Lebenslauf des Mahatma Gandhi
Autor: Eva Stahl, 02/2001
2. Oktober 1869: Geburt des Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in
Porpandar als vierter Sohn aus vierter Ehe des Karamchand Gandhi mit seiner Frau
Putlibai, Mitglieder der dritten Kaste der Vaishyas,
· 1883: offizielle Heirat mit 13jähriger Kasturbai
· 1885. Tod des Vaters und Gandhis ersten Kindes; Gandhi verzeiht sich nicht, dass er nicht beim Sterben anwesend war
· 1887: Abreise nach England, um gegen den Willen seiner Familie Rechtswissenschaften zu studieren
· lernt englische Sitten, bleibt aber der Farbe Porpandars Weiß treu, wie auch seinem Gelübde, kein Fleisch zu essen
· er beginnt das Neue Testament und Bhagavat-Gitá, die große Schrift des Hinduismus, zu lesen und lernt sich selbst als Hindu und Inder in England besser kennen, Tod der Mutter
· 1889: Mohandas Gandhi lässt sich in London als Anwalt einschreiben
· er kehrt nach Bombay zurück
· nimmt Stellung bei indischer Firma in Südafrika an, da er kein Erfolg als Anwalt in Indien hat
· er erlebt sowohl im Gerichtssaal als auch auf einer Bahnfahrt für diese Firma starke Demütigungen; die entwürdigenden Situationen öffnen ihm die Augen und er beginnt gegen die Rassenvorurteile Südamerikas anzukämpfen.
· Gandhi sammelt innerhalb von 14 Tagen 10000 Unterschriften und gründet die indische Kongresspartei Natals; er erkennt, dass er weiterhin in Südafrika gebraucht wird, und holt seine Familie aus Indien
· 1899: Ausbruch des Burenkriegs; zusammen mit 1000 Indern meldet sich Mohandas Gandhi zum Sanitätsdienst, mit dem er allgemeine Bewunderung erregt. Die Stellung der Inder hat sich allerdings immer noch nicht verbessert.
· 1901 beginnt Gandhi mit dem Verzicht auf alle persönlichen Neigungen und Leidenschaften, er verpflichtet sich zum ,,brahmacharja", der ständigen Enthaltsamkeit, dem ,,ahimsa", der Gewaltlosigkeit, und dem ,,satjagraha", dem Kräftequell aus Wahrheit und Liebe. Weiterhin schneidet er sich sein Haar selbst, wäscht seine Hemden eigenhändig, säubert seine Latrine, normalerweise eine Aufgabe der Unberührbaren, und fastet regelmäßig
· 1906: nach dem Zuluaufstand müssen sich alle Inder bei den Behörden registrieren lassen, auf Zuwiderhandlung stehen Deportation oder Gefängnis
· 11. September 1906: 3000 Inder versammeln sich unter Gandhis Leitung im Staatstheater, wo sie schwören, diesem Erlass nicht Folge zu leisten
· 1907: Gandhi wird wegen Missachtung der Registrierung verhaftet, als Verteidigung bekennt er sich schuldig
· die Zeit in Haft nutzt Gandhi zum Lesen von Tolstoi, um sich innerlich zu stärken
· 1913: Beschluss, dass nur die christliche Ehe legal sei, daraufhin Aufmarsch von Bergleuten in Newcastle unter Leitung von Gandhi
· Forderungen nach Abschaffung der Steuern und Legalisierung nichtchristlicher Ehen
· 30. Juni 1914: Forderungen werden eingelöst, Gandhi reist daraufhin mit seiner Familie nach England
Gandhi erkennt die Macht des öffentlichen Fastens für die Sünden
Während des 1. Weltkriegs betätigt Gandhi sich als Ambulanzfahrer, bis ihn eine Rippenfellentzündung zu Rückkehr nach Indien zwingt
· Gandhi trägt von nun an ausschließlich sein weißes Gewand und reist durch Indien, um Land und Leute kennen zu lernen
· der Dichter Rabindranath Tagore verleiht ihm den Ehrennamen ,,Mahatma", die ,,große Seele"
· er wird zum eigentlichen religiösen und politischen Sprecher Indiens
· Gandhi leistet mehrfach Widerstand gegen die Regierung durch Nicht-Kooperation; ,,Stärkt nicht selbst die Mauern eures Gefängnisses, schmiedet nicht eure eigenen Ketten"; beispielsweise forderte er die Menschen auf, ihre Kleidung abzulegen und gemeinsam zu verbrennen und danach sich selbst ans Spinnrad zu setzen und eigenes Tuch zu spinnen
· wegen der von den Briten erhobenen Salzsteuer kündigt Gandhi am 2. März 1930 Widerstand an
· 12. März 1930: Gandhi wandert in Begleitung von 78 Mitstreitern los und predigt die Benutzung des Spinnrads und kritisiert die Kinderehe sowie den Alkoholkonsum. Zwischendurch gibt er den Befehl, die gesetzlichen Bestimmungen der Salzgewinnung nicht zu befolgen. Auf dem 80 tägigen Salzmarsch vom Ashram von Sabarmati nach Dandi an der Küste schließen sich mehrere Tausend Menschen dem Zug an; an der Küste angekommen, hebt Gandhi eine Handvoll Salzkörner am Rand des Wassers auf, seine Weggefährten tun es ihm nach, so dass das britische Salzmonopol gebrochen ist.
· 17. August 1932: Großbritannien legt besondere Wahlweise für die Unberührbaren fest, daraufhin beginnt Gandhi im Gefängnis mit dem ,,tödlichen Fasten"
· 25. September 1932: das Abkommen zwischen Hindus und den Unberührbaren wird geschlossen, Gandhi ist nur ganz knapp seinem Tod durch das Fasten entkommen
· 22. Februar 1935: Tod Kasturbais
· Gandhis politische Macht nimmt mehr und mehr ab
· Teilung Indiens in Jinnahs Pakistan und Nehrus Indien; Gandhi sieht darin ,,eine politische Gefahr und geistige Tragödie"
· 15. August 1947: Gandhis Lebensziel, die Unabhängigkeit Indiens, ist erreicht
30. Januar 1948: Mahatma Gandhi wird im Garten des Birla Hauses in
Neu-Delhi gestützt auf seine zwei Nichten vom hinduistischen Fanatiker Nathuram
Godsé erschossen mit den Worten ,,ram, ram", ,,mein Gott, mein Gott" auf den
einen Tag später wird Mahatma Gandhis Asche den Flüssen Ganges und Jamna übergeben
Gandhis eigentlicher Name war Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, man nannte ihn jedoch später aufgrund seiner großen Taten Mahatma, was so viel wie ,,Große Seele" bedeutet. Er wurde am 2. Oktober 1869 im indischen Porbandar geboren.
Seine Familie gehörte der Bayan-Kaste an, einem Stand der Unternehmer und Kaufleute. Und tatsächlich heißt Gandhi übersetzt ,,Gemüsehändler".
Gandhis Vater Karamchand war allerdings weder Unternehmer noch Kaufmann sondern ein verhältnismäßig hoher Beamter des Staates Porbandar. Er betätigte sich als Mitglied des radschasthanischen Gerichtshofes und eine zeitlang auch als Premierminister. Seine Mutter Putlibai war sehr religiös. Sie aß nie eine Mahlzeit ohne die täglichen Gelübde. Krankheit war für sie kein Grund, um die Fastenzeiten zu mildern oder sogar zu unterbrechen.
1882 wurde der 13-jährige Mohandas Gandhi mit der gleichaltrigen Kasturbai Nakanji verheiratet. Nach Ende seiner Schulzeit studierte er in London von 1888 bis 1891 Rechtswissenschaft.
