This Blog revolves around the book – MKG – Mahatma Gandhi – Imaging Peace, Truth & Ahimsa and how Learnings from the Mahatma can cause positive change in the 21st century; the book is a pictorial representation of the life and message of the Mahatma, covering major milestones which influenced his philosophy, political awakening and his concept of Ahimsa in a concise illustrative format. An attempt has been made to portray the man behind the Mahatma to provide inspiration to today’s generation.
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MKG book released at the United Nations

1st October 2010 - A special edition of the book – MKG –Imaging Peace Truth and Ahimsa was released by the President of the General Assemble of the United Nations. The release was marked with attendance from Ambassadors from over 50 nations and was the official UN event marking the International Day of Non-Violence.

UN Story Link

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Invoking GANDHI

The world found Gandhi a long time ago and continues to find him.....

Monday, October 29, 2012

selmeya selmeya – peaceful peaceful


The Indian Embassy in Cairo has announced a poster contest to celebrate the spirit of Tahrir square.

Did you sense the spirit of Gandhi in Tahrir Square? “ entries are accepted  till the 15th of December 2012 , results will be announced on the 25th of January 2013 – coinciding with the 2nd anniversary of the Egyptian revolution.

Birad Rajaram Yajnik: Gandhi has been an inspiration in Cairo since 1930, and his influence in spirit is stamped all over Tahrir square even today …  I WAS INSPIRED BY THIS STORY from the Square.

Mark Corcoran the foreign correspondent of ABC news follows an extraordinary woman through the 18 days of the peaceful Egyptian revolution

 “ It’s an extraordinary feat of endurance and will. Salma el Tarzi is a popping, fizzing bundle of energy and exuberance who was in Cairo’s Tahrir Square from the outset, leading a corner of the protest. Despite the violent counter-attacks, the cold nights and the fear of government retribution, she was there at the end when belligerent Hosni Mubarak let go.”


CORCORAN: (Feb 11) Day 18 and Cairo is on knife edge. How much longer can this go on? Will the military turn on the people? The protests are peaceful, the army holds its fire. In the evening more rumours that Mubarak has left Cairo. An official statement is expected but nobody believes it. Then it happens. A dictator is disposed.

VICE PRESIDENT SULEIMAN: “President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of President of the Republic and has instructed the council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country. May God help everybody”.

CORCORAN: People power has prevailed.

CROWD: Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!

SALMA EL TARZI: “I’m still under shock so I don’t know what to feel. I think I’m going to have a delayed reaction but I really don’t know. I just can’t feel anything right now. It’s too confusing”.

CORCORAN: “What happens now?”

SALMA EL TARZI: “I think we’re going to celebrate for another couple of days! (laughter) I don’t think anyone’s going home now.”

CORCORAN: “Well it’s extraordinary it’s the happy ending that certainly nobody envisaged this morning. An extraordinary moment in both Egyptian history and Arab history. The revolution has won but the big question is, what happens next?”

Few give much thought to what lies ahead tomorrow. The army takes power in a “coup by consensus” with a vow to rewrite the constitution and oversee a transition to democracy. For now, the Facebook revolutionaries will put their trust in the soldiers. In just 18 days, a new generation of leaders has been forged and tempered in the political furnace of Tahrir Square. Salma won’t be joining their ranks. She says her revolution is over.

“What will the future hold for you? A career in politics?”


CORCORAN: “What are you going to do when this is over?”

SALMA EL TARZI: “I’m going to still make films. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of films to make”.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


October 2nd 2012
The wall is 76 feet long and encapsulates more than 400 images of the Mahatma.  The wall also serves as a learning tool on Bapu and allows visitors to learn via an interactive quiz. It’s the first of its kind in the world and features images from the book – Peace Truth and Ahimsa by Birad Rajaram Yajnik – a special edition of this book was launched at the United Nations in New York by the President to mark the International Day of Non-Violence.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

ITS TRUE !!! Harley of Change is moving

I am not sure if I inspired Letticia more, or her letter inspires me more to take this to the next level.... Reactions in the last 72 hrs from London, South Africa and parts of South East Asia are fueling the need to move this further .......PEACE TRUTH AHIMSA

