When Mahatma Gandhi Brought about Social Change in Rajasthan
Let’s learn about Mahatma Gandhi’s connection with Rajasthan (which he visited three times during his lifetime) and how he changed the social thought in the state for a better India.
His philosophy of non-violent resistance helped end British rule in India and even inspired civil disobedience movements across the world. He was
Mahatma Gandhi, who continues to be one of the most revered figures in history today and is referred to in India as Father of the Nation.
A social movement Apart from helping India achieve independence. Mahatma Gandhi brought unity into the Indian society of those days by making every effort to eradicate untouchability from India’s caste system. He had observed that untouchability had received religious sanction in the country and had reduced crores of Indians to a state bordering on slavery.
Visits to Rajasthan
Mahatma Gandhi visited Rajasthan only three times during his lifetime, that too only Ajmer. This is because the Ajmer-Merwara province was under
direct British rule, while the rest of Rajasthan was divided into small princely states whose affairs were controlled by the British. In those days, access to wells, temples and schools was given based on caste. However, the social thinking of Rajasthan was all set to change, thanks to Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Ajmer in 1934. In 1933, he had embarked on a nine-month tour of the country, aiming to break the barriers which separated the untouchables from the rest of the Hindus.
Mahatma Gandhi had been invited to Ajmer by the Rajputana Harijan Sevak Sangh. He reached there on July 4 and was greeted by a welcome committee headed by Har Bilas Sarda and ministers Ramnarayan Chaudhary and Krishnagopal Garg. On July 5, Mahatma Gandhi visited an assembly where women of all castes had come, and stated, “It is the law of love that rules mankind. Untouchability is the opposite of love and compassion. Therefore, this sin must end.”
The Harijan leaders of Rajputana made Mahatma Gandhi aware of the prevalence of forced labour. He also met activists of the Rajasthan Charkha
Sangh. The activists proudly informed Mahatma Gandhi that Harijan Pathshala, established by him in Amarsar, Jaipur, in 1926, was running so well that even
children from upper-caste families were studying in it. Mahatma Gandhi also addressed Harijans on the same day. In just two days, Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts
and influence had begun to dissolve the caste-system divide. Mahatma Gandhi had understood that a united India was necessary to win thcountry’s struggle for freedom. In those days, discrimination against Harijans and other untouchables was widely rampant. Gandhiji visited Harijan settlements. Upon visiting the slums in the Delhi Darwaza, Taragarh and Raigaro areas of Ajmer, he saw that for every 400 families, there was just one tap providing water for their daily needs. He decided to do something about it. The result: the then Municipal Committee of Ajmer opened a big pond for Harijans and other lower castes.
Mahatma Gandhi made people aware of the evil social practices prevalent in society, particularly those concerning the lower castes. Because of his
efforts, the untouchables got access to schools and temples that were previously open only to the privileged. He received the support of many like-minded
individuals in his mission. For instance, from Rajasthan, many people including freedom fighter Arjun Lal Sethi donated money for the upliftment of untouchables. The arrangements for Mahatma Gandhi’s Rajasthan Hariyan Yatra were made by people from the upper castes. People from all castes and communities would attend his meetings. Mahatma Gandhi set the country on a path of reform by identifying social evils. Many Harijan schools were opened and in these schools, children from upper-caste families also came to study.