Ab 1891 arbeitete er in Bombay als Rechtsanwalt. 1893 ging er nach Südafrika in die britische Kolonie Natal. Hier kam Gandhi mit Rassendiskriminierungen in Berührung. Er begann sich politisch zu engagieren und stieg so rasch zum Führer der südafrikanischen Inder auf. Er entwickelte in dieser Zeit das Konzept des Satyagraha, des gewaltlosen Widerstandes. 1894 organisierte er erstmals mit Hilfe des von ihm gegründeten ,,Natal Indian Congress" einen Widerstand der indischen Einwanderer gegen diskriminierende Gesetze, wie z.B. die Aberkennung des Stimmrechtes. Wegen seines passiven Widerstandes wurde Mohandas Gandhi mehrmals inhaftiert.
Als 1914 der 1. Weltkrieg ausbrach, kehrte er nach Indien zurück. Bei der Ankunft in Bombay am 9. Januar 1915 begrüßte ihn der indische Dichter Tagore als ,,Mahatma".
Aufgrund der blutig verlaufenen Zerschlagung einer friedlichen indischen Protestversammlung in Amritsar durch britische Truppen im Jahre 1919 rief er ein Jahr später zu einer landesweiten Kampagne des zivilen Ungehorsams auf. In diesem Jahr übernahm er auch die Führung des Indian National Congress (I.N.C.), der sich unter seiner Herrschaft zu einer Massenorganisation und zum wichtigsten Mittel der Unabhängigkeitsbewegung entwickelte.
Im März 1922 wird er zu sechs Jahren britischer Haft verurteilt. Schon zwei Jahre später begnadigte man ihn aufgrund einer Krankheit und so kam er vorzeitig frei.
Gandhi zog sich 1924 aus der Unabhängigkeitsbewegung zurück und widmete sich bis 1930 anderen Bereichen wie soziale Gerechtigkeit, wirtschaftliche Unabhängigkeit und religiöser Ausgleich.
Nachdem die britische Regierung sich geweigert hatte, Indien den Dominionstatus zuzugestehen, veranlasste er 1930 eine zweite Kampagne des zivilen Ungehorsams und rief zum Salzmarsch, einem gewaltlosen Protest gegen das britische Salzmonopol, der vom 12. März bis 6. April dauerte, auf. Daraufhin nahm man ihn neun Monate in Gewahrsam. Nach Gandhis Freilassung am 26. Januar 1931 beteiligte er sich an einer Verfassungskonferenz in London, um sich mit seinen Forderungen für Indien durchzusetzen. Er konnte dabei aber nichts erkämpfen. Nach 1932 war er noch mehrere Male im Gefängnis. Er führte dort mehrfach ein langes Fasten durch, um gegen die von ihm als unzureichend betrachteten britischen Verfassungspläne für Indien zu protestieren. 1934 gab Gandhi die Führung des I.N.C. ab, stieg aus dem Kongress aus und beschäftigte sich mit seiner Volksbewegung. Er schrieb 1939 einen Brief an Adolf Hitler und bat ihn um Frieden, weil dieser mit dem Überfall Deutschlands auf Polen den 2. Weltkrieg provoziert hatte. Im selben Jahr lehnten Gandhi und der I.N.C. es ab, Großbritannien in diesem Krieg zu unterstützen, sofern Indien nicht die Unabhängigkeit garantiert wird. 1942 forderte Gandhi die sofortige Unabhängigkeit Indiens und geriet in Poona in Haft. Zwei Jahre später wurde er wiederholt aus Gesundheitsgründen freigelassen.
Endlich erklärte sich die britische Regierung bereit Indien in die Unabhängigkeit zu entlassen. Während sich 1945 der mittlerweile schon 76-jährige Gandhi noch unweigerlich für die Einheit Indiens einsetzte, drohte diese an blutigen Auseinandersetzungen zwischen Hindus und Moslems zu scheitern. Durch eine Fastenaktion konnte er 1947 die Streitigkeiten in Kalkutta beenden. Am3. Juni verkündete der britische Premierminister Attlee die Unabhängigkeit und die Teilung Indiens in zwei Staaten: Pakistan für die Moslems und Indien für die Hindus. Diese Teilung bezeichnet Gandhi als ,,geistige Tragödie".
Im Jahre 1948, am 20. Januar entging er einem Attentat. Nur zehn Tage später wird der 79-jährige von einem fanatischen Hindu erschossen.
Mahatma Gandhi hat also mit allen gewaltlosen Mitteln für die Unabhängigkeit seines Landes gekämpft.
Folgende Sätze soll er gesagt haben:
* Es gibt keinen Weg zum Frieden. Der Frieden ist der Weg.
* Was man mit Gewalt gewinnt kann man nur mit Gewalt behalten.
* Ich glaube an Gewaltlosigkeit als das einzige Heilmittel.
* Armut ist die größte Umweltzerstörerin.
Es wurden auch Bücher über diesen Mann geschrieben (Deutsch):
* O. Wolf: Gandhis Politik und Gewaltlosigkeit. 1963
* W. Molt: Die Pädagogik von Mahatma Gandhi. 1970
* G. Gold: Gandhi - Eine bebilderte Biographie. 1983
* E. H. Erikson: Gandhis Wahrheit. 1984
* S. Grabner: Schwert der Gewaltlosigkeit, Mahatma Gandhi.-Leben und Werk 1984
* G. Woodcock: Mahatma Gandhis Festhalten an der Wirklichkeit. 1986
* I. Jesudasan: Mahatma Gandhis Weg zur Freiheit. 1987
* H. Rau: Mahatma Gandhi mit Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten. 1987
* S. Grabner: Mahatma Gandhi. Politiker, Pilger und Prophet. 1992
* L. Fischer: Gandhi - Prophet der Gewaltlosigkeit. 1995
* R. Hörig: Auf Gandhis Spuren. Soziale Bewegungen und ökologische Traditionen in Indien. 1995
* L. Collins/ D. Lapierre: Gandhi. Um Mitternacht die Freiheit. 1996
* D. Rothermund: Mahatma Gandhi. Eine politische Biographie. 1997
* T. S. Settel: Die Weisheiten des Mahatma Gandhi 1998
Der folgende Aufsatz beschreibt den Sinneswandel in der Kastenfrage, den Indiens Freiheitskämpfer und Staatsoberhaupt Gandhi durchmachte.
HOW GANDHI CAME TO BELIEVE
CASTE MUST BE DISMANTLED BY INTERMARRIAGE
Many a colleague of Gandhi's observed that he was greater than his
writings would suggest. He himself said that they should be cremated with his
body because there was a grave risk that people would swear by them.*1 [To find
the footnote, search ahead for "*1".] He also said, in 1945, that as a
seeker after truth he had many times in his life found himself in the wrong and
therefore changed.*2 In this article I would like to trace, mainly from evidence
in the writings, how his ideas about varna and intermarriage changed gradually
over the years. The biggest changes in this regard took place in his 60s and
70s, when most people's opinions become ossified.
Not very long after returning for good from South Africa, Gandhi had
proposed to reduce the castes to the four varnas, while nonetheless maintaining
 1920: "I believe that caste has saved Hinduism from
disintegration. But like every other institution it has suffered from
excrescences. I consider the four divisions alone to be fundamental, natural and
essential. The innumerable sub-castes are sometimes a convenience, often a
hindrance. The sooner there is fusion, the better...." One of my
correspondents suggests that we should abolish the caste [system] but adopt the
class system of Europe - meaning thereby, I suppose, that the idea of heredity
in caste should be rejected. I am inclined to think that the law of heredity is
an eternal law and any attempt to alter that law must lead us, as it has before
led [others], to utter confusion.... If Hindus believe, as they must believe, in
reincarnation [and] transmigration, they must know that Nature will, without any
possibility of mistake, adjust the balance by degrading a Brahmin, if he
misbehaves himself, by reincarnating him in a lower division, and translating
one who lives the life of a Brahmin in his present incarnation to Brahminhood in
his next. (C, XIX, 83f)
 1920: "The beauty of the caste system is that it does not base
itself upon distinctions of wealth-possessions. Money, as history has proved, is
the greatest disruptive force in the world.... Caste is but an extension of the
principle of the family. Both are governed by blood and heredity. Western
scientists are busy trying to prove that heredity is an illusion and that milieu
is everything. The... experience of many lands goes against the conclusions of
these scientists; but even accepting their doctrine of milieu, it is easy to
prove that milieu can be conserved and developed more through caste than through
class.... As we all know, change comes very slowly in social life, and thus, as
a matter of fact, caste has allowed new groupings to suit the changes in lives.
