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In Praise of the Mahatma

Tuesday, July 09, 2019
By Amarendra Dhaneshwar

In the late forties of the last century, the freedom struggle was at its peak. Thousands of men and women would respond willingly to the call of the Mahatma and other icons of the freedom movement like Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and Jayaprakash Narayan. The movement produced its share of songs which would inspire people in general.'Charkha Chala Chalake, Lenge Swaraj Lenge' was one song which was very popular. Even the films had songs like 'O Savariya Lavo Chunariya Khadiki, Jay Bolo Mahatma Gandhiki'. Mahatma Gandhi was the referred to in many songs like 'Dekh Tere Sansar Ki Halat' or' Sunle Bapu Ye Paigam Meri Chitthi Tere Naam'.

Mahatma Gandhi was the first truly mass leader which this sub continent had thrown up. It is worth remembering that Gandhi acqired this status during days when there was no social media or television.Gandhi also did not misuse religion or sow hatred among some sections of the society in order to gain political support. He did not communalize, demonize and polarize with a view to become a leader of the nation.

One felt that the appeal of Gandhi was restricted to urban and rural sectors. One was happily surprised to discover that even the tribal sectors like Chhota Nagpur and the present Jharkhand had not only heard about Gandhi but idolized him during and after his life time. They compared him to their local icons like Birsa Munda and Tana Bhagat. They also wrote and sang songs in praise of Kasturba Gandhi.

The NCPA brought together a unique programme entitled 'Johar Gandhibaba Johar' at the Experimental Theatre on Saturday evening. It was in celebration of the Mahatma's and Kasturba's 150th year. The lead singer was Megha Dalton who has done a research into these songs and who sang them in her powerful voice. She was assisted by singers and dancers from the Oraon community. The songs not only carried the Mahatma's message but also had a certain vibrancy. Gandhian scholar Rajni Bakshi and senior journalist Vishwanath Sachdev anchored the show with their erudite comments which served as the proper the link between the performance and the larger socio political context.

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