Gram Seva and Satyagrah of Acharya Vinoba Bhave

The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.

Gram Seva and Satyagrah of Acharya Vinoba Bhave

If we wish our nature to be Free and joyous, we should bring our activities into same order.

In 1924, Gandhiji sent Vinoba Bhave to Vaikom (Travancore) to guide and supervise the Harijan temple-entry Satyagraha, Sri Vallabhswami accompanied Vinoba in this pilgrimage.

When the priests and Brahmins of the area came to know of the purpose of Vinoba Bhave’s visit, they tried to win him over. First they pleaded with him and then threatened him. Vinoba remained unruffled. He started sending groups of volunteers to the temple along the specified route. The police repeatedly inflicted injuries on the volunteers. Days and months passed. However, Vinoba along with his brave volunteers did not waver.

Later, Gandhiji also joined him. Gradually, the movement gained momentum. The police became very strict. They blocked the road. Gandhiji and Vinoba Bhave told the satyagrahis to stand there day and night without food and rest.

The Vaikom Satyagraha continued. The volunteers suffered in silence. The Press reported the event. It openly blamed the Government and the police. The satyagrahis won public sympathy. Finally, after a year and four months the struggle came to an end. The gates of the temple were opened to all.

This was the first major victory for Vinoba Bhave. It was the beginning of his being a Daridranarayan. He accepted Gandhiji’s creed.

Sometime after, Vinoba Bhave prepared a plan to spread a net of Gram Seva (village service) work near about Wardha, covering all the 300 villages of the Wardha taluka. Several of his students and co-workers took to this work and different villages were allotted to them. Vinoba maintained his contact with these villages right upto the beginning of 1948. It was during this time that Vinoba practised the arts of a farmer, spinner, weaver and scavenger. And, of course, he was a born teacher. He adorned whatever he touched. He remained throughout a student in the highest sense of the term.

In 1932, on Gandhiji’s return from the Round Table Conference, Vinoba happened to be at Jalgaon (Khandesh). He was pained to see terror gripping the general people. He decided to address a public meeting. He did it wherein he made a plea for fearlessness and self-help and assured that the British rule would not, and could not, stay long. This took him to jail where he was tried and convicted for six months. He passed his sentence at Dhulia Jail.

On his release he found the Wardha Ashram shut down and its activities banned. He shifted to Nalwadi-a harijan village about a mile and a half from Wardha, where, in 1934, he organized the Gram Seva Mandal, the ‘Village Service Association’.

Vinoba Bhave resolved to support himself by spinning work alone and he span for hours on end, going deep into the various aspects of Khadi craft. Illness overtook him and he was advised to go to the hills for rest. He told Bapu that he had chosen his own hill station—a desolated hillock-like piece of land by the side of Paunar river, some five miles from the Wardha town, where Seth Jamnalal Bajaj had built for himself a country-house. Vinoba gave it the meaningful name of Paramdham Ashram which has remained his headquarters ever since.

Vinoba Bhave shifted from Nalwadi to Paunar around 1937. It was during his stay at Paunar in 1940 that Vinoba came into limelight and his name appeared for the first time on the front page of newspapers all over the country as India’s first Satyagrahi of the Great War-H He was so chosen by Mahatma Gandhi as a devout symbol of opposition to all wars in general.

After Vinoba offered Satyagraha he was arrested and sentenced to simple imprisonment of three months. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was chosen as the second Satyagrahi. He was, however, arrested before offering Satyagraha and was convicted for four years rigorous imprisonment.

The Individual Satyagraha movement thereafter gathered momentum. On completing his term Vinoba again offered Satyagraha and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. So also a third time, when Vinoba secured one year’s imprisonment.

In the historic August movement of 1942, Vinoba Bhave was detained without trial on August 9,1942, and released on 9th July 1945. He passed a portion of this detention period at Vellore Central Jail in Madras Presidency. It was there that he learnt from fellow prisoners of Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the four great languages of the South.

From Vellore he was transferred to Seoni Central Jail (MP). After fifteen months’ stay there, he was released. On the train journey from Seoni to Wardha via Nagpur, he was infinitely grieved to find aged parsons—both men and women—easing themselves in day light along the railway track. So on returning to Paunar he quietly rejoined his village work, and took up the programme of the scavenger of the village Surgaon.

Daily he walked down three to four miles from Paunar to Surgaon and continued his work regularly in heat or cold, sun or rain. Nothing could interrupt him except the sudden death of Mahatma Gandhi when he felt called upon to undertake higher and more serious responsibilities.

April 1948 onwards, Vinoba Bhave travelled round the country by train to have a first-hand idea of the situation in the country, particularly about the refugee problem. He called this tour Shanti Yatra. Besides, he took active interest in the resettlement of displaced refugees near about Delhi. That too, however, did not soothe his deeper yearnings. He returned to Paunar.

Again an illness came to his rescue and after severe hard thinking he resolved upon a new venture of physical labour and self-sufficiency at his Ashram in which he himself worked in the field for eight to ten hours a day. He called it Kanchana Mukti programme wherein he sought to get rid of the slavery of money in our life and to investigate the potentialities, social, economic, intellectual and moral, of productive physical labour intelligently performed.

He stopped the use of coins or currency for running his ashram. The food required by the inmates was grown in the ashram. A small dairy was started. Khadi was spun and used. His resolution to wear only self-spun khadi dhoti continued till his last day. A printing press was set up. For irrigation, Vinoba had wells dug.

In a short while, Vinoba Bhave made his ashram a self-sufficient model which attracted the young and the old equally. As Vinoba was against any monetary donations, dedicated people came and worked in the ashram. This was shramdan—voluntary labour.

That experiment was carried on successfully by a band of selfless workers for three years until April 1953 when he called them away for the more pressing Bhoodan Yagna work in Bihar.