But these changes are [as] quiet and easy as a change in the shape of the clouds.
It is difficult to imagine a better harmonious human adjustment. " Caste
does not connote superiority or inferiority. It simply recognizes different
outlooks and corresponding modes of life. But it is no use denying the fact that
a sort of hierarchy has been evolved in the caste system, but it cannot be
called the creation of the Brahmins. When all castes accept a common [religious]
goal of life, a hierarchy is inevitable, because all castes cannot realize the
ideal in equal degree." (C, XIX, 174ff)
 1921-22: "I believe that if Hindu society has been able to
stand, it is because it is founded on the caste system.... A community which can
create the caste system must be said to possess unique power of organization....
" To destroy the caste system and adopt the Western European social system
means that Hindus must give up the principle of hereditary occupation which is
the soul of the caste system. [The] hereditary principle is an eternal principle.
To change it is to create disorder.... It will be a chaos if every day a Brahmin
is to be changed into a Shudra and a Shudra is to be changed into a Brahmin. The
caste system is a natural order of society.... I am opposed to all those who are
out to destroy the caste system." (A, IX, 275f)
 1926: "In accepting the fourfold division I am simply accepting
the laws of Nature, taking for granted what is inherent in human nature and the
law of heredity.... [But] it is not possible in one birth entirely to undo the
results of our past doings." (C, XXIX, 410f) So ugly did he find
Western-style competition that he would prohibit anyone who acquired a skill
other than his "hereditary" one from earning a living by the new one:
 1925: "There is no harm if a person belonging to one varna
acquires the knowledge or science and art specialized in by persons belonging to
other varnas. But as far as the way of earning his living his concerned, he must
follow the occupation of the varna to which he belongs, which means he must
follow the hereditary profession of his forefathers. " The object of the
varna system is to prevent competition and class struggle and class war. I
believe in the varna system because it fixes the duties and occupations of
persons.... Varna means the determination of a man's occupation before he is
born.... In the varna system no man has any liberty to choose his occupation."
(A, IX, 277) From the mid-1920s on, he would complement this by downplaying the
idea (set out at the end of Reading 2 that "a hierarchy is inevitable":
 1925: "For me there is no question of superiority or inferiority.
A Brahmin who regards himself as a superior being born to look down upon the
other castes is not a Brahmin. If he is first [in status] he is so by right of
[spiritual] service." (C, XXVI, 289)
 1927: "In [my] conception of the law of varna no one is superior
to any other.... A scavenger has the same status as a Brahmin." (C, XXXV,
260) In 1931, he met Ambedkar, and
an incipient influence seems evident already in some nuances and new points in
the following statements:
 1931: "I do not believe in caste in the modern sense. It is an
excrescence and a handicap on progress. Nor do I believe in inequalities between
human beings. We are all absolutely equal. But equality is of souls and not
bodies.... We have to realize equality in the midst of this apparent inequality.
Assumption of superiority by any person over any other is a sin against God and
man. Thus caste, in so far as it connotes distinctions in status, is an evil.
"I do however believe in varna which is based on hereditary
occupations. Varnas are four to mark four universal occupations - imparting
knowledge, defending the defenceless, carrying on agriculture and commerce, and
performing service [to other humans] through physical labor. These occupations
are common to all mankind, but Hinduism, having recognized them as the law of
our being, has made use of it in regulating social relations and conduct.
Gravitation affects us all whether one knows its existence or not. But
scientists who knew the law have made it yield results that have startled the
world. Even so has Hinduism startled the world by its discovery and application
of the law of varna.*3
"[Yet] according to my definition of varna there is no varna in
operation at present in Hinduism. The so-called Brahmins have ceased to impart
knowledge. They take to various other occupations. This is more or less true of
the other varnas." (C, XLVI, 302)
 1932: "My own opinion is that the varna system has just now
broken down. There is no true Brahmin or true Kshatriya or Vaishya. We are all
Shudras, i.e. one varna. If this position is accepted, then the thing becomes
easy. If this does not satisfy our vanity, then we are all Brahmins. Removal of
untouchability does mean root-and-branch destruction of the idea of superiority
and inferiority." (C, LI, 199f)
 1932: "No matter what was the position in ancient times, no one
can nowadays go through life claiming to belong to a high class. Society will
not willingly admit any such claim to superiority, but only under duress. The
world is now wide awake.... " When it is suggested that everyone should
practice his father's profession, the suggestion is coupled with the condition
that the practitioner of every profession will earn only a living wage and no
more.... The lawyer or doctor ought by practicing his profession to earn only a
living wage. And such was actually the case formerly....
"Boys [between 9 and 16 years of age] should be taught their parents' avocation in such a way that they will by their own choice obtain their livelihood by practicing the hereditary craft. This does not apply to the girls.... [From] 16 to 25..., every young person should have an education according to his or her wishes and circumstances." (C, L, 233)
Ambedkar did not welcome such arguments:
 1933, Ambedkar: "There will be outcastes as long as there are
castes, and nothing can emancipate the outcaste except the destruction of the
caste system." Gandhi:
"Dr. Ambedkar is bitter. He has every reason to feel so.... [Yet] I do not
believe the caste system, even as distinguished from varnashrama, to be an 'odious
and vicious dogma'. It has its limitations and defects, but there is nothing
sinful about it, as there is about untouchability, and if [untouchability] is a
by-product of the system, it is only in the same sense that an ugly growth is of
a body, or weeds of a crop." (T, III, 192f).
Gandhi admitted that his ideal of a varna system with everyone enjoying
equal economic and social status probably had no historical warrant:
 1934, Interviewer: "Do you not think that in ancient India
there was much difference in economic status and social privileges between the
Gandhi: "That may be historically true. But misapplication or an
imperfect understanding of the law must not lead to the ignoring of the law
itself. By constant striving we have to enrich the inheritance left to us."
(C, LIX, 319).
The contrast between Gandhi's and Ambedkar's views was heightened by
their respective relations to the new Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal, dedicated to
promoting a casteless Hinduism. Gandhi told its secretary:
 1932: "If eradication of castes means the abolition of varna I
do not approve of it. But I am with you if your aim is to end the innumerable
caste distinctions." (C, LI, 264)
Yet Ambedkar and the Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal between them apparently caused
the tone of Gandhi's statements to change somewhat more. In 1935 Gandhi said:
 1935: "Caste Has To Go. Varnashrama of the shastras is today
nonexistent in practice. The present caste system is the very antithesis of
Varnashrama. The sooner public opinion abolishes it the better.
"...Prohibition there is [in varnashrama] of change of one's hereditary
occupation for purposes of gain. The existing practice is therefore doubly wrong
in that it has set up cruel restrictions about interdining and intermarriage and
tolerates anarchy about choice of occupation....