Good Day Mr. Yajnik,

You may not remember me from the crowd of 900 students at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre during India Night when you gave the most inspirational speech and talk I have ever heard. My name is Letticia Gomez and I come from Malaysia. An Indian by origin, I only knew India as a place where I visited my grandparents. Gandhiji was merely a figure that I connected to peace. I find it a necessity Birad Sir to thank you for your talk during India Night. You showed me things about Gandhiji that made me respect him more but above all that you made me realize that I am the change that I want the world to be. I may sound silly but I was moved to tears by your talks about Gandhiji and how I could relate to him. Lastly Birad Sir, I do hope the Harley bike became white enough to be shown around the world as a symbol that WE can make a change.

Thank You.


Letticia Gomez
HMUN India 2012 Participant

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Harley of Peace Truth and Ahimsa

Last evening speaking at the India night of Harvard Model United Nations India 2012 at Hyderabad I had the pleasure of interacting with 900 students, they were introduced by me to Gandhi in the 21st century. Their reactions were inspiring and i need to do more ......

Highlight for the evening was when I asked them to kick start a revolution of Peace Truth and Ahimsa and create a symbol that would announce to the world that this generation is ready to embrace the Mahatma.
The students pledged their support  by signing on a Harley Davidson turning it into an Ahimsa Harley, as a symbol of action.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mahatma Gandhi - Karma Yogi


All great saints and sages have been karma yogis for they truly perform perfect actions without the slightest hint of egoism. They work for the sake of the work and often help others to raise themselves above the mire of social conditions or spiritual poverty. Perhaps one of the most well known examples in this century is Mahatma Gandhi.
Throughout his life, Gandhi performed incredible amounts of work, for he was very little influenced by personal likes and dislikes, whims and fancies. He cleaned his mind of the dross that clutters the mind of most people. Because of this, he was able to view the problems of India and the work that was his duty with pristine clarity. He was able to see only the facts of a situation, without the superimposition of his imagination. His mind was like a magnifying glass - able to see all the details of a situation with heightened clarity. Most people have a mind that is like a misted magnifying glass - only able to see a distorted picture of things because of inner problems.
Most decisions in the world are influenced by personal friendships and enmities. Gandhi was able to overcome this one-sidedness, and it is through this that he obtained his strength. He had no real personal friends in the usual sense of the word, for all people were his friends, even his so-called enemies. None of his actions were done as a favour. He acted because something needed to be done; the situation demanded it to be so. He did that which benefited people in general, that which was for the overall good of the people of India. Some people say that he was stubborn, but actually he did things because he knew his own mind, could understand the mind of other people and the world situation in a clear light and not in a distorted light. He was a politician who had a strong mind, yet he showed deep and sincere compassion for all. By vocation he was a politician; by aspiration he was a great karma yogi.

Mahatma Gandhi achieved what he did by cleaning out his mind, by continuous effort, and by karma yoga. Because of this, he did tremendous amounts of work, both efficiently and without leaving things half done. He never seemed to tire of his work, unlike most other people who do an hour's work and then lose interest or become fatigued. Why was this? The answer of course lies with the mind. Gandhi, through relentless practice of karma yoga, backed up by other forms of yoga including bhakti and kriya yoga, was able to clean his mind. A mind that is calm can do the most intense work for long periods of time without fatigue. It doesn't become diverted by external distractions or inner disturbances. It remains focused on the work in hand. Most people waste their energy on useless petty egotistical arguments, or heated discussions about nothing. Their mental energy and in turn their physical energy, is dissipated in all directions. Little or no power goes towards the work that is to be done. If it did, then large amounts of work would be done; each and every person would be transformed into a Gandhi.

