The charkha, or (spinning) wheel, was the physical embodiment and symbol of Gandhi’s constructive program. It represents localism (swadeshi), self-sufficiency, but at the same time interdependence, as the wheel only had meaning in the center of a network of cotton growers, carders, weavers, distributors, and users. It also embodied the dignity of labor, equality and unity (as all volunteers were pretty much required to spin each day), and finally independence, as British control of India was rooted in control of her indigenous industries. For this reason, Nehru called khadi the homespun cloth ”the livery of our freedom.”
Khadi formed the “sun” in the “solar system” that was Gandhi’s Constructive Programme.Every person, regardless of age, social class or gender was involved in spinning and sometimes elsewhere in the chain of cloth production, from sowing the seeds of cotton to wearing khadi. Khadi was both symbolic and quite real, as it gave employment to millions and produced a basic need (the second of ‘food, clothing, and shelter.’) What would be the charkha of the movement today? While meditation can be regarded as our “inner charkha,” we have been discussing at length what outer, constructive activity could unite and represent the movement as brilliantly as charkha did in India.
The Metta Center logo is derived from the charkha.
- In the excellent back issue of YES! Magazine: Go Local!, you can explore aspects of swadeshi that are happening all around us today.