by Vinay Lal 

A minimal familiarity with the outlines of Gandhi’s life might be acquired by consulting any one of the following biographies:   Geoffrey Ashe, Gandhi (New York, 1969); Judith Brown, Gandhi:  Prisoner of Hope (Yale, 1990): Louis Fischer, The Life of Mahatma Gandhi (New York, 1950); Dhananjay Keer, Mahatma Gandhi:  Political Saint and Unarmed Prophet (Bombay, 1973); B. R. Nanda, Mahatma Gandhi: A Biography (1st ed., 1958; expanded edition, New Delhi:  Oxford UP, 1981); and Robert Payne, The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi (Dutton, 1969).  This list does not indicate my endorsement of any particular biography, and you can pick up some other biography of your choice.  There are very short biographies of Gandhi as well, some of considerable merit, such as George Woodcock’s little study, Mohandas Gandhi, for the Modern Masters series (New York:  Viking Press, 1971), Catherine Clement’s Gandhi:  Father of a Nation (London:  Thames & Hudson, 1996); Bhikhu Parekh’s Gandhi (Oxford University Press, 1997); and Krishna Kripalani’s Gandhi:  A Life (1968; reprint ed., New Delhi:  National Book Trust, 1982)  In 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Indian independence, a number of new studies of Gandhi’s life were released, but the more recent biographies of Gandhi are not demonstrably better than previous ones.  For a more comprehensive account, see the 8-volume biography by D. G. Tendulkar, Mahatma:  Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (New Delhi, 1951), which has the advantage of reproducing many of Gandhi’s speeches and writings, often in their entirety, and the 4 volumes of Pyarelal’s biography, The Early Phase and The Last Phase (Ahmedabad, various years).  But Tendulkar has few insights into Gandhi’s life and thinking and is predominantly a chronicler.

Reference Material and Scholarly Studies:  A Brief Note

Constant use should be made of The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, 100 volumes (Delhi: Government of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Publications Division, 1951-1995; this includes the supplementary volumes).  Quite handy iis Index of Subjects to the Collected Works (1988).  The three-volume anthology edited by Raghavan Iyer, The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi (New York and Delhi:  Oxford UP, 1989) is not only more manageable but is superbly edited, and except for specialists seeking to write on Gandhi at length, will suffice as a representative and thoughtful selection of Gandhi’s voluminous writings.  There are, besides, literally hundreds of anthologies of Gandhi’s writings, and in his own lifetime Navajivan Press as well as other publishers brought out collections of Gandhi’s writings on particular subjects, such as nature cure, Hindu-Muslim relations, village reconstruction, non-violence, and so on.  For a small sample, see the following booklets (and in some cases small books) of Gandhi’s thoughts on particular subjects released by Navajivan:  The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism (1959); Woman’s Role in Society (1959); Trusteeship (1960); Medium of Instruction (1954); Bapu and Children (1962); Bread Labour [The Gospel of Work] (1960); and The Message of the Gita (1959).  Among the more creative anthologies, the following readily come to mind:  Pushpa Joshi, ed., Gandhi on Women (Ahmedabad:  Navajivan Publishing House, 1998, in association with Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi; cf. the selections found in Gandhi to the Women, ed. Anand Hingorani [Delhi, 1941]); Nehru on Gandhi (New York:  John Day Company, 1942); Gandhi on Non-Violence, ed with introduction by Thomas Merton (New York:  New Directions paperback, 1964 — this is a thoughtful albeit much too brief introduction to the subject); What is Hinduism? (New Delhi:  National Book Trust for Indian Council for Historical Research, 1994).  An extremely useful survey on the anthologizing of Gandhi is to be found in Stephen Hay, “Anthologies Compiled from the Writings, Speeches, Letters, and Recorded Conversations of M. K. Gandhi”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 110, no. 4 (October-December 1990), pp. 667-76.

There are numerous bibliographies on Gandhi, but all are severely dated. Among thousands of scholarly monographs on Gandhi, the following may be consulted with some profit and pleasure — some are available in newer editions or reprints, even if not mentioned below:

Alter, Joseph S.  Gandhi’s Body:  Sex, Diet, and the Politics of Nationalism. Philadelphia:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

Ambedkar, B. R. What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables.  1945, reprint ed., Lahore, 1977.  For a contemporary rejoinder, see K. Santhanam’s Ambedkar’s Attack (New Delhi: Hindustan Times, 1946).

