From the Archives: ‘Charkha is a symbol of non-violence’, says Gandhiji
Years ago when Gandhi first started talking of 'charkha,' he did not know that it was still a living industry in Punjab and some parts of Gujarat Kathiawar.
In his after-prayer speech yesterday, Mahatma Gandhi referred to his discussions at the recent meeting of the Charkha Sangh at Harijan Colony. Why had he laid so much emphasis on the 'charkha'? Years ago when he first started talking of 'charkha,' he did not know that it was still a living industry in the Punjab and some parts of Gujarat Kathiawar.
It was first thought of as a means of supplementing the income of the poor kisan and the village woman. Later on, he discovered the tremendous power hidden in the charkha. That power was the power of non-violence which could not be defeated by the mightiest military force. It was this realisation which had made! him call the wheel the symbol of non-violence.
They all knew the history of the spinning wheel, the history of Dacca muslin and all its associations. In those days the spinning wheel was the symbol of our slavery. The artisans had to work at the rate fixed their masters and they could not say no.
The same wheel, plied with the full consciousness of its potentialities , had become the symbol of freedom. If all men and women and children of age out of the 40 crores of India plied the wheel, they would spin all the yarn required for weaving enough-khadi for the use of the millions and save crores of rupees. But that was not of great consequence.
The greatest thing he valued was the power generated by the co-operative effort of these 40 crores of people. Was there any other occupation which could employ such numbers without exploiting anyone? The mills could never do that. They could employ only few lakhs, leaving under partial or full unemployment the millions.
In the past they had plied the wheel, say, for his sake, but without understanding its full import. That was why the wheel was largely discarded. He wanted them to take to it now with deliberation and understanding. It meant freedom from exploitation.
If it meant non-violence, as it did, it also meant a moral life. If they did that they would never discard it again, they would have no communal or other quarrels and they would become harbingers of peace for the whole world.