to be a judge, as he will give up his profession. 6. If a doctor, he will give up medicine, and understand that rather than mending bodies, he should mend souls. 7. If a doctor, he will understand that no matter to what religion he belongs, it is better that bodies remain diseased rather than that they are cured through the instrumentality of the diabolical vivisection that is practised in European schools of medicine. 8. Although a doctor, he will take up a hand-loom, and if any patients come to him, will tell them the cause of their diseases, and will advise them to remove the cause rather than pamper them by giving useless drugs; he will understand that if by not taking drugs, perchance the patient dies, the world will not come to grief and that he will have been really merciful to him.
Unbelievable, isn't it? The book is filled with many such arguments against modern education, science, medicine, machinery, etc. In short, lots of face-palm moments. Apart from using passive non-violent resistance as a means to fight against a far stronger oppressive force, I couldn't agree with any of the arguments and stands of Gandhi in this book.
As a great admirer of Gandhi, I sincerely hope, that he moved away from his retrograde thoughts and inspired the country to achieve greater glory. I sincerely hope. I can't wait to read the 2nd part of the biography by Guha.
"Listen Indians, even though this is your homeland and you outnumber the British occupier by a ratio of more than 1: 10,000. Please dont pick up guns, swords, knives, axes etc to fight off the British looter. Dont kill the British occupier, looting your motherland, enslaving your future generations and reducing your economic status to a puppet beggar state. No, dont do it. Please dont do what the americans did to them in the events leading upto 4th of July 1776. No, dont read about the American revolution. Read about me. Practice what I preach. Shun all violence. Yes, thats good. Never retaliate. If someone slaps you, offer the other cheek. Thats the humane swaraj, I believe in. Of course it is practical! Well of course it will work!! Our non-violence and our voluntary decision to suffer our slavery would finally melt the heart of the british occupier. He will be moved to guilty tears and will one day leave our country and we will live in peace for ever and ever. You question what I just told you? What? You dont want to believe the MAHATMA?
*sigh* You still dont get it, do you? Hey bhagwan! *sigh* Ishwar-allah tero naam, sabko sanmati de bhagwaan!! *deep breath* *exhale*
Are you still here? *Gets up and starts walking*
How dare you try to tell me that it was my Khilafat movement, my appeasement of PeAceFulz and my one sided ahinsa that ultimately led to partition of India and creation of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, over the dead bodies of millions of Hindus?
LOWER DOWN YOUR GUN, NATHU! Come on, now! Do we want violence against our enemies now? Hain?? HAIN!!??"
How one feels about this book depends upon one's views on Gandhi. If you like Gandhi, you will like this book. And if you don't, you will hate this book. The sections on Swaraj are likeable but the sections on technology are simplistic and misleading.
Again, what the fuck but in a negative way. Can't rate this because even though I disagree with almost everything in this book, I can admire the courage it must have taken to have such bold views and stand by them in front of millions of people. But honestly, if we take the route which has been described here, our nation would be in complete despair
My low rating for this book is not because it is badly written (far from that) but simply because I happen to strongly disagree with many of the ideas presented here.
I read this book for a Humanities course I did in college - 'Moral Literacy, Moral Choices' and in the final exam, in response to one question ('What did you think of this book?' or something to that effect), I spent about five pages arguing logically in detail against many of the view-points expressed in the book, and all I got back in response from the teacher was - "You are not supposed to speak so vehemently against the Father of the Nation!" (I still managed to get an A in the course because of my overall performance though :P) Admittedly, the language I used in the answer was a bit strong than was merited. I just ran with my emotions and didn't care to moderate down my own views.
Now, I respect Mahatma Gandhi. I acknowledge that he did a LOT for my country. However, it is my strong belief that absolutely nobody should be immune from attack upon his ideas.
PS - I realize that this is looking more like a rant than an actual review of the book. But it might just make you curious enough to go ahead and read the book, and see for yourself what all the ranting is about!
Overall a good book. I felt this kind of question answer way of writing books are better than reading a whole lot of text. Indeed after reading this book, my view about Gandhiji has changed. Is he really liberal?
[Spoiler Alert] For eg: one place he says we can't force Muslims to give up eating beef, each individual has their own belief and that makes India what it is today. But other place he says we should tell the British that they shouldn't consume beef because that's against the value system of India. Now, From this what I understood is (I could be wrong) value system of India doesn't consider those consume Beef as part of India? Muslims consume beef then it's against value system of India?
