Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was a freedom fighter, social reformer, and theatre actor who was the driving force behind the post-independence revival of Indian handicrafts, handlooms, and theatre. She appeared in the Kannada film Mrichhakatika, based on Sudraka's play of the same name, and the Hindi film Tansen in the early 1930s. She appeared in Shankar Parvati and Dhanna Bhagat in the 1940s. Most Indians are familiar with Kamaladevi, a figure who revived Indian handicrafts and nurtured the majority of India's national institutions dedicated to the promotion of dance, drama, art, theatre, music, and puppetry.
• He was born in Mangalore on April 3, 1903, to Ananthaya Dhareshwar and Girijamma. Her father was Mangalore's District Collector.
• She lost her sister and father when she was a child. Her father's estate passed to his son from his first wife due to the property inheritance laws of the time. Kamaladevi's mother had a difficult time raising her. Her mother's independent streak had a big influence on her and shaped her personality.
• She was raised in the home of her maternal uncle, where she met many of the time's political leaders, including M G Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Annie Besant, and others.
• She married when she was 14 years old, but her husband died two years later.
• She continued her education at Chennai's Queen Mary's College. Harindranath Chattopadhyay, her second husband, met her there and they married. This was a bold move for the time, and the orthodox members of society mocked her for it, as widow remarriage was frowned upon.
• She also holds a sociology diploma from the University of London's Bedford College.
ROLE IN FREEDOM STRUGGLE
• While living in London, she became aware of Mahatma Gandhi's non-cooperation movement and returned to India in 1923 to join Seva Dal.
• In 1924, the Hindustani Seva Mandal was formed within the Indian National Congress, thanks to the efforts of N S Hardikar. Jawahar Lal Nehru was the organization's first president, and Umabai Kundapur was the organization's first female president.
• Kamaladevi was a close associate of this group, serving as the head of its women's wing and recruiting, training, and organising the Sevikas.
• Margaret Cousins (who founded the All India Women's Conference (AIWC) in 1927) was a friend of hers. Kamaladevi ran for a legislative seat in the Madras Provincial Assembly with Cousins' support. She was the first woman in India to do so. She came within a whisker of winning.
• She also became the AIWC's Organizing Secretary.
• She visited many countries in Europe and the United States and met many women's rights activists.
• She founded a number of women's educational institutions.
• Kamaladevi was arrested for attempting to sell contraband salt on the Bombay Stock Exchange as part of Gandhi's salt satyagraha. She was detained for nearly a year.
• She became famous after a scuffle with the authorities on January 26, 1930, when she held on to the Indian tricolour.
• She co-founded the Congress Socialist Party with Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia in 1936 and became its president in 1937.
• She was a feminist of her generation, and she even spoke out against Gandhi's decision to exclude women from the Dandi March.
• She lobbied for the Child Marriage Restraint Bill and the Age of Consent Bill to be passed by the Central Assembly. She worked to have women's work recognised both inside and outside the home. She also backed the Uniform Civil Code, which protects women's right to inherit property and children's guardianship.
ROLE IN INDEPENDENT INDIA
• Following the country's partition, she was tasked with rehabilitation work, and she set about forming the Indian Cooperative Union to do so. She was instrumental in establishing Faridabad as a cooperative town without the help of the government and entirely through community support. Here, approximately 50000 refugees from the Northwest Frontier were rehabilitated.
• She is best known for her contributions to the preservation and promotion of Indian art and crafts. She founded museums dedicated to crafts, such as the Theatre Crafts Museum in Delhi. She was a driving force behind the creation of the National Awards for Master Craftsmen. She also ensured the survival of several dying art forms, including Kalamkari, by convincing its teachers to train more students.
• She was also instrumental in the formation of the All India Handicrafts Board, the Crafts Council of India, and the National School of Drama.
• In Bangalore, she founded the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography.
• She passed away on October 29, 1988.
Padma Bhushan (1955)
Padma Vibhushan (1987)
RatnaSadsya (1974 by Sangeet Natak Akademi)
Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1966)
UNESCO awarded her in 1977
Desikottama (by Shantiniketan)
Member of Honour (by UNIMA – International Puppetry Association)
SOME OF HER BOOKS
Inner Recesses, Outer Spaces: Memoirs (autobiography)
The Awakening of Indian women
Uncle Sam’s empire
Towards a National Theatre
Socialism and Society
Tribalism in India
India’s Craft Tradition
Traditions of Indian Folk Dance