Ammu Swaminathan

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Ammu Swaminadhan
Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) for Dindigul
In office
Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
Preceded by None
Personal details
Born 1894, Palakkad, Kerala
Died 1978
Palakkad, Kerala
Nationality Indian
Political party Indian National Congress
Spouse(s) Dr. Subbarama Swaminathan
Profession Politician
Religion Hindu

Ammu Swaminadhan or Ammukutty Swaminadhan (1894–1978) was an Indian social worker and political activist during the Indian independence movement and a member of the Constituent Assembly of India.

Early life[edit]

Ammukutty Swaminadhan was born into the Vadakkath family of Anakkara in Palghat district, Kerala. Her father Govinda Menon was a minor local official. Both of Ammu's parents belonged to the Nair caste, and Ammu was the youngest of their numerous children. Ammu received an informal education at home. She lost her father at a young age, and her mother struggled to raise her children and arrange marriages for her many daughters. Resultantly, when Ammu was 13, her mother arranged an alliance for her which conformed to the Sambandam system which was well accepted in Kerala society. Her consort was Dr. Subbarama Swaminadhan, an educated Brahmin gentleman who was more than twenty years older than Ammu.

Married life[edit]

Subbarama Swaminathan, born into a middle-class Tamil Brahmin family, had struggled hard in his early life to gain an education and rise above his situation. He had studied with scholarships at Edinburgh and London Universities before obtaining a doctorate in law from Harvard University.[citation needed] His extended stay abroad and financial situation had prevented him from marrying until he was in his mid-30s. The arrival of the very young and sheltered Ammu fulfilled deep emotional needs for Subbarama and he devoted a large part of his life to nurturing her development in every way. Indeed, he formally married Ammu at a registry office in London at a later point. This was necessary because Sambandam relationships, while traditionally acknowledged, did not constitute marriage and the children of such a union belonged only to the family of their mother and not their father. Both of Ammu's daughters were to recount in their memoirs that while their paternal family acknowledged them (as was traditional) by including them at family events such as weddings, they would be served their food separately from other family members and subtle distinctions would be evident in the way they were treated.

One result of the formal wedding in the London registry office was the abandonment of the matrilineal Marumakkathayam system by the family and the severance of formal affiliation with the matrilineal Vadakkath family to which Ammu and her mother had belonged. Henceforth, she and her children would be known by the name of their husband/father. Thus, the family came to be known by the name Swaminathan.


Despite these problems, Ammu's life transformed and blossomed under the tutelage of her husband. Subbarama Swaminathan both indulged and nurtured his much younger wife and encouraged her talents. It was under his influence that she became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and took part in India's struggle for independence. After independence, she served as a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. This distinction was certainly conferred on her mainly because she was a woman, at a time when few Indian women had even remote engagement with politics, but she did read a few formal speeches and also participates in some debates. Later, in 1952, She was elected a member of the Rajya Sabha from Madras State. She was associated with several cultural and social organizations, and served as President of the Bharat Scouts and Guides from November 1960 to March 1965. She was also selected as 'Mother of The Year' in 1975 on the inauguration of International Women's Year.

Children and family[edit]

Dr. Swaminadhan and Ammu had four children:

Preceded by
Mangal Das Pakvasa
Presidents of the Bharat Scouts and Guides
Succeeded by
Justice Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Sinha


External links[edit]