Our rich inheritance
The ‘charkha’ represents ‘dharma chakra’; it is our fortunate inheritance of commitment to social justice and self-reliance
A 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 'Dharma Chakra' and installed it in edicts and around his empire, he had just one intention in his mind: establishing social justice and reducing inequalities and discrimination of every hue. The symbolism he established in Indian society is an asset of immemorial heritage. The Chakra, as a propagator of 'dharma' still revolves at the core of our social value system. And, the values of inheritance do not change with the passage of time.
Gandhi ji reiterated this to us over a century ago. In his eminence of thought, 'dharma' was giving people self-reliance, sustenance, and opportunity to hold the heads high and stand on one's own feet. For Gandhi ji, 'charkha' was the 'dharma chakra', our proud inheritance that needed to be reinserted into our national lives and our consciousness. Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is a custodian of this fortune of inheritance.
Commemorating this monumental and extraordinary inheritance of value, KVIC, under the guidance of the Prime Minister, has embarked upon 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 our tribute to Dharma. KVIC has also embarked upon distributing 'charkhas' to the poor of India, following the spirit of this inheritance of heritage. While in over a decade after 2004, the successive Governments had just distributed 175 charkhas, minimising the message of 'dharma' as established by Gandhi ji. KVIC in the past 3 years has 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 message of the charkha's symbolism for India, KVIC at first installed a high-quality Burma teak 4-tonne charkha on July 5, 2016, at Terminal-3 of IGI Airport, New Delhi. This is the world's largest wooden charkha (9 feet wide, 17 feet tall and 30 feet long) which has been silently broadcasting Gandhi ji's idea of social justice to millions of travellers. KVIC then installed a 13 feet tall and 25 feet long, world's largest steel charkha at Rajiv Chowk in Connaught Place on May 21, 2017, along with establishing a Heritage Charkha Museum. It has become so popular that people have now rechristened this area as 'Charkha Chowk'. Under the Champaran Satyagrah centenary celebrations 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 Gandhi Museum at Motihari in Bihar. Not just that, as a part of the Centenary Year celebrations of Gandhi ji's Swadeshi Movement alias BUBU in Uganda, KVIC donated a 25-kg high-quality teak wood 3.6 feet long charkha to the Gandhi Heritage Site at Jinja in that country 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-tonne large stainless steel charkha, made of high-quality chromium-nickel, corrosion-resistant, non-magnetic, and not hardenable (11 feet tall, 22 feet long and 6.5 feet broad) stainless steel, near gate number 3 of Sabarmati riverfront park on the opposite bank of Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad. This was unveiled on June 26, 2018 as a tributary endeavour on the 150th 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 Sabarmati Ashram and Dandi Bridge from where Mahatma Gandhi kicked off his famous Dandi March.
Apart from the installation of these monumental charkhas, the Prime Minister also advocated and KVIC has ensured that a wider distribution of charkhas in every corner of the nation – for the creation of job opportunities for rural masses at their doorsteps, be accomplished. Following this dedication to the cause, from November 2015, KVIC has so far distributed more than 6,000 looms in addition to the 31,000 charkhas given to artisans. Besides, nearly 2,100 solar charkhas too have been given for the very first time after Independence on such a large scale.
Over a million artisans living in rural India (most of whom are women) aspire to possess one single instrument – the charkha which can empower them to spin the Khadi yarn and sustain their family. And in the spirit of the 'dharma' of social justice, KVIC constantly caters to the need and sustains those lives that build the inner fibre of modern India. For KVIC, the charkha and Dharma are two inseparable halves of national consciousness.
(The writer is a senior journalist. Views expressed are strictly personal)