What role does civil society play in the transition to democracy? A central question especially during the 1990s, the term of ‘civil society’ has been used widely and extensively. Taking up the case of India, this chapter examines the associational forms created by Mahatma Gandhi, such as the Ashram, and discusses implications for collective action during India’s freedom struggle. It will be argued that the use of categories such as civil society and the public sphere (which developed under particular European spatial and temporal conditions) and simply transporting and transplanting them from one historical and social context to another can be misleading. Instead, a re-calibration is required in order to identify institutional variations and to grasp shifts in cultural meaning. Drawing upon Habermas, the European idea of civil society and public sphere is discussed and Gandhi’s variations are explored, leading to a number of observations on contrast and congruence.