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ISSN: 0974-892X


Jul 2015 - Jan 2016



All the Novels of Bhabani Bhattacharya Deeply rooted  in Gandhian Philosophy: Its Relevance in Present Context

Payal Bharadwaj

Asst. Professor of English, Monad University, Pilakhwa, Hapur (UP)


Bhabani Bhattacharya is one of the most celebrated Indo Anglian writers, who have caught the fancy of quite a large reading public and academics both at home and abroad. He is widely acclaimed for having a conscious and sensitive approach of the contemporary period. He belongs to the significant historical phase of the National Movement. Those were the momentous years in Indian history, as the revolutionary changes were taking place in social and political life in India. It was the period of great  upheaval and turbulence, as the whole national scenario was changing . It was the turning point in the history of India, as the country was passing through a gruelling state of affairs. Balram S. Sorot remarks about Bhabani Bhattacharya:

“The spirit of the age-the world-wide demands for equality, liberty and fraternity and the growing unrest among Indian masses to liberate themselves from the alien rule, fired his imagination and impelled him to write.” (1)
It is remarkable that not only in India, but all over the world Colonization was challenged by the forces of nationalism. Countries and Societies were not only getting liberated, but also Initiating the process of reconstruction. Malta Grover comments:

Bhabani Bhattacharya grew up in an age when the nation was struggling for its independence and human rights. This movement affected every segment of our national life, political, economic issues, social life and literature.” (2)

In this transitional phase, it was a challenging job, no doubt, to give an aesthetic form to the chaos and confusion spread on all sides. As we all are aware that after the great sincere  efforts, the blessed moment at last came in Indian history, when the country became liberated from the British rule, but while on the one hand there was the bliss of freedom, on the other hand, there was the sorrow of partition. The country was in a paradoxical situation. At this crucial moment, the novelist minutely observed contemporary historical events and social conditions. He deeply absorbed the varied impressions of the dynamism of the period and gave back its reflection in his literary creations.

Bhabani Bhattacharya is a powerful creative writer. He is a sheer realist and idealist, as he discusses the problems and raises issues in national and international perspectives. Being a socialist, he believes in classless and casteless society. Being humanist, he assigns the highest place to human value in his fiction. Being a true literary artist, he is against each and every corrupted theory.

Like the great men of ethics ,i.e, Gandhi, Nehru and Tagore, he accepts the need of adopting good means to solve the problems of the nation. He believes that the solutions of various ethico-political and socio-economic problems lie in Gandhian ethics and philosophical doctrines of Tagore.

Bhattacharya was greatly influenced with the towering personality of Mahatma Gandhi. It is truly asserted that all the novels of Bhattacharya are deeply rooted in Gandhian philosophy. The father of nation left his deep imprint on the mind and soul of Bhattacharya. He first met Gandhi in England, when Gandhi went there to attend Round Table Conference. He became so overwhelmed by the dominance and greatness of the personality that he wrote two books on Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi, the writer (1969) released on the occasion of the birth centenary of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi (1977) in which he discusses  some of his political and philosophical views. Regarding Gandhi’s Impact on Bhattacharya’s fiction, D.B. Shimer observes:

“Those acquainted with Bhattacharya’s own creative writing must acknowledge the influence Gandhi has had on his work. All the Bhattacharya novels are rooted in Gandhian philosophy…….” (3)

Gandhian ethics and his view of life figures prominently in each of his first five novels. While we read his novels, we find that he has created a lot of Gandhian characters to make the countrymen aware of Gandhian  ideology. The characters follow Gandhian ethics like truth, non-violence, peace, chastity and self-control. Satyajit in Shadow From Ladakh, Minstrel in A Goddess Named Gold, Devesh in So Many Hungers and Jayadev in Music For Mohini, all these characters are modelled on Gandhiji. Besides this, political events and movements related to Gandhi like-Quit India Movement, Civil Disobedience, Dandi Mach (Salt-Satyagraha) and hunger strikes are also prominently mentioned in his novels.

In his novel A goddess Named Gold, the character of Minstrel is the voice of Gandhi, as he advises the people to perform the real act of kindness, if they want to bring a transformation in society. He further says that there is no short cut to hard labour, so the nationalists should work unitedly and devotedly without any discrimination of caste and creed, then only our country will prosper. Describing the value of ‘hard work’ Gandhiji says:

“Man must earn his bread by labouring with his own hands…..because the life of labour….. is the life worth living.” (4)

The character of Devesh from So many Hungers also symbolizes Gandhi, as he devotes his whole life in the welfare of poor villagers of Baruni. Later, in the novel he inspires the village folk to join the freedom fight for the nation, but with the weapon of non-violence. He advises the citizens that they should not leave the path of morality event at the time of great calamity and hardships. He addresses the villagers:

“The supreme test has come. Be strong, be true Be deathless.” (5)

Satyajit, in Shadow From Ladakh is an epitome of Gandhian ideology, as he inspires the people to be non-violent in thought and action. At the time of Chinese invasion, Satyajit declares that he will take a peace mission (Shanti Sena) in Aksai-Chin. In this way he tries to follow the examples, set by Gandhi at the time of communal riots in East Bengal. Like Gandhiji he believes:

“No power on earth can stand before the march of a peaceful, determined and God-fearing people. Non-violence is more powerful than all the armament in the world.” (6)

He further recalls the statement  of Gandhi :

“If blood be shed, let it be our blood. Cultivate the quiet courage of dying without killing.” (7)

Gandhian thought is accepted in its entirety in this novel, as we find numerous references of Gandhian principles in his work. The Critic G. Rai aptly comments:

“Like a true Gandhian, Satyajit believes in the simplicity of life social service and rural reconstruction, truth and non-violence, and fast and penance as means of  spiritual strength;” (8)

Besides Satyajit, his daughter Sumita and three minor characters named. Chitranjan Ghosh, Krisnhamurti and Swamiji also symbolise different aspects of Gandhiji’s personality. The novelist himself says. ‘It (Shadow  From Ladakh) is rooted more deeply in Gandhian thought’.

