The Mahatma’s Musical Muse – Satyen Bordoloi

Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite song, ‘Vaishnav Jan To’ (The Man of God) by Narsingh Mehta, sums up his entire life’s philosophy: “A man of god is he who feels another’s pain, who benefits others despite personal loss without letting pride enter his mind, who bows to everyone and criticises no one, who keeps his words, action and mind pure – blessed is the mother of such a person…”

Mahatma Gandhi, whose life is an epitome of penance, right conduct and right living, imposed severe restrictions on himself. Yet, for all his severity, there was one art form for which he had the utmost regard – music.


It wouldn’t be wrong to claim that music was the source of his strength and inspiration. Day after day he would sit in rapt attention, listening to his favourite hymns, soaking in their words, finding the strength to fight for the nation and its people. He would sit in rapt attention as singers from across the country regaled him with songs of sacrifice and devotion, of welfare of others, changing the very atmosphere of the place they were situated in.

The words – e.g. in the song ‘Vaishnava Jan To’ – often remained the same, but the beats changed. Some sang it slowly, others to a fast, heady tempo while a few others who varied the tempo to the energy of the words. The Mahatma would sit listening to each rendition, meditating on the words and getting lost in the singer’s voice and the music.

Mahadev Desai – the Mahatma’s shadow from 1917 till his death in 1942 – recounts a very interesting incident in his diary from January 1924.

Dilip Kumar Roy, a distinguished and well renowned singer of his time, visited the Mahatma one evening. He had with him his sitar and sitting opposite the Mahatma’s bed, he began singing songs of devotion that filled everyone with a blissful ecstasy.

After the performance, Mr. Roy talked of art. “I feel, Mahatmaji”, he said, “that our beautiful music has been sadly neglected in our schools and colleges.”

“It has – unfortunately”, Bapu agreed, “I have always said so.”

“I am very glad to hear this, Mahatmaji, because, to be frank, I was under the impression that art has no place in the gospel of your austere life. I had often pictured you as a dread saint who was positively against music.”

“Against music – I” exclaimed Mahatmaji, as though stung. “Well, I know, I know,” he added resignedly, “there are so many superstitions rife about me that it has now become almost impossible for me to overtake those who have been spreading them. As a result, my friends’ only reaction is almost invariably a smile when I claim I am an artist myself.”

Going through a collection of songs/hymns/prayers and the number of groups that he heard in his lifetime, we have to call Gandhi a man of refined and varied musical tastes. However, one point remained constant: he believed in music for action, for peace and for change – change that is both within and out.

Gandhi Peace Festival

It is hence apt that one pays tribute to Mahatma on his 146th birthday through an assortment of songs across musical genres. That is what the Gandhi Peace Festival 2015 intends to do. Organised by a motley group of volunteers under the Bombay Rock Association, the Festival – to be held at Bandra Amphitheatre, Banstand from 6 PM of 2nd October – promises to be an evening of Harmony, Music and Love with a delightful mix of pop, folk and rock music.

True to the democratic nature of the Mahatma, the festival is happening because of the generous donations of well-wishers. There are people who have contributed thousands and there are those who have contributed hundreds. No amount is small for the cause.

The Mahatma shuddered that people thought him to be anti-music. It is time to change that perception and the Gandhi Peace Festival 2015 is one small-big step in that direction.

It is time to create peace with music! The bands that will mesmerize you and promise to make you feel at peace are-

  • 7th Aayam
  • Swaang
  • Manish J Tipu’s Neo Gharana

and last but not least

  • Neeraj Arya’s Kabir Cafe

Follow this space for interviews of each of the bands! That will be coming soon!

 (If you  believe in peace and think music makes this world a better place please spread the word around. Please make generous donations. BRA doesn’t have any sponsors so far.  They have collected a lakh and a half with individual donations so far. They need at least Eight Lakhs more.

If you believe in the cause and wish to donate contact-


(Please also help by writing about it on Facebook and Twitter.  )

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