After Mahatma Gandhi’s passing, Vinoba Bhave kept the principles of non-violence and truth alive in India. Bhave stood up and took the mantle and is often considered the Gandhi of post-independent India.
Vinoba Bhave was born to Narahari Shambhu Rao and Rukmini Devi, in Kolaba, Maharashtra. His father was a weaver from whom Bhave learned weaving at a very young age. His mother was a religious lady from Karnataka who taught Vinoba the first few lessons of the Gita. A few years later, Vinoba learned to read and complete chapters of the Gita by himself. The teachings of the Gita had an everlasting effect on young Vinoba and at the age of 12, he took the oath of Brahmacharya (eternal celibacy).
At the age of 22, while going to Pune for his intermediate exams, Vinoba chanced upon a newspaper at the bus stop. The newspaper mentioned Mahatma Gandhi’s call to the youth of the nation for the upcoming Civil Disobedience Movement. Inspired by the message he left his studies to join Gandhi’s movement.
For the next few months, Vinoba wrote letters to Gandhi. In these letters, he included both his advice and asked for guidance. Impressed by the dedication of Vinoba, Gandhi called him to his ashram.
He started living in the ashram of Ahmedabad. As a trained weaver, he soon became an important part of the civil disobedience movement. The boycott of foreign goods was the main agenda of the movement. As a replacement people were encouraged to wear handmade khadi clothes. Bhave began training people to weave Khadi, including Gandhi. Impressed by his proactivity and leadership he was given a more important role. Later he became an ambassador of hygiene and sanitation in rural west India.
Being a great Marathi orator, Vinoba was asked to manage the ashram at Wardha. Here he also started publishing a Marathi weekly. The weekly talked about the teachings of the Upanishads and became popular in a very short time.
In 1925, he was sent to Kerala to work for the upliftment of Harijans (members of a hereditary Hindu group of the lowest social and ritual status). This is where he was jailed by the British for 4 years. He used his time in jail learning four South Indian languages and writing the script of one of his most popular books ‘Lok Nagari’. He also used to give talks on the Gita to his fellow prisoners. This gave him the title of Acharya, which is Sanskrit for a ‘teacher’.
After the death of Gandhi in 1948, Vinoba started working in the rural parts of India. Post-independent India was not economically stable. Vinoba encouraged women to participate in the economy and set up institutions to teach weaving to women. He also worked with Harijans, providing them with education and employment.
The post-independent India also saw more violence as the nations divided. The partition of India and Pakistan led to many events of communal clashing. Vinoba worked as a peacekeeper wherever and whenever possible.
In 1975 India went through two years of Emergency. The country was in a state of confusion and terror. Prime minister Indira Gandhi sought Vinoba’s help. Vinoba lent his support and gave national speeches celebrating the Emergency as Anusasan Parv (festival of discipline). Vinoba’s voice helped in calming down the general public.
At the old age of 87, Vinoba accepted ‘Samadhi Maran’, a practice in which you willfully leave your body. He refused to eat any food or medicine. On 15 November 1982, his soul left his body. His passing away was mourned as a national loss. He received the Bharat Ratna award the following year.
Vinoba Bhave’s life is an example of a strong belief system. His beliefs in the words of Gita stayed with him throughout his life. It is stated that even Gandhi was jealous of Bhave’s ‘Brahmacharya’ vows. His belief in Gandhian ideology remained intact even after Gandhi’s death. He preached what he practised. Bhave’s life paved the way for future Gandhians. It showed how to carry the legacy of truth and non-violence in an independent India.