Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, M.S.
Contact No. – 09404955338
Hindi Language and Mahatma Gandhi
Hindi is one of the most popular languages of the world. It is a scientific language. It is very easy to comminuting. Everyone can speak it. Everyone can write it. Everyone can communicate it. So Mahatma Gandhi wanted that everyone adopt this language. His requested to every Indians. But some people opposed it. They were full of fear. They think if we accepted it, our language will be dying. They told it is interfere in their dharma. So Mahatma Gandhi told, “Hindi alone can become the common language of the educated people of India. All that has to be considered is how this can be brought about. The place that English is trying to usurp today, and which it is impossible for it to take, must be given to Hindi; for it alone has the right to it. This place cannot go to English, for it is a foreign language and very difficult for us to learn. Learning Hindi is child’s play in comparison. The number of those speaking Hindi is almost 65 million. The Bengali, Bihari, Oriya, Marathi, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Punjabi and Sindhi languages are sisters of Hindi. People speaking these languages can understand and speak a little of Hindi. If we include these, the number is almost 220 million. How then can English, which even a hundred thousand Indians cannot speak correctly, compete successfully with a language which is so widely used? That to this day we have not even begun conducting our national business in Hindi is because of our cowardice, lack of faith and ignorance of the greatness of the Hindi language. If we give up our cowardice, cultivate faith and realize the greatness of the Hindi language, Hindi will begin to be used for the work of our national and provincial councils and Government organizations. The beginning should be made in the Provinces. If there is some difficulty in this, it is for people speaking the Dravidian languages like Tamil, etc., but we have the remedy for this too. Hindi-knowing men who are zealous, brave, full of self-respect and energetic should be sent to Madras and other provinces to teach Hindi without receiving payment. With the help of such heroic missionaries, the educated people of Madras, etc. can learn Hindi in a very short time. If we have the right spirit, the solution is as simple as the rule of three.
The more instructors are sent, the faster will be the spread of Hindi. Besides the sending of teachers, self-instruction books should also be prepared. These books should be distributed free. Famous speakers should also be sent to bring home to the people the importance of learning Hindi.
What it is necessary to do in Tamilnadu for the spread of Hindi, it is desirable to do in Bombay and other provinces. Hindi books should be prepared for people speaking Marathi, Gujarati, etc., and this article in Hindi was sent for publication to various papers in May 1917. Workers should be sent to those areas. This work requires money. The well-to-do among us should not take it as a burden. It is their duty to assist in this gigantic enterprise.”1
Mahatma Gandhi said, “That, in view of the fact that the Hindi language is very widely used by the people of the different provinces and is easily understood by the majority of them, it seems practicable to take advantage of this language as a common language for India.”2 Mahatma Gandhi told, “The question of language presents a big and indeed a very important problem. Even if all the leaders were to devote themselves entirely to this task turning away from everything else, they well may. If on the other hand, we were to regard it as of secondary importance only and to direct our attention away from it then all the enthusiasm which people now feel for it and the keen interest they are taking in it at present would be in vain.
Language is like our mother. In fact I have no real interest in this sort of a conference. It will be a three days’ pageant after which we shall disperse, go away to our respective places and forget all that we said or heard. What is needed is the urge and the resolve to do things. The president’s speech cannot give you that urge. It is something which you have to create for yourselves. One of the charges made against us is that our language lacks spirit. Where there is no knowledge there is no spirit. We have neither the urge to know nor to do things. It is only when we acquire dynamic energy that our people and our language also will acquire it. We cannot get the freedom we want through a foreign language for the simple reason that we are not able to use it effectively.”3
Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Consistently with the object of our meeting today, I must speak in Hindi. On this occasion, however, I deliberately avoid using it because I want to explain its importance to you and that I shall do in Gujarati. I think I can explain the reasons better thus. The Satyagraha now going on in India covers the issue of the Hindi language.
Satyagraha is essentially a fight for truth and, if we have regard for truth, we shall have to admit that Hindi is the only language we can use as a national language. There is no other regional language with equal claims. We should pause and think what Hindi means. I don’t think the Sanskritized language they use is Hindi; it is an artificial product. Nor is Persianized Urdu Hindi. The language we want to adopt as our national language is a mixture of Hindi and Urdu. It is the language spoken, by and large, in Bihar, Delhi and the Punjab. The two languages came to be treated as rivals of each other when the idea spread that Hindus and Muslims were not one people and their developed ill will between the two. Some would regard that alone as Hindi which was full of Sanskrit words, and the Muslims would accept that alone as Urdu which used Persian and Arabic words. But the language spoken by the average Hindu or Muslim is not of this kind.”4
Bapu told, “Although all people theoretically admit that Hindi alone can be the national language, yet the requisite love for the Hindi language is not apparent among young men of the provinces where the mother tongue is Hindi. Whatever literature is being published in Hindi is mostly translation. If, however, some original piece does come out it is found to be insignificant. It might be argued that Rabindranath is not born every day and Tulsidas is one among millions. Nevertheless, all of us can at least create a climate for the advent of poets like Tulsidas and Rabindranath, namely, a sincere zeal among young men. As their devotion to Hindi grows so would Hindi pervade the environment, leading to a flowering of a few genuine poets as well?
