Remembering The Freedom Fighter, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was an Indian social reformer and freedom activist. Let’s know more about her on the occasion of her birthday.

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was born on 3 April 1903 in Mangalore, Karnataka, India. Kamaladevi was an exceptional student and exhibited qualities of determination and courage from an early age. Her parents befriended many prominent freedom fighters and intellectuals. This made young Kamaladevi an early enthusiast of the swadeshi nationalist movement. Her father passed away when she was 7 years old, leaving her mother and her to fend for themselves. Kamala Devi was subjected to child marriage and early widowhood.

But later in her life she met Harindranath Chattopadhyay and got married at the age of 20. This was a scandalous move at that time and age since widow marriage was still stigmatized at that time. Later she also acted in a few films, in an era when acting was considered unsuitable for women from respectable families. A few years after her marriage she joined the Seva Dal, a Gandhian organisation set up to promote social upliftment.

In 1926, she became the first woman to run for a legislative seat in India. Though she could campaign for only a few days, she lost by a small margin of 55 votes. In the following year, she became a founding member of the All-India Women’s Conference (AIWC) and was its first Organizing Secretary. Later, she was a part of the seven-member lead team, announced by Mahatma Gandhi, in the famous Salt Satyagraha (1930), to prepare Salt at the Bombay beachfront.

She was the driving force behind the renaissance of Indian handicrafts, handlooms, and theatre in independent India; and for the upliftment of the socio-economic standard of Indian women. Several cultural institutions in India today exist because of her vision, including the National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Central Cottage Industries Emporium, and the Crafts Council of India.

In 1974, she was awarded the Sangeet Natak Academy Fellowship, the highest honour conferred by the Sangeet Natak Academy, India’s National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama. She was conferred with Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India in 1955 and 1987 respectively. She passed away on 29 October 1988.

 -Staff Reporter

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