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What definition does Gandhi offer for 'Swadeshi' in his essay "The Swadeshi Movement"?

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Michael Madill eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Sanskrit roots of the word swadeshi mean something close to "make it ourselves." To M.K. Gandhi this was two things: first, the development of Indian-owned businesses, particularly in manufacturing; second, the replacement of British products with those Indian-made ones. It wasn't anti-mercantilism but reverse-mercantilism. The Swadeshi movement began as a boycott of British textiles which grew quickly into a general strike against all things British. Indian merchants found not to be cooperating were publicly shamed and included in the boycott. Students, service workers, and even professionals inched the boundaries of this enforced social transformation into the law, medicine, accountancy and of course politics. It's not just that those people participated in the boycott or its enforcement. Rather, they tried to come up with Indian jurisprudence, Indian medicine, Indian rules of business. In those intangible subjects, they mostly failed, but in the case of things which the British forced on Indian markets which could be substituted with swadeshi products, they were very successful.

The exception, and probably the most successful swadeshi effort, was politics. Gandhi's living advocacy of self-actualization and non-violent protest was the epitome of swadeshi. It was also universally available to those with the courage to think for themselves and act accordingly. The speed with which his following grew, and the wave of passive resistance which came with it, testify to this.

Out of swadeshi grew the idea of swaraj, "self-rule." It was natural for people who made things themselves, who were self-sufficient, to rule themselves, said Gandhi. He realized this vision in 1947.

Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Gandhi offers the following definition: "Swadeshi is that spirit in us which restricts us to the use and service of our immediate surroundings to the exclusion of the more remote." In other words, he wanted Indians to turn to their own religion, education, language, and economy rather than co-opting or relying on elements from abroad, particularly from England (see the source below).

In terms of religion, he advocated a return to Hinduism. He believed that if Indians found their own religion wanting in some ways, they should reform it rather than turning to other religions (see the source below). With regard to educational systems, Gandhi felt that Indians should be educated not in English but in their native tongues so that their learning could be shared with the people who did not speak English (see the source below). The concept of Swadeshi had particular relevance to economics. He felt that Indians should buy cloth and other goods from local manufacturers rather than rely on English imports.

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