Gandhi's Gita and Politics as Such

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rochona Majumdar

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    M. K. Gandhi's "Discourses on the Gita," a series of talks delivered to ashramites at Sabarmati during 1926 and 1927, provides a singular instance in Indian intellectual thought in which the Bhagavad Gita's message of action is transformed into a theory of non-violent resistance. This essay argues that Gandhi's reading of the Gita has to be placed within an identifiable general understanding of the political that emerged among the so-called "extremists' in the Congress towards the beginning of the twentieth century. Gandhi, we argue, wrested from the "Extremists" their vocabulary and their pre-eminent political text, the Gita, and put them to use in the cause of non-violent politics. But, more importantly, his discourses on the Gita after 1920 suggest an acceptance, on his part, of politics as it actually was. This is where he departed from the projects of Tilak or Aurobindo. The Gita, in Gandhi's hand, became a talismanic device that allowed the satyagrahi his or her involvement in political action while providing protection from the necessary and unavoidable venality of politics and its propensity to violence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)335-353
    JournalModern Intellectual History
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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