"The most effective, quickest and the most unobtrusive way to destroy caste is for reformers to begin the practice with themselves and, where necessary, take the consequences of social boycott. The change will be gradual and imperceptible." (C, LXII, 121f) In 1936 the Mandal invited Ambedkar to preside at their annual convention. However, upon seeing the typescript of his proposed presidential address, in which he not only outlined a comprehensive program of Hindu reform including the selection of priests by state examinations rather than by heredity, but also implied that he would probably leave Hinduism altogether, they asked him to modify the text. He refused; they cancelled the convention; and his speech was published independently. Here is a brief excerpt:
 1936, Ambedkar: "The mass of people [in India have] tolerated
the social evils to which they have been subjected... [because they] have been
completely disabled for direct action on account of this wretched system of
chaturvarnya. They could not bear arms and without arms they could not rebel.*4
...They could receive no education, [so] they could not think out or know the
way to their salvation.... Not knowing the way of escape and not having the
means of escape, they became reconciled to eternal servitude, which they
accepted as their inescapable fate...." (A, I, 63)
Gandhi invited Ambedkar to express his views in Harijan. Ambedkar
declined but Gandhi called attention to them anyway, and commented:
 1936: "Dr. Ambedkar... has quoted chapter and verse in proof of
his... indictment. ...No Hindu who prizes his faith above life itself can afford
to underrate the importance of this indictment.... [Yet there are] flaws in [it]....
" Caste has nothing to do with religion. It is a custom whose origin I do
not know.... Varna [has] nothing to do with castes. The law of varna teaches us
that we have each one of us to earn our bread by following the ancestral calling....
The essence of Hinduism is contained [however] in its enunciation of the one and
only God as Truth and its bold acceptance of ahimsa as the law of the human
family. " I am aware that my interpretation of Hinduism will be disputed by
many besides Dr. Ambedkar. That does not affect my position. In my opinion the
profound mistake that Dr. Ambedkar has made in his address is to pick out 
texts of doubtful authenticity and value and  the state of degraded Hindus
who are no fit specimens of the faith.... Judged by the standard applied by Dr.
Ambedkar, every known living faith will probably fail [to be found worthy of
acceptance]." (C, LXIII, 135 and 153f)
Ambedkar responded with a virtuoso display of academic and barrister-like
disputation. It is almost a pity merely to print the following long extracts;
they ought rather to be delivered by a powerful actor in a dramatic setting:
 1936, Ambedkar: "The first point made by the Mahatma is that
the texts cited by me are not authentic. I confess I am no authority on the
matter. But... the texts cited by me are all taken from the writings of... a
recognized authority on the Sanskrit language and on the Hindu shastras.... The
masses... are too illiterate to know the contents of the shastras. They have
believed what they have been told, and what they have been told is that the
shastras do enjoin as a religious duty the observance of caste and
untouchability. "...The saints... did not preach that all men were equal.
They preached that all men were equal in the eyes of God*5 - a very different
and a very innocuous proposition which nobody can find difficult to preach or
dangerous to believe in.... [Moreover,] the masses have been taught that a saint
might break caste but the common man must not.... " That religion should be
judged not by its worst specimens but by its best is true enough, but does it
dispose of the matter? I say it does not. The question still remains - why the
worst number so many and the best so few. To my mind there are two conceivable
answers to this question: (1) that the worst by reason of some original
perversity of theirs are morally uneducable and are therefore incapable of
making the remotest approach to the religious ideal; or (2) that the religious
ideal is a wholly wrong ideal which has given a wrong moral twist to the lives
of the many, and that the best have become best in spite of the wrong ideal - in
fact by giving to the wrong a twist, a turn in the right direction. Of these two
explanations I am not prepared to accept the first.... To my mind the second is
the only logical and reasonable explanation unless the Mahatma has a third
alternative to explain why the worst are so many and the best so few. If the
second is the only explanation then obviously the argument of the Mahatma that a
religion should be judged by its best followers carries us nowhere except to
pity the lot of the many who have gone wrong because they have been made to
worship wrong ideals. "...The Mahatma seems to me to suggest... that Hindu
society can be made tolerable and even happy without any fundamental change in
its structure if all the high-caste Hindus can be persuaded to follow a high
standard of morality in their dealing with the low-caste Hindus. I am totally
opposed to this kind of ideology. I can respect those of the caste Hindus who
try to realize a high social ideal in their life. Without such men India would
be an uglier and a less happy place to live in than it is. But nonetheless
anyone who relies on an attempt to turn... caste Hindus into better men by
improving their personal character is in my judgement wasting his energy and
hugging an illusion. Can personal character make the maker of armaments a good
man, i.e. a man who will sell shells that will not burst*6 and gas that will not
poison? If it cannot, how can you expect personal character to make a man loaded
with a consciousness of caste a good man, i.e. a man who would treat his fellows
as his... kinsmen and equals? As a matter of fact, a Hindu does treat all those
who are not of his caste as though they were aliens, who could be discriminated
against with impunity and against whom any fraud or trick may be practiced
without shame. This is to say that there can be a better or a worse Hindu, but a
good Hindu there cannot be. This is not because there is anything wrong with his
personal character. In fact what is wrong is the entire basis of his
relationship to his fellows.... "...Does the Mahatma practice what he
preaches? One does not like to make personal reference in an argument which is
general in its application. But when one preaches a doctrine and holds it as a
dogma, there is a curiosity to know how far he practices what he preaches....
The Mahatma is a Bania by birth. His ancestors had abandoned trading in favor of
ministership which is a calling of the Brahmins. In his own life, before he
became a mahatma, when occasion came for him to choose his career he preferred
law to scales. On abandoning law he became half saint and half politician. He
has never touched trading which is his ancestral calling. His youngest son...
has married a Brahmin's daughter and has chosen to serve a newspaper magnate.
The Mahatma is not known to have condemned him for not following his ancestral
calling. It may be wrong and uncharitable to judge an ideal by its worst
specimens. But surely the Mahatma as a specimen has no better and if even he
fails to realize the ideal then the ideal must be an impossible ideal quite
opposed to the practical instincts of man....
"Why does the Mahatma cling to the theory of everyone following his or her ancestral calling? He gives his reasons nowhere [nowadays; but]... years ago, writing on caste versus class in his Young India, he argued [Reading 2] that the caste system was better than the class system on the ground that caste was the best possible adjustment of social stability. If that be the reason why the Mahatma clings to the theory of everyone following his or her ancestral calling, he is clinging to a false view of social life.... Stability is wanted, but not at the cost of change when change is imperative.... Adjustment is wanted, but not at the sacrifice of social justice. Can it be said that the adjustment of social relationship on the basis of caste, i.e. on the basis of each to his hereditary calling, avoids those two evils? I am convinced that it does not. Far from being the best possible adjustment, I have no doubt that it is of the worst possible kind inasmuch as it offends against both the canons of social adjustment - namely fluidity and equity. "...I must admit that the vedic theory of varna as interpreted by Swami Dayanand and some others is a sensible and an inoffensive thing. It did not admit birth as a determining factor in fixing the place of an individual in society. It only recognized worth. The Mahatma's view of varna... makes nonsense of the vedic varna [and] makes it into an abominable thing. [Vedic] varna and caste are two very different concepts. Varna is based on the principle of each according to his worth, while caste is based on the principle of each according to his birth. The two are as distinct as chalk from cheese.... If the Mahatma believes as he does in everyone following his or her ancestral calling, then most certainly he is advocating the caste system and in calling it the varna system he is... causing confusion....