The combination of concentrated power and detachment becomes almost irresistible. It moves mountains, as the saying goes. Gandhi clearly illustrated this, and we emphasise once more that detachment doesn't mean disdain for the things of the world. Gandhi, though he was surely detached, nevertheless felt and expressed overwhelming compassion. Detachment is the attitude of mind where no matter what happens, there is no negative repercussion and resulting mental disturbance in the mind. One does the best that one can do with one's ability, but at the same time one doesn't allow external events to unbalance or 'throw' the mind. This attitude can be slowly developed and applied as it was so successfully done by Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi saw that every action he did was part of the divine process of the universe in accordance with the will of the cosmic consciousness. He was only an instrument, a mere witness of his actions.
There are many other people, both famous and unknown, who have shown that karma yoga is not just an unrealistic ideal, but that it is possible. Saints like Swami Vivekananda and Swami Sivananda expressed total egoless-ness in their interaction with the world - perfect expression, perfect response to given circumstances. What these people have done, you also can achieve. The path and the possibility are open to everyone. Each person can develop a powerful one-pointed mind. Each person can awaken intuitive faculties. Each person can become a karma yogi. All that is required is the urge to attain perfection, together with relentless and continuous practice.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mahatma Gandhi’s - Right to Privacy

Almost every email in today’s world comes with a statement of use:

This e-mail is confidential. It may also be legally privileged. If you are not the addressee you may not copy, forward, disclose or use any part of it. If you have received this message in error, please delete it and all copies from your system and notify the sender immediately by return e-mail.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 12, states:

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”        

Gandhi-Kallenbach letters, BBC News, 02 July 2012
“Thousands of letters, papers and photographs relating to Gandhi, belonging to the Kallenbach family, are due to be auctioned by Sotheby's in England next Tuesday. The auction house estimates the collection, which is arranged in 18 files, is expected to fetch between £500,000-£700,000 ($777,000-$1.1m). The selection contains five decades of correspondence, much of it unpublished, between Gandhi and Kallenbach dating between 1905 and 1945.They talk about legal cases, their mutual interest in Tolstoy, and their time together on a eponymous communal settlement called Tolstoy Farm.

“Privacy is a fundamental human right, whose social value is an essential component in the functioning of democratic societies”

On reading the above news and statements, a fundamental question comes to my mind. Are we valuing, Mahatam's personal items of use, writings, speeches and even his private correspondence purely from their economic values. While his speeches and writings are in public domain, had either Mahatma Gandhi or any of those who corresponded with him privately on personal issues given their sanction to publish them.  Are not Mahatma or Kallenbagh entitled to their privacy?

In today's Internet and E-mail era, every letter comes with a caution that if the recipient has received an Email not intended for him , he is obliged to destroy the same. When that is the norm in today's  civilized soceity, are we not infringing on the privacy of Gandhi's personal life and his dealings with his wife, sons and friends by publishing his private correspondence? Who have given us that right? Surely not Gandhi nor Kallenbagh.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Canopy at India Gate

Photo Credit : Naveen Sharma

Monday, June 25, 2012

Arab Spring - Front Page Cairo Egypt 1930

Winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize and Yemeni human rights activist Tawakkol Karman has been affectionately called 'Mother of the Arab Spring'. In this interview she speaks to Dhiraj Singh for Lok Sabha TV, Indian Parliament's TV Channel, about her great admiration for Mahatma Gandhi and the relevance of his non-violent struggle against tyranny and dictatorship

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
“I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.”
“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
“I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others.”
“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”
“Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bapu – Father of the Nation

A young girl’s from Lucknow had invoked the RTI act to know as to who conferred the title of “The Father of the Nation" on Mahatma Gandhi and when.

Newspaper Report

I don’t think the title had to be bestowed on Gandhi; the people of that time called him Bapu, and he accepted that with all his humility and signed innumerable letters as Bapu.

I can think of two instances from history that may add some light:

On October 2, 1944 Mahatma Gandhi turned 75. He had shifted to Sevagram after his release from Yeravda Prison in April 1944 in the aftermath of his 'Quit India' movement. His 75th birthday was celebrated all over the world. Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, Commander-in-Chief of Azad Hind, performed a flag hoisting ceremony in Rangoon, Burma ( Yangon, Myanmar) and broadcasted a message through the Azad Hind Radio " Father of our nation! In this holy war for India's liberation, we ask for your blessings". This is the first recorded and known instance when Mahatma Gandhi was addressed as the "Father of the Nation".

