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Sunday 2 August 2015

Gandhi's views on socialism, production and monetary systems

"The repudiation of the so-called Public Debt of lndia incurred by the foreign Government’ is too vague and too sweeping a statement in the programme of a progressive and enlightened party. The Congress has suggested the only real and statesmanlike proposition, namely, reference to an impartial tribunal of the whole of the so-called Public Debt before any part can be taken over by the future free Government of India."

This was the statement that Gandhi made in response to a pamphlet circulated by the Socialist Party of India in 1939. Honesty demands that real debt be paid. Gandhiji used the term “so-called” public debt and the Congress suggested an impartial tribunal to assess the real extent of debt. By doing so, the Congress had, on behalf of a future government of India, given its moral pledge to pay off the public debt. Gandhiji suggested to his socialist friends that they must honour the promises made by the predecessors. Gandhiji welcomed new ideas but advised them to learn from the old as well.

Continuing his response to the note, the next point that he made concerned Marxist ideology and its language. Gandhiji said, “The progressive nationalization of all the instruments of production, distribution and exchange’ is too sweeping to be admissible.” The example cited by Gandhiji is beyond the comprehension of those who cannot think outside the realm of the economy. The socialists must have found it strange and are likely to have cited it as an example of Gandhijis idiosyncratic ways. Gandhiji wrote: “Rabindranath Tagore is an instrument of marvellous production. I do not know that he will submit to be nationalized.”

The example was outside strict economics. However, not many years later, we would see how the socialist state apparatus of Soviet Union was used to curb the freedom of literature and artists and sought to regulate their “production’’.This shows that Gandhiji s analogy was not out of place. Masani’s pamphlet also demanded cancellation of debts owed by peasants and workers. Gandhiji objected to this as well:

"Cancellation of debts owing by peasants and workers’ is a proposition which the debtors themselves would never subscribe to, for that will be suicidal. What is necessary is an examination of the debts some of which, I know, will not bear scrutiny."

In these views, Gandhi held similar views to BR Ambedkar, who also spoke out against the British Raj's mismanagement of Indian finances. Nehru drew upon the work of both Babasahib and the Mahatma in creating his first five-year plan, in which he worked to eliminate public debt accumulated during World War 2 under British rule.

Gandhiji had vast experience of the Indian peasantry and knew that they were not so shameless as to not own up to genuine debts. He also knew that if these real debts were cancelled along with the fake ones, the peasants would have difficulty securing debts in the future; this would be suicidal for them. Gandhiji was sensitive to the injustice that the socialist group wished to point out and, hence, he also said that some debts would not bear scrutiny.

Next, Gandhiji raised an issue that bore the mark of his own economic thinking, something that would probably not have occurred to the progressive socialists. Gandhiji s concern was that the people should not become dependent and feeble: "I should educate the masses to cultivate habits of thrift. 1 should not be guilty of maiming them by letting them think that they have no obligation in the way of taking preventive measures in the matter of old age, sickness, accident and the like." 

His view on strikes was radical even for the socialists: "I do not understand the meaning of the phrase ‘the right to strike.’ It belongs to everybody who wants to take the risks attendant upon strikes." 

Gandhiji asked Masani a question: “Does ‘the right of the child to care and maintenance by the State’ absolve the parent from the duty of caring for the maintenance of his children?” The Kibbutz in Israel did experiment with making the community responsible for child-rearing but their experience taught them that while the community may take economic responsibility, cultural and social responsibilities have to be borne by the parents.

The pamphlet demanded the elimination of landlordism. Gandhiji saw in this the intent to take over zamindari and talukdari lands. He was never in favour of doing away with zamindars and the zamindari system; he suggested merely the regulation of the relations between the landlords and tenants in order to promote harmonious relations between them.The socialists would have found this utterly reactionary. This was also quite contrary to the views of Ambedkar, who was quite definite in wanting to eliminate the entire structure of Hindu society, seeing that as the only possibility to destroy untouchability.

Saturday 7 February 2015

The Story of Kumbha and Chudala

The Kumbha Mela occurs once every three years, and cycles over four venues over a period of twelve years. While these venues are all on the confluences of important rivers, there is a legend relating to how these four places were selected and why the kumbha mela occurs once every twelve years in these places. 

Once, on returning to the forest, Chudala found her husband in samadhi, a state of trance, with his body completely emaciated. Although she knew that this state signified an inner ripening, as a seed hardens within a shrivelling, drying fruit, she felt harrowed by the spectacle. She tried to awaken him, but could not. She went back to the capital and returned a few days later, to find him still in samadhi. 

