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On January 9, 1915, the day of his arrival in Bombay


[Before May 20, 1915]
The Ashram, as stated in the third edition, was established on May 20
VOW AGAINST UNTOUCHABILITY (This was revised and published as third edition on
Nov 7, 1915 )
According to Hindu religion as traditionally practised,communities such as
Dhed, Bhangi, etc., known by the names of Antyaj, Pancham, Achhut and so on,
are looked upon as untouchable. Hindus belonging to other communities believe
that they will be defiled it they touch a member of any of the said communities
and, if anyonedoes so accidentally, he thinks that he has committed a sin. The
founders of the Ashram believe that this practice is a blot on Hindu religion.
Themselves staunch Hindus, they believe that the Hindu race will continue to
add to its load of sin so long as it regards a single community as untouchable. Some
of the consequences of this practice have been terrible. In order to be free from
this sin, the Ashram inmates are under a vow to regard the untouchable
communities as touchable; actually one Dhed family was staying in the Ashram,
and it is still there, when the third edition of these rules was being drawn up. It lives
exactly in the same condition as others in the Ashram do. This vow does not extend
to association for purpose of eating. All that is desired is the eradication of
the evil of untouchability.

Diary 1915


Dudabhai came from Bombay. There was quite a scene. Santok refused to eat,
and I, too, therefore. Started a fast because Vrajlal had smoked.
Mr. Pratt and Advani paid a visit. Went to see Bhaichandji. Saw Nagji Swami. Also Sir
Chinubhai . Feel the strain of the fast.
Dudabhai went to bring his wife. Harilal came. Attended party at

Andrews & Pearson arrived. Meeting of Committee. I was asked to preside. All went
to see Dheds houses. All three left for Ahmedabad.
Chunilal and Dayalji left.
Maganlal and Santok & the girls left for Bombay.
Dudabhai and his wife came.
Kaka, Gunaji and a student came. Vrajlal left for Rajkot. Maneklal
came for two or three hours.
Dahyabhai gave Rs. 8/-. Got excited again and lost temper with Ba. I
must find a medicine for this grave defect.
Maganlal and others left for Madras. Speech in Empire


September 14, 1915
I think that the newspaper statement should be answered at once. I am prepared to
relate the conversation I had with him in Cape Town and on other occasions. It is not
possible to believe the signature story until we have seen the original
application itself A mischievous attempt is being made to bolster up what am I to
call it! I am in the midst of a momentous step (The reference is to the admission
of an untouchable; vide Letter to V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, 23-9-1915) being
taken in my life. I have no time today to write about it, some of that is about the
Pariah question.

Yours sincerely,


September 17, 1915
Greater work than passive resistance has commenced. I have taken in the
Ashram a Pariah (Dudabhai Malji Dafda) from these parts. This is an extreme step. It
caused a breach between Mrs. Gandhi and myself. I lost my temper. She tried it too
much. She is not now allowed to take part in the kitchen. Navin has left the Ashram
on the account. Many further developments will take place and I may become a
deserted man. This tries the resources of the Ashram to an enormous extent. In
spite of it all I am happy but a man without any leisure. I shall ask the others to
write to you.
Harilal has come with his wife to the Ashram for a few days stay. His wife will stay
longer. Andrews is due here next week.
With much love,


September 23 [1915]


When I took in Naiker, Mrs. Gandhi did not kick. Now I had to decide whether I was
to take in a grown-up Gujarati Dhed (An untouchable) with his wife. (The reference

is to Dudabhai, the first untouchable who joined the Ashram with his family on
September 26;vide Diary for 1915. Gandhiji accepted him at the suggestion of
Amritlal Thakkar. The event caused a stir in the socio-religious life of Ahmedabad
and people thought of even boycotting the Ashram.)
I decided to take him and she rebelled against it and so did another lady at the
Ashram. There was quite a flutter in the Ashram. There is a flutter even in
Ahmedabad. I have told Mrs. Gandhi she could leave me and we should part good
friends. The step is momentous because it so links me with the suppressed
classes mission that I might have at no distant time to carry out the idea of shifting
to some Dhed quarters and sharing their life with the Dheds . It would mean much
even for my staunchest co-workers. I have now given you the outline of the story.
There is nothing grand about it. It is of importance to me because it enables me
to demonstrate the efficacy of passive resistance in social questions and when I
take the final step, it will embrace swaraj, etc.
Please share this with Dr. Deva and any other member you please.
Yours sincerely,