On the night of 30 January 1948, the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a broadcast to the Nation and to the world referred to him as being commonly called as the 'Father of the nation."

Excerpts "Friends and Comrades, the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere. I do not know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we call him, the Father of the Nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that. Nevertheless, we will not see him again as we have seen him for these many years. We will not run to him for advice and seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not to me only but to millions and millions of this country."

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's broadcast

Monday, March 26, 2012

A German President & Mahatma Gandhi

German President invokes Mahatma Gandhi in his maiden address
Mar 24, 2012
New German President Joachim Gauck invoked Mahatma Gandhi in his maiden address as he sought to motivate his people to overcome their "fear" and to strengthen their faith in the country's democratic system and its leadership."In (Mahatma) Gandhi's words, a person can make progress and achieve success only with self-confidence. This applies to a person as well as for a nation, according to Gandhi. Therefore, I appeal to you all to begin building up confidence in yourselves," said 72-year-old Gauck, a former east German civil rights activist and protestant pastor.Gauck was speaking after his swearing-in yesterday as the 11th President at a special ceremony in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Goat's Milk and Gandhi

Yesterday an article appeared in the Economic Times, below is an extract that provides interesting information.

Goat Milk offers plenty in terms of health, ask Mahatma Gandhi
Vikram Doctor, ET Bureau Mar 19, 2012, 12.18AM IST


Most people know that Mahatma Gandhi drank only goat's milk, and we assume this was part of his general obsession with food and health. But the problem with making this another selling point for goat's milk is that Gandhi didn't really drink it out of any special belief in its healthiness, but because he felt he had no other option.


The term vegan was not used at that time, but Gandhi would today count as a strict one, preferring to avoid any animal products. But the range of protein sources at that time was limited - soy milk was only just getting known widely, and Gandhi did not favour consumption of most dals and legumes (except peanuts).

In his early life, he often tried milk-free diets, and his position hardened after coming back to India and learning of the cruelties that many dairymen here practiced on their cows to increase milk yield. He took a vow then to avoid drinking milk and tried to find substitutes.

But none seemed to work, and without other easily digestible vegetable proteins, his health suffered quite fast. This came to a head around 1918 when the combination of the stressful Kheda Satyagraha campaign, and the milk-free diet caused him to develop a range of ailments that really threatened his life.

The doctors he consulted insisted he had to drink milk, but Gandhi felt he could not break his vow, and in letters he wrote to his family then he seemed fully prepared to die for this reason.

Gandhi did, however combine his ideals with a practical spirit which saw the need to live for his larger work. He was also a lawyer, which may have made him receptive when Kasturba came up with a compromise. He had refused to drink buffalo milk, as being too obviously close to cow's milk, but now she asked if goat's milk would do? Gandhi thought about it and agreed he had not been thinking of goats when he made his vow, so perhaps he could take that.

This was splitting hairs, as he acknowledged with shame to correspondents like Narahari Parikh, but he argued, "The fact of big loopholes having been left in my vow is evidence of their utter sincerity." He believed in the value of the vow enough to stick to its letter, but was willing to compromise on its spirit in the larger interest.

Get my Goats

Goats henceforth became part of the Gandhian establishment. There are letters to Sir Stafford Cripps and others who wanted him to travel to meet them where Gandhi makes clear that goats would need to be provided at their end. But mostly goat coordination fell to helpers like Mira Behn (Madeleine Slade), particularly during his trip abroad for the Round Table Conference in 1931.

In her memoir The Spirit's Pilgrimage she recalled how when they reached Paris station "someone came in great agitation to say a beautiful white goat had been brought to supply fresh milk, and the police had refused to allow it on the platform." Gandhi had to do without goat's milk that day, but in London they were waiting for him.

The wide knowledge of the importance of the goats for Gandhi meant that they were soon automatically provided. When Gandhi was put in Yaravada jail after passage of the Quit India resolution, Mira Behn's first concerns was for goats, but the jail superintendent showed her three tethered and waiting in jail.