"Does he regard [his concept of hereditary] varna as the essence of Hinduism? One cannot as yet give any categorical answer. Readers of his article on 'Dr. Ambedkar's Indictment' will answer 'No'. In that article he does not say that the dogma of varna is an essential part of the creed of Hinduism. Far from making varna the essence of Hinduism, he says [Reading 16], 'The essence of Hinduism is contained in its enunciation of one and only God as truth and its bold acceptance of ahimsa as the law of the human family.' But readers of his [other] article... will say 'Yes.' In that article he says [Reading 43] , '...I do not know how a person who rejects caste, i.e. varna, can call himself a Hindu.' Why this prevarication? Why does the Mahatma hedge? Whom does he want to please? Has the saint failed to sense the truth? Or does the politician stand in the way of the saint? The real reason why the Mahatma is suffering from this confusion is probably to be traced to two sources. The first is the temperament of the Mahatma. He has almost in everything the simplicity of the child with the child's capacity for self-deception. Like a child he can believe in anything he wants to believe. We must therefore wait till such time as it pleases the Mahatma to abandon his faith in [hereditary] varna as it has pleased him to abandon his faith in caste. The second course of confusion is the double role which the Mahatma wants to play - of a mahatma and a politician. As a mahatma he may be trying to spiritualize politics. Whether he has succeeded in it or not, politics have certainly commercialized him. A politician must know that society cannot bear the whole truth; if he is speaking the whole truth, it is bad for his politics. The reason why the Mahatma is always supporting caste and varna is because he is afraid that if he opposes them he will lose his place in politics. Whatever may be the source of this confusion, the Mahatma must be told that he is deceiving himself and also deceiving the people by preaching caste under the name of varna. " The Mahatma says that the standards I have applied to test Hindus and Hinduism are too severe.... [However,] my quarrel with Hindus and Hinduism is not over the imperfections of their social conduct. It is much more fundamental. It is over their ideals." (A, I, 87-92)
The immediate effect upon Gandhi of this brilliant and aggressive
argument does not seem to have been decisive. Late in 1936 he argued at length
in Harijan (C, LXIV, 86ff) that his ideal Bhangi would do sanitation work and
thus "possibly even excel" a Brahmin in rendering service.
Meanwhile, a younger opponent of caste and varna, Gora, who had been
disowned by his own (Brahmin) caste in 1928, and a few years later was dismissed
from his job as a college biology teacher for saying that the idea of divine
creatures was untrue, began to walk to villages on weekends and during school
vacations, speaking out against superstitions, caste and economic inequality. In
due time he became a full-time social worker and published freely the views he
had been expounding all along, among them:
 1949, Gora: "This thorn-bush [caste] is in our path. It is
useless to argue about who put it there, why, and when; the whole thing is
against the interest of the people and we must simply remove it." (S, 17/iv)
Gandhi heard about Gora's social work in the early 1940s and invited him
to Sevagram when they were released from detention in 1944. He found him
courteous, free of fanaticism, and hard-working. Gandhi's view of caste now
moved closer to that which Gora shared with Ambedkar. One day after writing a
letter (C, LXXX, 221) to a Harijan disciple of Gora's, Gandhi completed a
lengthy preface to a new edition of a little book of his from the 1920s,
Varnavyavastha, which had extolled his ideal varna system. In the new preface,
entitled "Key to My Writings," he argued that everyone was now in the
same, service-performing varna:
 1945: "I do not have the time to read this book again. I do not
even wish to. I have many other things to do. " In my opinion a man daily
moves either forward or backward. He never stands still. The whole world is
moving and there is no exception.... " Where are the four varnas of the
Gita today?... There prevails only one varna today, that is, of 'Shudras', or,
you my call it, 'Ati-Shudras'.... If I can bring round the Hindu society to my
view, all our internal quarrels will come to an end.... " A man should
consider himself not the owner of his property but its trustee... for the
service of society. He will accept only that much for himself as he has earned
with his [physical] labor. If that happens, no one will be poor and no one rich.
In such a system, all religions will naturally be held equal. Therefore all
quarrels arising [today] out of religion, caste and economic differences will be
ended. " This is the swaraj of my dreams. I yearn for that. I want to live
for the attainment of it. I am devoting every breath of my life to that effort.
" The reader is therefore requested to discard anything in this book which
may appear to him incompatible with my views given above." (C, LXXX, 222ff)
Reading 9 (1932) includes an all-in-one-caste idea, and Gandhi mentioned
it several times during the Harijan-uplift tour.*7 The change discussed below in
his attitude toward intermarriage meant that he now took the idea far more
seriously. It had initially come to him from considering an argument which he
had heard soon after returning from South Africa to India:
 1927: "I remember in 1915 the Chairman at the Social Conference
in Nellore suggesting that formerly all were Brahmins, and that now too all
should be recognized as such and that the other varnas should be abolished. It
appeared to me then, as it appears to me now, as a wierd suggestion. It is the
so-called superior that has to descend from his heights, if the reform is to be
peaceful." (C, XXXV, 262f)
A clear statement of Gandhi's latter-day view of caste - namely, that his
cherished ideal of varna must be given up altogether in order to eradicate
untouchability - is in the following remark to Gora's prospective son-in-law,
who had been born an "untouchable":
 1946: "You should become like Ambedkar. You should work for the
removal of untouchability and caste. Untouchability must go at any cost."
An American visitor described Gandhi's view now as follows:
 1946 (as reported): "He said he was trying to create a
classless and casteless India. He yearned for the day when there would be only
one caste and Brahmins would marry Harijans. 'I am a social revolutionist,' he
asserted. 'Violence is bred by inequality, non-violence by equality." (F,
As to when that day - a classless and altogether casteless India - might
come, his own hope would be to see it dawn within fifty years:
 1946: [Q.] "In your recent correspondence... you have said that
caste ought to go root and branch if untouchability is to be completely
eradicated.*8 Then, why do you not make anti-untouchability work part of a wider
crusade against the caste system itself? If you dig out the root, the branches
will wither by themselves." [A.] " It is one thing for me to hold
certain views and quite another to make my views acceptable in their entirety to
society at large. My mind, I hope, is ever growing, ever moving forward. All may
not keep pace with it. I have therefore to exercise the utmost patience and be
satisfied with hastening slowly.... I am wholly in agreement with you in
principle. If I live up to 125 years, I do expect to convert the entire Hindu
society to my view." (C, LXXXV, 24)
He said that to have abolished "all distinctions of class and caste"
(in the Indian National Army) was Subhas Chandra Bose's "greatest and
Yet with all this, and notwithstanding his realization that "when
all became casteless..., monopoly of occupations would go" (C, LXXXVI,
484), he might still sometimes - with hedging expressions like "more or
less" and "generally" - say that a person who because of an
abnormal talent has mastered an occupation other than "the one he is born
in" should nevertheless earn his living by "his hereditary occupation"
and not by the new one:
 1947 (as reported): "[The] vocational organization of society,
held Gandhi, may be vertical and competitive, or horizontal and coperative.
Under the former, remuneration is ...on the basis of the law of supply and
demand; in the latter all occupations... are paid equal wages... [and] a person
will choose an occupation, not because of the personal prospects it offers, but
because he has a special skill or aptitude for it. And since skills and
aptitudes generally follow the line of heredity more or less, the average person
in the normal course would, if there were no inequalities of remuneration to
lure him away from it, tend to follow the occupation he is born in.... Would
that mean that one would be debarred form changing his hereditary occupation, if
he felt a special urge? 'No,' said Gandhiji, 'not so long as one does not depend
on it [the new occupation] for one's living'. Such cases will naturally be few.
Thus Buddha was [by heredity] a ruling prince, Socrates a sculptor, St. Paul a
tent-maker. Yet Buddha became the Enlightened One, Socrates the prince of
philosophers and St. Paul an apostle; but none of them regarded their calling as
a means of livelihood." (P, I, 541f)
Had Ambedkar commented on this, he would surely have mentioned the lack
of evidence that the Buddha earned his keep exclusively by being a king, St.
Paul by making tents and Socrates by sculpting - or that any society pays equal
wages to all. Gandhi admitted this latter point:
 1947: "Indian society may never reach the goal [equal wages for
all] but it is the duty of every Indian to set his sail towards that goal and no
other if India is to be a happy land." (C, LXXXVII, 10)
* * *
A good summary of Gandhi's attitude, until his last years, toward
intermarriage is in the following remarks of 1919:
 1919: "Interdining [and] intermarrying, I hold, are not
essential for the promotion of the spirit of democracy.... But as time goes
forward and new necessities and occasions arise, the custom regarding...
interdining and intermarrying will require cautious modifications or
rearrangements." (C, XIX, 83f)
In his ashram, interdining with "untouchables" was a corellary
to their acceptance in 1915 as members. But for a long time Gandhi took a
different stance in regard to Hindu practice at large, and in this regard he was
in the early 1920s outspoken against interdining, and intermarriage:
 1921: "Hinduism reached the highest limit of self-restraint. It
is undoubtedly a religion of renunciation of the flesh so that the spirit may be
set free.... Prohibition against interdining and intermarriage is essential to a
rapid evolution of the soul. But this self-denial is no test of varna." (C,
 1925, Correspondent: "I was surprised to read in a recent
article [your] repudiation of intermarriage between touchables and untouchables...."
