Gandhi and his ideals continue to live in Gujarati folklores

The history of today’s government will put it to shame because of the atrocities and in humanity perpetrated upon unarmed people, stated a Gujarati article published in 1930

Dula Bhaya Kag
Dula Bhaya Kag

Minakshi Rajdev

It is no wonder if arms rattle against arms. But the history of today’s government will put it to shame because of the atrocities and inhumanity perpetrated upon unarmed people.”

Article entitled ‘Intoxication of Power’ in Targala Bojak Hittechhu dated 29 May 1930.

“He neither has weapons nor he likes violence, the one who fights against the British with his will power, is the saint of Sabarmati” are lines from the poem by Kusumkant titled ‘The Saint of Sabarmati’ in the monthly magazine Targala Bhojak Hitecchu printed by Targala Bhavai (Bhavais are folk music/theatre performers of Gujarat) in the year 1930. This community of performers passed a resolution in support of Gandhiji.

According to the resolution, each and every person of the community would remain committed to the Gandhian methodology of non-violence and would only wearkhadi till the time India got independence. Bhavai performers who had wide popularity across caste, religion and gender, started performing for the cause of Independence, spreading the Gandhian idea of non-violence.

Through their performances on the roads in white khadi clothes, they not only explicitly supported Gandhiji in the National Movement but also attacked the British measures of censoring nationalist performances across the country.

Similarly the Charans of the Gujarati-speaking Western India, famous for the Charanic bardic poems, started writing extensively for the Mahatma. The poems of Dula Bhaya Kag (1902-1977) who wrote especially on Gandhiji and later became part of the Bhudan movement of Vinoba Bhave, made Gandhian philosophy a subject of folk narrativisation of Indian National Movement in Gujarat.

Dula Kag wrote bhajans on the Gandhian movement which attracted attention of all the prominent poets of the region, and one of his popular creations was ‘The Daughter of Gandhiji’ where the poet symbolizes the Congress as the daughter of Gandhiji whom he gave direction to lead a mass national movement in the country.

He writes, “the one who awakens the age-old graveyards of humanity is coming now, be careful the people of my country, he is the one who will break the shackles”, in which he symbolically used ‘daughter’ to express mass movements led by Congress under the guidance of Gandhiji.

Dula Bhaya Kag further expresses spirit of fearlessness in his Charani bardic vigour saying, “If he decides to come to people, he would walk with a thread like thin protection around him and if he decides not to come, then he would break the shackles of the world and would walk alone wherever he wants to”, and urged people to take the path of truth and fearlessness with Gandhiji even if the whole world is against them.

Another poem of his called ‘Vaniyo Khede Ver’ reflects the complexity of the Gandhian movement in which vir rasa or the rasa of courage and valor were used from the popular Charani bardic literature, and applied to the non-violent struggle for independence. It not only crafted space for non-violence within the paradigm of the highest level of valor, heroism and sacrifice but also made Gandhian philosophy the highest means of national struggle based on dharma or ‘righteousness’.

Dula Bhaya Kag also sung his poem ‘Gandhido Maro’ meaning ‘My Gandhi’ before Gandhiji in the historical Haripura session of the Indian National Congress in 1938 which was applauded by all the members of the session.

Oe line of the poem was so loved by the people that it was sung in every literary gathering after that, “suraj anta fare avdo dungaro, dungarane dolavnaro”, meaning, ‘the British Empire whose sun never sets, Gandhi made that Empire tremble’.

He opined that the way Ramayana was written for Lord Rama, Mahabharata and Gita were written for Lord Krishna, in the same manner, a treatise would be written on Gandhiji’s self-determination and his philosophy of non-violence. Despite the efforts, political polarisation by both Hindu and Islamic communalists, Gandhiji remained the leader of the age in popular cultural space of the Gujarati society which transcended religious barriers.

Jhaverchand Meghani (1896-1947), the well-known folklorist, scholar and social reformer of Gujarat wrote extensively on the Mahatma, supporting his struggle against British colonialism and even participated with him. He published a pamphlet named ‘Sindhudo’ meaning War Song in 1930. It was a collection of 15 patriotic songs to commemorate the Salt Satyagraha at Dholera and addressed Gandhiji before his visit to the Second Round-table Conference.

He writes “what do you fear, the rifles? The dog-like soldiers? Fear thieves and dacoits? Open wide your eyes, raise a roar, wake up for a while, whom you fear?” In the language of valor, message of non-violent struggle was spread to the masses.

In another poem, ‘Drink the last bowl of Poison’ which he wrote for Gandhiji before his visit to the Second Round-table Conference in 1931, he says, “The world says: can there be dearth of holiness in a saint? Can an ocean ever get dry? Can all water evaporate? Can sun and moon ever get less luminous? Oh father never compromise seeing our pain, we have endured till now and we will endure more, but don’t settle for less for us oh father, drink this last bowl of poison oh father”.

Gandhiji had a special space in the popular literature of the Gujarati society in particular and India in general and it is because of this reason that RSS and other extremist groups want to appropriate the imagery of Gandhiji which is still alive in the memory of the people. It reiterates the fact that Gandhiji is not just a historical figure, in fact, Gandhiji is an ideology, it is a philosophy which cannot be appropriated by the Hindu-communalist nexus.

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