Years earlier, during the talks with the viceroy, Lord Irvine, Mira Behn had gone to what is now Rashtrapati Bhavan with a container of goat's milk and the dates that Gandhi was eating then, and had to find a corner of the vast room the talks were happening in, to pour the milk over the dates and serve it to Gandhi.

Full Article

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gandhi in South Africa

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ahinsa - Ahimsa – Non Violence Tattoo

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Dancing Gandhi impersonator

A Dancing Gandhi impersonator – a quick search on the internet would confirm this. One blog claims the person is an Australian actor in Sydney at a party in the good old days. The anatomy of the individual confirms this.

I am sure the Mahatma would have been amused by the picture, as he rather unsuccessfully did take dancing lessons in London when 19.

He wrote “I must have taken about six lessons in three weeks. But it was beyond me to achieve anything like a rhythmic motion. I could not follow the piano and hence found it impossible to keep time.”

January 15th Holiday- Honors Non violence

Dr. King in Atlanta SCLC Office
(Gandhi on wall), 1966
Photo by Bob Fitch,

King Holiday Honors Global Tradition of Non-Violence
By Adam Phillips,
New York
15th January 2007

Today is a national holiday in the United States honoring the birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He led the non-violent struggle in the 1950s and 1960s to promote civil rights and end racial segregation in America, until his murder in April 1968.

Today, Dr. King is hailed as a true American hero with whom almost all Americans are familiar. What many may not realize is that Dr. King's non-violent methods were largely inspired by a man who lived a continent and a generation away. He was Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi, the statesman and sage who helped colonial India win independence from Britain in 1948.

Gandhi's own beginnings as a world leader occurred in what was an otherwise unremarkable experience for colonials. In 1893, as a young Indian lawyer in South Africa, Gandhi was ejected from the first class train seat he had paid for, and told to sit among the other non-whites in the third class compartment. It was a moment that would profoundly affect the world.

"It was the first time in his life that he had faced race prejudice," says David Cortright, president of the Fourth Freedom Forum and the author of Gandhi and Beyond. "He was very upset, very angry. But as he thought about it, he realized that he had to fight this," says Cortright. But Gandhi did not believe in violence. "[He] recognized, early on, the self-defeating nature of violence, and how violence begets violence and there is a cycle of action and reaction and whenever we strike a blow the other person will strike back."

Gandhi set out to obtain justice for his fellow Indians outside that vicious cycle, through Satyagraha, a concept which roughly translates as "love force," or "the weight of truth." It is a simple, yet highly sophisticated method of non-violent political action. When, as a young man, King was exposed to Gandhi's teachings on Satyagraha, he was electrified by its potential to help the struggle for civil rights in America.

The two men shared important similarities. Like Gandhi, who was a Hindu, Dr. Martin Luther King, a Christian minister, based his political activism on his religion. Just as Gandhi's Hinduism teaches that all human beings, even one's enemies or oppressors, are an expression of the Divine, with no less value than oneself, Reverend King and his followers were inspired by Jesus' command to "turn the other cheek" when your enemy strikes you, to pray for him, suffer for him, and ultimately, to forgive him.

"Dr. King used to say that 'we will match his ability to inflict suffering by our ability to suffer,'" says Andrew Young, the first African American ambassador to the United Nations, and one of King's closest friends and lieutenants. He spoke with VOA immediately after watching "Dare Not Walk Alone," a film documentary about the civil rights movement that includes footage from a non-violent demonstration he led in 1964 in Saint Augustine, Florida in which Young was badly beaten.

"There was a picture of a young woman with a broken nose. And she looks upon that beating as a mark of physical courage, as I do, that you were willing to confront evil and risk your life and not back down." After pausing for a moment to reflect, he continued, "The willingness to suffer for what you believe in is one of the highest virtues."

Gandhi and King keenly understood that the moral dignity of non-violent demonstrations as conveyed through the media could powerfully affect public opinion. Indeed, news photographs of police beating unarmed demonstrators, and crowds spitting on and taunting disciplined young people spread sympathy and support for both the Indian Independence movement and the civil rights movement.

