Why Gandhiji chose to abandon his luxurious clothes for a single white dhoti shall ignite minds as long as there’s poverty in this world. Gandhiji had realized that the minimal Khadi clothes he wore were expensive when compared to the poor who could afford only a single piece of langot. In a way, we all are the successors of this great man. A little bit of introspection on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanthi, we may realize that equality is possible only if we draw less from nature.
Through his many experiments, Gandhiji chose to wear khadi dhoti in the later stages of his life.
On analysis, we can segregate his life into two parts- i.e. his life before the age of 50 and his life thereafter.
When he reached England in 1888 to be barrister, the 18-year-old Mohandas worked relentlessly to cultivate the mannerisms of an English gentleman. He soon found that his suits from Bombay were less fashionable as per English standards. He tried to fit into English society by purchasing new sets of English clothes. He even pestered his “good and noble-hearted brother to send him a double watch-chain of gold”.
Gandhi, who saw a mirror only while visiting a barber in India, now spent ten minutes a day in front of a large mirror just to tie a necktie and comb his hair.
Well, can anyone truly be an Englishman by changing clothing alone? In his quest to be a true gentleman, he took lessons in dancing but gave up midway.
In his autobiography, Gandhiji says “This infatuation must have lasted about three months. The punctiliousness in dress persisted for years. But henceforward I became a student.”
He practiced law in India from 1891 and South Africa in 1893. In 1915, he returned to India after successfully leading the Natal Indian Congress for the cause of Indian indentured laborers.
He and his wife Kasturba wore the traditional Gujarati clothes on their travel back from South Africa. People at that time were surprised to see the London-educated lawyer wearing simple Kathiawadi clothes.
However, like in South Africa, Gandhiji’s experiments continued in India. During the Non-cooperation Movement (1920) he chose Kathiawadi Jubba and headgear.
On September 22, 1921, Gandhiji took an important decision at Madurai. Until then he had urged people to wear Khadi to support the Indian cause. But he soon realized people were too poor to buy handmade Khadi clothes and decided to forgo all accessories and fashions. On his morning walk, that day, he wore a piece of Khadi and a simple handbag. He followed this dress code till the end.
For Gandhiji, Khadi not only was a tool for encouraging Swadeshi but also a symbol of the simplicity and dignity of the poor.
Original article in Kannada by Matapadi Kumaraswamy
Translated By Deepak Lasrado