Mahatma Gandhi’s View on Marriage and Varna

  • Support for inter-religion & Inter-caste marriages: Regarding inter-religious and inter-caste marriage, Gandhi’s views underwent radical evolution from one extreme to the other. Till early 1920s, he regarded such marriages as contrary to dharma and found several practical objections to such unions. But by 1928, he had a very different opinion and wrote that caste should not be a consideration in marriage; what was important for both partners was a sense of belonging to the same nation. In 1931, he went further and saw “no moral objection” to even inter-religious marriage if each party was free to observe his or her religion.
    • As a bulwark against provincialism and caste exclusiveness, he began advocating 1933 interprovincial and inter-communal marriages among educated people.
  • On Varna and Dharma: His ideas on varna and dharma changed profoundly in later years. He came around to believe that all Hindus should now be classified in the fourth varna, as Shudra. This would at one stroke level down all distinctions of high and low. This should not, of course, prevent anybody from attaining divine or any other knowledge, he writes, but it did mean that all must live by their labour, and all become entitled, therefore, to nothing more than simple maintenance.
    • This view was a corollary of his belief in the doctrine of ‘bread labour,’ which he acquired from reading the Bhagvad Gita and the Bible. The excesses of the caste system in India made him a severe opponent of it and he began to feel that it should be destroyed. The best way of doing this, he thought, was for reformers to begin the practice with themselves and, where necessary, take the consequences of the ensuing social boycott.
  • On untouchability: According to Gandhi, religion is made to uplift and not to keep a man crushed under weight of his karma. It is a prostitution of the grand doctrine of karma to consign a man of lowly birth to perdition. Hindu religion is replete with illustrations of great men lifting their unfortunate brethren from their miseries. The issue of untouchability, which is related to the construction of an egalitarian society, became a major, if not the most important, social issue in his thought.
Free UPSC MasterClass
This is default text for notification bar