Economic pressure through boycotts was another way that Dr. King's methods echoed those of Gandhi. "Every day we challenged the philosophy of racism in a way that stopped economic enterprise, at least temporarily," Andrew Young says, recalling the 90 days of demonstrations and boycotts against segregated department stores in downtown Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

Young says they never "hit anybody, never cussed anybody out." But the boycott was effective. "The business community came to us after 100 days and said 'Look, this has got to stop because you are putting us out of business!'"

Young emphasizes a truth that may surprise those who mistakenly associate non-violence with passivity: "You are the aggressor in nonviolence in that you are defining the issue. You are starting the confrontation."

Gandhi and King's methods have inspired political movements around the world. One thinks of the non-violent Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the national reconciliation efforts in post-Apartheid South Africa, and the Dalai Lama's efforts on behalf of Tibetans.

Robert Barnett, a professor of Contemporary Tibetan Studies at New York's Columbia University, notes that the Dalai Lama paid explicit tribute to Gandhi and his nonviolent methods when he accepted his 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. "And he has talked quite a lot about wanting to understand why the Chinese people felt the way they did when China took over, and going from there to say, 'We need to negotiate with these people and not to use violence against them.'"

Contemporary Tibetan Studies professor Robert Barnett says the Dalai Lama shares Dr. King and Gandhi's respect for nonviolence
Barnett adds that the Tibetan leader's approach has yet to succeed. "But the Dalai Lama's view is that this does take a long, long time and we need to be patient."

The universality of what Gandhi called "the force of truth and love" is why Andrew Young says Martin Luther King Day should not be regarded as only an African American holiday.

"Martin Luther King happened to be an Afro-American. But he advocated and successfully changed America and he never really lashed out in anger against anyone," Young says. The message there, he notes, is that "we ought to be celebrating and studying nonviolence as a continuing option for the growth and development of human civilization. Love!"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Khadi - The Fabric of Our Nation

This article appeared in Forbes India Magazine of 26 August, 2011

Khadi - The Fabric of Our Nation
by Jasodhara Banerjee

Khadi is part of the warp and weft of India; but it is by no means stuck in history

Fort, in Mumbai, is where the British left their architectural legacy. On the ground floor of one of the many colonial era buildings there resides a store, housing another legacy from their times, khadi.

Flanked by a couple of massive, dusty, dull, almost neglected shop windows, the doorway leads into Khadi Bhandar, whose sheer size and location would be the envy of any retailer. Sprawled over two floors — you actually have to look up to see the ceiling — the shop has shelves stacked with myriad variety, colours and shades of khadi. Fans, attached to the end of six-foot poles, hang from the distant ceilings. There are some people around — almost all salespersons. Trunks — the kind that our grandparents travelled with — stand stacked near the cash counter, along with piles of cartons.

A few minutes away, in the Kala Ghoda precinct, is a lane that is easy to miss. Along one of the nondescript walls of the lane is a discreet door, polished a dark shade of mahogany, so quiet it is even easier to miss. A small plaque, at knee-level, on the left of the door reads ‘Sabyasachi’.

Inside, it is dimly lit, reflecting impeccable taste and design sensibilities. An awe-inspiring collection of antique clocks and photographs adorn the walls of the extended foyer. Eighty’s pop murmurs from almost-invisible speakers nestled in the corners of the low ceiling. Bright colours, impossibly intricate zardozi, flowing fabrics line the deliberately stark walls. Inside an antique wooden almirah sits Sabsyaschi’s khadi sarees; each would cost the monthly budget of an upper middle-class family.

The walk from Khadi Bhandar to Sabysachi is short. But the journey of khadi has been a long one.

Khadi first caught the imagination of the nation during the freedom movement under Mahatma Gandhi, who propagated it as not just a fabric, but a way of life. One that is centred around the village, where the practice of khadi would be able to generate employment, income and, hence, self-reliance. Khadi was meant to become a supplementary industry to agriculture, a crucial element in a self-sustaining economy.