Bondurant, Joan.  Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict.  Rev. ed., Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.

Borman, William.  Gandhi and Non-Violence.  New York:  State University of New York Press, 1986.

Chatterjee, Margaret.  Gandhi’s Religious Thought.  University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.

Dalton, Dennis.  Mahatma Gandhi:  Nonviolent Power in Action.  New York:  Columbia University Press, 1993.

Dhavan, Gopinath.  The Political Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.  Bombay, 1946; reprint, Delhi, 1990. Extremely good for the ‘grammar’ of satyagraha.

Erikson, Erik H.  Gandhi’s Truth:  On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence.  New York:  W. W. Norton, 1969.  Psychoanalytic interpretation.

Fox, Richard.  Gandhian Utopia:  Experiments with Culture.  Boston:  Beacon Press, 1989.

Green, Martin.  The Challenge of the Mahatmas.  New York:  Basic Books, 1978.

Green, Martin.  The Origins of Nonviolence:  Tolstoy and Gandhi in their Historical Settings.  Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986.

Green, Martin. Gandhi:  Voice of a New Age Revolution.  New York:  Continuum, 1993.

Hunt, James D.  Gandhi in London.  New Delhi:  Promilla & Co., 1978.

Hutchins, Francis G.  India’s Revolution:  Gandhi and the Quit India Movement.  Cambridge, Mass.:  Harvard UP, 1973.

Iyer, Raghavan. The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi.  New York:  Oxford Univ. Press, 1973.  Perhaps the single best study of a conventional sort of Gandhian thought.

Jordens, J. T. F.  Gandhi’s Religion:  A Homespun Shawl.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press; London:  Macmillan, 1998.

Juergensmeyer, Mark.  Fighting with Gandhi.  New York, 1984.

Kapur, Sudarshan.  Raising Up a Prophet:  The African-American Encounter with Gandhi.  Boston:  Beacon Press, 1992.

Khanna, Suman.  Gandhi and the Good Life.  New Delhi:  Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1985.

Kishwar, Madhu.  Gandhi and Women.  Delhi:  Manushi Prakashan, 1986.  [First published in two successive issues of the Economic and Political Weekly 20, nos. 40-41 (1985).]

Nanda, B. R.  Gandhi and His Critics.  Delhi:  Oxford UP, 1985.

Parekh, Bhikhu.  Colonialism, Tradition and Reform:  An Analysis of Gandhi’s Political Discourse.  New Delhi:  Sage, 1989.

Parekh, Bhikhu.  Gandhi’s Political Philosophy:  A Critical Examination.  London:  Macmillan, 1989; reprint ed., Columbus, Missouri:  South Asia Books, 1996.

Patel, Jehangir P. and Marjorie Sykes, Gandhi: The Gift of the Fight.  Rasulia, Madhya Pradesh:  Friends Rural Centre, 1987.  Anecdotal rather than scholarly but very insightful.

Pinto, Vivek.  Gandhi’s Vision and Values:  The Moral Quest for Change in Indian Agriculture.  New Delhi:  Sage, 1998.

Pouchepadass, Jacques.  Champaran and Gandhi:  Planters, Peasants and Gandhian Politics.  New Delhi:  Oxford UP, 1999.  [Compare: Rajendra Prasad, Satyagraha in Champaran (2nd ed., Ahmedabad:  Navajivan Publishing House, 1949) and D. G. Tendulkar, Gandhi in Champaran (New Delhi:  Publications Division, Government of India, 1957).]

Prasad, Nageshwar, ed. Hind Swaraj:  A Fresh Look.  Delhi:  Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1985.

Rao, K. L. Seshagiri.  Mahatma Gandhi and Comparative Religion.  New Delhi:  Motilal Banarsidass, 1978.

Swan, Maureen. Gandhi:  The South African Experience.  Johannesburg:  Ravan Press, 1985.  Critical of Gandhi but not wholly persuasive.

Terchek, Ronald J.  Gandhi:  Struggling for Autonomy.  Lanham, Maryland:  Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.  A study with a more expansive conception of Gandhian politics than ordinarily encountered in the literature.