“The principle idea is to impart the whole education of the body and mind and the soul through the handicraft that is taught to the children.”
–Gandhi (Harijan, June, 11, 1938)
The takli is a little handheld spindle that has ancient origins. It is not quite what is known as a ‘drop spindle,’ the kind you connect with a piece of fiber and let drop while it adds twist to a yarn. The takli is more like a puzzle. First you connect your fiber, draw out some yarn from the raw material–very, very carefully so it won’t break–and then you twist it and pull upward at an angle to add more twist (twist, for your information, is what gives a yarn its strength). One end, the one you hold on your knee or thigh (or in a little dish) to twist, is somewhat sharp, like a splinter, and the other has a small disk wrapped around, which in earlier periods may have been a ball of clay, really depending on the material available. As new materials were worked with, the takli evolved, from bamboo and clay, Gandhi suggests, to iron, brass and steel. As he revived the spinning wheel, he also revived the takli, its ancestor, for which he had the utmost respect. In his words, “In devising the takli man’s inventive genius reached a height that had not been reached before. The cunning of the fingers was put to the best possible use.” Put a pencil in your hand and quickly spin it around with your fingers for a while to get somewhat of the hand “workout” that that takli provides!
In appreciation for its simplicity and practicality, Gandhi’s ideal form of Nai Talim (new education, in case you haven’t been following) would put the takli into the hands of children, teaching them to work with fiber and spin cotton from a very humble tool. They would learn of its origins, why it fell into disuse, and even get a course in the exploitation of India by the East India Company, as he laments, “how by a systematic process our main handicraft was strangled and ultimately killed.” Pretty dramatic! (Who can claim that Gandhi was passive with words like these? And doesn’t it remind us of “Who Killed the Electric Car”?) Ultimately, doing so would awaken their relationship with their ancestors and the spiritual values of ancient India in a way that would whet their desire for working toward Independence, putting their intellects to work in a very concrete, creative way.
Experiment in Nonviolence:
What craft or vocational skill might be today’s equivalent of takli learning in a new educational paradigm?