Gandhi: "I have repeatedly expressed my view of caste and
intermarriage.... I cannot picture to myself a time when all mankind will have
one religion. As a rule there will, therefore, be the religious bar; people will
marry in their own religion.... The caste restriction is an extension of the
same principle. It is a social convenience.... I am opposed to untouchability
because it limits the field of service. [But] marriage is not an act of service."
(C, XXVI, 285)
By 1928, however, he clearly preferred people to marry across subcaste
lines within the same varna. He attended reluctantly the wedding in that year of
his son Ramadas and Nirmala, whom he found personally acceptable but who was of
the same subcaste; and this was the last such wedding he attended.*10 Three
marriages which he later blessed between people in different subcastes of his
own varna were those of Rukshmani and Banarasilal (1929), Madalasa and
Srimannarayan (1937), and Sharda and Gorhandas (1939).*11 None of these were
love matches, and this was, for him, a positive feature. In the late 1920s his
son Devdas and a Brahmin girl fell in love; they had to wait for five years
before marrying.*12 And when in 1947 Gandhi's nephew Kanu wanted to marry a
Brahmin girl, Abha, with whom Gandhi was well acquainted and of whom he approved,
he asked them first to live apart for a year (which they did).
His views in the early 1930s were as follows:
 1931: "When Hindus were seized with inertia, abuse of varna
resulted in... unnecessary and harmful restrictions as to intermarriage and
interdining. The law of varna has nothing to do with these restrictions. People
of different varnas may intermarry and interdine. These restrictions may be
necessary in the interest of chastity and hygiene. But a Brahmin who marries a
Shudra girl or vice versa commits no offence against the law of varna." (C,
 1932: "The ashram will not help to arrange a marriage between
members of the same subcaste, and everyone is encouraged to seek his mate
outside his own subcaste." (C, L, 213)
He had in 1929 advised a 22-year-old man not in the ashram to insist to
his parents that he would marry outside the subcaste, or else marry a widow,
rather than accept against his conscience a match with a nine- or ten-year-old
girl within the subcaste:
 1929: [Q.] My parents want me to be married this very year....
Child-marriage is the rule [and] in my case... girls of nine or ten years of age
only are available [within our sub-caste].... I am... 22 years of age. My
parents will not hear of my marrying a widow or outside my caste. What am I to
do in the circumstances?' [A.] "...It has been my experience that when a
grown-up boy or girl takes up a just and right position and adheres to it with
absolute firmness,... the parents, when once they realize that the resolution of
their children is absolutely unalterable,... get reconciled to it. ...My advice...
is to refuse to be a party to the... sin of marrying a child-girl.... Consider
it a virtue to marry [instead] outside [your] sub-caste or to marry a widow,
subject to the necessary limitations." (C, XXXVIII, 431f)
In those days, even more extreme examples of taking a child-bride for the
sake of marrying in one's caste were at issue:
 1936, Correspondent: "I draw your attention with great shame to
the article 'Surfeit of child-marriages.'... These weddings took place in our...
Chaturvedi caste. It is the misfortune of our caste that girls of 2, 2 and 3
years of age are given in marriage.... It must be pointed out that we, the
Chaturvedi community, consider ourselves the highest Brahmins. We consider it a
sin to eat food cooked even by other Brahmins."
Gandhi: "What else can the marriages... be called than monstrous?...
When scriptures are quoted in their favor, the difficulties multiply. However,
satyagraha can become a sure means of overcoming all kinds of tyranny." (C,
The general religious climate was such that when Gandhi was planning in
1932 his Harijan-uplift campaign, he took great care to assure people that he
would not campaign for intermarriage or interdining:
 1932: "I should never dream of making this reform [interdining
and intermarriage], however desirable in itself it may be, part of an all-India
reform [against untouchability] which has been long overdue. Untouchability, in
the form we all know it, is a canker eating into the very vitals of Hinduism.
Dining and marriage restrictions [merely] stunt Hindu society. I think the
distinction is fundamental." (T, III, 180f)
 1932: "I am glad to find that temples in your part of the
country are being opened to Harijans. The removal of untouchability does not
necessarily include interdining and intermarriage, but it is open to anyone to
dine or marry among Harijans. In other words, Harijans should have the same
status as the rest of the Hindus in all matters. (C, LI, 237)
 1932: "Mixing up the two problems would jeopardize the success
of both. For this reason intermarriage and interdining with untouchables are not
an integral feature of removal of untouchability; but their practice is not
against religion either." (C, LI, 264)*13
Ten years later he would say:  1942: "When I said that removal
of untouchability did not include the removal of restrictions on interdining and
intermarriage, I had the general Hindu public in mind, not the Congress workers
or Congressmen. These have to abolish untouchability from every part of their
life." (C, LXXV, 207)
Meanwhile someone in 1933 had remarked that the tone of Gandhi's
statements on interdining and intermarriage had changed quite perceptibly since
the early 1920s:
 1933: "A correspondent who is a diligent student of my writings
finds it difficult to reconcile my recent writings about intercaste dining and
intercaste marriage and [my] corresponding writings of some years ago.... [Yet]
the mode of life in the ashram in 1921 was absolutely the same as it is now.
Therefore my practice has undergone no change. I still believe that restriction
imposed by oneself upon interdining and intermarriage is an act of renunciation
of the flesh [and therefore good]. There is one word that perhaps I would change
if I was writing the article of 1921 [see Reading 26] today. Instead of 'prohibition',
I should... say, 'self-imposed restriction against intermarriage and interdining
is essential for a rapid evolution of the soul'." (C, LV, 61)
Now the Jat-Pak-Todek Mandal and Ambedkar led him further. In the second
of the following passages, he went so far as virtually to apply to the taboos
against interdining and intermarriage an idea which he had for years been
applying to untouchability: that Hinduism must shed the evil or else be
 1935: "It must be left to the unfettered choice of the
individual as to where he or she will marry or dine. If the law of varnashrama
was observed [with regard to hereditary occupation], there would naturally be a
tendency, so far as marriage is concerned, for people to restrict the marital
relations to their own varna." (C, LII, 121)
 1936, Correspondent (from the Mandal): "For all practical
purposes, in Hindu society caste and varna are... the same thing, for the
function of both of them is... the same, i.e. to restrict intercaste marriages
and interdining.... When you advocate your ideal of [varna] they find
justification for clinging to caste.... To seek the help of the shastras for the
removal of untouchability and caste is simply to wash mud with mud."
Gandhi: "If caste and varna are convertible terms and if varna is an
integral part of the shastras which define Hinduism, I do not know how a person
who rejects caste i.e. varna can call himself a Hindu.
"[Yet] if the shastras support caste as we know it today in all its hideousness, I may not call myself or remain a Hindu, since I have no scruples about interdining or intermarriage." (C, LIII, 225f)
Ambedkar saw that intermarriage would be the structural antidote to the
religiously administered social poison that was causing that "hideous"
degradation and alienation in modern India:
 1936, Ambedkar: "The real remedy is intermarriage. Fusion of
blood can alone create the feeling of being kith and kin, and unless this
feeling... becomes paramount, the separatist feeling - the feeling of being
aliens - created by caste will not vanish.... "...The Hindus observe caste
not because they are inhuman... [but] because they are deeply religious [and]
their religion... has inculcated this notion of caste." (A, I, 67f)
It seems to me that this point should be recalled when considering the
significance of the reservation system. That was a strong, steroid-like medicine,
that is, with harmful side-effects and wanting to be withdrawn gradually when
the organism has won the upper hand over the poison - against which
intermarriage must be the long-range prophylaxis.