September 24, 1915
I have been regularly receiving your letters. I do not care to ask others to write to
you as we are full up to the brim with work.I had seven patients last week, all more
or less in a bad state. It was no ordinary illness. I am thankful to say they are all
convalescent now. These included Ramdas and Devdas. They were all treated after
our fashion partial or total starvation and hip-baths.
You know what a Pariah is. He is what is called an untouchable. The widows son
whom I have taken is a Pariah but that did not shock Mrs. Gandhi so much. Now I
have taken one from our own parts and Mrs.Gandhi as also Maganlals wife were up
in arms against me. They made my life miserable so far as they could. I told them
they were not bound to stay with me. This irritated them the more. The storm has
not yet subsided. I am however unmoved and comparatively calm. The step I have
taken means a great deal. It may alter my life a bit, i.e., I may have to completely

take up Pariah work, i.e., I might have to become a Pariah myself. We shall see.
Anyway let my troubles brace you up if they can.
Andrews and Pearson were with me for a day. I lent the latter some of your books.
They are both on their way to Fiji in order to investigate the indenture question.
Harilal was here for a few days. He is gone. His wife is here with her children. I am
sending you a piece of cloth from what has been woven by us. It is Manilals work.
Sewing is mine and Devdass. May it serve to wipe your hand and may the spirit
that has prompted the gift serve to strengthen the inner man in you.
With love,
Bhadarva Vad 1, September 24, 1915
I realized after meeting Narandas that you repent having given him the permission
and the chief cause for remorse is that I have admitted a learned dhea
(Dudhabhai Dafda) [to the ashram] . That would have hurt the feelings of Santok
too. In fact, no one should feel bad about it because in Phoenix we shared food
with everyone. But the same thing is viewed differently here.
There is no need for you to feel sorry. Narandas has taken a very good step. If I was
not worried about the unhappiness of my sister-in-law, I would have boldly asked
Narandas to come here. However, on considering everything, I thought it was
better for Narandas to go to Madras with his wife. There Tamil.... Santok and the
two girls are going. Maganlal is accompanying them to Bombay today. By doing so,
Narandas, Jamna, Santok and the girls would not be caught in the storm (As a
consequence of Gandhijis decision to admit an untouchable family to the Ashram.
Also vide Letter to Narandas Gandhi, 16-9-1915) that threatens the Ashram. They
would not be banished from the caste and so their sorrow will be a little less.
Jamnadas is no doubt there. There is no need for him to come here. It is
Chhaganlals duty to stay on in Phoenix. Now remain Maganlal and his children.
Let him be caught in the storm along with me. Those who live with me, should never
expect that they will never have external problems because those who live with me
should learn to welcome problems and realize that purification lies in that. I have
told Maganlal that he should go to Madras for a short period if he

wanted to. There is no objection if Maganlal goes to Madras and Narandas comes
here. I have asked the two brothers to do what is convenient to them.
I am going to fulfil your desire once Narandas is relieved from his job.
I do not think that a more satisfactory arrangement can be worked out. It
contains truth and dharma indeed is included in it. I wish that you should be at
peace. I do want that Maganlal should go there.
Respectful prostration by


October 3 [1915]
No letter from you after your transference. Mr. Turner has however written to
me. The admission of a Pariah family continues to occupy me. I have been deserted
by most helpers and the burden is all falling on my shoulder assisted by two or
three who are remaining staunch. Poor Maganlal is simply torn asunder. He is in
Bombay fixing up with his wife and mother. How it is a question whether Narandas
will come. I have told you that a time may come when I may irresistibly take a step
which may result in my being left alone. Well, I must still follow the light as I find it.
Mr. Turner says you now better situated. I want your letter.
With love,
October 8[ 1915]

