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Gandhi and his religion: 147 years on, Mahatma continues to be an enigma

On 2 October, 1947, when a group of people went to wish Mahatma Gandhi on his seventy-eighth birthday (he wanted to live 125 years), he was hoped for condolence instead of wishes of long life.

Gandhi had lost the desire to live. The nation was in the grip of violent frenzy and hatred. He desired “the aid of all-embracing power to take me away from the vale of tears”.  He genuinely felt that his words did not carry weight and “it would be best that the god took him away”. Precisely four months later, on 30 January, 1948, Nathuram Godse killed Gandhi.

Gandhi continues to be an enigma in his life and more so after his death. He is the subject of study for all disciplines of academics – ranging from scientists, social sciences, psychoanalysts to atheists. The unravelling of his personality and life still continues through academic research and often with fictional accounts by psychoanalysts like Sudhir Kakar and Asis Nandy. Each study is so revealing that it paves the way for further research on Gandhi’s personae.

icking various strands of Gandhi's life, Jordens in his scholarly book describes Gandhi’s religion as 'large bulky homespun woollen shawl. Getty Images

Picking various strands of Gandhi’s life, Jordens in his scholarly book describes Gandhi’s religion as ‘large bulky homespun woollen shawl. Getty Images

In one such extraordinary research on Gandhi’s life by an Australian scholar JTF Jordens in his book – Gandhi’s Religion. A Homespun Shawl – Gandhi’s most controversial experiment of sleeping with young women was explored with a perspective that educates people of the Mahatma’s spiritual pursuit not for personal benefit but for the humanity.

In fact, Gandhi’s concept of chastity was not related to avoidance of women. In his two experiments with Brahmacharya (celibacy) beginning from 1945, Gandhi strived to attain the idea of the state of mind where awareness of sex between genders got eliminated. In essence, he tried to reach the stage of ‘ardhanarishvara’ where distinctness of women and men gets blurred.

This is the precise reason why Manu, Mahatma’s grand niece who in 1946 accompanied Gandhi to Noakholi, wrote a book on Gandhi titled Bapu, My Mother. Manu shared Gandhi’s bed till he was killed as she always found the Mahatma as her mother. Gandhi found the ideals of truthfulness, non-violence, chastity, and equanimity (sthitaprajna) as approximate attributes of divinity. He found fault with his own inadequacies to trace the genesis of partition and the subsequent Hindu-Muslim violence that killed millions. He blamed his own shortcomings in his failure to convince Jinnah to give up the demand for Pakistan on basis of religion.

Though he called himself as practising ‘sanatani Hindu’, his abiding faith in the message and love of other religions was steadfast and never got attenuated in face of communal violence. Far from it, Gandhi preached that the faithful of all religions to be true to their faiths, spread love, peace and truthfulness. Gandhi was averse to the divine guidance which does not pass the critical test of reason. For him, the religion was the means to serve humanity, an embodiment of God.

His rejection of orthodox Hinduism and his love for other religions drove fundamentalists nuts and often fell into the category of apostasy.

What was Gandhi’s religion then? Picking various strands of his life, Jordens in his scholarly book describes Gandhi’s religion as ‘large bulky homespun woollen shawl. At first, it looks very plain to the eye, but we can detect the beauty of the strong patterns and contrasting shades of folk art’. In what can be said as profound description of Gandhi’s personality, Jordens writes, “Gandhi combined in his frail body the ideals of total renunciation and of total dedication: the ideals of Shiva, lord of ascetics in the harsh Himalayas, and the ideals of Bodhisattva who postponed his own liberation in order to devote himself to removal of all sufferings in the world”.

Gandhi’s life was his message for those who care to listen. He would have blamed himself for his own inadequacy to convince his detractors to follow the path which he believed leads to salvation and not the destruction of the mankind had he been alive today.

Shivaji Jayanti: Is Govind Pansare’s Shivaji losing the battle against fanaticism?

