Mantle is the symbol of the man wearing it.

If we go to the Judeao Christian tradition the Jewish priests and prophets were known by the mantle which they wrote over their outer garments. Those were loosely laid around their necks, which symbolically showed their uniqueness. Even in the Christian tradition, the priests wear mantle reflecting their status and ranks- occasionally based on the occasion too.

Mantle is visible to the masses- the crowd that congregates to participate in a festival, a solemn occasion etc. The man or woman who wears a particular mantle is announced as the person with authority.

But in a democracy, where there are no set hierarchies during elections, it is what a person states, stands and lived for, which symbolises him, and in time he or she becomes the Icon of the masses, so far as that ‘idea’ for which the person stated, stood and lived.

For example Mahatma Gandhi stood for non violence as a not negotiable creed. That was his mantle. None in India has been worthy of earning the Mahatma’s legacy, hence the mantle has not ‘fallen’ on any individual.


It just cannot be acquired through design, it has to be laid on that person – a person befitting in stature and substance.

If we go back to the Old Testament, there are two Prophets who were Elijah and Elisha. The Bible says that when Elijah was intimated by God to get ready for good and was given certain tasks, one of the tasks was for Elijah to choose his successor as the Priest & Prophet of the fragmented Israel. Elijah seeks out Elisha and when he found Elisha ploughing with oxen, Elijah threw his mantle over him and told him to remember what Elijah had done!

The following is from the Book of Kings (if interested Plz find out which Book of Kings)

19 So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.

20 And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?

There are many versions, as translations and I’m inclined to reproduce the one which is contemporaneous to the English spoken by this generation:

New Living Translation

Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!” Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”

That was merely a casting of the mantle for an onlooker, but for Elijah and Elisha it had a special meaning and significance. Elijah didn’t give any instructions, much less did Elijah tell Elisha, like Jesus said: FOLLOW ME! Merely the casting of the mantle took place and Elisha was enlightened to imbibe the significance and as the later chapters inform, Elisha not only followed him but got back the mantle of Elijah when Elijah was taken up. A legacy. A legacy left behind AFTER the casting of the mantle. I’m sure that there were two different mantle.

One is the ‘mantle of calling’ and the second ‘the mantle of legacy’. The first one was cast by the will of Elijah, but the second mantle was ‘received as the legatee’ !

Each, of these two, is distinct. One is given on the instructions of God – God’s infinite grace, the second falls on one when one is worthy.

In politics, I’ve seen that there are many mantles which have been languishing for want of deserving persons. For example the mantle of the Mahatma Gandhi is lying unadorned by any man, the mantle of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is also lying unadorned, such are the mantles of great social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, EV Ramasamy Periyar, and great political administrators like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel.

What is amusing to watch in Indian politics is that from time to time unworthy, but ambitious men and women of straw, who being puffed up with notions by the support of their factotums, not only steal and wear those richly golden embroidered mantles very ceremoniously and expect the educated people to believe that they are the incarnations of those giants but expect those educated lot to write praises of comparison!

They had lost sight that first it has to be cast for calling and secondly, the mantle has to be delivered beyond the will of the person who had worn that mantle earlier!