The third lecture is on the “Sanatani” Mahatma. Sanatani here may be taken as both the perennial Gandhi, but also the Hindu, in the sense of Sanatana Dharma, Gandhi. This lecture, thus, attempts to ask what aspects of Gandhi outlive him, but also in what ways he was the quintessential, perhaps the greatest, Hindu of his times. Such questions, understandably, assume greater urgency in a post-Hindutva India. If we closely examine his life, we notice not just how radically Gandhi modified and reformed the Hinduism that he had inherited, but also how deeply he renewed and burnished it.
These four, interrelated talks on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1969-1948) may be considered as an attempt to understand and articulate the coherence of an exemplary life. Given how he regarded it himself—“My life is my message”—Gandhi invites to be read in terms of a consistency in his anubhav (original experience), vichar (thought and ideas), and achaar (conduct and action). To that extent, his is a life which sets itself up almost in opposition to modernity—almost, because it might be reductive to see Gandhi merely as an opponent of modernity.
The second seminar rehearses the significance of Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, a booklet that Gandhi wrote on board the steamship Kildonen Castle in November 1909, on his return from England to South Africa. The book has acquired the status of a classic to the extent of being dubbed ‘the Bible of non-violent revolution’. Yet, it is also an extremely difficult book to stomach, with its uncompromising attacks on the British parliament, on machinery, on railways, doctors, lawyers, and English educated elites.
The last seminar is as much a celebration of Bollywood as of Gandhi. It is to the former that the credit for most effectively resurrecting the Mahatma should go, certainly much more so than to Gandhians or academics. For Bollywood literally revives the spirit of Gandhi by showing how irresistibly he continues to haunt India today.