However hard I tried I've failed to get the exact meaning of tending his spinning wheel here.

It would be argued, and indeed I would argue, that Muslim intransigence would have played a destrucitve role in any case. But the task of persuading ordinary Muslims to leave Congress and to join with the partitionist “Muslim League” was made much easier by Gandhi’s talk of Hinduism and by the long ostentatious hours he spent in cultish practices and in tending his spinning wheel.

This wheel—which still appears as the symbol on the Indian flag—was the emblem of Gandhi’s rejection of modernity. He took to dressing in rags of his own manufacture, and sandals, and to carry- ing a staff, and expressing hostility to machinery and technology.

I gave the previous and following sentences for a full understanding of the meaning.

It mentions the wheel in question in the following sentence and I get it is the actual wheel with the usual sense of the word.

What I wonder is if there is a connotation here which would mean something like "Gandhi cares for his own interests, no matter what"? I'm asking this because we have the same phrase in my native language with the above meaning.

Or, are there any other possible implied meanings -positive or negative- which I fail to see?

Thank you.

  • 6
    The sentence that follows indicates that the intended meaning is literal.
    – Oldbag
    Jun 18, 2015 at 8:56
  • What's your native language?
    – phoog
    Jun 18, 2015 at 9:04
  • @phoog - Turkish.
    – A.K.
    Jun 18, 2015 at 9:29
  • @A.K. We have a similar idiom in English which means "do what you do best; don't try to be something you're not": stick to your knitting.
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 18, 2015 at 12:23
  • While it sounds like an idiom similar to "stick to your knitting", Gandhi's spinning wheel was quite literal. The "connotation" is that he was often seen spinning thread, the reasons for which should probably be left to the biographers.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 27, 2015 at 12:02

3 Answers 3


The task of persuading ordinary Muslims to leave Congress was made much easier by the long ostentatious hours he spent in tending his spinning wheel.

The implied (negative) meaning is that Gandhi's talk of Hinduism, his cultish practices and his giving a lot of attention to his spinning wheel lead to the departure of Muslims from Congress to join the partitionist Muslim League.

There is a no connotation to suggest "Gandhi cared for his own interests...


The spinning wheel, or 'charkha', was used by Mahatma Gandhi to weave his own fabric.

enter image description here

Any resemblence of the expression to any idiom in your native language is sheer coincidence.

PS - His aim wasn't to promote Hinduism, but to boycott foreign clothes; which was in the interest of the poor people working in the Indian clothing industry.

From wikipedia:

The khadi movement aimed at boycotting foreign goods including cotton and promoting Indian goods, thereby improving India's economy. Mahatma Gandhi began promoting the spinning of khādī for rural self-employment and self-reliance (instead of using cloth manufactured industrially in Britain) in 1920s India thus making khadi an integral part and icon of the Swadeshi movement


I always took it to mean that he "practiced what he preached."

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