Biography of Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya

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Indian Freedom Fighter Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya Biography

She was the first woman in Bombay Presidency to be arrested for breaking the salt laws.

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya was the early founder of the AIWC. She was one of the greatest protagonists of art in the country. She was an eloquent speaker and an orator that could make audiences spell bound. She was very much interested in popularizing traditional Indian handicrafts.

According to her Beauty, was not the prerogative of rich or beyond the reach of ordinary man, but in today`s mechanized society, it lay unnoticed and disregarded in the cottages of rural India. She can be called as the “Hastkala Ma” or Mother of Handicrafts.

A fearless fighter for social equality, she was the first Indian woman to stand for open political election in the mid-twenties. She was the” supreme romantic heroine” of Gandhiji`s salt satyagraha movement, and was the first woman in Bombay Presidency to be arrested for breaking the salt laws.

She was the recipient of many national and international awards, including the prestigious Magsay say Award, Vishwa Bharati`s Deshikotamma conferred on her by Indira Gandhi in 1970, and the Padma Vibhushan award.

Kamaladevi wanted to revive the age-old crafts from extinction. She found beauty in everything. And had an awareness of art and beauty even in the most dubious places. She was a nature lover like Wordsworth. She had a special love for the rural and rustic life.
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The Indian embroidery she liked were the trappings for animals, horses, elephants and bullocks. The minute details on the mud walls of cottages attracted her and she would stride through puddles and dung-heaps to take a look. The weavers, potters, metal workers, wood carvers, jewelers etc called her as the Mother of Handicrafts.

She was highly esteemed in the crafts world. The weavers and crafts men used to take of their turbans and lay it on her feet in reverence.

She fought for equal rights for women. She wanted women to be free and independent. At the age of 23, she secured for women the right to vote.. Her campaign manager was the Irish suffragist rebel, Margaret Cousins.

Kamaladevi was the founder-member, and later, the President and Patron, in shaping AIWC`s basic structure, policies and programmes.

She was born in the traditional family of Saraswat Brahmins in Mangalore. She was the daughter of a retired Deputy Collector. She was a victim of child-marriage. She was married at a very young age and became a widow at a very young age of 12. She again married, at age of 16, against the wishes of her relatives who were caste-conscious.

She married Harendranath Chattopadhyay, youngest brother of Sarojini Naidu. He was an unpaid theatre artist, a musician and playwright of great personal charm, endowed with poetic genius and a silver tongue. But her married life did not last long as it ended in divorce. They had only one son, Ramakrishna.

At Gandhiji`s call, their focus thereafter was on national service. The turning point in her life was when she met N. S. Hardiker, and later joined the Seva Dal, an organization that trained volunteers in crowd control, self-protection, first aid and camp life during the freedom struggle.

She became the commander of the women`s volunteers` corps during the civil disobedience movement. She was sentenced four times and she spent a total of five years in jail. After Independence, she refused the political rewards she received.

She was the Chairman of the All-India Handicrafts Board for 17 years and Vice-President for some years of the World Crafts Council with its office in New York.
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The Central Cottage Industries Emporium in Delhi was her idea. She was the moving spirit behind the Bharatiya Natya Sangh, the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Theatre Crafts Museum in New Delhi. She alone had the insight and the will to champion a neglected cause.

Entire communities of artisans gained recognition and livelihood as a result of her vision and drive. This great saga of patriotism and mother of handicrafts breathed her last in1990.