- Mahatma Gandhi had a significant impact on India’s Struggle for Independence and bringing various segments of society together in a harmonious way. The ideas championed by Gandhi are rooted in his philosophy.
- Undoubtedly, Gandhi can be seen as a social engineer who was striving to create a new society where individuals can live without violence and war. Throughout his lifetime, Gandhi dedicated himself to improving the lives of women, untouchables, and other marginalized groups.
Moreover, his ideas promoted gender equality, unity among people, and the eradication of inhumane practices such as untouchability, restrictions on widow remarriage, and child marriage prohibition.
People and the Society
- Gandhi had a vision of creating a new society that was free from exploitation and tyranny. He dedicated himself to this cause by establishing organizations like Sarvodaya Samaj and Soshan Bihin Samaj, with the aim of protecting people from exploitation. Gandhi firmly believed that every human being, regardless of their social status or wealth, should have equal opportunities for personal development.
- Although, he was not satisfied with the idea of the greatest good for the greatest number of people alone. Instead, Gandhi advocated for the development and prosperity of all sections of society. According to Gandhi, the well-being of the people as a whole, known as Swaraj, is dependent on the well-being of each individual. In other words, individuals can only achieve prosperity if they have freedom and peace within society.
- However, he cautioned against solely focusing on materialistic development, as excessive material prosperity can give rise to various problems. Gandhi’s ideal was centered around the notion that the advancement of Our Civilizations, Culture, and Self-governance (Swaraj) is not dependent on indulging in our desires and multiplying our wants, but rather on exercising self-control and practicing self-denial.
- According to Gandhi, Caste it is not an equivalent as Varnashrama. While the class structure is a solution to the social order like the Varna system that relies on the Hindu scriptures not on class structure. The laws of Varnas can be traced back to ancient scriptures like Vedas, which affirmed a man shall follow the occupation of his ancestors for earning his livelihood. There are unit of uncounted castes some dying out and new one’s came into being.
- According to tenth Mandal of Rig Veda, there are four major Varnas namely, Brahamans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. The above-mentioned Varnas have different duties and functions as per their hierarchy and status.
- According to Gandhi, Brahmans cannot assume superiority in society as it goes against the laws of Varnas. He believed that in Vedas the four Varna’s have been compared to four parts of the body and According to him, no Varna could claim superiority over other, every Varna should be considered equal and important so that caste based discrimination can be abolished and equality can be prevailed in the society. He attempted his best to give a new light to the old-age tradition of Varnashram, and used it as a means to promote welfare in the society.
Status of Women
- Gandhi viewed women not merely as subjects for reform, but as self-aware individuals, and he naturally integrated them into the broader masses. The active participation of Indian women in national and local mass movements played a crucial role in shaping Indian society. Gandhi called upon women to participate in India’s freedom struggle, emphasizing that their participation in Satyagraha and social reconstruction programs was even more significant than that of men.
- Gandhi believed that despite their physical differences, men and women are equal. Women are seen as counterparts to men and possess equal mental capabilities. He supported the involvement of girls in social, political, and economic sectors, emphasizing that they should not be seen as mere inferior, but as creative individuals with unique contributions to the society.
- To enhance women’s role and rights, Gandhi advocated for their active participation in society’s social, political, and economic spheres. He encouraged women to engage in politics and develop independent thinking.
- Gandhi emphasized the importance of education for women, advocating for practical education in various subjects. He strongly opposed harmful customs such as infanticide, homicide, forced labour, and child marriage, which hinder societal progress. Gandhi’s persistent efforts to establish women’s rights yielded significant results in India during the post-independence era.
- Gandhi opposed child marriage, considering it an immoral and inhumane practice that undermines our morals and leads to physical degeneration. He argued that the religious texts supporting early marriage do not truly represent Hinduism and should be rejected as additions. Child marriages not only harmed the health of mothers, but also negatively impacted the new generation and the country as a whole.
- Gandhi believed that true empowerment of women could only be achieved through radical reforms in the marriage system. Many of the challenges faced by women were a result of harmful customs within the institution of marriage.
- Early marriages and the denial of remarriage rights were major causes of widowhood among women. Traditional Hindu customs such as polygamy, child marriage, widow remarriage prohibition, and dowry were significant obstacles that mistreated Indian women and hindered their development.
- Therefore, Gandhi advocated for a form of marriage that aligned with Hindu beliefs, including transmigration, rebirth, or Mukti. He supported the establishment of special institutions, like Mahil Ashramas, to rescue young girls. He believed that a child widow should not be considered a widow in the true sense.
- While addressing the question of social equality, Gandhi rejected the caste differences among the different sections of the society. He was against the untouchability or commonly known as out castes and Varna’s.
- Gandhi perceived that the prevalence of untouchability among Hindus could be a denial of the principles of Gospel that could broke the pride of the Indian people. The evil practice like untouchability was the product of society that badly violates the human code of conduct. Further, Gandhi fought a massive war against untouchability throughout his political career.
- However, apart from his personal troublesome, he remained strong and consistent against untouchability, and aspired to remove this inhumane practice in the minds of common masses through his writings, speeches and actions. Gandhi worked for the betterment as well as upliftment of Harijans and fought for their temple entry that ultimately compelled higher castes Hindus to open up the temples for the Harijans. The temple entry inculcated the feelings of uniformity and heals the wounds of Harijans, and made them believed that they are not outcastes before God.
Conclusively it can be said that,
Gandhi possessed a charismatic personality and served as a source of inspiration for the general public. He was regarded as a saviour for the marginalized individuals. Gandhi aimed to transform the discriminatory social structure in India through his non-violent approach, aspiring to establish an ideal social order. His advocacy for a fair social structure contributed to the widespread progress and interconnectedness of the Indian society, which was divided by caste. His ideas and beliefs played a pivotal role in eradicating various traditional wrongdoings, social unrest, injustice, and gender inequality from Indian society. Gandhi’s vision of a future society was founded upon principles of equality and providing equal opportunities, irrespective of differences in caste, color, creed, religion, or gender.