DVG's Traditional Wisdom and Gandhi's Whimsical Leadership

This article is part 11 of 12 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

Drawing from history, DVG[1] says,

Before the advent of the British in India, what was the system which united the king and the citizens in our kingdoms? The answer is this: in those days, there was no cleavage between the two. The individual could directly question the king. The king ruled with the fear that the citizens would revolt if he ill-treated them.  

Mohandas Gandhi was blind to or perhaps willfully ignored these positive and life-affirming elements in our traditional systems of political organization. At one level, it seems incredible that Gandhi did not bother to ask himself a fundamental question: how was it that these systems had endured for hundreds of years even up to his own day, in the selfsame Princely States that he relentlessly condemned?

Note: For a near-comprehensive discussion of DVG’s critiques and essays on these topics, the reader is referred to the reading list[2] in footnote 22.

Whimsical Leadership

However, in historical hindsight, it is quite accurate to state that Gandhi’s behavior in this instance was typical of his leadership of the freedom movement: whimsical, short-sighted, erratic, and largely a failure. We find an echo of this in R.C. Majumdar[3] as well.

Gandhi was lacking in both political wisdom and political strategy…and far from being infallible, committed serious blunders, one after another, in pursuit of some Utopian ideals and methods which had no basis in reality.

The same Mohandas Gandhi had earlier extolled Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV as a “Rajarshi” and his Mysore Princely State as a Rama Rajya. Therefore, this is a pertinent instance as any to examine Gandhi’s notion of Rama Rajya given the fact that he found it perfectly fine (or politically expedient) to provoke his Congress party to agitate against and overthrow his self-described Rama Rajya of Mysore.

The Rama Rajya of Mohandas Gandhi and D.V. Gundappa

[1] By Rama Rajya I do not mean Hindu Raj. I mean by Rama Rajya Divine Raj, the Kingdom of God. For me Rama and Rahim are one and the same deity. I acknowledge no other God but the one God of truth and righteousness. [4]

[2] My conception of Rama Rajya excludes the replacement of the British army by a national army of occupation. A country that is governed by even its national army can never be morally free…[5]

[3] The withdrawal of British power does not mean Rama Rajya. How can it happen when we have all along been nursing violence in our hearts?[6]

[4] If you want to see God in the form of Rama Rajya… You have to magnify your own faults a thousand fold and shut your eyes to the faults of your neighbours. [7]

Mohandas Gandhi’s own words cited above are the clearest contrast to DVG’s vision of Rama Rajya, which has been outlined earlier in this chapter. It is quite evident that a detailed explanation or commentary on Gandhi’s notions of Rama Rajya is unnecessary. The most charitable thing that could be said about it is that it is unrealistic and muddled. And extremely fatal in practice.

Like his views on most topics of human activity, Gandhi’s Rama Rajya was an extension of his personal experiments with truth. This is perfectly fine except for the fact that he insisted that the entire society/country follow it for their own good. His words quoted previously also resonate with what the late Christopher Hitchens[8] observed, that “Gandhi cannot escape culpability for being the only major preacher of appeasement who never changed his mind.” In summary, Gandhi’s Rama Rajya leans heavily towards and is inspired by the fundamentalist idea of the Christian Kingdom of God than Valmiki’s description of Rama Rajya.

D.V. Gundappa had clearly seen through the doctrine of Christianity in practice and had a healthy contempt[9] for the inherent arrogance in the grand notions of “saving souls” and so on. DVG’s exposition of Rama Rajya did not stem from a mere intellectual understanding of the ideal. He had internalized not just Valmiki and his immortal epic but drew from the inexhaustible Sanatana treasure. While Gandhi saw the need to explicitly state that his Rama Rajya was not a “Hindu Raj,” DVG had no need for such labels.

Gandhi’s Rama Rajya and indeed, his devotion towards revered heroes like Harishchandra, Rama, and so on were merely sentimental. This is also the reason that Gandhi selectively quoted from the real masters and the cultural legacy of Bharatavarsha such as Valmiki, Vyasa, and Krishna. In Gandhi’s Rama Rajya, there is no place for Dharma in its widest and deepest possible meaning and application. Therefore there is no place for Moksha as well in Gandhi’s Rama Rajya because his ideal state is one where all citizens are engaged in a lifelong quest of a perfect moral order not just in their own country but the entire world. Given this sort of a quest after illusion, there is also no place or even the possibility for Rasananda in Gandhi’s Rama Rajya. In direct contrast, DVG includes[10] “leisure for the cultivation of the mind and the spirit” in the “minimal requisites” of a robust and healthy state. DVG’s Rama Rajya admits the critical questioning of even Rama, and firmly declaims against narrow sentimentalists[11] in public life.

To be continued


  1. D V Gundappa: Rajyashastra, Rajyanga—DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013) p. 493
  2. D.V. Gundappa: DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5: Rajyashastra, Rajyanga (Govt of Karnataka, 2013). List of essays: (i) Purvacharitreya Rupada Pithike (ii)Uttarabaddha Rajya (iii) Badalavane (iv)Jawabdari Sarakarada Chalavali Brahmanana Pituriyalli (v) Congress Mattu Bharatiya Samsthanagalu (vi) Namma Jawabdari Sarkara Hege Saaguttide?
  3. R.C. Majumdar: Preface: History of the Freedom Movement in India: Vol 3 (Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay) p. xix
  4. M.K. Gandhi: Young India, 19 September 1929, p. 305
  5. M.K. Gandhi: Harijan, 5 May 1946, p. 116
  6. M.K. Gandhi: Harijan, 3 August 1947, p. 262
  7. M.K. Gandhi: Harijan, 26 October 1947, p. 387
  8. Christopher Hitchens: The Real Mahatma Gandhi: Questioning the moral heroism of India’s most revered figure: The Atlantic, July/August 2011
  9. See for example, DVG’s note in this regard in his essay titled, Nanna Atmagurugalu Narasimhamurthy in his Jnapakachitrashale volumes.
  10. D.V. Gundappa: Towards a New World Order, Indian Institute of World Culture, B.P. Wadia Memorial Lecture, p. 7
  11. DVG’s classic musical narrative poem, Sri Rama Parikshanam [The Trial of Sri Rama] as the title suggests, is one such questioning of Rama. The two appendixes at the end of the work are deeply instructive in the context of DVG’s ideal and goal of Rama Rajya.     




Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.