If you haven’t read Gandhiji’s biography, then I would recommend you to read it first. The reason why you should read his Biography first, before reading this book, is that it will help you to understand where his ideas are coming from. In this book, Gandhiji is against everything Western. He is against Railways, Modern medicine and everything good that the West has to offer. His disdain for Western Civilization and everything that is associated with it will surprise you. But we should realize that these ideas were not uncommon among Indians of that generation.
Read in itself the book may come across as regressive. A little background by means of biographies and commentaries on/of bapu may help understand why Gandhiji held those beliefs and how they are relevant even today. Tolstoy's Kingdom of god is within you, Ruskin's unto his last, Thoreau's civil discobedience and 2 volume Gandhiji's biography by Prof. Guha should be read before hind swaraj to appreciate its contents.
sigh. i can't rate this for multiple personal and political reasons but just. gandhi. sighhhhh. (this is not a good sigh) possibly the only text that's caused me to sigh louder than this, this semester, has been nehru's 'discovery of india' (which i was forced to read again thanks to the sociology minor).
My rating is strictly for the writing style and the fact that it is a wonderful book to understand Gandhi's ideologies. I personally do not agree with much of what is written. Reading more of his books may help in understanding why he thought the way he did. This is a good book to start with.
This Book from Mohandas Gandhi, written in question answer format mainly focuses on how Indians can get Freedom by Non-Violence.
In order to prove his point of Non- Violence he gave many arguments and examples, which the more I got into the book I found myself disagreeing with most of them. Perhaps because it's a century old work and written in order to influence people of that time or simply because of Gandhi's thoughts.
I also agree that Non-Violence and all was okay, but till when? At some point there must be a limit to your patience.
Book talks about
How congress formed, what was their contribution against home rule and what exactly is Home Rule as of Gandhi.
How effective the Partition of Bengal was, and how it gave birth to the differences between Moderates and Extremists.
What is true Swaraj by Gandhi ( he wants them gone with their advancements, language and culture)
What is the current condition of Parliament of England and how it affects India
What is true Civilization ( he only counts the way humanity gets more brutal as with time, ignoring the ways in human are advancing)
Why and how india lost (what were the Factors behind)
The condition of Religion in India and the Enmity between Hindu and Mahomedans
How Railways, Doctors and Lawyers are responsible to India Poor ( Man this is the chapter i lost my brain into, at this point i just wanted to give up on the book)
Some of the Ideas Gandhi gave were so absurd that at one point I almost thought to stop. For example he gave absurd points about how Railways, Lawyers and Doctors are responsible for India's Poor condition, the man can't even see these technical and medical advancements and the people need them.
You can read it to know what his ideas were but not to know how we exactly got independence.
This is the only book of Mahatma Gandhi which was banned by the British when it was released. Gandhiji structured this book as a question and answer book, like someone is interviewing him. In this book Gandhiji openly says what problems he has from the British, whether he thinks the British education should be brought to India, if he has any problem with industrialization, his views on army and borders and governance.
A must read to understand Gandhiji's views on British back in 1932.
Gandhi’s argument offers several relevant criticisms of modern civilization and a strong foundation for morally-based liberalism, but falters in its practical applicability to universal nonviolent resistance because it ultimately rests on vague and arbitrary tenets of more metaphysical self-transformation.
Hind Swaraj is that ...we find gandhi announcing is life mission. It is less about english dictionary meaning of freedom and independence and more about Gandhian meaning of Freedom and independence i.e., "Hind swaraj" !!
Chapter 20 of this book is really captivating as it makes a series of practical proposals to the moderates, the extremists, the new middle class and the English.
Definitely worth a read if you want to know about Gandhi's view towards different topics in the year 1908. His views of Railways, legal profession, doctors, extremists etc. given in question answer format.
This is a problematic book. Problematic not in the content or its aim, it is problematic for the readers. I can understand the foreign readers having no or little knowledge about India or its history or religion, bashing this book for being regressive, but, for Indian readers I feel pity. They prove the very point Gandhi tries to make. He says that Indian culture does not need to take a thing from the culture of the England and yet, the Indian readers cut off from their roots, knowing more about west than their own country, wearing English spectacles judge Gandhi and his reasons on the very arguments that Gandhi tried to overawe. They are more British than the British themselves. And this is the tragedy of India, its independence and of Mr. Gandhi. They all failed.