Vinoba Bhave (11 September 1895 – 15 November 1982) was an Indian nonviolence activist, freedom fighter, social reformer, and spiritual teacher. He was the founder of the Bhoodan Movement.
He was born on 11 September 1895, in Kolaba, Maharashtra. He was the eldest son of Narahari Shambhu Rao and Rukmini Devi. At a very young age, He was highly inspired after reading Bhagavad Gita. In 1918, when he was going to Mumbai for his Intermediate examination, He threw his school and college certificates into a fire. He took the decision after reading a newspaper article written by Mahatma Gandhi. He wrote a letter to M. Gandhi, after reading his letter Gandhi called him for a personal meeting at Kochrab Ashram in Ahmedabad. On 7 June 1916, He met Gandhi, and subsequently abandoned his studies, became a disciple of Gandhi, and began to participate in the day-to-day activities in Gandhi’s ashram, like teaching, studying, spinning, and improving the lives of the community. He eventually dedicated his life to various programs planned by Gandhi like the Khadi Andolan, teaching, etc.
In 1921, He went to Wardha, to take charge of a Gandhi ashram. In 1923, He also brought out a monthly in Marathi, named, `Maharashtra Dharma’. The monthly comprised of his essays on the Upanishads.
Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, He also got involved in the Indian freedom struggle. He took part in programs of Non- cooperation and especially in the Swadeshi Movement.
In 1932, He was accused of conspiring against British rule, and the government arrested him and sent him to jail for six months in Dhulia. In jail, He explained the different subjects of ‘Bhagavad Gita’, in Marathi, to prisoners.
In 1940, He was also chosen as the first Individual Satyagrahi by Gandhi. He also participated in the Quit India Movement.
He was famous for the Bhoodan Movement. In 1951, the Harijans of the Pochampalli village requested him to provide them with around 80 acres of land to make a living. He asked the landlords of the village to come forward and save the Harijans, a landlord got up and offered the required land to Harijans for living. This incident added a new chapter to the history of sacrifices and non-violence. It was the beginning of the Bhoodan Movement, The movement continued for thirteen years and He toured the length and breadth of the country, a total distance of 58741 Km. He was successful in collecting around 4.4 million acres of land, of which around 1.3 million were distributed among poor landless farmers.
He was highly inspired by Bhagavad Gita, and his thoughts and effort were based on this Holy book. In 1959, He established the Brahma Vidya Mandir, a small community for women, aiming at self-sufficiency on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings. He took a strong stand on cow slaughter and declared to go on fast until it was banned in India.
In 1958, He was the first recipient of the international Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. In 1983, He was also awarded the Bharat Ratna.
Vinoba Bhave died on 15 November 1982, in Pavnar, Wardha, India.