Celebrating Gandhi: 150 years
Arpana Caur uses the charkha to recall our minds as to how the charkha embodied several things: Swadeshi, self-sufficiency and inter-dependency
150 years of the Mahatma – a man, a legend, an institution by thoughts, words, and deeds. This is a day to contemplate on the Mahatma. Three images that have been created by two artists come to my memory.
The first is Arpana Caur's Charkha created this year. Set against a crimson background the charkha becomes a leitmotif of sorts the symbol of India's villages, the message of khadi and the simplicity of embracing all people. Caur uses the charkha to recall our minds as to how the charkha embodied several things: Swadeshi, self-sufficiency and even inter-dependency! "The charkha was used all across the country as a major symbol of the National Movement and also as a symbol of the boycott of foreign goods. In our violent times red with blood and hate, the blue Charkha is a dream of yesterday that needs to be recalled, symbolising the man called Gandhi," says Caur in an exclusive.
The next two images are i-Swarajya I and II created in 2017 by the sculptor and painter Mukesh Sharma for the Bihar Museum in a historic show curated by R N Singh collector and gallery person. "I kept the words i-Swarajya to speak of technology and also have the symbolism of Gandhiji," says Mukesh. He has created an abstract tenor in the Dandi and the spectacles and the pair of slippers. The treatment of minimalism against the vermillion, blue and black backgrounds gives it a surreal feel.
The slippers recall the famous story of Gandhi's slippers that inspires even today. As Gandhi stepped aboard a train one day, one of his shoes slipped off and landed on the track. He was unable to retrieve it as the train started rolling. To the amazement of his companions, Gandhi calmly took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the first shoe. Asked by a fellow passenger why he did that, Gandhi replied, 'the poor man who finds the shoe lying on the track will now have a pair he can use.'
In both works, Mukesh uses the Dandi as a symbol. Placed against the slippers and glasses the image of the Dandi is elegant and evocative and transcends the imagery into a harmonic haunt. The Dandi was most notably used in the 1930 civil disobedience movement, which began with the Dandi March. The Dandi March saw Gandhiji marching from Sabarmati to Dandi on foot, where he broke the law by making his own salt. The Dandi March draws attention to the basic food item in every home and the injustice of imposing a tax on this item and prohibiting Indians from producing their own salt. It was a protest against injustice and foreign rule.