According to the Gregorian calendar, February 19 is celebrated as Shivaji Jayanti, a date fixed by the previous Congress government. The Shiv Sena however disagrees and celebrates it according to the Hindu calendar. The fight over Shivaji’s legacy is interesting because there seem to be two different Shivajis that are celebrated. While one Shivaji has been cast as anti-Muslim, casteist and a blind follower of religion. On the other hand, rationalist Govind Pansare has often argued that Shivaji was popular because his priority was welfare of the common people and justice for all. In this piece published first on Feb 2015, Atish Nagpure analyses the two different images that exist of the legendary ruler. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As children, we used to play a game called ‘Shivaji Mhanato’ (Shivaji says). In this, one person would give orders in behalf of Shivaji Maharaj and others had to keep following them. There were no restrictions, so ‘Shivaji’ had complete freedom to give any order he saw fit. Though it was a game like any other, it provided evidence of the impact of Shivaji on the minds of common people in Maharashtra. I have ‘met’ Shivaji many times in life. He was a brave, fearless, wise king who fought for Hindutva, protected cows and Brahmins. Such was the image of Shivaji built in my mind. But when I read ‘Shivaji kon hota?’ (Who was Shivaji?) a masterpiece by Govind Pansare, I was stunned. On that day, I revisited not just Shivaji, but also myself, although forcibly. It changed my perception about history, society and life. We once called Maharashtra a progressive state. But due to a series of unfortunate incidents, the so-called progressiveness of Maharashtra is now being doubted. In fact, the incidents over the last few years have proven that there are two dominant mindsets prevalent in this state. One, which led the progressive reform movements and the other which tried its best to protect backward value system. For many decades, we kept on praising ourselves for being the heirs of Ranade, Karve, Agarkar, Shahu, Mahatma Phule and Babasaheb Ambedkar, but conveniently forgot the legacy of Nathuram Godse, a virus which spread quickly in the minds of the people of Maharashtra. Both ideologies have one symbol in common i.e. Shivaji. But their versions of Shivaji are completely removed from each other. To understand if Maharashtra is a progressive or backward state, we will have to find out which version of Shivaji is more popular in this state. For centuries, Shivaji has been misinterpreted by some interest groups as anti–Muslim, casteist and a blind follower of religion. These groups reclaimed Shivaji and even proclaimed him an avatar of God. But Govind Pansare’s book on Shivaji has managed to sell over 1 lakh copies in 27 years. In this book, he has explained how Shivaji was religious but not anti–Muslim or superstitious. He says, “Shivaji had not become popular because he was just a Hindu king, but because his priority was welfare of the common people. He fought for justice, ensured security to women, and recruited fighers irrespective of their caste and community to help the dream of Swarajya come true.” Pansare’s version of Shivaji must have caused restlessness in the radical right.In same book Pansare says, “Earlier Shivaji was popular in neighbouring states like Karnataka, Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh, but his image there was compartmentalised by leaders like PK Atre during the Samyukta Maharashtra movement. It was further recast by the Shiv Sena as a Hindu king. The party used his name to popularise its anti–Muslim agenda. It continued with upper caste organizations shouting slogans of ‘Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji’, while attacking Dalit communities.”Shivaji is at the centre of Maharashtra’s socio–political culture. People’s emotional attachment to Shivaji is being used by political parties and vested interest groups to achieve their ill-intentioned goals. Pansare had raised his voice against it. He fought relentlessly against this misrepresentation of Shivaji. But unfortunately his Shivaji seems to be losing the battle and the other Shivaji is becoming more popular in Maharashtra today. It is really a serious issue.A year and half ago, anti–superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar was killed on the streets of Pune. In a very similar incident Pansare was attacked at Kolhapur. We do not know who has committed these crimes. But one thing we can claim with confidence is that those who attacked both of them have not shouted slogans like ‘Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji’. They could have been the victims of ‘Shivaji mhanato’. This is irony at its worst! A few years ago, the Nandu Madhav directed drama ‘Shivaji underground in Bhimnagar mohalla’ hit the theatres. It was a genuine attempt to educate people about the true legacy of Shivaji. After witnessing a series of unfortunate, brutal incidents, I feel there is an urgent need for Pansare’s Shivaji to surface again, and lead us on the right path.

Nathuram Godse a patriot, thinker, philosopher: Hindu Mahasabha

Amidst a raging debate over treason and patriotism in the wake of the JNU row, rightwing Hindu outfit the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha on Tuesday said Nathuram Godse, who had killed Mahatma Gandhi, was a “great patriot”.”Nathuram Godse was a thinker, philosopher, learned writer and a great patriot. He was, he is and he will remain so,” the outfit’s national vice president Ashok Kumar Sharma said in a release.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sharma said, he had to issue the statement as there is a debate (JNU row) going on in the media these days under a “conspiracy” and the Mahasabha is being termed as an extremist Hindu nationalist organisation.Sharma was referring to the raging JNU row after the arrest of the university’s Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on the charges of sedition.