I have to make this Herculean effort just now under extraordinary difficulties.
It is now nearing 9 p.m. Mrs. Gandhi who has been making my life hell for me is just
now at me. But I must not miss this weekly communion. I give you this news to
show that peace is not to be found from without. I am not at war with myself in spite
of the disturbance I have mentioned above. She however does succeed in making
me angry at times and throwing me off my balance. I am making a desperate
effort to overcome this weakness. The whole situation has... because I have
admitted a man who is every whit as good as she is. She is still talking and I must
With love,
Yours ever,
October 16[ 1915]
I hope you have received my letter the one that did not reach you in time. There
was no omission [on] my side. We are all so short-handed that I do not like to ask
anyone to write to you. Here there is no extensive piece of ground for cultivation
hardly one acre. There are two roomy houses with little plots of ground
attached. We are doing only a little vegetable gardening. Water is drawn from
two wells. These are rustic wells, with primitive contrivances for drawing
water. The dispute was paltry, out of cussedness. The man felt polluted
because the boys fetched water from his side of the well. It was no water dispute.
We are now weaving our own cloth, sewing things, too, ourselves.
The buildings were ready for our occupation. They are hired houses. We are not on
our own ground yet. Manilal has completed his weaving lessons. He has now gone
to a village to complete his course. Maganlal too has nearly picked it up. Devdas is
becoming an expert tailor. He is turning out a fine student. But the life here owing to
the untouchable problem has become most difficult for me. Mrs. Gandhi is the
cause. And yet as I have told you I am internally at peace.
Now good-bye.


October 30, 1915
Not a week just now passes but has its surprises for me. Chhaganlal seems
to be dangerously ill. He has been persistently coughing blood and says he is
going down. He eats little. I had to telegraph saying he should be sent if still ill.
Things at Phoenix are not moving well otherwise. Pragji has not much heart in the
work. I do not know that I can spare anybody from here. Maganlal went on
Thursday to Madras with his wife and the two daughters. Fakiri and another have
joined him. Maganlal is to finish his Tamil course and handloom work. So he can
be ill spared just now. Mrs. Gandhi continues to cause trouble. So you see my
difficulties are fairly thick.
They give me food for thought but no anxiety. I know that I can but do little.
You are afraid of the increasing intensity of life here. But I feel sure you will like it
when you come to it, especially after the experiences you are going through.
Yours sincerely,
November 8, 1915]
There was no limit to the pain I gave you last year. Since I acted as I did in the
sincere belief that that suffering was for the welfare of the country, the family and
my own soul, I think I deserve pardon and so pray for your forgiveness. I crave your
blessings for, if anyone among the elders of the family understands me, more or
less, it is you.
I also offer my most humble respects to my sister-in-law and pray for her blessings
and forgiveness. Most reverent regards from

(A part of Gandhijis letter received in Phoenix and reproduced in

Prajabandhu from Indian Opinion, 26-11-1915)
[Before November 26, 1915]
The Ashram activities are in full swing. It has at present 33 inmates in all, three
of whom are Dheds . These latter have become a serious issue. Ahmedabad is
considered to be a stronghold of sanatana dharma . Hence the issue of the
Dheds has led to a storm.
At first we thought the entire Ashram would be outcast, and that may yet happen.
The boys have made much progress in their study of Sanskrit, Hindi and Tamil.
They are being taught carpentry and
hand-weaving. Two carpenters are engaged in the Ashram. In a few days, we shall
send you some cloth woven on looms by our own hands. The boys have made
tables, etc. They are now working at book-cases for holding books.
[From Gujarati]
Prajabandhu, 26-12-1915
November 26 [1915]
You have asked me to tell you more about Andrews and Pearson than I have done. I
came in very close touch with both of them in Santiniketan. We came nearer one
another than we ever were. They are both now in Fiji investigating the
indenture question. Before going, they passed some time here. They were quite
happy. They are to be back in two months time. Pearson is a full-fledged teacher at
Santiniketan. Andrews is the Poets mentor. He takes no part in teaching.
Andrews was at deaths door recently having had a severe attack of cholera. He
was better when he left.
Maganlal was upon his trial when the Pariah was admitted. He stood it well. He
remains as much attached to the Ashram as ever. But what I said in my letter holds
good. My soul may take me anywhere any day and I may find myself without the
staunchest of my co-workers at that time. It will certainly be no fault of theirs. I
cannot expect them to understand or follow me in all my flights.

