A Dastango Tells the Dastaan of Mahatma Gandhi’s Return to India 

The dastaan of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi becoming a Mahatma comes alive with this performance by Firoz Khan.

4 min read

Talent: Firoz Khan
Script: Danish Iqbal
Editor: Kunal Mehra
Camera: Abhay Sharma

(This video was first published on 2 October 2018. It is being republished from The Quint’s archive to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.)

The story of how Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi became a Mahatma has inspired millions all over the country – rather, all over the globe.

Now as old art forms like the dastangoi find their way out, The Quint is trying to revive some of these art forms through digital storytelling. We bring to you Dastaan-e-Gandhi, the story of Bapu’s return to India and his journey from being an ordinary mortal to the Mahatma.

To the uninitiated, a dastaan is a verbally recited epic that has its origins in dastangoi – a 13th century Urdu storytelling art form performed by a skilled dastango (storyteller).

Dastaan-e-Gandhi has been performed by dastango Firoz Khan and written by Danish Iqbal.

The italicised lines below are a translation from the original in Hindustani authored by Danish Ali.

His arrival blessed the soil of India.

He showed us the path, and awakened the country from its deep slumber.

He was a true patriot – who lived for his country, and died for it too.

He was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.


Dastaan-E-Gandhi: A Digital Dastaangoi

From his childhood, Mohandas had great faith in himself,

There was a lot of determination in him. He also he had striking confidence

Whatever he set his mind to, he would achieve it,

And once he decided something, he wouldn’t go back on it

One day, Mohandas shocked his family when he said he wanted to study in England,

And return from there as a big barrister

Listening to this, silence engulfed the Gandhi household

And his mother … almost fainted.

But the son was stubborn, everyone knew.

A Jain monk lived nearby…

…who his mother went to, and said, "Please knock some sense into Mohan,

Give him some advice … and even do any remedies if the situation so requires".

The sadhu replied, " This child is going to fly high, do not stop his flight"

Let him do anything he pleases

The Mother, helpless, then said, "Okay then.. Ask him to take a vow. That he will never eat meat, nor will he ever touch an Englishwoman".

And so, in 1888, Mohandas arrived in England,

He stayed there for three years, and prospered quite a lot

At first he was a gentleman who loved to dance and sing

But then he had such a change of heart, that he began reading the Gita and Ramayana

Then he started searching for the truth, from the Bible and Quran

He also acquired the wealth of knowledge from every possible human

After studying the law, this young barrister came back,

And within a year, earned a lot of name for his law practice.

Just then, he received a long letter from Dada Abdulla, a big businessman. It said, "Mohandas, come to Africa. I need you here."

Mohandas probably did not imagine that his visit to South Africa,

would turn into a stay for the next twenty years.

Mohandas repeated his success in Africa,

But there he also witnessed first-hand the discrimination that was happening under foreign rule.

Mohandas saw that the white rulers did not consider the African people as human beings

And did not even as much as look at Hindustanis.

Atrocities, discrimination and injustice was the order of the day.

The brute regime did not leave scope for humanity at all

Mohandas himself had to face discrimination there,

But to fight it, he chose the noble path of satyagraha

The world had never seen such a thing before

And just like that... slowly… this Gandhi started becoming a Mahatma.

Gradually thousands of people followed him

And then after improving the lives of Hindustanis in Africa

Mahatma Gandhi came back to his ‘vatan’ in 1914.

After coming back, he visited the entire country,

The prophet of peace went door to door, spreading his message of non-violence

To all those Hindustanis who were dreaming of self-rule.

This was also the time when the British wanted Hindustanis to fight against Hindustanis,

Divide-and-rule was their mantra

The story goes that after coming to India

Mahatma Gandhi opened an ashram in Sabarmati,

And from Champaran to Ahmedabad, waged a peaceful war against every injustice

The country agreed with everything the Mahatma said,

And slowly, millions of Indians began following him

Mahatma Gandhi's fame spread out of the country as well

And the whole world began to feel hope courtesy this one man

Bapu went from village to village, and issued a clarion call.

He said, "Wake up Bharat, it's time to be in your senses.

Break away the chains of sorrow, and run away from the pain”

Bapu said to every Indian,

"My countrymen, the progress of our country is possible

When our people will be free…

only our country's Independence will bring about change"

(End of translation)

Cut to 2020. India has been independent for 73 years now. Decades of change have swept the country. But has all that change been good? 

The Country Bapu Left Behind

As our desh celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of Bapu, it is confronted with some strange realities — realities that would have definitely saddened Bapu had he been alive today.

One wonders what Bapu, who practised ahimsa all his life, would have to say about reports of lynchings and mob justice that make headlines today.

One wonders what Bapu, who preached everyone to go with satya or truth at all times, would have to say about those spreading malicious fake news through WhatsApp and other social media.

Surely, the man who stood for peace and tolerance between different religions would have dismissed the hate-mongering that is being broadcast LIVE through TV studios and from the pulpits where politicians spew propaganda.

As worrying trends of hate plague our nation, we hope that Gandhi’s work and endeavour continues to inspire us always.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Mahatma Gandhi   Gandhi Jayanti   Dastangoi 

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