Today neither the fervour nor the endeavour is manifest in the language of the young men having Hindi as their mother tongue. The grammatical errors occurring in the Hindi of the young men of U.P. and Bihar are not at all to be seen among the Bengalis and Maharashtrians. No doubt the national language is being propagated in provinces like Madras, etc.; but I have seen that Hindi teachers are not easily available. They are not energetic and their capacity for self-sacrifice is very limited. There ought to be innumerable young men ready to dedicate themselves exclusively to the propagation of Hindi; but I have not come across such persons, if any. Undoubtedly young men are available who are eager to serve at subsistence wages, but they are not equipped to teach Hindi. If young men will it, this shortcoming can be overcome. With the initiative of a single young man this work can make progress. If one loses heart and rests on one’s oars in face of a distressing situation in a certain field, the situation deteriorates further. It is the duty of a devoted person to try to relieve the distress without delay and not sit with folded hands fearing obstacles on the way. Every school should have an association for the promotion of Hindi. It would be the duty of such associations to make progressive use of Hindi in all fields, to evolve new technical words, never to use a foreign language in politics, etc., to make a sound study of abstruse books, to provide Hindi teachers wherever necessary and to organize volunteer Hindi teachers for honorary work, etc. Even if a single young man in every school is fired with this zeal he will not stay inert but will sprout into an association and will induce his fellow-students to join it. The only way to keep up the awakening among the young men today is for them to utilize every moment of their lives for some sort of social service.”5
Father of Nation said, “It is our strange misfortune that we are not as familiar with the name “Mahasabha” as we are with the name “Congress”. When the name Mahasabha is mentioned some take it to mean the Hindu Mahasabha and others take it for some other organization. During my tour of the United Provinces when I used the word Mahasabha for Congress I was told no one would recognize Mahasabha as the Congress. This is the influence of habit. We have got into the habit of using an English word; therefore when someone uses a Hindi word we find it difficult to understand. Therefore, even though it is a rule that only the Hindi language should be used in the Mahasabha, it is English that is largely used. The Mahasabha notices are generally printed in English. In the Mahasabha office too English is generally used. Correspondence is carried on in English. In the lanes of Lajpat Nagar1 wherever one looked, one found only English signboards. All this is lamentable. But the remedy for this malady is not rigorous enforcement of the rules. The remedy is love for the national language in the masses and the resultant effort. If the public wishes, it can insist on all the business of the Mahasabha being transacted in Hindi. The fact is, there is neither sufficient awakening nor enthusiasm nor love for their language in the masses.”6
Gandhi told, “On behalf of you all and on my own behalf I thank the Maharaja Saheb for declaring this session open. I consider it my good fortune that when I last came to Indore to preside over another session of the Sammelan, Your Highness was the Crown Prince. It was as Crown Prince that you had opened the proceedings of that Sammelan and now as the Maharaja you have performed the same office for this Sammelan. You have all heard the speech of His Highness and so have I, most attentively. If I can give anything in return for it, it can only be my thanks. If the sentiments that the Maharaja Saheb has expressed for the Hindi language are to be acted upon all over India, then Maharajas like His Highness will also have to do some real work. As the Chairman of the Reception Committee has recalled in his speech, when the 8th session of the Sammelan was held in Indore, Your Highness had donated Rs. 10,000 for the propagation of Hindi. I sincerely hope that in the same manner now, in order to fulfill the request made by the Reception Committee, full help will be forthcoming. I consider it our good fortune that while Your Highness then gave help as the Crown Prince, now Your Highness will be doing so as the Maharaja. Our millionaire Seth Hukumchandji is also present here. He garlanded me this morning. Although the garland was of yarn, it’s worth is the worth of the person who garlands. Rai Bahadur Dr. Sarjuprasadji is also present here. He is ill, and, like all of you, I feel sorry about it. There is no question of his lacking in love for the Hindi language or the Sammelan. I have full confidence that whatever has to be done will meet with success. In spite of this, there is some commotion in the Hindi world. I had had an inkling of it in Wardha and after coming here I have understood the situation more fully. It is not still known how this commotion started. It is not true that the spread of Hindi in South India is not connected in any way with the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan; because that work is an inalienable part of the work of Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. The Hindi Sahitya Sammelan is the mother or the father, whatever you may choose to call it, of Hindi Prachar in South India. If it were not so, it would have been impossible for 6,00,000 people in South India to have learnt to speak or write Hindi as they do. For this spread of Hindi thanks are due to Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. No thanks are due to me for this; because whatever I did I did as President of the Sammelan. There was nothing personal in it. I can say this much that, propagation of Hindi is an inalienable part of the work of the Sammelan. If the Sahitya Sammelan should concern itself