Eternal Gandhi - Cleanliness

Eternal Gandhi: Cleanliness

  • Gandhi was a champion of cleanliness and had espoused the adage: "Cleanliness is next to Godliness".
  • His experience of living in the West had taught him the importance of maintaining clean surroundings. The other important lesson he had absorbed from the West was about dignity of labour.
  • The reason why these lesssons from the West became a driving force for Gandhi is that Indians, in his opinion, fell short of maintaining clean spaces inspite of the great stress laid by them towrads personal cleanliness as part of ritual purity. Something needed to bring credibility to cleanliness through a ritualistic mindset.
  • Hence, predicating himself on the heartfelt combination of the principles of clean surroundings reinforced with the idea of dignity of labour where nojob was menial enough to be undertaken by us, Gandhi impressed upon his followers about the virtue of maintaining clean surroundings.
  • Within this ethos of his cleanliness drive, Gandhi laid special emphasis on clean toilets, and set an example by cleaning his own night soil. This was his way of opposing the dehumanizing practice of manual scavenging.
  • He was so completely unrelenting about this that he once came close to throwing out his wife from his house in South Africa when she refused to clean the toilet of a guest.
  • In the context of rural India Gandhi held that poverty is no excuse for not having sanitation. His work on sanitation is closely associated with his campaign to end untouchability and the upliftment of the downtrodden.
  • One of them was in 1915 during the outbreak of plague in Ahmedabad. The other was during his visit to Hardwar during Kumbh Mela in 1915, the holy city of Ganges where one takes a dip as a ritual to purify oneself. Gandhi's visit to Hardwar was not as a pilgrim but as a sanitation worker. Lastly, his visit to Varanasi shocked him into realising that the holy city had to endure filth, especially around the famous Vishwanath temple.
  • Leading thus by example, he was able to impress upon his followers and ashram inmates the ills and the virtues respectively, of what ocurred before and afer achieving cleanliness practices.
  • In the context of rural India Gandhi held that poverty was no excuse for not having sanitation. His work on sanitation also remained closely associated with his campaign to end untouchability, as alsp promote the upliftment of the downtrodden.
  • In 2014 the Government of India launched the Swachh Bharat Mission, which is a programme that aims to fulfill Gandhi's vision of a clean India and to bring alive his much-loved aphorism - 'Cleanliness is Godliness'. It aims to clean the streets, roads, and infrastructure of Indian cities, towns, and villages, between the years 2014 to 2019. Its objectives also include the elimination of open defecation by constructing toilets in individual households and community-based toilets, so that India can be declared 'Open Defecation Free (ODF) by the time of Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, which falls on October 2, 2019.