Mahatma Gandhi's Messages on Village Swaraj (Grama Swaraj)

Delve into Mahatma Gandhi's profound messages on Village Swaraj and witness his vision for a self-sufficient, ethical, and interconnected community. This blog post critically reflects on Gandhiji's timeless insights, emphasizing the urgency of adopting a sustainable lifestyle rooted in non-violence, simplicity, and community resilience. Explore the call for mass Satyagraha to create a Gandhian culture of development, offering a timeless solution to the current global environmental, moral, and spiritual crises.

Smt. Rama Rauta

10/29/20235 min read

Dear friends,

Let us critically reflect on the following messages of Mahatma Gandhi on Village Swaraj (Gram Swaraj).

Gandhiji wrote in the HarIjan in 1942: "My idea of Village Swaraj is that it is a complete republic, independent of its neighbours for its wants, and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is a necessity. Thus every village's first concern will be to grow its own food crops and cotton for its cloth. It should have a reserve for its cattle, recreation and playground for adults and children. Then if there is more land available, it will grow useful money crops, thus excluding ganja, tobacco, opium and the like. The village will maintain a village theatre, school and public hall. It will have its own waterworks ensuring a clean supply. This can be done through controlled wells and tanks. Education will be compulsory up to the final basic course. As far as possible every activity will be conducted on a cooperative basis. There will be no castes such as we have today with their graded Untouchability. Nonviolence with its technique of Satyagraha and non-co-operation will be the sanction of the village community. There will be a compulsory service of village guards who will be selected by rotation from the register maintained by the village. The government of the village will be conducted by the Panchayat of five persons, annually elected by the adult villagers, male and female, possessing minimum prescribed qualifications. These will have all the authority and jurisdiction required. Since there will be no system of punishments in the accepted sense, this Panchayat will be the legislature, judiciary and executive combined to operate for its year of office. Any village can become such a republic today without much interference, even from the present Government whose sole effective connection with the villages is the exaction of the village revenue. I have not examined here the question of relations with the neighbouring villages and the center if any. My purpose is to present an outline of village government. Here there is perfect democracy based upon individual freedom. The individual is the architect of his government. The law of nonviolence rules him and his government. He and his village can defy the might of the world. For the law governing every villager is that he will suffer death in the defense of his and his village's honour."

(Harijan 26-7.42, 238)

"The contrast between the rich and poor today is a painful sight. The poor villagers are exploited by the foreign government and also by their countrymen city-dwellers. They produce the food and go hungry. They produce milk and their children have to go without it. It is disgraceful. Everyone must have a balanced diet, a decent house to live in, facilities for the education of one's children, and adequate medical relief." (N.K. Bose ed. Selections from Gandhi, the Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad -14, p.79)

"A violent and bloody revolution is a certainty one day unless there is voluntary abdication of the riches and the power that riches give and sharing them for the common good."

"When they (the farmers) become conscious of their non-violent strength, no power on earth can resist them."

Gandhiji wrote to Nehru Ji on October 5, 1945: “... I believe that if India is to attain true freedom and through India the world as well, then sooner or later we will have to live in villages in huts, not in palaces....”

In Harijan, on 4th August 1946 Gandhiji wrote: “When our villages are fully developed, there will be no dearth in them of men with a high degree of skill and artistic talent. There will be village poets, village artists, village architects, linguists and research workers. In short, there will be nothing in life that will not be had in the villages. Today the villages are dung heaps. Tomorrow they will be like tiny gardens of Eden where dwell highly intelligent folk whom no one can deceive or exploit. The reconstruction of villages along these lines should begin right now…not on a temporary but permanent basis.”

“God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after that manner of the West. The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom (England) is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts”, (Young India, 20-12-1928).

"The soul of India lives in her villages."

It is important to note that Gandhi ji is certainly against the replacement of body labour by machine work, but not against making body labour more joyful with the help of machine work. It is his firm conviction that willing obedience to the law of bread labour/ body labour brings health and happiness. He writes: " The divine law, that man must earn his bread by labouring with his own hands, was first stressed by a Russian writer named T.M. Bondaref. Tolstoy advertised it, and gave it wide publicity. In my view, the same principle has been outlined in the third chapter of the Gita, where we are told, that he who eats without offering sacrifice, eats stolen food. Sacrifice here can mean Bread labour. A millionaire can't carry on for long, and will soon get tired of his life, if he rolls in his bed all day long, and even helps the foods he eats. If everyone, whether rich or poor, has this to take, why should it not assume exercise in some shape or form, why should it not assume the form of productive, i.e. bread labour? .... No one asks a cultivator to take breathing exercise or work his muscles. And more than nine-tenths of humanity lives by tilling the soil. How much happier, healthier, and more peaceful would the world become, if the remaining tenth followed the example of the overwhelming majority, at least to the extent of labouring enough for the food. .... Bread labour is a veritable blessing to one who would observe Non-violence, worship Truth, and make the observance of brahmacharya a natural act. ...." ( From Yeravda Mandir by M.K. Gandhi, Navjivan Press, Ahmedabad, 1935, 50; also available in N.K. Bose, ed. Selections from Gandhi, p.50-51)

We must know that the fundamental ethics-based, Eco-friendly, village-friendly, agro-friendly, sustainable, just, loving and caring Gandhian nonviolent culture of decentralised industrialisation and urbanization, is perhaps the only surest permanent rational solution available to us for avoiding the impending catastrophic consequences of the present very grave global environmental crises in general and the crisis of global warming and climate change in particular, along with the present deep-rooted all-pervasive global moral and spiritual crises. It is based on the basic ethics of all great religions in the context of the present world with Village Swaraj constituting its core.

Let like-minded noble persons sincerely try through a mass Satyagraha to create such a culture of development in India and save India and through it the world at large from the present very grave global environmental crises which have catastrophic consequences for the masses, and future generations and the dumb and deaf life-world.

With goodwill, love and prayers,

Smt. Rama Rauta