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Acharya Vinoba Bhave - Father of the Bhoodan Movement

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If a man achieves victory over this body, who in the world can exercise power over him? He who rules himself rules over the whole world – Vinoba Bhave

The father of the Bhoodan (Land Gift) Movement, a freedom fighter and spiritual leader, Vinoba Bhave was born at Gagode in Kolaba district, Maharashtra on September 11, 1895. Named Vinayak Narahari Bhave at birth, he was an ardent advocate of nonviolence and human rights and was conferred with the title of ‘Acharya’ (Revered Teacher).

Born in a pious Chitpavan Brahmin family, Vinoba was highly inspired after reading the Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharat, and Ramayan at a very early age. His father, Naraharishambhurao Bhave was a devout Hindu and his mother, Rukmini Devi who died in 1918, was a great influence on him. In his memoir, Bhave states that, "There is nothing to equal the part my mother played in shaping my mind". Specifically, her devotion and spirituality molded his personality. His two brothers, Balkoba Bhave and Shivaji Bhave, remained bachelors devoted to social work.

At a very young age Vinoba was deeply interested in Mathematics. In 1916, on his way to Mumbai to appear for the intermediate examination, Vinoba Bhave put his school and college certificates into a fire. It is believed that Vinoba took the decision after reading a newspaper article by Mahatma Gandhi. After a series of exchange of letters between Gandhi and Bhave, on 7 June, 1916 Vinoba went to meet Gandhi. Five years later, on 8 April, 1921, Vinoba went to Wardha to take charge of a Gandhi-ashram there. During his stay at Wardha, Bhave also brought out a monthly in Marathi, named, `Maharashtra Dharma'. The monthly consisted of his essays on the Upanishads. Over the years, the bond between Vinoba and Gandhi grew stronger and his involvement in constructive programs for the society kept on increasing.

In 1932, while participating in the Indian Independence movement activities, he was sent to jail for six months in Dhulia. There, he taught the fellow prisoners about the different subjects of 'Bhagwad Gita', in Marathi. All the lectures given by him on Gita in Dhulia jail were collected and later published as a book.

Until 1940, Vinoba Bhave was known only to the people around him. Mahatma Gandhi, on 5 October, 1940, introduced Bhave to the nation by issuing a statement. He was also chosen as the first Individual Satyagrahi (an Individual standing up for Truth instead of a collective action) by Gandhi himself.

Vinoba's religious outlook was very broad and it synthesized the truths of many religions. This can be seen in one of his hymns "Om Tat" which contains symbols of many religions. Vinoba observed the life of the average Indian living in a village and tried to find solutions for the problems he faced with a firm spiritual foundation. This formed the core of his Sarvodaya (Awakening of all potentials) Movement.

He started the Bhoodan Movement or Land Gift Movement as a voluntary land reform movement in 1951 at Pochampally village in Telangana. He was inspired to start this after talking to 40 poor 40 Harijan families. It’s mission was to persuade wealthy landowners to voluntarily give a percentage of their land to lower castes. Vinoba Bhave walked across India on foot, to persuade landowners to give up a piece of their land. He was followed by crowds nearly everywhere he went. He asked rich landlords to consider him as one of their sons and give him a one seventh of their land which he then distributed to landless poor. Non-violence and compassion being a hallmark of his philosophy, he also campaigned against the slaughtering of cows.

As an experiment in voluntary social justice, Bhoodan attracted admiration throughout the world. There is little question that it created a social atmosphere in India that presaged land reform legislation activity throughout the country. It also had a tangible effect on the lives of many people: over 5 million acres (20,000 km) were donated.

In November 1982, Vinoba Bhave fell seriously ill and decided to end his life by refusing to accept any food and medicine during his last days. He died on 15 November, 1982.

Jai jagat!—Victory to the world! – Vinoba Bhave

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Acharya Vinoba Bhave - Father of the Bhoodan Movement