only with the growth of literature and not propagate Hindi, how can Hindi become the national language? Yes, it is our bounden duty to promote the growth of literature, but growth of literature cannot make Hindi the national language. Bengali is rich in literature, so rich that no other language can stand comparison with it. Marathi occupies the second place in literature. Hindi would perhaps be placed third or even fourth. Even that I doubt. But Hindi is spoken by a majority of people and it is an easy language to learn and to read, and therefore only Hindi has a claim to becoming the national language. If the propagation of Hindi were not a part of the work of the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, then a person like me would be unfit to be its President, because I have done nothing for Hindi literature. I wanted to read out my written address, but speakers put up resolutions and took up the time. It was pointless to move resolutions because no one could snatch away my rights. The programme of the Sammelan will continue only for a few minutes. So, I wish to end this session by 7.30. From the point of view of Hindi literature I am most unsuited as President. Of the few girls that are present here, many have passed Prathama and are preparing to sit for the Madhyama. Even if I sat only for the Prathama, Purushottamdasji here may not give me enough marks to pass it because I do not know grammar. I have not the least objection to agree to what Jayaswalji has said. I am not partial to the Gujarati language. I have been made the President so that, through me some work for the spread of Hindi may get done. If the criterion was qualification, then even one of the girls could have been in this chair even as was the case with Queen Victoria. The Secretary just said, “I shall do everything. You have only to assent.” That is not quite so. I have been chosen President and my condition that you will give me a lakh of rupees has been accepted so that through me Hindi Prachar should be well conducted. Poetry now has many branches. You can hear about them from poets to your hearts’ content; but through me you will hear only about the spread of Hindi because I have no mastery over other fields.”7
Mahatma Gandhi told, “Rajendra Babu has lightened my task by saying that the pracharaks should be men of character. It goes without saying that those who have not the literary qualifications would not do, but it is necessary to bear in mind that even literary qualifications would be of no use where the essential qualification of character was wanting. They will have to master the Hindi language as defined by Indore Sahitya Sammelan, i.e., the language spoken by the Hindus and Mussalmans of North India and written in Devanagari or Persian script. Mastery of this language will mean mastery not only of the easy Hindi-Hindustani spoken by the masses but also of the high flown Hindi full of Sanskrit words and the high-flown Urdu full of Persian and Arabic words. Without knowledge of these, mastery of the language would be incomplete, even as one could not claim to be master of the English language without knowledge of the English of Chaucer, Swift and Johnson, or mastery of the Sanskrit language without knowledge of the Sanskrit of Valmiki and Kalidas.
But I should be prepared to put up with their ignorance of Devanagari or Persian scripts, or ignorance of Hindi grammar, but I should not tolerate for a moment lack of character. We do not need such men here and, if there is anyone among the candidates who is not likely to stand the test, let him leave betimes. The work they are called to is no easy thing. There is a strong body of English-knowing people who say that English alone can be the lingua franca of India. There are the pundits of Benares and Allahabad and the alims of Delhi and Lucknow who want a Sanskritized Hindi and Persianized Urdu. The third group we have to contend against is that which has raised the cry of ‘provincial languages in danger’. Mere learning cannot successfully grapple with these forces. It is the work not of learned men, but of fakirs men of incorruptible character and with no axe to grind.”8
Mahatma Gandhi told, “You know, I agreed to preside over the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan at Indore in 1935 on condition that the Reception Committee should collect Rs. 1,00,000 for Hindi prachar in South India in particular and other non-Hindi Provinces in general. I was loath to accept the invitation, but Jamnalalji stood surety for the Reception Committee. The Committee failed to collect the amount; in fact it collected then practically nothing at all. But in the year following about Rs. 22,000 were collected. Jamnalalji has now contributed Rs. 25,000 from his own pocket, and he has secured a promise of Rs. 75,000 from the charities of the late Kamalapatji of Kanpur. There is thus no lack of money. But what can money do? Wardha was just a cotton centre with a few ginning factories. It is Jamnalalji’s ambiton to turn it into a cultural centre and a centre of national activities. He has, therefore, helped in bringing into being Mahila Ashram, a high school, Hindi Prachar Samiti, the present training school, the weaving school, the Village Workers’ Training School, a tannery and so on. But more than these institutions, more than money, we want character. That is what I have come this morning to ask you to contribute to this work.”9 Now we can say that Mahatma Gandhi was right. Hindi is third most popular language in the world. Everyone is praising its scientific qualities.
1. Pratap, 28-5-1917
2. Amrita Bazar Patrika, 15-1-1918
3. SPEECH AT HINDI SAHITYA SAMMELAN; INDORE, March 29, 1918
4. SPEECH AT PREPARATORY MEETING FOR HINDI; CONFERENCE, BOMBAY, Before April 18, 1919
5. Hindi Navajivan, 26-12-1929
6. Hindi Navajivan, 2-1-1930
7. SPEECH AT HINDI SAHITYA SAMMELAN, INDORE; April 20, 1935
8. SPEECH AT RASHTRABHASHA ADHYAPAN MANDIR, July 7, 1937
9. Harijan, 17-7-1937