But it was not simply about the making of yarn at home, it was the spirit behind it. Gandhi’s vision was clear: “If we have the khadi spirit in us, we should surround ourselves with simplicity in every walk of life… The khadi spirit means illimitable patience… The khadi spirit means also an equally illimitable faith… The khadi spirit means fellow-feeling with every human being on earth.”

Adopting khadi as a lifestyle choice symbolised the move away from British textiles and products — resulting in all those spontaneous bonfires into which people flung their rich silks and laces from England — and the promotion of all things Indian.

Spinning yarn on the charkha, Gandhi believed, inculcated discipline and dedication. It was meant to be a great social equaliser — “It sits well on the shoulders of the poor, and it can be made, as it was made in the days of yore, to adorn the bodies of the richest and most artistic men and women” — and was also a tool to bring women into the fold of the freedom movement.

Khadi was, in fact, a masterstroke, taking the freedom movement beyond the rarefied circles of the social elite and the educated out to the masses. And the image of Gandhi sitting in front of a charkha acquired the weight of historical symbolism.

In the decades after Independence, the government institutionalised the khadi industry, setting up, in 1957, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) through an Act of Parliament, with the aim of providing employment through the production of saleable articles and, through this, creating self-reliance among the poor and building a strong rural community. The commission works towards supplying raw material and implements to producers, promoting research in production techniques, quality control of khadi products and promoting the sale and marketing of these products.

But in popular culture, the perception of khadi changed. It came to be synonymous with politicians and, subsequently, corruption. The association between politics and khadi was mostly due to the Congress, whose membership criteria requires one to be a habitual wearer of khadi, to abstain from alcohol and drugs and not practice untouchability. Now, while the common man came to understand that all the other criteria were rapidly turning out to be a farce, the use of khadi stuck as a strong symbol of political associations and activism.

But khadi, despite these murky associations, continues to be a symbol to be respected and nurtured. At a recent function in July, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh sparked off a controversy by wiping his shoes with a garland made of spun cotton. Congress General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi expressed the party’s disappointment by saying, “In the life of a nation, there are certain important symbols and one should be more careful and sensitive about them.”

It is only recently that the fabric has caught the attention of high fashion. The common man has been wearing it simply for its versatile character and comfort. At the cash counter in a Khadi Bhandar, you will find a motley crowd from middle-class India who thinks of the fabric as durable and affordable.

“Khadi has evolved a lot since I started working here,” says the supervisor of a Khadi Bhandar outlet, wary of giving out his name. And he has been working there for 35 years. “Earlier, you would not get printed fabric, or salwar-kameez sets, or ready made clothes. You could only get the plain fabric, in cotton or silk.” He explains how the fibre is now far smoother and lighter than what it started out as; consequently khadi clothes are now more comfortable and the fabric can hold many more dyes.

A lot of khadi is also not hand-spun any longer; traditionally the yarn is meant to be hand spun and the cloth hand-woven. The mechanised ambar charkha has replaced traditional hand-operated charkhas in many parts of the country. At the Khadi Bhandars, though, all the clothes are hand-spun and hand-woven, in the true spirit of the movement.

For celebrated designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee, khadi is simply a luxurious fabric that needs to be restored and preserved. He has styled entire lines on khadi, but no, he is not making any political statement by promoting it. “I think it is the most sophisticated fabric,” he says. “It has a quiet dignity that is absent in mill-made fabrics. It also stands for the fact that luxury is not something you can get by simply throwing money at it. Luxury is a state of mind. And khadi represents all that.”

But is has not been easy to convince his clients. “Khadi is either associated with politicians, or with the poor. Our country also suffers from the gloss syndrome. Anything that is dull or matte, is not appreciated easily. I wanted to demystify the status of khadi and started creating bridal wear — the ultimate realm of luxury clothing — from the fabric. It creates shock reactions.