JNU row: Centre goes on the backfoot over Rajnath’s Hafiz Saeed comments

Centre on Monday shifted gears and went on the back foot on union home minister Rajnath Singh’s remarks that connected LeT chief Hafiz Saeed with the JNU incident where pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans were allegedly raised.While asserting that the home minister’s statement were based on intelligence inputs clearly indicating Hafiz Saeed was backing the incident, Minister of State for home, Kiren Rijiju refused to share the evidence with anybody including the parliament.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Intelligence inputs cannot be shared and brought out in public domain,” said Rijiju adding that Centre cannot share it even in the parliament even if the opposition wants to.Several opposition parties, including Congress, Left, JDU have asked Rajnath Singh to share the evidence and the issue is expected to rock the budget session beginning next week.On being questioned by the dna, if India would share this evidence with Pakistan, Rijiju said, “I cannot say how we will put it before Pakistan…through a dossier or through some other communication.”The same question put to several officials in the intelligence community and home ministry drew a blank reply as they refused to comment on it. The union home secretary, Rajiv Mehrishi said, “Ask the home minister about it.”Even Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi said that they have found “no evidence linking” the LeT to the incident at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) so far.”As and when it comes, it will be shared with the Home Ministry,” said Bassi.Rajnath Singh on Sunday had said that the JNU incident had support of Hafiz Saeed and we should understand this reality. His remarks came after a tweet by a fake account by the name “Hafeez Muhamad Saeed” that was retweeted by Delhi Police with a warning not to circulate it.Soon after discovering that the tweet was from a fake account, the home ministry claimed that minister’s statement on Hafiz Saeed was based on intelligence inputs from various agencies.The ministry, however, made it clear that it was not letting go the JNU incident without imposing a cost.”If there is a strong support group for a convicted terrorist like Afzal Guru that can openly conduct programme in the open and shout anti-India slogans then it a matter of serious concern,” said Rijiju.Backing police action, Rijiju said, sedition is a serious charge that is out of the purview of the university administration and Police in such incidents has every right to go there.When asked if persons who constructed temple of Nathuram Godse, murderer of Mahatma Gandhi, should also be dubbed as anti-nation and a case of sedition be initiated against them, Rijiju refused to comment.”I won’t comment on it. I will stick to only the JNU,” said Rijiju.

Goa govt stalls release of book on Godse on Gandhi’s death anniversary

The BJP-led government in Goa on Friday disallowed use of its premises for the scheduled release of a book on Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse on occasion of the former’s death anniversary on Saturday amid protest by a local political outfit and to possibly avoid a potential controversy.However, Anup Sardesai, the writer of the book titled ‘Nathuram Godse – The Story of an Assassin’, said he would go ahead with its release at a different venue. In a late evening communication to the state-run Ravindra Bhavan in Margao, the venue of the release, South District Collector Pramod Shinde asked its management not to allow release of the book. Sardesai said, “I received an e-mail from Ravindra Bhavan stating that the venue will not be allowed to be used for the release of the book due to unavoidable circumstances”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said he would proceed with the release at a different venue. “I will inform about the venue to my audience. I have also informed police about the new venue,” Sardesai added. Earlier in the day, ‘Goa Forward’, launched by former state election commissioner Prabhkar Timble recently, opposed letting of the government premises for the release of the book which it termed as an “unpatriotic cause”.Interestingly, BJP leader Damodar Naik, chairman of Ravindra Bhavan, was supposed to release the book.Naik had said that the venue was booked through a normal procedure and there was no ulterior motive behind holding the function. “We will hold ‘satyagraha’ in front of Ravindra Bhavan if the government allows the function to happen,” Goa Forward secretary Mohandas Lolienkar told PTI. He also claimed that the protest has been supported by various sections of people including independent legislator Vijai Sardesai.Lolienkar had threatened to block all entrances of Ravindra Bhavan even as the party submitted a memorandum to South Goa district collector requesting cancellation of the function. “Though the event appears innocuous, it is timed for January 30 which is the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi,” Fatorda legislator Vijai Sardesai said.He termed the function as a “veiled celebration of a murder” and a deliberate design to disturb peace and harmony and to provoke and incite people by insulting the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.Meanwhile, author of the book said he was caught up in a political storm and rivalry between two political parties.

Goa: Release of Nathuram Godse book on Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary kicks up row

Newly formed Goa Forward party has opposed the release of a book on Mahatma Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse scheduled for Saturday on the death anniversary of the Father of the Nation.The book, titled ‘Nathuram Godse – The Story of an Assassin’ and written by Anup Ashok Sardesai, is scheduled for release tomorrow at the government-owned Ravindra Bhavan in Margao by BJP leader and the bhavan’s chairman Damodar Naik. “The use of government premises for such an unpatriotic cause should be stopped. We will hold ‘satyagraha’ in front of Ravindra Bhavan if the government allows the function to happen,” Goa Forward’s secretary Mohandas Lolienkar said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He claimed that their protest is being supported by various sections, including Independent legislator Vijai Sardesai. “The party workers will block all the entrances of the venue so that no one can attend the function,” Lolienkar said, adding that the protest “will be peaceful”. The party has submitted memorandum to South Goa District Collector requesting cancellation of the function. “Though the event appears to be innocuous, it is timed on January 30 which is the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi,” Vijai Sardesai, the MLA from Fatorda, said.Dubbing the event as “veiled celebration of a murder”, he alleged that the book release is a deliberate design to disturb peace and harmony and to provoke and incite people by insulting the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, especially on the particular day. The Ravindra Bhavan authorities, however, denied the charges, and said they cannot stop the function. “The Ravindra Bhavan was booked through a normal procedure. Nothing was deliberate,” its chairman Damodar Naik said.Naik, however, said he might rethink on attending the function if there is any objection to it.