In 1937 Gandhi hinted at the possibility of advocating inter-varna
marriages, in the course of discussing with some members of the Gandhi Seva
Sangh a proposal that they "give a place to Harijans in their homes,
receive Harijans in the same way as they would receive others, seek
opportunities to eat with them... [and] bring up some Harijan children:"
 1937, Vallabhbhai Patel: "This proposal justifies the fear of
the sanatanists.... From removal of untouchability you want to proceed step by
step to intermarriage." (Laughter)
Gandhi: "For ordinary people, removal of untouchability is enough.
But, for you, mere touch is not enough. You must continue to proceed further....
" The Hindu masses still follow quite a few restrictive practices in the
matter of inter-dining and intermarriage. [And] even I have followed certain
restrictions in this [latter] regard. That is why I have not spoken to the
masses about these.
"But if I suggest to you that you should go to the extent of inter-dining and intermarrying with Harijans I would not be violating truth.... You have really not much control in the matter of intermarriage. You should certainly not bring compulsion on your children in this matter. Interdining is a different matter. If your mother says that it is irreligion, you must tell her that you would take the food cooked by her as well as by an untouchable, and it would not matter that you were forsaken by her on that account." (C, LXV, 134f)
In 1940 he publicly approved of a high-caste Hindu lad who married a
Harijan girl after overcoming the reluctance of their parents:*14
 1940, Correspondent: "Shri Radhamadhab Mitra married a Harijan
girl on 4th March last, strictly according to Hindu rites with Brahmin priests,
and the ceremony was attended by about one thousand people of all castes and
communities. Radhamadhab is aged about 25. When he was a student he organized a
Harijan boys' football team. During your epic fast for Harijans, Radhamadhab
with some of his friends lived in a Harijan village, and during that period he
and his friends promised to marry Harijan girls. His friends forgot their
promise but Radhamadhab carried it out. When the proposal for marriage with a
Harijan girl was first made, all the relatives and friends used all sorts of
pressure to dissuade Radhamadhab from his resolve. When he first consulted me, I
depicted a very dark future before him.... There was opposition from the bride's
relatives who were afraid of oppression from higher castes and also of divine
punishment. But ultimately they agreed. ..."We tried our utmost to secure
the attendance of as many high-class people as possible, and thank God we could
get what we wanted.... Just imagine several hundred of high-caste people sitting
together with an equal number of Harijans... and receiving betel from the father
of the bride." Gandhi: "I congratulate Shri Radhamadhab on his courage
in breaking through the rock of caste superstition. I hope his example will be
copied by other young men. May the union prove happy. I would advise Shri
Radhamadhab to arrange for proper education of his wife, who, I understand, has
not received any scholastic training." (H, 22/vi, 173)
In 1940 there took place in Gandhi's immediate circle, and with his
approval, an inter-varna marriage between G. Ramachandran, a Shudra woman, and
Dr. Saundaram, a Brahmin, and also one between and a Harijan woman (Indumeti)
and a high-caste Hindu (Dr. A. G. Tendulkar, President of the Goa Congress).*15
These were love-matches, as was also perhaps that of Radhamabhab and his bride (since
they braved opposition from her family as well as his); so Gandhi's approval may
have been tinged with a wistful longing - hinted at in Reading 41 - for his
cherished ideal of marriage due less to personal attraction than to dedication
and discipline. How could those values be combined with the new values of
Notwithstanding this problem, by mid-1945 he felt that at some future
time it would become very important for caste-Hindus generally to marry Harijans:
 1945: "If... castes and sub-castes as we know them disappear -
as they should - we should [then] unhesitatingly accord the highest importance
to marriages between Ati-Shudras and caste-Hindus." (C, LXXX, 77)
- and he would tell even non-members of the ashram that he could bless no
weddings between members of the same subcaste:
 1945: "If the marriage is in the same community do not ask for
my blessings, however deserving the girl may be. I send my blessings if she is
from another community." (C, LXXX, 99)
Meanwhile, Gora and his wife in their social work with Harijans were
often asked, in the early 1940s, "Although you are helping us and saying 'We
are all human', would you really have your children marry people like us?"
Their response was positive*16 and when they came out of prison in 1944 they
began to consider who, among the young Harijan men who had joined in their work,
might be a suitable match for their eldest child, then 16. Within a few months
they had a young man in mind and asked their daughter if she was inclined to
become engaged and would be willing to marry him. She concurred; they consulted
him; he was astonished but accepted the idea. Gora wrote about it to Gandhi, who
Gandhi determined, through a series of personal meetings, that it was not
a love match but was motivated by dedication to social justice, and that there
was no trace of compulsion or reluctance in either family.*17
Gora wrote to Gandhi:
 1946: "Though there is a resemblance between your thought and
practice and mine superficially, I must own that yours is far superior to mine."
(G, 52; C, LXXXIII, 390) (As far as I know, he never praised anyone else quite
so strongly and succinctly.) He vowed thereafter to attend only weddings between
Harijans and members of a varna, and a hint of this was published at the time,
albeit not in Harijan:
 1946: [Q.] "Does the Congress program for the abolition of
untouchability include interdining and intermarriage with Harijans?" [A.]
"So far as I know the Congress mind today, there is no opposition to dining
with Harijans. But speaking for myself, I have said that we have all to become
Harijans today or we will not be able to purge ourselves completely of the taint
of untouchability. I, therefore, tell all boys and girls who want to marry that
they cannot be married at Sevagram Ashram unless one of the parties is a Harijan.
I am convinced that there is no real difficulty in this. All that is needed is a
change of outlook." (The Hindustan Standard, 5/i)
The following exchange appeared in Harijan:
 1946, Correspondent: "Educated [Harijan] girls can be counted
on the fingers of one hand. If they marry caste Hindus they will, as a rule, be
cut off from their own society and ...not be able to work for the uplift of
their Harijan sisters from within. If Harijan girls are to marry caste Hindus it
should be on condition that the couple will devote their lives to the service of
the Harijans.*18 Otherwise, educated Harijan girls should be encouraged to marry
educated youths of their own community."
Gandhi: "It is certainly desirable that caste Hindu girls should select Harijan husbands. I hesitate to say that it is better. That would imply that women are inferior to men. I know that such [an] inferiority complex is there today. For this reason I would agree that at present the marriage of a caste girl to a Harijan is better than that of a Harijan girl to a caste Hindu. If I had my way I would persuade all caste Hindu girls coming under my influence to select Harijan husbands." (H, 7/vii, 212f)
Gandhi's search for truth had thus led him to champion, in regard to
marriage, the logical concomitant of the all-in-one-caste idea, contrary to his
teaching of the 1920s and early '30s that prohibition or at least self-imposed
restriction against intermarriage was essential to a rapid evolution of the soul.
Gandhi's view of inter-religious marriage also changed over the years,
though to a lesser extent.
In the 1920s he prevented his son Manilal from marrying a Moslem girl
(and found a Hindu wife for him*19):
 1926: "You are of course a free man; so I cannot force you to
do anything. But I write to you as a friend. "What you desire is contrary
to dharma If you stick to Hinduism and Fatima follows Islam, it will be like
putting two swords in one sheath.... What should be your children's faith? ...It
is adharma if Fatima agrees to conversion just for marrying you.... "Nor is
it in the interests of our society to form this relationship. Your marriage will
have a powerful impact on the Hindu-Moslem question. Intercommunal marriages are
no solution to this problem. You cannot forget, nor will society forget, that
you are my son. "If you enter into this relationship, you may not be able
to render any service. I fear you may no longer be the right person to run
Indian Opinion [which Manilal had been editing ever since Gandhi had left South
Africa]. "It will be impossible for you, I think, after this to come and
settle in India. "I cannot ask Ba's permission.... Her life will be
embittered for ever. "In proposing this marriage you have thought only of
momentary pleasure.... I want you to get out of your infatuation.... May God
show you the right path." (C, XXX, 229f) In the early 1930s his view began
 1931: "[As for] marriage outside one's religion... so long as
each [partner] is free to observe his or her religion, I can see no moral
objection to such unions. But I do not believe that these unions can bring peace.