“But the mindset is changing. The woman who chooses khadi is one who is completely at ease with herself. She is not the kind with dyed hair and make-up. She is educated and cultured enough to know the significance of khadi.” He adds that khadi is often shunned by the nouveau riche: “Only when they are trying to show that they are ‘old money’ and not ‘new money’, do they try venturing towards khadi.”

Founder of Good Earth, Anita Lal’s reasons for working with khadi are different from Mukherjee’s. “We started our own line of khadi garments at Good Earth, sold under the brand name Sustain, with the idea of sustainability. We retail other brands of khadi garments as well, but believe in working at the grassroots level with those involved in the making of the fabric. But we cannot produce any rubbish and expect people to buy it. The garments have to be well cut and stitched. We wanted to make khadi a beautiful and sophisticated fabric and consciously move away from the Khadi Gram Udyog look.

“The traditional khadi fabric has issues such as shrinkage and maintenance. It also has colours that can bleed.” She explains that the hand-spun and hand-woven fabric needs to be chemically treated to make it softer and more pliable, so that it can be adapted to contemporary designs and cuts.

Mukherjee, who sources his khadi from Dastkari in Andhra Pradesh, thinks khadi is too intelligent a fibre to be treated. “The challenge of working with it does not lie in its characteristics, but its procurement. It is made in small pockets of India, sometimes the poorest ones. Its quality is not consistent either. But all this makes it more of a luxury product.” But doesn’t the glamourisation of the fabric go against the basic philosophy behind it?

Lal says, “A lot of designers today are launching khadi lines. But most of them are using it simply as a fashion trend. Not because they believe in the philosophy behind it.”

Mukherjee’s argument is different: “Mahatma Gandhi used khadi as a tool to bind India together. But today, that philosophy has become anachronistic. We should work towards the revival of the fabric and looking at it purely for its political symbolism will do it disservice.”

Tradition, symbolism and a new-found versatility seem to have come together in wooing major retailers as well. In July, the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises hinted that it might allow KVIC to go ahead with private participation for managing its outlets. Business Standard had reported that Fabindia, Shoppers Stop and four other companies have shown interest in these partnerships.

The Khadi Bhandar at Fort was set up in 1957 and inaugurated by Morarji Desai. But many who work there don’t know this. To them, it is where they have worked all their lives. Time moves slowly inside its walls, but it does move.

The range of fabrics available has increased over the years, with printed and vegetable-dyed variations adding to the unadorned varieties. Garments in contemporary cuts and designs are displayed alongside Nehru jackets and Gandhi topis. Trendy leather bags share shelf space with Kolhapuri slippers. The store stocks a range of cosmetic products, made from natural ingredients and priced higher than the average commercial ones. The relatively recent dyed raw silk fabric is not what you would really call cheap, priced at more than Rs. 800 a metre. It would therefore be inaccurate to associate KVIC’s products with cheap goods. However, it is not exclusive either. You can buy a small, compact, charkha for Rs. 550 and raw, unprocessed cotton for Rs. 40 a bundle. In effect, it gives you the choice of making your own hand-spun yarn at home.

“Sales have dipped since the rebates were removed last year,” says an employee. “And we get a lot of foreign tourists as customers.” Almost on cue, a woman of Far-Eastern origin walks to the cash counter with a handful of receipts. The receipts themselves are on hand-made paper, the kind you would pay good money for in a fancy store.

Khadi is perhaps no longer what it was when Mahatma Gandhi sat with a charkha and spun a philosophy around it. It has lived a life of its own despite its heavy baggage of political symbolism, absorbing contemporary shades and blemishes, and evolved. It has added more layers to its characteristics, while retaining its fundamental ones, making it a fabric that reflects the times.

Link to Orginal Article


Joseph Deiss, President of the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly, holds up a limited edition copy of “MKG – Mahatma Gandhi – Imaging Peace, Truth & Ahisma” at an event commemorating the International Day of Non-Violence. The day is observed 2 October for the birthday of non-violence pioneer Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi). Pictured with Mr. Deiss are Hardeep Singh Puri (left), Permanent Representative of India to the UN, and Birad Rajaram Yajnik, the book's author.
01 October 2010 United Nations, New York