In the Honourable Memory of Kasturba Gandhi
Kasturba Mohandas Gandhi was an Indian political activist and the wife of Mahatma Gandhi. Let’s honour her on the occasion of her birthday.
Kasturba Kapadia was born on 11 April 1869 to Gokuladas Kapadia and Vrajkunwerba Kapadia. The family belonged to Gujarati Hindu tradesmen based in the coastal town of Porbandar. In May 1883, 14-year-old Kasturba was married to 13-year-old Mohandas Gandhi in a marriage arranged by their parents. They were married for a total of sixty-two years.
When Mohandas Gandhi left to study in London in 1888, Kasturba remained in India. In 1896 she and their two sons went to live with him in South Africa. Kasturba Gandhi first involved herself with politics in South Africa in 1904 when, with her husband and others, she established the Phoenix Settlement near Durban. In 1913 she took part in protests against the ill-treatment of Indian immigrants in South Africa, for which she was arrested and on 23 September 1913 was sentenced to hard labour. While in prison, she led other women in prayer and encouraged educated women to teach the uneducated women how to read and write.
Kasturba and Mohandas left South Africa in July 1914 and returned to live in India. Despite Kasturba’s chronic bronchitis, she continued to take part in civil actions and protests across India and often took her husband’s spot when he was in prison. The majority of her time was dedicated to helping out and serving in ashrams. Here, Gandhi was referred to as “Ba” or Mother, because she served as the mother of the ashrams in India.
In 1917, Kasturba worked on the welfare of women in Champaran, Bihar where Mohandas was working with indigo farmers. She taught women hygiene, discipline, health, reading and writing. In 1922, she participated in a Satyagraha (nonviolent resistance) movement in Borsad, Gujarat even though she was in poor health. She did not take part in Gandhi’s famous Salt March in 1930 but continued to take part in many civil disobedience campaigns and marches. As a result, she was arrested and jailed on numerous occasions.
In 1939, Kasturba Gandhi took part in nonviolent protests against British rule in Rajkot, after the women in the city specifically asked her to advocate for them. She was arrested once again and kept in solitary confinement for a month. Her health worsened but she continued to fight for independence. In 1942, she was arrested again, along with Mohandas and other freedom fighters for participating in the Quit India movement. She was imprisoned in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. By this time her health had severely deteriorated completely, and she died on 22 February 1944 at the detention camp in Pune.
However, her legacy lives on and even today she is well-loved and respected along with her husband who is considered the father of the nation.