They may follow peace. I can see nothing but disaster following any attempt to
advocate Hindu-Moslem [marital] unions so long as the relations between the two
[religions] remain strained. That such unions may be happy in exceptional
circumstances can be no reason for their general advocacy." (C, XLVI, 303)
 1932: "If anybody asks my opinion, I would say that marriage
between persons following different faiths was a risky experiment.... I do not
advocate marriages between persons of different faiths as I advocate inter-caste
marriages because I desire the disappearance of sub-castes. I would not agitate
against such marriages either. This is an issue on which every man and woman
should think and decide for himself or herself. There cannot be a uniform law
for all. " (C, XLIX, 478)
In 1996 the only surviving member of his family from the next generation
did not recall his having ever attended an inter-religious marriage.*20 However,
Gandhi ventured in 1945 to suggest, though not yet in print, that
inter-religious marriages might entail "no difficulty":
 1945: "Where parents are wise, there should be no difficulty
even between persons of different religions. Do we not look upon all religions
as equal? ...The offspring may choose either religion. The couple of our
conception will give the children liberal education in that regard. In my view
this should be quite easy." (C, LXXX, 77f)
And then, toward the end of his life, he argued that the marriage laws of
the Republic of India should provide for non-religious weddings in order to
"clear the way for inter-religious marriages":
 1947: [Q.] "You advocate intercaste marriages. Do you also
favor marriage between Indians professing different religions?... If so, what
form should the marriage ceremony take?" [A.] "Although he [Gandhi]
had not always held that view, he had long come to the conclusion that
inter-religious marriage was a welcome event whenever it took place. Marriage in
his view was a sacred institution. Hence there must be mutual friendship, either
party having equal respect for the religion of the other. There was no room in
this for conversion. Hence the marriage ceremony could be performed by the
priests belonging to either faith. But this could come about only when the
communities had shed mutual emnity and cultivated equal regard for all religions
of the world." [Q.] "Was not the institution of civil marriage a
negation of religion and did it not tend to laxity in faith? [A.] "He did
not believe in civil marriages, but he welcomed the institution of civil
marriage as a much-needed reform to clear the way for inter-religious marriages."
(L, I, 558; C, LXXXVII, 11f)
Although I am from the West, this story does not tell me that Indians
should copy Westerners.*21 Instead, the salient meaning of the story is that
even though Gandhi was often slow to change:
 1931, Romain Rolland: "He is a patient man, tenacious in his
ideas; when he believes they are right, he needs repeated and decisive
experiments before he will give them up." (R, 535)
-nonetheless he was still willing, in his last years, to learn from
experience and from honest people, such as Ambedkar and Gora, who because of
their own devotion to truth disagreed with him in one way or another (Ambedkar
in his politics, Gora in his evaluation of the idea of inherited karma; of
course the disagreement must have the non-violent character which is a hallmark
of any genuine search for truth). As long as Gandhi lived, he would, I believe,
have continued to grow in this way, such was his epoch-making devotion to moral
truth in our social relations, like that of a research scientist to natural
truth as something to be pursued incessantly and in collaboration with other
members of the discipline. So, those responding to Gandhi's call to be fellow
 1940: "Let Gandhism be destroyed if it stands for error.... You
are no followers, but fellow students, fellow pilgrims, fellow seekers, fellow
workers." (H, 2/iii, 23).
-should look back to him as he did to Mohammed, the Buddha and Jesus when
 1934: "In the teachings of each prophet... there was a
permanent portion and there was another... suited to the needs and requirements
of the times." (C, LIX, 319)
*1. H, 1/v/1937, 93 (C, LXV, 89).
*2. G, 44.
*3. Other societies had traditional occupations and social regulations
without limiting cate gorically a young man's vocational choice. In Confucian
China he would enter govern ment service by doing well in written examinations
with the candidates' identities con cealed from the evaluators. In Medieval and
Renaissance Europe he could be apprenticed to someone in a different occupation
from that of his father if it suited him better.
*4. A traditionalist could reply that India might thus indeed lose wars
but at least would not stop tending her crops for the sake of military
*5. See the first paragraph of Reading 8.
*6. A rare instance of this during World War II is depicted in the
"Oscar"-award-winning film (1993), "Schindler's List."
*7. See for example T, III, 196.
*8. "Caste must go if we want to root out untouchability." (C,
*9. C, LXXXVI, 383f; see also LXXXVII, 372; LXXXIX, 459 and XC, 484f.
*10. Interview with Nirmala Gandhi (January 1996).
*11. D, 77. Interview with Madalasa Narayan (January 1997). C, LXVIII,
*12. C, XXXV, 339f; D, 102.
*13. See also C, LI, 176, 188, 199, 206, 231, 241, 248, 264 and 269.
*14. From a letter he had received, Gandhi published excerpts, which are
here further abbreviated.
*15. C, LXXV, 447 and LXXVII, 396.
*16. Their concept of morality was to do what you say and say what you do
(G, 45).  1946: "I have your letter. I like it.... I am prepared to get
the marriage performed in the Sevagram Ashram.... [Since] Manorama is 17 years
old.... I suggest that she should wait for two years." (G, 47; C, LXXXI,
*17. To see if Manorama was under duress he had her interviewed by a
Telugu-speaking, Brahmin, who told her (in order to test her) that it was a poor
idea as there would be many difficulties and Arjun Rao was penniless. But she
was unequivocal: "We are working for social equality and the eradication of
untouchability."  1946, Gora: "Side by side with the mixing up [of
people born into different castes], an attempt also might be made to discourage
the use of labels of caste and creed which raise imaginary barriers between man
and man. Not only should the practice of untouchability go, but the Harijan
should not be allowed to continue a Harijan.... Similarly the Hindu and Moslem
differences might be solved by discarding the labels. Such an attempt will no
longer keep the form of communal harmony, but it would lead to the growth of one
humanity.... Though a powerful personality like Gandiji might harmonize
communities for a while, when the personal influence weakened, the communities
would clash again. So a permanent solution of communal differences is the growth
of [the] one-humanity outlook rather than communal harmony." (G, 51; C,
*18. Roughly speaking it may be said that the two kinds of marriage
described here between Harijan-born girls and Brahmin-born boys are illustrated
by (1) the marriage in 1933 of Gandhi's adopted daughter, Lakshmi, and Maruti
(see C, LIII, 288f, 325, 358 and 438), and (2) the one in 1960 of the Telugu
poet Joshua's daughter, Hemalata, and Gora's eldest son, Lavanam.
*20. Nirmala Gandhi, interview, 23/1/1996. In South Africa in 1905,
however, Gandhi had sponsored the civil marriage of Millie Graham, a Christian,
and H. S. L. Polak, a Jew. According to Gandhi they had a common religion of
ethics. (See E, Part IV, Ch. 22, and P, 11-14.)
*19. C, XXXIII, 55f, 73f ,78, 83f, 103f, 130ff, 145f, and 148.
*21. Western family-life and class-structure are no ideal models. The
common American, cream-first curd-later style of courtship, for example, arouses
unrealistic expectations in the marriage - which is a pity, because contentment
in the long run is often due less to one's actual conditions than to whether
they measure up to one's initial hopes.
WORKS CITED (AND THE ABBREVIATIONS FOR THEM USED HERE):