Mahatma Gandhi and Chaman Nahal’s four novels, The Gandhi Quartet

Anita Nahal

My father, novelist Chaman Nahal, was the only writer I am aware of who wrote four novels with Mahatma Gandhi as the central figure. Collectively called, The Gandhi Quartet, the novels had many other characters; however, Gandhi remains a consistent historical figure in all four. Says, Dr. Paresh Shah in a research paper on his novels, “The Gandhi Quartet is a landmark in the annals of Indian English fiction…” (Shah, 2020) The four novels were respectively titled, The Crown and the Loincloth (Vikas, 1981), The Salt of Life (Allied, 1990), The Triumph of the Tricolour (Allied, 1993) and Azadi (Arnold-Heinemann-US & Houghton Mifflin-UK, 1975)

Though AZADI which won, Dr. Chaman Nahal the Sahitya Akademi award in 1977 was written first, it was chronologically the last in the series.  I am not sure if my father decided to write the former three later or the thought had been marinating in his mind for long. All four were brought out in a special edition called The Gandhi Quartet in 1993 by Allied. I remember they all sat in a beautiful hard box. My father was very proud, and in turn we were too! Convinced in my artistic ability, he had asked me to do the jacket of the book.   When I completed the artwork, it seemed very irregular to me with some lines not even remarkably drawn or the colors neatly entered. However, he remarked that he preferred it that way as even the Mahatma’s life wasn’t perfect. No one’s is. We can only try.

The first three novels in The Gandhi Quartet focus on the three movements for India’s independence led by Gandhi…the Non-Violent Movement, the Civil Disobedience Movement, and the Quit India Movement respectively. Besides being the only novels by one author to concentrate on Gandhi, the reason these acquire such remarkable attention is that given what’s ailing this world today, perhaps Gandhian philosophy of Satyagraha (truth) and Ahimsa (non-violence) might be needed more today than ever. As Dr. Shah notes, “In the end, Nahal seems to suggest that a return to Gandhi is the only solution to the problems people face today. Viewed in this context, The Gandhi Quartet of Chaman Nahal acquires a greater significance, as it reminds us in unflinching terms, of the need to hold fast to the Gandhian ideals in a world torn apart by narrow sectarian and communal considerations.” 

In very artistic terms, another research study compares these novels with completing the independence struggle garland. “The writer attempted to explore every minute issue regarding the struggle of freedom. Every novel in the quartet is complete in itself, and yet the writer succeeded to introduce each one as one of the flowers in the garland.” Say, Shobha Bajirao Patil and Dr. P. R. Shewale (Patil and Shewale, 2020). There are numerous research studies done on the Gandhi Quartet and my father and many on his other books, especially on AZADI. It’s impossible to cite all of them, however, presented below are the jackets of two such books.


Bio: Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP is a poet, professor, short story writer, flash fictionist, children’s books author, and D&I consultant. Currently she teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC. Besides academic publications, her creative books include, two volumes of poetry, Hey...Spilt milk is spilt, nothing else (2018) and Initiations (1988), a collection of flash fictions, Life on the go-Flash fictions from New Delhi to America (2018), and three children’s books: I love Mummy and other new nursery rhymesWhen I Grow Up and other new nursery rhymes and The Greedy Green Parrot and Other Stories (1993-1995). Her poems and stories can be found in national and international journals including, Aberration LabyrinthBetter Than StarbucksAadunaRiver Poets JournalColereSetuPoetryspective, and in a number of Medium publications in the US, Confluence in the UK, Lapis Lazuli in Asia and The Burrow in Australia. Nahal received an honorable mention in the 2017 Concrete Wolf Chapbook competition. Nahal is co-editor (with Roopali Sircar Gaur) of the anthology, In All The Spaces-Diverse Voices In Global Women's Poetry (2020). She is also a guest contributing editor for aaduna journal and is co-host of the monthly online creative series, Tan Doori Gup Shup. Nahal is the daughter of Indian novelist and professor, Late Dr. Chaman Nahal, and her mother, Late Dr. Sudarshna Nahal was an educationist, author and principal of a K-12 school. Originally from New Delhi, India, Anita Nahal resides in the US. Her family include her son, daughter-in-law and their golden doodle. For more on Anita: 

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