Hind Swaraj: Context and Content

Hind Swaraj is the most seminal work of Mahatma Gandhi and the most original contribution to political theory after Kautilya's Arthashastra. It is an alternative to feudalism, Marxism and western style democracy based on majority-ism. It is key to understanding Gandhi's life and philosophy; and to get over the present dilemma-growth without development. Published in 1909, it continues to evoke critical responses the world over. It is not a book on how to win political freedom for India; it is a book on how humanity can progress from conscious to super-conscious and moral beings.' In fact Hind Swaraj is a manifesto for a new world order based on supremacy of ethics and morality over matter. It represents voice of the voiceless, voice of the common man of India, and the whole world.

The book, in the words of its author, has had a "chequered career".2 Margaret Chatterjee called Hind Swaraj 'a very basic document for the study of Gandhi's thought'. B. R. Nanda called it Gandhi's 'confession of faith'. Erik Erikson called it 'a rather incendiary manifesto.' Dennis Dalton called it, 'a proclamation of ideological independence.' And Judith Brown called it 'the nearest he came to producing a sustained work of political theory'. Similarly, Gerald Heard compared Hind Swaraj with Rousseau's Social Contract. George Catlin (1950) compared it with The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatitus Loyala. It would not be wrong to say that Hind Swaraj is the seed from which the tree of Gandhian philosophy has grown to its full stature. For those interested in Gandhian thought, it is the right place to start; for it is here that Gandhi presents his basic ideas in their proper relationships. And for those who wish to study his thought more methodically, it remains the norm by which to assess the theoretical significance of his other writings, including the Autobiography.

The unique beauty of the Hind Swaraj lies in its capacity to present a very scientific and philosophical discourse in the most ordinary language. It is written in perfectly Gandhian style, terse, simple and logical. Every time one goes through it, one gets a new interpretation and a new insight. It is in this book that Gandhi announced his life's mission for the first time: moral regeneration of Indians and political emancipation of Mother India. Hind Swaraj teaches "the gospel of love in place of that of hate. It replaces violence with self-sacrifice. It pits soul force against brute force". This paper focuses on the context in which Hind Swaraj was written and the goals it has tried to achieve.

Gandhism is a body of ideas that describes the inspiration, vision and the life work of Mohandas Gandhi. It is particularly associated with his contributions to the idea of nonviolent resistance, sometimes also called civil resistance. The two pillars of Gandhism are truth and non-violence.