At this she created with her subtle breath simha nada, that is, a roar sounding like a lion that reached to the skies and reverberated through the forests, frightening wild animals into a stampede. The king’s samadhi, however, remained undisturbed. Chudala was pleased, but at the same time she wanted to awaken him. She shook him vigorously, but it was like shaking dead wood. She now tried a last remedy. She left her own body and transmigrated into his and awoke him from within. He opened his eyes little by little. Chudala went back to her own body and, assuming again the form of Kumbha, sat at a distance away and sang the Santa tune, that rare melody, and it soothed and pleased the king as he gradually came back to the mundane world. 
Kumbha said, “You were in deep meditation and I am pleased with your development. Do you feel assured that you will never more be affected by kama, krodha, and moha?” “Yes,” said Sikhi-Dhvaja. “I am above all passions now. I have complete confidence in myself. I feel my soul pervading the entire universe. I find myself in a state of bliss at all times.” Kumbha said, “You have nothing to fear any more. Now let us travel and see the world.” 
 They visited different countries, forests, and deserts. When they relaxed in some ideal romantic surrounding, Chudala felt an overwhelming love for her husband and desired his company as a woman. But she could not reveal herself to him yet without spoiling the fruits of their labours. Kumbha took leave of the king on the pretext of having to visit the world of the god Indra on an urgent summons and, as Chudala, went back to the capital to attend to state matters; she returned to him in two days, as Kumbha, but with a sad face. “I notice a lack of joy in your face,” said Sikhi-Dhvaja. “Something has, perhaps, made you unhappy. May I know what it is?” 
 Kumbha said, “A dreadful thing has happened to me. You are, after all, a friend of mine and I cannot hide anything from you. While returning from Indra Loka I met the sage Durvasa. He was wearing rather flashy robes, as it seemed to me, and I could not help cracking a joke with him. I said, ‘O Sage, you are dressed like a damsel going in search of her lover. How is that?’ I should not have joked with a person like Durvasa, whose bad temper is known in all the worlds. His eyes blazed with anger and he said, ‘Young fellow, you are frivolous and silly. Normally I would not have noticed you, but today you have forced yourself on my attention and uttered insulting words. For this you are going to pay a price. Since damsels seem to be so much on your mind, you shall be transformed into a damsel at sunset each day and regain your manhood at daybreak, for the rest of your life,’ and he was gone after uttering this curse. Now what shall I do?”
“You have helped me through my troubled times,” the king said. “It will be my turn to help you now. Utter the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra (mp3). Do not worry. Nothing is lost by this curse. I shall always treat you as my guru and friend, whatever may be your form.” “It is a great consolation that you will not mind it,” said Kumbha. “Let nothing worry you,” said the king, and he elaborated a philosophy of acceptance. As the evening wore on and dusk came, Kumbha excused himself from continuing in the presence of the king. He half withdrew behind a partition and cried pathetically, “O King, the curse is taking effect. Long tresses have appeared on my head, with flowers and scent.” Unperturbed by this information, the king continued his meditation. 
“Where there was a flat chest,” began Kumbha—“I am shy to mention it, but you are my friend—breasts, firm and round, have appeared.” “Yes, all that must happen as expected,” said the king without any emotion, coldly. “Ornaments have appeared, sparkling with gems, around my neck. I wish you could see me.” “It is all a part of the mask,” said Sikhi-Dhvaja. “What do the details matter? All that will last until the morning. You will get used to the change.” “My clothes have grown longer and drape me.” “You should have expected it.” “My voice has changed, do you not notice it?” “Yes, I do. Naturally you should have the appropriate voice for your changed state,” the king said without turning. “My hips have grown wider, and—oh, friend, this is indeed frightening—I am a complete woman now. I am no longer Kumbha. I repeat, I am a complete woman now. May I come before you?” “Certainly, I never told you to go into concealment.” And now Chudala emerged as a woman of great beauty. The king looked on this vision unemotionally. 
She said, “My name is Madanika.” “Yes?” said the king without any agitation. As the night advanced, Madanika came closer to the king and put her arm around his neck. “Be my husband. If you don’t take me someone else will, for that is the curse. What is wrong in your becoming my husband every night?” The king agreed, for it seemed to him all the same, whatever he did. She said, “Let us marry this very minute, since this is an especially auspicious night. Let us spend the night as husband and wife.”
 
At that very hour they were married according to Gandharva rites, and that night and the following nights enjoyed the utmost conjugal bliss. She found that the king, though responsive, remained untouched by any experience. He took no initiative at any stage, although he denied her nothing when she made a demand on him as a wife. Chudala felt happy that her husband had come through the first test successfully.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Dashavatar: The Story of the 10 Vishnu Avatars or Incarnations

Vishnu Kurma Avatar

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Friday 21 February 2014

The Kurukshetra War in Mahabharat: A Day-by-Day Account

Mahabharat Kurukshetra

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