Thus ,Bhabani Bhattacharya undisputedly favours Gandhian approach to solve the national problems, and the solutions which he offers for various ethico-political and socio-economic problems of the nation are as relevant in the present context, as they had been in previous time. Gandhian ideology is proving its worth even today. Lots of instances can be given regarding the relevance of Gandhian principles in the present context.

If we examine in present context, we find that terrorism is the most vicious challenge of present time. The very brutality of massacre of 141 people, including 133 children, at Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, is beyond comprehension. The whole World is burning in the fire of terrorist attacks. We can feel that the relevance of Gandhian ethics will remain constant, as long as the madness of  violence continues to batter the very edifice of our civilization. Regarding Gandhian ways of restoring peace and harmony, Nelson Mandela says:

“In a world driven by violence of strife, Gandhiji’s message of peace and non-violence holds the key to human survival in 21st century. “(9)

Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia also has asserted the importance of Gandhian ideology. He declared.

“If the world and humanity have to survive, we will have to be with Gandhi otherwise let it run.” (10)

Regarding the problem of poverty, hunger and violence, which are still plaguing our country, Gandhiji suggests, “A fundamental change in our life style is needed.’ To begin with, let us pledge ourselves to Think positively, Act locally and Live globally.’ (11)

For socio-economic problems of the nation we can approach the principles of Gandhian Economics. He dreams of a society based on economic self sufficiency. His concept of Sevagram on which is based Bhattacharya’s concept of Gandhigram completely describe his socialism.

We are all born equal, that is…. we have a right to equal opportunities, nevertheless we have not all the same abilities,…. he who acquires more ought to use it for social ends.” (12)

Regarding economic planning and development he says that economic constitution of India should be such that no one under it should suffer for want of food and clothing. Everybody should be able to get sufficient work to enable him to make both ends meet. He advises:

“Economic equality simple meant….To each according to his need….Everyone must have balanced diet, a decent house….education of one’s children and adequate medical relief ….everything above and beyond…..must come after the essential needs of the poor are satisfied.” (13)

Regarding the problem of corruption in political sphere, he says that purification in political sphere is necessary. The unification of politics and religion is essential to render service to humanity in the most honest manner. It should be combined with social reform, then only it would lead to the creation of an ideal society. Thus, we can say that the solution of our national problems lie in Gandhian options.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has aptly commented:

“Genocide, ethnic cleansing, religions and territorial wars and the ever growing menace of international terrorism are afflicting many parts of the world. In this background the Mahatma’s philosophy of peace, tolerance and the interdependence of human kind is surely even more relevant than a hundred years ago.” (14)

To sum up, we can say:

“The body has gone….but the thought, the deeds, the style of life and the way of action of that of Gandhi have become the script written on stone of time never to be deleted, never to be neglected.”(15)




Sorot, Balram S. The Novels of Bhabani Bhattacharya. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 1991, 13.
Malta, Grover. Bhabani Bhattacharya : A Novelist of Social Conscience. Meerut : Salabh Book House, 1991, 1.
Shimer, D.B. Bhabani Bhattacharya, Gandhi’s Biographer, The Journal of Indian Writing in English, II, July, 1977, 15-16
Anand, Y.P. ‘Gandhian Legacy  : Its Relevance in 21st Century’. World Focus, Vol. xxxi, June, 2010.
Bhattacharya, Bhabani So Many Hungers. Bombay: Hind Kitabs Limited, 1947, 269.
Bhattacharya, Bhabani. Shadow From Ladakh. Delhi : Hind Pocket Books, 1966, 170.
Bhattacharya, Bhabani. Shadow From Ladakh, 179.
Rai, G. Bhabani Bhattacharya : A Study of His Novels. Delhi : B.R. Publishing House, 1995, 73.
Quoted by Kshatriya, K. and Subramanium, P. in the Article, Relevance of Gandhi in Contemporary Times, World Focus, vol. xxxi, June, 2010.
Quoted by Pathak, Y.N. in the Article ‘Why is Gandhi Relevant Even Today’? World Focus.
Bhardwaj, Arya Bhushan. ‘Combating Hunger and Violence : A Gandhian Approach’. World Focus, June, 2010.
Anand, Y.P. Gandhian Legacy: Its Relevance in 21st Century, World Focus, June, 2010.
Anand, Y.P. Gandhian Legacy,  World Focus, June, 2010.
Quoted by Kshatriya, K. and Subramanium, P. in the same Article mentioned above. World Focus, June, 2010.
Pathak, Y.N. Why is Gandhi Relevant Even Today? World Focus.