The Gandhi charkha at Congress
A notable artefact from the museum of Japanese member group Ittoen served as symbol of our 33rd Congress .
Known as the charkha, it is an Indian form of the hand-powered cotton-spinning wheel. This specimen is of the ‘tabletop’ or ‘floor’ type, and its history relates directly to the Mahatma Gandhi (for its history, see the bottom of this page).
As such it seemed the perfect symbol for a congress with the theme ‘Beyond Conflict, to Reconciliation’,
since Gandhiji had made the charkha a symbol of the pacifist Indian independence movement.
This charkha was also the perfect complement to our great good fortune in having another global religious icon and contemporary spokesman for peace & reconciliation, the 14th Dalai Lama, attend our gathering to give the Inaugural Address.
His Holiness was invited to spin a few threads on the wheel after he had spoken in his address of the need for urgent resolution of the growing rich-poor divide in today’s world.
Video link: HH the Dalai Lama spins thread on Gandhi’s charkha
Thereafter, other Congress dignitaries & participants also had the opportunity to operate the hand-powered machine that for Gandhi represented his hopes for world development: low-tech, sustainable cottage industries with a foundation in the spiritual traditions of peoples.
Brief history of the Charkha
This charkha was originally gifted to Ms.Tomi Kora, a member of Japan’s Diet, a votary of Gandhism and a translator of the poetry of Sir Rabindranath Tagore. She visited Gandhi at Wardha in India in 1936 while he was confined to bed. She talked with him awhile, and then was given this charkha, and learned spinning from him. She brought back the charkha to Japan, and treasured it.
After World War II she served her term in the House of Councillors, where she met and served alongside Tenko Nishida, the founder of Ittoen. She found him to be a person who most completely embodied the spirit of Gandhi’s ahimsa, and therefore the most suitable guardian of the memorial relic. Therefore the charkha, along with a bust of Gandhi gifted by one of his sons, was donated to Ittoen on the 30th of January 1959, in a ceremony at the Ittoen worship hall that was attended by the intelligence officer of the Indian Embassy, Prof. Sandip Tagore, a nephew of Sir Rabindranath.