Swadesh-My India



Temple in rural India

Meaning of Swadesh


Swadeshi, the word, originates from Sanskrit. It is a conjunction, or ‘sandhi’ of two words ‘swa’ meaning self or own and ‘desh’ meaning country. So while swadesh means one’s own country, swadeshi is an adjective that means something or someone ‘of one’s own country’. The antonym of swadeshi is videshi: videshi means ‘not of one’s country’.


Interpretations of the word ‘Swadesh’ 


The word ‘swadesh’ and ‘swadeshi’ assumed unprecedented significance in the context of British colonisation and the Indian struggle for independence from it. Mahatma Gandhi, the pioneering figure in India’s freedom movement popularised it to strengthen patriotic sentiments among fellow-Indians. Gandhi explained his interpretation of swadeshi at length. He said that ‘swadeshi’ is the spirit which forbids us against embracing anything which is not our own and limit ourselves to the use and service of our own. Gandhi contended that a nation’s people must engage themselves totally with everything that is swadeshi and do things that promote one’s own nation’s welfare and not others.


Based on this premise, Gandhi popularised the use of charkha and rejection of foreign goods to promote self-sufficiency. He also encouraged the home-grown associations of village panchayats as institutions of self-governance or ‘swaraj’, another term popularized by him. As part of the swadeshi program, Gandhi instilled in people the need to relearn the knowledge in vernaculars, history and science that India has to offer.


Gandhi intended to make it conspicuous that swadeshi was not a form of revenge against the foreign coloniser or an exclusivist agenda but an expression of sincerity and loyalty to one’s country and taking responsibility for its well-being.

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