Vinoba Bhave, also known as Acharya Vinoba Bhave, stands as an iconic figure in India's history, celebrated for his tireless advocacy of nonviolence, human rights, and his pivotal role in the Bhoodan Movement. Often referred to as the "National Teacher of India" and the spiritual successor to Mahatma Gandhi, his life and work have left an indelible mark on the nation's conscience.
Born on 11th September 1895 in the serene village of Gagoji, which is now known as Gagode Budruk in Kolaba, Maharashtra, Vinoba Bhave was the eldest son of Narahari Shambhu Rao and Rukmani Devi. Growing up in a family with a rationalist and modern outlook, he was deeply influenced by his grandfather, Shamburao Bhave, and his religious mother, Rukmini Devi. His spiritual journey was ignited when he encountered the Bhagavad Gita at a young age.
A turning point in his life came in 1916 when he read about Mahatma Gandhi's speech at Banaras Hindu University. Inspired by Gandhi's words, Vinoba Bhave made a significant decision; he threw his school and college certificates into a fire en route to Bombay for his intermediate examination. He corresponded with Gandhi, ultimately leading to their meeting at Kochrab Ashram in Ahmedabad on 7th June 1916. From that moment, he abandoned formal education to immerse himself in Gandhi's constructive programs, including Khadi, village industries, new education (Nai Talim), sanitation, and hygiene.
Vinoba Bhave was actively associated with Mahatma Gandhi in the Indian independence movement. He resided at Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram in a cottage named "Vinoba Kutir." His profound understanding of the Bhagavad Gita led to his series of discourses on the text, which were later compiled into the book "Talks on the Gita." These talks not only resonated within the ashram but found an audience far beyond India's borders.
In 1940, Vinoba Bhave was chosen by Mahatma Gandhi to be the first individual Satyagrahi, symbolising the pursuit of truth through nonviolent resistance, standing against British rule. His unswerving commitment to celibacy, inspired by the principle of Brahmacharya, earned him the admiration and respect from Gandhi. He was an active participant in the Quit India Movement and was arrested multiple times in the 1920s and 1930s for leading nonviolent protests against British colonial rule.
Vinoba Bhave's religious philosophy was both inclusive and synthesising. He drew inspiration from various religions and incorporated their truths into his outlook. His hymn "Om Tat Sat" embraced symbols from diverse faiths, reflecting his belief in the unity of all religions and his vision of victory for the world.
The foundation of his Sarvodaya (welfare of all) movement lay in his close observation of the life of ordinary Indians in rural communities. He aimed to find solutions to the problems they faced, firmly grounded in spirituality. The Bhoodan Movement, launched in 1951 at Pochampally, was one of his seminal contributions. Under this movement, he walked across India, asking landowners to donate a part of their land to the landless poor. His commitment to nonviolence and compassion was also evident in his campaign against the slaughter of cows.
Vinoba Bhave was not only a social reformer but also a prolific writer, translator, and scholar. He translated several Sanskrit texts into languages accessible to the common people. With command over numerous languages, including Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, English, and Sanskrit, he could bridge the gap between classical texts and the contemporary world.
He was the translator of the Bhagavad Gita into Marathi and revered this text as the very breath of his life. His literary contributions extended to critiques and introductions of religious and philosophical works, such as those of Adi Shankaracharya, the Bible, and the Quran.
Vinoba Bhave's legacy continues to inspire generations. He is celebrated for his dedication to nonviolence, spirituality, and social upliftment. In recognition of his selfless service, he was posthumously honoured with the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in 1983.
Vinoba Bhave's life, marked by asceticism and unwavering commitment to justice and peace, serves as a testament to the power of nonviolence, compassion, and spirituality in driving social change and uplifting humanity. His teachings and actions continue to echo through the ages, inspiring a more humane and equitable world.