Mahatma Gandhi, wearing simple leather chappals, which he probably made himself.Outside of 10 Downing St., London, 1931
Mahatma Gandhi, wearing simple leather chappals, which he probably made himself.
Outside of 10 Downing St., London, 1931

Diversity and Continuity


I am mostly busy making sandals these days. I have already made about fifteen pairs. When you need new ones, please send me the measurements. And when you do so, mark the places where the strap is to be fixed, that is on the outside of the big toe and the little one.
- Gandhi, in a 1913 letter to Jan Christian Smuts,
State Attorney, later Premier, of South Africa

In jail [Gandhi] had prepared for me a pair of sandals which he presented to me when he was set free. I have worn these sandals for many a summer since then, even though I feel that I am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man.
Jan Christian Smuts (1870 -1950), Premier of South
Africa, as quoted in Mahatma, by D.G. Tendulkar, 1951

India's great national leader Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) used the traditional leather sandal, the chappal, as a symbol of Indian self-sufficiency. He wove the cotton cloth, which he wore as a dhoti and made the leather sandals he wore on his feet.

In making cloth and footwear, Gandhi demonstrated a profound understanding of the value of humble crafts, which sustained village life for countless generations. By undertaking shoemaking, which was carried out by some of the lowest castes of labourers, and by dealing with a material, which was ritually polluting, Gandhi set an example of egalitarianism and self-sufficiency which he hoped would influence all of Indian society.