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Invaluable Work For Students

Updated: December 4, 2010 2:22 pm

Gandhiji and this book in particular might be seen as being at the heart of East-West dialogue, and even more particularly for the monastic dialogue. The reason for this can be seen in a brief quote from Gandhiji. Toward the end of his life, he was asked: “Can you tell me the secret of your life in three words?” Gandhiji answered: “Yes! Renounce and enjoy.” He was quoting from the Isa Upanishad (“Leaving the transient, find joy in the Eternal”). In fact, Gandhiji continues to engage all sensitive and concerned minds looking for a new art of living and a humane social/world order. In the process, his life and ideas have come to occupy a distinct place in the syllabi of several universities spread all over the world, creating an urgent need for presenting these in a textbook format. This book is a pioneering attempt to meet this felt-need. Based on the prescribed syllabus, the present work is divided into five parts. Part I provides the theoretical perspective in which some of Gandhiji’s writings, particularly Hind Swaraj, have been interpreted. Part II presents the summarised version of Hind Swaraj and some of its major interpretations including those of Jawaharlal Nehru and Anthony Parel. Some of Gandhiji’s key ideas on major themes like modernity, swaraj and satyagraha are covered in part III of the book. Part IV examines his ideas and work relating to some of the major problems of modern India like nationalism, communal harmony, untouchability and women. Towards the end of the book, the writer discusses the present relevance of Gandhiji and his ideas.

                Based on the author’s lifelong engagement with Gandhian ideas, the book brings the latest researches in the area to the easy access of the readers. It presents an integrated and well-rounded view on the themes under discussion, avoiding both the extremes of wooly sentimentalism and ideological debunking. It is primarily designed to meet the needs of the student community, more particularly of those who pursue a course on “Reading Gandhi” prescribed as a concurrent course by Delhi University for all students pursuing BA (Honours) course. Therefore, both its strengths and limitations are closely linked up with the needs of the student community covered under the given syllabus. Hence, the book has two major limitations. One, it is not a full-length study on Gandhiji, which is why a number of themes relating to his life and thoughts are left out. Two, by its very nature of a text-book, it is primarily planned as a basic, introductory work. Despite these limitations, the book is presented in a coherent and concise form and that too in a simple and readable language. Like in one chapter, it has been pointed out that Gandhiji was firmly of the opinion that there was an intimate relationship between religion and politics. And it is such a perception that has put him in the realm of politics. Gandhiji makes it clear that for him, religion is nothing but a firm belief in a well-ordered moral government of the universe. In this backdrop, politics bereft of religion would be nothing but dirt, the naked pursuit of power. Such a summarisation of the study material and simplicity of presentation have been achieved without compromising its comprehensiveness and ideational nuances. By any standard, it is a challenging task.

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By Ashok Kumar

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