Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Gandhi and his loincloth

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The following item is from the vault, May 20 2018, with some further information following . . .


Pamela Hicks, daughter of Lord Mountbatten (the last Governor General of India), writing in The Telegraph about the impending marriage of Elizabeth and Phillip:

"Princess Elizabeth had written me a sweet letter asking me to be one of her bridesmaids and I, of course, was honoured to accept."

“Before we left, my parents saw Mahatma Gandhi and he told my father: ‘I so want to give Princess Elizabeth a present, but I have given all my possessions away.’

“My father, however, knew he still had his spinning wheel and he told Gandhi: ‘If a cloth could be made from yarn you have spun, that would be like receiving the Crown Jewels’

“And so this was done and we took his present to Britain for the wedding, but Queen Mary wrongly thought it was a loincloth and thought it was the most ‘indelicate’ gift.”

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BTW:

Queen Elizabeth II later re-gifted the cloth to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he visited the UK in 2018.

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BTW #2:

Gandhi, a lawyer, originally dressed in Western finery:


Gandhi, London, 1901


During meetings in South Africa in 1921, Gandhi wore a three-piece suit and in London he was often seen dressed in his lawyer outfit. Returning to India, he came to an awakening:

“ . . . the millions of compulsorily naked men, save for their langoti four inches wide and nearly as many feet long, gave through their limbs the naked truth. What effective answer could I give them, if it was not to divest myself of every inch of clothing I decently could and thus to a still greater extent bring myself in line with ill-clad masses? And this I did the very next morning after the Madura meeting."

10 years later, in 1931, after a meeting with Gandhi, Winston Churchill declared:

“It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organising and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the kingemperor."

It only inspired Gandhi to wear even less clothing:

Mr. Winston Churchill has denounced me as 'a half-naked, seditious fakir,' " observed Mahandas Karamchand Gandhi, nine-tenths-naked at Calcutta last week. "It has become the fashion to laugh at my loin cloth. I would like to explain what it means to me and why I wear it.

Ten years ago I was working in Madura urging some of my countrymen to clothe themselves in khadder [native homespun]. But these people, who were sympathetic, all replied: 'We are too poor to buy khadder; it is too dear.' Then for the first time I seemed to see the difference between them and me.

I had on my cap, vest and full dhoti [three-foot-wide loin cloth]. My hearers wore only a strip of cloth about four inches wide. I saw that where my clothing uttered only a partial truth of the poverty of India, these millions, compulsorily naked save for their narrow langotis, gave through their bare limbs the starkest truth.

What effective answer could I give them unless I too divested myself of every bit of clothing with which I could decently dispense and put myself to a still greater extent in harmony with the ill-clad masses? I adopted the small dhoti [two-foot-wide loin cloth] then and there, and I have worn it ever since.

Millions of Indians own nothing in the world but that little strip of cloth which preserves them from disgrace. I am not leading a 'back to the loin cloth' movement. We have been in these straits ever since the British have ruled India.

In London, if I am invited to visit His Majesty the King Emperor, I will wear nothing more than that which is the symbol of India's distress—the loin cloth.



 Gandhi in London, 1931


 

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