Mrs. Gandhi still remains disturbed. She does not want to live away from me. If she
could overcome the strong desire to live with me, she would have left me long ago.
Jeki had a son born to her in Fiji. She is now in Rangoon. I have not met her. Dr.
Mehta was here the other day. He told me she was well.
Indian Opinion has been reduced in size. The price too has been reduced. It is 1d.
now. Ritch has returned to South Africa. This finishes the budget of news. You say
you have not influenced your surroundings, if anything you have been influenced by
them. I do not gather it from your letters. In any event one certainly cannot
be too much on ones guard. True worth of a man seems to me to consist in his
capacity to resist his surroundings. It is the measure of his self-realization. If we
control ourselves we cannot be controlled by others, not even by our surroundings,
not fashion, nor food, nor spectacles, nor games, nor company, nor hobbies. There
is no true happiness without this real self rule. You have a unique opportunity of
acquiring it. May it be your lot to do so.
With love,


December 18, 1915
There is no letter from you this week. I have just returned from my tour. I am unable
therefore to give you a long letter this week. Dr. Mehta is here for a few days. There
is still sickness at the Ashram. Somehow or other I cannot get rid of it. I am
endeavouring to find out the cause. This time it is Parthasarathy
Yours ever,



December 25, 1915
I have come to Bombay for the Congress week. There is no sincerity about
anything. Much cry and little work proverb applies most appropriately. What I
should have done I do not know. The boys are with me as volunteers and they are
not wanted. I made a great mistake in bringing the boys at all. Mrs. Gandhi is not
here. She does not yet appreciate my action about the Pariah friend. Manilal too has
remained behind. Dr. Mehta is here. He is likely to be here yet for a few days.
Imamsaheb and young Sorabji have arrived from Natal.
More next week.
Yours ever,OLD FRIEND
April 1 [1916]
The Pariah members wife having proved untrustworthy has left the Ashram.
September 10, 1916
There is again a storm in the Ashram. The Pariah family had temporarily gone. They
returned yesterday. Mrs. Maganlal therefore suddenly decided to leave. I offered no
opposition and she with her children has gone to Rajkot. Poor Maganlal! He is going
through the most terrible times of his life. He feels most keenly this separation from
those that [are] nearest him. He does not know what his duty is. He does not want
to leave me and he can hardly bear the present blow. The Maganlal of olden days
robust, jovial, quickhanded and quick-witted is no more to be seen. He has aged.
He is careworn. He is rarely healthy. He is absent-minded, without hope, without
peace. I do not know what to do for him and how to help him. One can only trust
that time will heal all the wounds and that he will yet be his old self again.


(At the Conference of Friendly Associations of Communities)
June 4, 1916
I am tired of conferences and speeches and now of hearing my own voice as well.
When Lord Buddha decided to work for the emancipation of the world, he did
not convene a conference and get it to pass resolutions. Nor did Jesus Christ do
anything of the sort. But not being blessed with such greatness, we convene such
conferences because, I think I am right in this, we lack the requisite strength for our
work. This happens all over the country; and so I dont say that yours is the only
There is something novel about the origin of this conference and its procedure of
work. I believe at the same time that it does serve a useful purpose. The work here
is not done through long speeches. I am glad to see that everyone speaks to the
point and keeps himself to the subject. We must have formed the habit of speaking
briefly and to the point through the business atmosphere of Gujarat. In the changes
taking place today in our communities, we have observed [their] rise and fall
through their own actions and deserts. Champaneri Banias were once Vaniks
(Members of a Hindu caste traditionally engaged in trade, commerce and
banking ) ; then by vocation they became Ghanchis (Those who make and sell
seed-oils) . In the caste set-up of India, it is in no way impossible that through better
education and economic advance they may again become Vaniks or attain even a
higher status, or that they may be degraded to a level lower than that of Ghanchi.
Our sin in despising the Antyajas (Lowest caste among Hindus traditionally charged
with sanitary duties) degrades the entire Hindu society. Dudabhai , a Dhed, who
stays with me and who has accompanied me here, once asked a woman for
some water. On the woman inquiring about his caste, . Dudabhai replied that he
was Dhed. The lady said: I dont believe it. You are quite well dressed and clean;
you do not look like a Dhed. Here is water for you. So saying she gave him water to
drink. But . Dudabhai , after drinking the water, told her again that he was a Dhed
and that he did not wish to deceive her. In bearing with the abuses she then
showered on him, . Dudabhai showed courage and strength of mind. In just the
same way, the entire Hindu society despises the Dhed people and, as long as this
does not change, we shall not be able to convince the whites of South Africa and
elsewhere of the utter injustice of the aversion they show for us.
Today I take a pledge that, if I am wrong in any belief of mine and if someone from
amongst you proves it, I will accept the correction in all humility. But, at the same

