Gandhi’s View on Caste and Religion
Gandhi was not only a leader of India’s National Movement but his importance also lies in the matter of inclusion of religious point of view in politics and thus spiritualization of politics was mainly the contribution of Gandhi. Gandhi was a religious person and he believed that the religion should be the fundamental basis of politics. Though religion here means, in his views, as “love with truth and humanity”.
Gandhi studied Bhagavad Gita and considered it as the source of spirituality because whenever he was in fix, he used to start ‘Geeta Paath’. Gandhi learnt the principle of morality & work as worship type of nature from Geeta. Gandhi studied several other holy books of Hinduism like Samkhya, advaitavedanta, books on Yoga and books of Jainism and Buddhism. Infact, he adopted the element of non-violence from Jainism and Buddhism and considered non-volence the supreme morality. These books led Gandhi to espouse a set if religiously inspired norms or principles of personal and collective conduct, for example the values of satya, ahmisa, aparigraha and sambhava. Gandhi saw in them an alternative to western values or principles of individualism, utilitarianism and violence.
Gandhi considered different religion have different roads have same goal of love and truth and reached through his experience that all religion have same principles and religion is a binding force among the people. Gandhi believed in ‘Sarvadharma Samanatva’ which means equal faith for religion and faiths.
Gandhi being hindu, considered Hinduism as a way of life and not mere a religion and considered as most tolerant religion as it give scope to everyone to worship all religions of the world. According to Gandhi, the main aim of the religion is spread love and peace and make interaction between humans and god. Gandhi has deep devotion in God because he understood that devotion gives the capacity to bear the hardest suffering. People are inspired for the love with truth and humanity by the devotion of god. According to him, a Satyagrahi must keep faith in God so that he/she could refrain from the bad activities and will be striving against the discrimination and exploitation in any form.
Gandhi had very rational thinking with respect to religion as he considered religion should be able to solve the problem of everyday life and outrightly rejected those religions which are against the human values and morality.
The movement against the caste system in India is almost as old as caste itself. Buddhism and Jainism were reformist movements which were partly aimed against caste system. Gandhi separated what he considers to be the inessentials of the caste system from its essentials, rejects the former and declares the later to be beneficial for society. He tackles the problem on three fronts:
(a) Untouchability and its attendant structures
(b) the thousands of endogamous or semi-endogamous groups called caste
(c) Varna or the four fold functional division of society.
He regards untouchabliity as ‘immoral’ and therefore in need of complete eradication, caste as unnecessary and undesirable. According to Gandhi, Untouchability was bigger evil than any thing in this world and first consider to abolish this sinful activity. Gandhi also viewed that untouchables as an integral part of hindu as whole. Gandhi said “To remove untouchability is a penance that caste Hindu owe to Hinduism and to themselves”.
Gandhi believed that there is no inseparable connection between untouchability and the caste system; untouchability can be eradicted without abolishing caste together. He argues in favour of the abolition of the multiplicity of castes and their reduction into the four varnas; the eradication of untouchability is not dependent even on this proposed simplification of the caste system, not to speak of its abolition altogether.
Gandhi considered untouchability as by-product of the caste system. It is wrong to destroy caste because of the outcaste, as it would be to destroy a body because of ugly growth.
The caste system represents a social hierarchy based on the idea of high and low, since it is an unnecessary outgrowth of the four varnas which are fundamental and essential to the organization of a society, Gandhi considers the multiplicity of castes to be undesirable and superfluous.
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