Acharya Vinoba Bhave is counted among the greatest freedom fighters and social workers of the country. He was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and like him throughout his life, following the path of truth and non-violence, fought for the poor and destitute.
His original name was Vinayak Narahari Bhave. He was born on 11 September 1895 in Gagode, Bombay Presidency (now Maharashtra) in an affluent Brahmin family. His father’s name was Narahari Shambhu Rao and mother’s name was Rukmini Devi. He was the eldest of his four siblings.
Vinoba Bhave’s mother was a religious woman and she was deeply influenced by her mother. Vinoba Bhave was a very bright student and his favorite subject was Mathematics. But when he was graduating in Baroda, Gujarat, his interest started moving towards spirituality.
It is said that in 1916, Binoba Bhave went to Mahatma Gandhi’s Kochrab Ashram, which is in Ahmedabad. After this he left school-college, but continued his studies and studied many religious texts like Gita, Ramayana, Quran, Bible as well as many modern theories like politics, economics. Then his age was only 21 years.
took an active part in the freedom struggle
Vinoba Bhave was greatly influenced by the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi and made Gandhi his political and spiritual mentor. With the passage of time, the teacher-disciple pair became stronger and together they carried out many movements. He actively participated in the non-cooperation movement started in 1920 under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and appealed to the countrymen to boycott foreign goods and use indigenous goods.
Gandhiji was greatly influenced by Vinoba Bhave and gave Bhave the responsibility of handling his Wardha Ashram in 1921. From here he also brought out a monthly magazine named ‘Maharashtra Dharma’, which was published in Marathi. Through this magazine, he used to convey the messages of Vedas and Upanishads to the people.
Seeing Bhave’s growing stature in the freedom struggle, the British government got upset and arrested him for opposing the rule. He was sentenced to six months. Vinoba Bhave had to go to jail several times in later years. While serving his sentence in Dhulia Jail, he used to teach ‘Gita’ to other prisoners.
Then, in 1940, Mahatma Gandhi declared him the first individual Satyagrahi to raise his voice against the British. During this, he was also sentenced to five years imprisonment. Vinoba Bhave was a very calm and disciplined person. After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, he adopted his word Sarvodaya, which means – “progress for all”.
After independence in the year 1947, India was going through a period of great upheaval and there was an atmosphere of unrest in the whole country. Meanwhile, a violent struggle was going on in Telangana (then Andhra Pradesh) led by the Left. It was a movement of landless farmers. Also, the intention of some people was to show that democratic system can never be successful in India.
After this, Vinoba Bhave reached Pochampally village in Nalgonda on 18 April 1951 to meet the farmers. The agitating Harijan farmers demanded 80 acres of land from them for their livelihood. The farmers told Bhave that if they get 80 acres of land for 40 families of their community, they can easily survive.
After hearing the demand, he spoke to the landlords. His words affected a landlord named Ramachandra Reddy so much that he decided to donate his hundred acres of land. Vinoba Bhave was greatly influenced by this and he got the idea to give this incident the form of a movement.
Helped the farmers by getting millions of acres of land
The Bhoodan movement under Bhave’s leadership continued for 13 years. During this, he covered a distance of about 58,741 kms, visiting every nook and corner of the country. He acquired 44 lakh acres of land for about 13 lakh poor farmers. His movement was widely praised all over the world in terms of voluntary social justice. Even in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the government has passed the Bhoodan Act, so that the distribution of land can be done in an orderly manner.
To motivate big farmers to donate, he would often say, “Land is like air and water. Everyone has a right on that. Treat me as your son and give me one-sixth of your land. On which the landless can settle down and can earn their livelihood by farming.
Vinoba Bhave was greatly influenced by the Bhagavad Gita. He started many ashrams to promote simple living in Indian society. On the lines of Gandhiji’s education, he started ‘Brahma Vidya Mandir’ in 1959 to strengthen women. He was also strongly against cow slaughter and manual scavenging of Harijans.
Vinoba Bhave was also very interested in writing and had a strong hold on many languages like Marathi, Hindi, English, Sanskrit, Gujarati. He wrote many important books like Swarajya Shastra, Gita Pravachan and Teesri Shakti.
Acharya Vinoba Bhave said goodbye to this world on November 15, 1982 in Wardha after a long illness. He was indeed a man in whom people looked up to Gandhi. He was the first Indian to receive the 1958 Ramon Magsaysay Award. He was also awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1983.
Editing – G N Jha
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