Rita Kapur Chisti, is the founder of Ananda Delhi Textile, an organization devoted to the marriage of organic cotton farming and hand spinning in the production of khadi, the Indian textile championed by Gandhi. Gandhi’s vision of “swaraj” or self-rule was centered in part on the rejuvenation of the village organized around the spinning of cotton, which also had the political goal of freeing India from its artificially created dependence on British textiles produced in Manchester. Chisti is hard at work reinventing Gandhi’s kadhi revolution in the 21st century as part of her commitment to what she characterized as “alternative culture,” a movement aimed at developing a positive response to contemporary material culture fueled by globalization.
The Indian flag has to be also made from khadi material. Thus it holds national importance, we could even call it the national fabric of India.
“I believe that where there is pure and active love for the poor there is God also. I see God in every thread that I draw on the spinning wheel.”
What’s a Charkha?
Charkha, literally meaning “wheel,” is India’s generic term for any spinning wheel or hand-cranked spinning machine. The type of charkha available in the U.S. is more strictly identified as the box charkha. The various models of box charkha have been designed and then manufactured by Gandhi’s co-workers and followers as part of his “khadi movement,” to promote self-sufficiency in cloth-making. The double-wheel drive, which allows greater speed and control as well as portability, is Gandhi’s own innovation.
“Do spin and spin after due deliberation. Let those who spin wear khaddar and let no one who wears (khadi) fail to spin. ‘Due deliberation’ means realization that charkha or act of spinning is the symbol of non-violence. Ponder; it will be self-evident.”
“Khadi represents a spiritual and a sustainable way of life. Khadi is an expression of the concern for the poor, of replacing greed by love and compassion.”
“Khadi expresses dharma, that is, that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty.”
If degrading mindless poverty has to be eliminated from this world, we will have to return to the spinning wheel and all that it represents, as our moral compass. Gandhi’s advice as to the use of his moral compass was “Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to self-reliance for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away”.
Gandhi’s moral compass inevitably leads us to the spinning wheel and to khadi – and it also leads us to simplicity, sustainability and spirituality.
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