Vinoba Bhave is a famous Indian social worker, Gandhian, and leader of the Bhoodan movement. He was also a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi and played an important role in the Indian struggle for independence from Britain.
Born on 31 October 1895 in Maharashtra State, Vinoba spent most of his life in rural India and developed considerable influence as an educator, writer, and thinker. As president of the Bhoodan movement, he persuaded many landowners to donate their land to poor farmers; he also established a network of village republics which became models for rural development initiatives throughout India.
About Vinoba Bhave
Vinoba Bhave was born on 31 October 1895 in a poor farmer’s family in Hiwarkhed, a small village in Rahata taluka of Buldhana district, Maharashtra. His father was Dhondo and his mother was Bhubaneshwar. At the age of 11, he had to discontinue his formal education because his father could no longer afford to pay for his schooling. He worked as an assistant teacher at a small school for three years after which he moved to Paunar where he taught at a local school until 1917.
Vinoba Bhave was attracted to Mahatma Gandhi’s constructive programs and started working with him in 1920 as his secretary.
Life of Bhave
Vinoba Bhave was born on October 31, 1895 in a farmer’s family in Hiwarkhed, Buldana district (Maharashtra). He was the second child of Dhondo and Bhubaneshwar Bhave. At the age of 11 he had to discontinue his formal education as his father could no longer afford to pay for his schooling.
After dropping out of school, Vinoba Bhave worked as an assistant teacher at a small school in Paunar. Later, he moved to nearby Gondiya where he taught at a school till 1917.
Bhave received no formal education. However, he picked up some knowledge from the people around him and had to do some manual work for livelihood after leaving school. A few years later, he became BA from Paunar and MA from Dabhade (Sursand) in 1917. He got married on July 24, 1918, at Basevathar taluka of Buldhana District (Maharashtra).
Vinoba Bhave joined Mahatma Gandhi’s dal as a secretary in 1920. He developed an exceptionally warm relationship with Gandhi and had a considerable influence on him. This made Vinoba Bhave one of the principal leaders of the Dandi March and was one of the principal organizers of Satyagraha for Swaraj.
In 1930, Vinoba Bhave established the International Society for Farm Colonies (ISFC) in Washington, D.C., with the objective to take up land reform movements on a worldwide scale. He established connections with many like-minded people around the world by joining them for supporting farmers and land development programs.
Bhave was imprisoned several times during the freedom struggle and spent 41 months in jail. He participated in Satyagraha and hunger strike several times. He also served in the Indian Army during 1942-1944 in World War II.
Bhave proposed the Bhoodan (Land Gift) movement to Mahatma Gandhi on 24 May 1951, who accepted it after some initial hesitation. This movement urged rich landlords to donate their surplus land to the landless poor farmers. It was one of the major campaigns of Gandhi’s last days and he saw great potential in it for promoting brotherhood among people as well as economic equality among them.
Religious and social work
After Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, Vinoba Bhave was the principal leader of the Non-Cooperation movement in India. He established two organizations to execute non-cooperation campaigns against British rule: “Indian Council for Gandhian Studies” (ICGS) and “Hanuman Kovil”, which continues to be active.
The social reform movement
In 1952, Vinoba Bhave established the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (Farmers’ Movement), an organization for the rural development and social rehabilitation of India’s peasants. It called for the complete privatization of agricultural land and promoted the farm colony system, in which farmers manage their own farms. He also established “Save India”, a newspaper for rural development and national integration.
Vinoba Bhave also established “Shiromani Grahak Panchayat” (SGPC) as an apex organization of all movements for rural development in the country.
Brahma Vidya Mandir
Vinoba Bhave established Brahma Vidya Mandir, an educational institute in Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh, in 1957. It was based on his philosophy of integrated education as a mean of achieving self-sufficiency in agricultural production and other developmental goals.
He published the monthly Hindi magazine “Brahmavidya” which has brought together many intellectuals and thinkers.
Vinoba Bhave has written a large number of books, including Mahatma Gandhi and his times, Panchayati Raj that was published in 1955 and translated into 20 languages. He wrote a comprehensive commentary on the Bhagavat Gita called the Bhagavadgeeta – A New Translation.
Land Donation Movement
The land donation movement has resulted in the redistribution of about one million acres (4,000 km²) of land. Today, some of India’s biggest and most active rural development programs have become possible because of land donations from landlords.
His wife Savitri Bhave died in August 1973. In 1974, he married Indumati Pande — a freedom fighter in her own right who was also one of Mahatma Gandhi’s companions during the Salt March in 1930.
Awards and honor
In 1970, he was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.
After a long illness marked by repeated strokes, Vinoba Bhave died on January 8, 1982 in Mumbai. He was cremated in Gondia in the Shrimad Rajchandra Mandir.
His last words were: “Don’t be afraid of death; there is nothing to be afraid of.”
Vinoba Bhave is fondly remembered as Gurudev and Swami Ji throughout India and abroad.
Vinoba Bhave died on 15 November 1997 at 11 AM at New Delhi after a heart attack.
The day of his death is celebrated as Vinobha Divas (the festival of Vinoba Bhave) by many school and college students in India.