time, I also take another pledge that I will not rest till I make you change this wrong
belief of yours in regard to the Antyajas.
[From Gujarati]
Gujarati, 11-6-1916


November 14 [1916]
I cannot get rid of illness from the Ashram. I am making experiments but
they do not answer completely. The slightest indulgence tells upon the boys.
Naicker, Purshottam (a new boy), Parthasarathy and Ramdas are down and so is
Annas wife. Anna is the Tamil friend who has joined the Ashram. They are most of
them down with fever. This is the fever season, but we ought to be immune.
This illness taxes me much. The introduction of the Pariah family had already put
an undue strain on me and now comes the sickness. However we make merry
and go on. Only I should like you to be with me on such occasions. But what are
we when we consider the thousands who are just now separated! We must make
the best of it and exercise the patience of a Job. The new bookcase is ready and is a
complete success. It looks strong and decent. It is easily portable. Sivpujan and
Coopoo have been at it. Evidently you too will be learning cabinet-making there in a
way you would not have done elsewhere. Your experiences will all be useful in later
With love,


Shravan Vad 10 [August 31, 1918]
(The letter was evidently written after an untouchable family, Dudhabhai, his wife
and infant daughter Lakshmi, were admitted to the Kocharab Ashram on

September 11, 1915 and the Ashram was shifted from Kocharab to the western
bank of the Sabarmati in July 1917. Shravan Vad 10 in 1917 fell on August 12,
when Gandhiji was in Bettiah in Bihar; in 1918 on August 31 when Gandhiji was in
Ahmedabad; in 1919 and 1920, on August 20 and 9 respectively; on both of which
days Gandhiji was in Bombay. The letter was, therefore, presumably written on
August 31,1918.)
Your letter arrived just a little while ago and I am replying immediately. You have a
right to write to me even in bitter words. Who else would write to me in this manner
if not you? I also understand your being shocked. But there seems to be some
misunderstanding as to the fact of the case. I do not at all desire that kind of
change in the society at large. In the Ashram, however, from the beginning, it has
been our rule not to observe the Varnavyavastha(The traditional Indian social
system based on birth and hereditary occupation) because the position of the
Ashram is different from that of the society outside. When you were here on a visit,
the same practice was followed. Dudhabhai, his wife and L[akshmi] all three lived
with me at Kocharab and had their meals with me. Dudhabhais wife used to enter
the kitchen, too. There was also another antyaj boy. What we are doing at present is
not new.
I really believed that nobody had any objection to Lakshmi. It was only by chance
that I discovered that such objections to her existed, and that too in a manner which
was rather amusing. I have said all this to show to you that the present position is
not new. That Chi. Kashi looks after that girl is a new position, but in itself, it is not
a new practice. Now about the propriety or otherwise of the practice. If I had
insisted that the inmates of the Ashram should observe the Varnadharma, I
would have been guilty of the impropriety you have imputed to me. However, for
those who have renounced Grihasthashram(The householders stage of life) , who
have accepted a particular ideal and observe the rules of self-control, to behave
towards the antyajas differently from the way they behave towards others would
be adharma (The opposite of dharma) , not dharma, violence and not ahimsa,
expression not of love but of hatred. In the Ashram kitchen, Luharas, Bhatiyas,
Brahmins, Khatris, Rajputs, Mussalmans, Baniasall have been taking their meals
together. You know of course that all these classes of people inter-dine with one
another; the whole of India knows it. Nobody has expressed disapproval of the
practice. Why, then, should anybody be shocked by it now? If you have not
considered the practice such as I have described above a radical one, what
objection can there be against an innocent girl L[akshmi] having her meals in our
kitchen? It is but proper to respect custo-mary practices as long as they are not
contrary to universal princi-ples of morality. If, however, they are contrary to such
principle, their violation is the real dharma. I, at any rate, have learnt this from our
shastras themselves. Since, therefore, this practice is not new, I beg of you not to
consider it as such and feel hurt, and if you consider it to be an old one, regard it as

