Narayan Desai

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At Vedchhi, January 2007 Narayan Desai face.jpg
At Vedchhi, January 2007

Narayan Desai (24 December 1924 – 15 March 2015) was an Indian Gandhian and author.


Early life

The son of Mahatma Gandhi's personal secretary and biographer Mahadev Desai, [1] he was born in Bulsar (now Valsad), Gujarat on 24 December 1924. [2] Brought up in Gandhi's Ashram in Sabarmati, Ahmedabad and Sevagram near Wardha, Narayan stopped attending school to be educated and trained by his father and other residents of the Ashram. He specialized in basic education, spinning and weaving khadi. [3]

Mahatma Gandhi Pre-eminent leader of Indian nationalism during British-ruled India

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian activist who was the leader of the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahātmā was applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa – is now used worldwide. In India, he was also called Bapu, a term that he preferred and Gandhi ji, and is known as the Father of the Nation.

Mahadev Desai Indian independence activist, writer and Mahatma Gandhis personal secretary

Mahadev Desai was an Indian independence activist and writer best remembered as Mahatma Gandhi's personal secretary. He has variously been described as "Gandhi's Boswell, a Plato to Gandhi's Socrates, as well as an Ananda to Gandhi's Buddha".

Gujarat State in India

Gujarat is a state on the western coast of India with a coastline of 1,600 km (990 mi) – most of which lies on the Kathiawar peninsula – and a population in excess of 60 million. It is the sixth largest Indian state by area and the ninth largest state by population. Gujarat is bordered by Rajasthan to the northeast, Daman and Diu to the south, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Maharashtra to the southeast, Madhya Pradesh to the east, and the Arabian Sea and the Pakistani province of Sindh to the west. Its capital city is Gandhinagar, while its largest city is Ahmedabad. The Gujarati-speaking people of India are indigenous to the state. The economy of Gujarat is the fifth-largest state economy in India with 14.96 lakh crore (US$210 billion) in gross domestic product and a per capita GDP of 157,000 (US$2,200).

Initial years

After his marriage to Uttara Chaudhury, daughter of freedom fighter parents, Nabakrushna Chaudhury and Malatidevi Chaudhury, the young couple moved to Vedchhi, a tribal village 60 km from Surat in Gujarat, to work as teachers in a Nai Taleem school. Following the Bhoodan movement launched by Vinoba Bhave, Narayan traversed through the length and breadth of Gujarat, by foot, collecting land from the rich and distributing the same among the poor landless villagers. He started the mouthpiece of Bhoodan movement, titled Bhoomiputra (Son of the Soil) and remained its editor till 1959. [2]

Surat Metropolis in Gujarat, India

Surat is a city in the Indian state of Gujarat. It used to be a large seaport and is now a center for diamond cutting and polishing. It is the eighth largest city and ninth largest urban agglomeration in India. It is the administrative capital of the Surat district. The city is located 284 kilometres (176 mi) south of the state capital, Gandhinagar; 265 kilometres (165 mi) south of Ahmedabad; and 289 kilometres (180 mi) north of Mumbai. The city centre is located on the Tapti River, close to Arabian Sea.

The Bhoodan Movement or Land Gift Movement, was a voluntary land reform movement in India, started by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1951 at Pochampally village which is now in Telangana, India and known as Bhoodan Pochampally.

Vinoba Bhave Indian advocate of nonviolence and human rights

Vinayak Narahari "Vinoba" Bhave was an Indian advocate of nonviolence and human rights. Often called Acharya, he is best known for the Bhoodan Movement. He is considered as a National Teacher of India and the spiritual successor of Mohandas Gandhi. The Gita has also been translated into Marathi language by him with the name as Geetai means mother Geeta.

Practising Gandhian philosophy

Narayan joined the Akhil Bharatiya Shanti Sena Mandal (Indian Peace Brigade), founded by Vinoba and headed by veteran socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan (widely known as "JP"). As the general secretary of the Shanti Sena, [4] Narayan recruited and trained peace volunteers throughout the country who intervened during ethnic conflicts and helped establish harmony among conflicting communities.

Jayaprakash Narayan an Indian independence activist and political leader, Bharat Ratna

Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly referred to as JP or Lok Nayak, was an Indian independence activist, theorist, socialist and political leader, remembered especially for leading the mid-1970s opposition against Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, for whose overthrow he called a "total revolution". His biography, Jayaprakash, was written by his nationalist friend and an eminent writer of Hindi literature, Rambriksh Benipuri. In 1999, he was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in recognition of his social work. Other awards include the Magsaysay award for Public Service in 1965.

Narayan was involved in the setting up of Peace Brigades International and was elected as the chairman of the War Resisters' International. He along with a Pakistani peace group were awarded the UNESCO prize for International Peace.

