The Gandhian Philosophy and Ideals: The Satyagraha

Mahatma Gandhi, as we all know was the cornerstone of the Indian National Movement. He was a leader who led the victory of independence over the British Raj through movements with a preponderance of idealism. It was his philosophy which was at the foundation of such movements.

In the next series of articles, we will be throwing some light on Gandhian philosophy and ideals and how these laid the foundation of the movements led by him. The first such ideal is Satyagraha.



  • Derived from two words,
    • “Satya“, which means “truth”
    • Agraha” which means “insistence
  • Thus, satyagraha means “insistence on truth”.
  • Going further in depth, here “Satya” has been derived from the Sanskrit word “sat”, a word often used in the Indian philosophy, meaning “the real”. Whatever is real is true. Real is something which can never be destroyed or annulled.
  • Thus, it is a quest for the establishment of the “sat” or the real.


  • First in South Africa.
  • In India, began from Champaran(Bihar) to save the Indigo planters from the overexploitation of the British through extortive rents.


  • It is Non-violent and Spiritual in nature.
  • According to Mahatma Gandhi, there is an organic and intrinsic relation between the principle of non-violence(ahimsa) and satyagraha.
  • The concepts of Ahimsa and Satyagraha are essentially the same.
  • Without Ahimsa or Non-violence, one cannot insist on truth because Violence or Himsa is false in nature.
  • Spiritual because it comprises of many measures  of one’s purity in thoughts, words ,and deeds.

Principles of Satyagraha Movement:

The core principles of Satyagraha movement were an amalgamation of multiple Indian philosophies . Major principles include:

  • Satya or Truth:
    • Any accomplishment made on the basis of false words, actions or beliefs can never be ever-lasting.
    • False actions also set a wrong precedent for the society and make it a hypocritical one.
    • Truth and honesty with oneself and with others acted as a binding force among the masses.
  • Ahimsa or Non-violence
    • A violent movement could not become a mass movement. This is because violent methods could be easily suppressed by the British might.
    • There is an intrinsic relation between Ahimsa and Satyagraha.
  • Aparigraha or  Non-possession:
    • Non-possession is important for cutting down the greed of possessing more so it can have a negative impact on the availability of resources and thus, may reduce the per capita availability of needs.
    • This creates a class system in the society and may lead to exploitation of the lower by the upper.
  • Brahmacharya or Chastity
    • Subduing one’s sexual desires.
    • It is very important for one’s purity which in turn is reflected in one’s actions.
    • According to Indian Philosophy, only after this can one think of achieving the ultimate.
  • Asteya or  Non-stealing:
    • Stealing shows greed of more, thus, making our life driven by wants.
    • It may lead to a society of unrest as people may become self-centric and may fulfil their wants at the cost of the needs of others.

(The above five are also the core principles of Jainism, named as, Panchamahavrata and Yama of Yoga Philosophy).

  • Fearlessness:
    • Cornerstone of the movement.
    • Britishers had enough avenues to suppress the masses.
    • But, it was the fearlessness of the leader and the masses which made it mighty for the British to tackle.
  • Eating Less:
    • Overeating may arouse carnal desires, which is against the principle of Brahmacharya.
    • Gandhi Ji often asserted the reliance on needs than wants.
  • Sarvadharmasambhava or equal respect for all religions:
    • one of the most important principles in a diverse and heterogeneous country like India.
    • Promotes tolerance and religious pluralism.
    • Promoted cohesiveness among the masses and prevented trivial communal fights.
  • Boycott of foreign(especially British) goods and assertion of Swadeshi goods:
    • It had two advantages:
      • Economic losses for the British.
      • Spirit  of self-sufficiency among the Indians.

These principles laid the foundation of the rules the Satyagrahis were needed to abide by. Also, all the activities of the satyagrahis were governed by these. A few of the rules include:

  • no use of abusive or curse words for the opponents(Satya and ahimsa).
  • no special treatment to be demanded as a prisoner(aparigraha).
  • do not insult the opponent(ahimsa).
  • voluntary submission of oneself for arrest(fearlessness).
  • no communalism(sarvadharmasambhava).
  • suffer the anger of the opponent(fearlessness).
  • obey the orders of the leaders of the opponents(Satya/ honesty).

Significance and advantages:

  • Could gather and carry on the masses for a sustained period.
  • Principle oriented and ideal, thus, lasted for long.
  • Strategically correct as a violent method could have easily have been suppressed.
  • A humane method of putting and accomplishing one’s demands.

Exemplary tool:

Satyagraha has been an exemplary tool discovered and implemented by the Mahatma. Its use was emulated in the Civil Rights Movement in South Africa(by Nelson Mandela) and America(by Martin Luther King Jr.).


  • Books:
    • The Story of “My Experiments with Truth”.
    • Hind Swaraj.
  • Others:

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