unavoidable and so not feel hurt. Please believe that I have not taken a single step
out of self-will or thoughtlessly, but have done what I have done only after the most
careful consideration of its moral propriety or otherwise and only because I believed
it to be dharma. And, therefore, I wish you to have patience with me. If our castemen are offended by my step, I will ask their forgiveness, and all of us will
patiently suffer their boycott. From you, I ask for a blessing, and it is
this:My own brother is fearlessly doing what he believes to be dharma. O God,
help him in that. I do beg this much of you that you should not in the least feel hurt
by this step and bear with what you cannot understand. Very often, we simply
cannot understand what is dharma and what is adharma. Vyasji has with great skill
presented numerous instances of such confusion in the Shantiparva(Of the
Mahabharata) . When such is the position, what should one do? Only that one
should fearlessly go on doing what ones conscience bids one to do and bear the
sufferings which follow as a result of doing so.
Respectful prostration by

But his own ashramites, and his wife Kasturba, were restive, for into his ashram Gandhi had
admitted a young untouchable couple, Dudabhai Dafda and his wife, who belonged to the Gujaratispeaking community of Dheds or Dhedhs that worked with hides. Evidently, Gandhi told Kasturba
that if she was unable to live with the Dhed couple she could leave me and we should part good
friends. Kasturba yielded and stayed, but not Santok, Maganlals wife, though she had been a
satyagrahi in South Africa. Breaking conventions amidst kinsfolk in Ahmedabad was harder.
There was a flutter in the ashram. Santok fasted in opposition to the admission of Dudabhai and his
wife; Gandhi fasted back; Santok and Maganlal packed their bags, said good-bye, and left . Later,
however, they returned, having, as Gandhi would say, washed their hearts clean of untouchability .
But there was a flutter in the city as well, and in the ashrams vicinity. Dudabhai and others in the
ashram were roundly abused when they tried to take water from a neighbourhood well, and money
ceased to flow to the ashram.
Gandhi was thinking of moving the ashram into a Dhed settlement when a young industrialist in his
twenties, Ambalal Sarabhai, quietly drove up with a wad of currency, handed Rs 13,000 to Gandhi,
and went away. He and Gandhi had met only once before, in the Sarabhai home, to discuss
prospects of an ashram in Ahmedabad, but Sarabhai had been impressed by Gandhis readiness to
address caste inequalities, which young Sarabhai had always found offensive.
The tide soon turned, and Dudabhai and his wife, both showing forbearance, found increasing
acceptance from neighbours, visitors and other ashramites. To Gandhi the incident showed the

efficacy of passive resistance in social questions, as he wrote on 23 September to Gokhales friend

and colleague, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri. In this letter Gandhi also said that he expected his satyagraha
enterprise to embrace Swaraj and social questions together
- from Rajmohan Gandhi's "Mohandas A True Story of the Man His People and an Empire"


When first Bapu announced that he would keep some Harijans in the Ashram, Ba, being still orthodox in such
matters, did not quite approve of this. And Bapu pleaded with her in vain. So one day Bapu, seeing that Ba was
feeling greatly troubled in her mind at his decision, said to her, "If you feel ill at ease here, you can go to my sister
Raliyatba, and stay with her. I shall send you seven rupees for your upkeep every month."
Whereupon Ba burst out, "Do you wish in this way to keep me away from you all my life? But I will never stay away
from you. For, my one wish is to die in your lap."