Gandhi: A Political and Spiritual Life
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Throughout his long and turbulent career as a political leader, first in South Africa and then in India, Gandhi sought to fulfil his religious aspirations through politics and to reconcile politics with personal religious conviction. But Gandhi’s religion was wildly divergent from anything to have taken root in his native India. Foremost among his private tenets was the belief that he was a world saviour, long prophesied and potentially divine.
Penetrating and provocative, Kathryn Tidrick’s book draws on neglected material to explore the paradoxes within Gandhi’s life and personality. She reveals a man whose spiritual ideas originated not in India, but in the drawing rooms of late-Victorian England, and which included some very eccentric and damaging notions about sex. The resulting portrait is complex, convincing and, to anyone interested in the legacy of colonialism, more enlightening than any previously published.
The Gandhi revealed here is not the secular saint of popular renown, but a difficult and self-obsessed man driven by a messianic sense of personal destiny.
‘Clothed with the Sun’, 95–8. See also The Perfect Way, 223–4. 47. Kingsford and Maitland, The Perfect Way, 108–9, 200–201, and passim. 48. Preface by Maitland to Kingsford, ‘Clothed with the Sun’, xix. See also ‘Clothed with the Sun’, 119–20; and The Perfect Way, 115. 49. Kingsford and Maitland, The Perfect Way, 44; and also 211, 248. 50. Ibid., 224. 51. Ibid., 218. 52. Ibid., 112–3. 53. Ibid., 61. 54. Maitland, The Story of the New Gospel of Interpretation, 154–5. 55. Kingsford,
flawless incarnation of God; his polite but persistent refusal to find a guru, and insistence that each individual is responsible for his own spiritual development; his claim that he, who was not even a Brahmin, was entitled to interpret the Hindu scriptures with only his purified conscience for a guide, and treatment of the Mahabharata and Ramayana as inspired allegory; his substitution (with varying emphasis at various times) of the notions of service, sympathetic suffering and renunciation for
labour. In spite of picketing, which he did permit, workers were drifting back to work when he announced on 15 March that he would fast until either a settlement was reached or all the workers stayed out. Gandhi made three statements explaining the reasons for his fast – a speech to the millhands on 15 March, a leaflet published on 16 March, and a talk to the ashram inmates on 17 March.64 In the speech of 15 March he explained the importance of honouring a pledge and said he wished to give the
appearance and threatening demeanour of the Khilafat volunteers at the Calcutta Congress of September 1920.32 There was nothing non-violent about the Khilafat movement. The leadership welcomed the Afghan invasion of India in May 1920 and issued calls to join the invaders in driving the British out. Abdul Bari, the religious preceptor of the Ali family and a prominent Khilafatist, proclaimed jihad and reportedly urged soaking Christians in kerosene and setting them alight.33 Gandhi was well
non-cooperation, he said, but the government that was to blame – a charge which was lent weight by the administration’s heavyhandedness and refusal to allow Gandhi and others into the area to try to calm the people down. The government, Gandhi pointed out, ‘could have avoided the trouble by settling the Khilafat question’. He admitted that the Moplahs had not absorbed the message of non-violence: ‘A change of heart has not been brought about in them to such an extent that they will never resort