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From Wonwihari Prasad Bhoop

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Author: Bhoop, Wonwihari Prasad

Date: February 21, 1959

Location: Gaya, India

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Travels


After leaving Delhi in the early hours of 13 February, King and his travel companions spent the morning in Patna, capital of the state of Bihar, before catching the train to Gaya. The following day, they toured the Buddhist holy sites of Gaya and Bodh Gaya before leaving for the rural ashram of Indian activist Jayaprakash Narayan.1

In the following letter Bhoop, who had met King in Gaya, offers to translate Stride Toward Freedom into Hindi and arrange for its distribution.2 King replied to this letter on 14 July: "I am greatly concerned about my book being read in India because of the inspiration that came to me from that great country, and above all because of the fact that I have tried in some little way to follow the noble insights and pinciples of Mahatma Gandhi." King, however, declined Bhoop’s offer, stating that he had already signed a contract with Navajivan Press to translate his book into Hindi and Gujarati.

My dear Friend, 

It was such a pleasure to meet you and to be able to spend a few hours with you all at Gaya and Bodh-Gaya. Though it was only for a short period that I could be in your company yet, in fact, I spent two more days with you—the 16th & 17th Feb.—reading your book "Stride towards Freedom". Shri Jayaprakash Narayan gave me this book on his return from Calcutta on the 16th morning.3 He had shown me the book and it was to remain with me only for a few hours that he was going to stay with us. But, by mistake it could not be returned to him and it is still with me. I was sorry to discover the mistake but on the other hand it saved me the delay in of a few days, in reading it, by which I would have got my own copy.

As I proceeded with the book I became more and more engrossed in it and I felt as if the Montgomery protest was going on before my eyes. When I had finished it, and seen in it the same unbending insistence—based on love—of man’s equality, same dependence on God and other striking similarity of the events, narrated so nicely in your book, with the Indian movement for Independence under the great leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the victory of which was not the victory of one community or one country upon the other but, victory of Truth, of Mankind itself, I realized, that it was one of the books that deserved reproduction in all the languages of the world. I have, therefore, been tempted to do it myself in our Hindi language which will enable our countrymen to know more intimately the young leader of the epoch making struggle in the other end of the earth Montgomery, Alabama, and to realize how the same force of ultimate good is operating every where with the help of unseen power.

I have prepared myself to do this work though I am at present very busy with another important work, namely, reproduction of our Holy Scripture Shri Madbhagwat from Sanskrit into Hindi verse.4 If I take up the book it shall necessarily mean postponement of the other work for sometime. But my satisfaction will be that the theme of complete faith in Almighty, the realisation, thereby, of the oneness of the whole unniverse as one brotherhood, the denunciation of injustice wherever it maybe, and the achievement of ultimate Truth which are so dear to Shri Madbhagwat, are also the basis and goal of your book.

I should also make it clear that no monetary gain is being sought through it. After I have completed it, I shall give it to All India Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan the main publication centre of our Sarvodaya Movement, aim of which is to produce good books at cheap rates without profit motive for the sake of wide circulation.5

I shall begin this work as soon as I receive your permission. Please let me know if it is possible.

My wife Shyama is also happy meeting your wife and you all. Though there was the difference of language creating difficulties of expression, yet, the unspoken language of mankind—the language of goodwill and understanding—was there to help her.

Hoping this to find you all well.

With our best regards to you, your wife, and Dr. Reddick.

My address:—

Durga Koyhi,
P.O. Buniadgunj,
GAYA. (Bihar)

Yours Sincerely,
[signed] [WP?] Bhoop
(Wonwihari Prasad Bhoop)

1. Bodh Gaya, also in the state of Bihar, is considered the birthplace of Buddhism. King also visited the Samanvaya ashram in Bodh Gaya, established by Vinoba Bhave in 1954.

2. Wonwihari Prasad Bhoop (1913-1999) was born in Gaya, Bihar. A follower of Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan movement, or land-gift campaign, Bhoop donated his land for distribution to India’s landless poor in 1953.

3. Narayan, a Gandhian independence leader, was co-founder of the All India Congress Socialist Party in 1934 (for more on King’s meeting with Narayan, see King to Narayan, 19 May 1959, pp. 209-211 in this volume). On 15 February King traveled to Burdwan and toured Shantiniketan, an open-air school founded by Indian nationalist poet Rabindranath Tagore on the site where his father, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, had begun an ashram in 1863.

4. Bhoop refers to the Hindu text also known as the Bhagavat Purana or the Srimad Bhagavatam.

5. The Sarvodaya movement grew out of Gandhi’s philosophy for rural development, emphasizing resource sharing, rural industry, and improvement of the position of the untouchables. After Gandhi’s assassination, this program was continued by Vinoba Bhave and other Gandhi associates.

Source: MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

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