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There are more books written on Mahatma Gandhi than on any other Indian alive or dead. Westerners keep writing books on Mahatma presumably trying to show the world unseen persona of the protagonist, in the process, they stir up controversies – not in their countries, but in India.
Mahatma was himself a very good writer. His ‘collected works’ runs into 47000 pages (India’s Publication Division sells it in 100 volumes!!). One can imagine the difficult task of any writer trying to capture the man’s personality in a single book.
For a civil service aspirant in India, understanding the philosophy of Gandhi is very essential from the examination and later, administration point of view.
Here I have collected some articles and e-books (small ones) about Mahatma, which try to capture various dimensions of his life and philosophy. For example, a book named Bahuroopi Gandhi by Anu Bandyopadhyaya (1964) tries to present Gandhi in various Roopas or Avatars. In this book, Gandhi is presented as Beggar, Cobbler, Scavenger, Barber, Cook, Nurse, Doctor and many other avatars.
You can download this book (foreword written by Nehru) here. (This books is very small and can be finished in one go)
Last year, in the Essay paper (UPSC Mains 2012), there was a question on Gandhi’s Philosophy:
This is not an easy question to write an entire essay on unless one has the basic understanding of the nature of Gandhian philosophy. If one carefully reads the above question, there are three parts in it; one is about his views, second is about their ‘evolutionary’ nature and the third part is about the relevance of his ‘evolved’ views to the Indian democracy.
It is interesting to note the evolutionary nature of Gandhian principles. Many think it as inconsistency in his views, but he himself admitted to it.
“I would like to say to the diligent reader of my writings and to others who are interested in them that I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many news things…. …when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two writings of mine, if he still has any faith in my sanity, he would do well to choose the latter of the two on the same subject.”
Also there is a view that his principles are outdated, i.e. anachronistic in the 21st century. In this context, in the above question it has been asked to put Gandhian thoughts into 21st century perspective in the democratic setup we have.
There is a fine difference between ‘Swaraj’, ‘Swadhinata’ and ‘Dharmarajya’.
Swaraj is a government over the Self, it is not liberation from foreign rule and formation of a new government, but the control over one’s moral self.
Swaraj is achieved when individuals come together, form a community and earn their food through labour and live in harmony – self respect, self realization and self sufficiency are the hallmarks of Swaraj. Gandhiji did not want Indians to blindly imitate western form of life, or government once the British left India.
Basically, for Gandhiji, Swaraj meant decolonization of an individual’s mind.
As Gandhi put it,
“Just as I have the right to eat and drink, so also have I the right to do my work on my own way“
He wanted a stateless society where Indians lived in small republics called ‘Gram Swarajs‘.
Swadhinata is independence, the one we got from the British. Swaraj encompasses both Swadhinata and Dharmarajya – a state where individuals live on the foundation of Dharma, not under the enforced rules of a machine like government.
Dhramarajya is akin to Ramarajya, an ideal society free of sins and sinners. After understanding his principles, we have to put them to test by contextualizing them to the present system we are living in.
Apply his principles to Panchayat Raj system, decay in the values in public servants, our increasing dependence on foreign capital, our growing inclination towards consumerism, slow transformation of predominant rural Indian society into materialistic urban society and increasing instances of all forms of violence in our society.
These following articles might help in this regard:
This essay demands many Gandhiji quotes. Download this e-book (Gandhi – Thought For The Day ) which has extensive quotes from him.
Finally, here is a book – Selected Works Of Gandhiji – Access it here.