This year marks the 150th birth anniversary of M.K. Gandhi. The significance of the Mahatma, as he is known, has been discussed and debated in several publications and public functions throughout 2019. This issue of Marg brings to the fore the lesser-known subject of Gandhi's engagement with aesthetics; aesthetics both as a quest for beauty and as a set of principles underlying personal practice.
A prolific writer, Gandhi's conceptual understanding of art combined the ideas of truth, utility and beauty. He wrote: "We have been taught to believe that what is beautiful need not be useful and what is useful cannot be beautiful. I want to show that what is useful can also be beautiful." The essays here are by leading scholars who closely study Gandhi's habits, beliefs and thoughts that formed the bedrock of his Satyagraha--silence, spinning, prayer and walking. The material expression of his ideas through the process of "making" in art, architecture, music, clothing and footwear are highlighted. The formal qualities of his writing in Hindi and the creation of his prayer booklets are critically analysed, even as they are read within the historical context that lays bare the political exigencies of that time.
The figure and profile of Gandhi along with his ubiquitous wireframe spectacles, are today the most disseminated symbols, used across a variety of products and services ranging from currency notes to sanitation programmes. The proliferation of this image in popular visual culture from the 1930s onwards is examined, as is the ongoing engagement of contemporary artists with his form and values.
In a deeply divided society marked by increasingly widespread violence, how do we reclaim the idea of Gandhi beyond the political uses to which he is put, even as his legacy comes to be hotly contested and debated? What relevance can the subject of Gandhian aesthetics hold for the times we find ourselves in? We hope that this magazine which throws light on Gandhi's finely calibrated aesthetics of the self and its relationship to society will serve as a site of inspiration and a resource for contemporary living.