For Gandhiji, the ‘charkha’ was the ‘dharma chakra’, the instrument of our proud inheritance that needed to be reinserted into our national lives
Any wheel is symbolic of changing times, revolving fortunes of people and reminiscent of justice that does not discriminate between people or epochs of history. A wheel is always seen as a unifier and an icon of our past, present and future.
When emperor Ashoka used the wheel as a ‘dharma chakra’ and installed it in eddicts and around his empire, he had just one intention in his mind: Establishing ‘social justice, indiscrimination and reducing inequalities’. That symbolism, that he established in the Indian society, is an asset of immemorial heritage. Chakra, as a propagator of ‘dharma’, still revolves at the core of our social value system. And values of inheritance do not change with passing time. Gandhiji reiterated this to us over a century ago. In his eminence of thought, dharma gave people self-reliance, life support and opportunity to hold the heads high and stand on one’s own feet. For Gandhiji, the ‘charkha’ was the ‘dharma chakra’, the instrument of our proud inheritance that needed to be reinserted into our national lives and consciousness.
The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is a custodian of this fortune of inheritance. Commemorating this monumental and extraordinary inheritance of value, the KVIC, under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has embarked on a mission of installing ‘charkhas’ in prominent places of India and abroad as a constant reminder of our commitment to ‘social justice’ and people’s ‘self reliance’ as a tribute to dharma.
The KVIC has also embarked upon distributing charkhas to the poor of India, following the spirit of this inheritance of heritage. While in a decade after 2004, successive Governments had just distributed 175 charkhas, minimising the message of dharma as established by Gandhiji, the KVIC in the past three years distributed more than 31,000 charkhas to the needy artisanal families across the length and breadth of the country. Inheritance of social justice and self-reliance is now an asset of pride, thanks to the spinning wheel.
As for establishing the visibility of the message of charkha’s symbolism to India, the KVIC at first installed a high-quality Burma teak-wood four-ton charkha on July 5, 2016, at Terminal-3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. This was the world’s largest wooden charkha — nine feet wide, 17 feet tall and 30 feet long — it has been silently broadcasting Gandhiji’s idea of social justice to millions of travellers. The KVIC then installed a 13 feet tall and 25 feet long world’s largest steel charkha at Rajiv Chowk at Connaught Place on May 21, 2017, along with the establishment of the Heritage Charkha Museum. It has become so popular that now the people have rechristened the area as Charkha Chowk.
To mark the celebrations of Champaran Satyagraha centenary across the nation, another 18 feet long, 5.75 feet wide and 10 feet high grand steel charkha was installed on April 15, 2018 in Charkha Park, located in front of the Gandhi Museum at Motihari in Bihar. Not only that, as a part of the centenary year celebrations of Gandhiji’s Swadeshi Movement alias BUBU in Uganda, the KVIC donated a 25-kg high-quality teak wood 3.6 feet long charkha to the Gandhi Heritage Site at Jinja in Uganda on October 2 last year, which is also the International Day of Non-Violence. And, the last but not the least in this line-up is the installation of a 2.2-ton large stainless steel charkha, made of high-quality chromium-nickel, corrosion resistant, non-magnetic and non-hardenable (11 feet tall, 22 feet long and 6.5 feet broad) stainless steel, near gate number 3 of Sabarmati River Front Park on the opposite bank of Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad, which was unveiled on June 26, 2018 as a tributary endeavour to 150 years of the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi — also known as ‘Saint of Sabarmati’.
Much like the legendary idea of building Taj Mahal and Lal Quila on opposite banks of Yamuna River at Agra, the stainless steel charkha is the first charkha of this sort in Gujarat — the native State of Mahatma Gandhi. Since the location is so strategic, this charkha is visible to one and all coming to the Sabarmati Ashram and Dandi Bridge, from where Mahatma Gandhi kicked off the famous Dandi March.
Apart from installation of these monumental charkhas, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also advocated that a wider distribution of charkhas in every corner of the nation for creation of job opportunities for rural masses at their doorsteps, needs to be accomplished. Following this dedication to the cause, from November 2015, the KVIC has so far distributed more than 6,000 looms in addition to 31,000 charkhas given to artisans. Besides, nearly 2,100 solar charkhas, too, have been given for the very first time after Independence in such a large scale.
Over a million artisans living in rural India, predominantly women, aspire to possess one single instrument — charkha, which can empower them to spin khadi yarn and sustain their family. And in the spirit of the ‘dharma’ of social justice, the KVIC constantly caters to the need and sustains those lives that build the inner fibre of modern India. For the KVIC, charkha and dharma are two inseparable halves of national consciousness.
(The writer is Chairman, KVIC)