Peace Brigades International (PBI) is a non-governmental organization founded in 1981 which "protects human rights and promotes non-violent transformation of conflicts". It primarily does this by sending international volunteers to areas of conflict, who then provide protective, non-violent accompaniment to members of human rights organizations, unions, peasant groups and others that are threatened by political violence. PBI also facilitates other peace-building initiatives within conflict countries. They are a “nonpartisan” organization that does not interfere with the affairs of those they accompany.

War Resisters International organization

War Resisters' International (WRI), headquartered in London, is an international anti-war organisation with members and affiliates in over 30 countries.

Narayan was active in the campaign against the imposition of emergency in India and brought out a magazine defying the censorship laws. As a close associate of JP, Narayan played an important role in helping the newly formed Janata Party, a conglomeration of major non-Congress political parties in India, arrive at a consensus on the name of Morarji Desai as the Prime Minister.

The Janata Party was an amalgam of Indian political parties opposed to the Emergency that was imposed between 1975 and 1977 by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of the Indian National Congress. In the 1977 general election, the party defeated the Congress and Janata leader Morarji Desai became the first non-Congress prime minister in independent modern India's history.

Morarji Desai Former Prime Minister of India and freedom fighter

Morarji Ranchhodji Desai was an Indian independence activist and served between 1977 and 1979 as the 4th Prime Minister of India and led the government formed by the Janata Party. During his long career in politics, he held many important posts in government such as Chief Minister of Bombay State, Home Minister, Finance Minister and 2nd Deputy Prime Minister of India.

Following JP's death, Narayan moved to Vedchhi and set up the Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya (Institute for Total Revolution). The Institute imparts training in non-violence and Gandhian way of life. Narayan, as a way of paying tribute to his father, Mahadev Desai, wrote a four-volume biography of Gandhi in Gujarati, a dream his father could not fulfil in his lifetime because of his sudden death in prison on 15 August 1942.

He recited 'Gandhi-Katha'(narratives on the life of Mahatma Gandhi) across the world starting 2004. The biography was written in four volumes containing 2000 pages. After completing Gandhi's biography he thought that very few people would buy this book due to its volume and high price. He thought of a novel idea for spreading Gandhi's message. He started Gandhi Katha. Like Ramayan and Bhagwat katha he started Gandhi Katha. For seven days X 3 hours he narrated the life and thought of Gandhi. He also sang songs written and composed by him during katha. His katha depended on audience. To some he would tell about Gandhi's political activities and to the executives he would tell about the leadership and management skill of Gandhi. This katha telling disperse many wrong perception about Mahatma prevailing in the minds of public. He also narrated many unpublished and unknown incidents of the life of Gandhi. This katha was very popular in India and overseas. It is to be noted that he took this venture of Katha telling at the age of 81. He served as Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith since 23 July 2007, but resigned from the post in November 2014. [2]


He slipped into coma on 10 December 2014 but later recovered and spun charkha. He had difficulties in daily activities and was on liquid diet. He died on 15 March 2015 at Mahavir Trauma Centre, Surat. He was cremated at Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya (Institute for Total Revolution) at Vedchhi on the same day. [2]


Narayan was accorded the Sahitya Akademi Award for Gujarati in 1993 for the biography of his father Mahadev Desai he wrote as part of the centenary celebrations of Gandhi's close aide. Earlier, Narayan's book about his childhood reminiscences of Gandhi too had won the Sahitya Academy Award.

He was awarded the Jamnalal Bajaj Award in 1999 [5] and the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence in 1998 "for his tireless work in favour of the promotion ofinter-religious and inter-ethnic understanding, tolerance and harmony and his achievements in the education and training for non-violence and peace, as well as anti-nuclear activism." [6]

He also received Ranjitram Suvarna Chandrak, the highest award of Gujarati literature, in 2001. He was also awarded Narmad Suvarna Chandrak in 1989 for his Gujarati work Agnikundma Ugelu Gulab.

Desai won the 18th Moortidevi Award for the year 2004, given by Bharatiya Jnanpith, for his famous work ‘Maroon Jeewan Aj Mari Vaani’, which is based upon the life, philosophy and work of Mahatma Gandhi.

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  1. Pandiri, Ananda M. (2007). A Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography on Mahatma Gandhi. Westport CT: Praeger. p. 35. ISBN   9780313253379.
  2. 1 2 3 4 PTI (15 March 2015). "Noted Gandhian Narayan Desai passes away". The Economic Times. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  3. "Narayan Desai passes away". DeshGujarat. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  4. Hardiman, David (2003). Gandhi in His Time and Ours: The Global Legacy of his Ideas. London: Hurst. p. 192. ISBN   1850657122.
  5. "Jamnalal Bajaj Awards Archive". Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.
  6. "UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence (2009)" (PDF). UNESCO. 2009.