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Kasturbai Mohandas Gandhi
Kasturbai Makhanji Kapadia
11 April 1869
|Died||22 February 1944 (aged 74)|
|Other names||Kasturba Mohandas Gandhi|
Kasturba Makhanji Kapadia
Kasturbai "Kasturba" Mohandas Gandhi (listen (help·info) born Kasturbai Makhanji Kapadia on (11 April 1869 – 22 February 1944) was an Indian political activist. She married Mohandas Gandhi in 1883. Kasturba died in 1944. In association with her husband and son, she was involved in the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. She was very influenced by her husband Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi.
Early life and background
Kasturba was born the daughter of Gokuladas Kapadia and Vrajkunwerba Kapadia. The family belonged to the Modh Bania caste of Gujarati Hindu tradesmen and were based in the coastal town of Porbandar. Little is known of Kasturba's early life. In May 1883, 14-year-old Kasturba was married to 13-year-old Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in a marriage arranged by their parents, in the traditional Indian manner. They were married for a total of sixty-two years. Recalling the day of their marriage, her husband once said, "As we didn't know much about marriage, for us it meant only wearing new clothes, eating sweets and playing with relatives." However, as was prevailing tradition, the adolescent bride was to spend the first few years of marriage (until old enough to cohabit with her husband) at her parents' house, and away from her husband.‹See TfM›[failed verification]. Writing many years later, Mohandas described with regret the lustful feelings he felt for his young bride, "even at school I used to think of her, and the thought of nightfall and our subsequent meeting was ever haunting me." At the beginning of their marriage, Gandhi was also possessive and manipulative; he wanted the ideal wife who would follow his command.
Kasturba and Gandhi had five sons, with their eldest dying shortly after birth. Although their other four sons (Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas, and Devdas) survived to adulthood, Kasturba never fully recovered from the death of her first child. The first two sons were born before Gandhi first went abroad. When he left to study in London in 1888, she remained in India. In 1896 she and their two sons went to live with him in South Africa.
Later on, in 1906, Gandhi took a vow of chastity, or brahamacharya. Some reports indicated that Kasturba felt that this opposed her role as a traditional Hindu wife. However, Kasturba quickly defended her marriage when a woman suggested she was unhappy. Kasturba's relatives also insisted that the greatest good was to remain and obey her husband, the Mahatma.
Kasturba's relationship with her husband can be described by the following extract from Ramachandra Guha's novel Gandhi Before India; "They had, in the emotional as well as sexual sense, always been true to one another. Perhaps because of their periodic, extended separations, Kasturba deeply cherished their time together."
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 September 23, 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 Gandhi left South Africa in July 1914 and returned to live in India. In spite of 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, Kasturba was referred to as "Ba" or Mother, because she served as mother of the ashrams in India. A point of difference between Kasturba and Gandhi was the treatment of their children in their ashram. Gandhi believed that their sons did not deserve special treatment, while Kasturba felt that Gandhi neglected them.
In 1917, Kasturba worked on the welfare of women in Champaran, Bihar where Gandhi 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 took part in nonviolent protests against the British rule in Rajkot, after the women in the city specifically asked her to advocate for them. Kasturba 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 Gandhi 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 at the detention camp in Pune.
Gandhi wrote of his wife in terms which showed that he continued always to expect obedience from her. "According to my earlier experience, she was very obstinate. In spite of all my pressure she would do as she wished. This led to short or long periods of estrangement between us. But as my public life expanded, my wife bloomed forth and deliberately lost herself in my work."
Health and death
Kasturba suffered from chronic bronchitis due to complications at birth. Her bronchitis was complicated by pneumonia. Kasturba's health later deteriorated in January 1908, as she fasted while Gandhi was in prison, becoming ill. Kasturba came so close to death that Gandhi apologized to her, and promised he would not remarry if she were to die.
In January 1944, Kasturba suffered two heart attacks after which she was confined to her bed much of the time. Even there she found no respite from pain. Spells of breathlessness interfered with her sleep at night. Yearning for familiar ministrations, Kasturba asked to see an Ayurvedic doctor. After several delays (which Gandhi felt were unconscionable), the government allowed a specialist in traditional Indian medicine to treat her and prescribe treatments. At first she responded, recovering enough by the second week in February to sit on the verandah in a wheel chair for short periods, and talk with him. Unfortunately, she suffered a relapse.
To those who tried to bolster her sagging morale saying "You will get better soon," Kasturba would respond, "No, my time is up". Finally, at 7:35 pm on 22 February 1944, she died at the Aga Khan Palace in Poona, aged 74.
The Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust Fund was set up in her memory. Gandhi requested that this fund would be used to help women and children in villages in India.
In popular culture
- Gandhi, Arun and Sunanda (1998). The Forgotten Woman. Huntsville, AR: Zark Mountain Publishers. p. 314. ISBN 1-886940-02-9.
- Mohanty, Rekha (2011). "From Satya to Sadbhavna" (PDF). Orissa Review (January 2011): 45–49. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- Tarlo, Emma (1997). "Married to the Mahatma: The Predicament of Kasturba Gandhi". Women: A Cultural Review. 8 (3): 264–277. doi:10.1080/09574049708578316.
- Gandhi (1940). Chapter "Playing the Husband" Archived 1 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
- Gandhi before India. Vintage Books. 4 April 2015. pp. 28–29. ISBN 978-0-385-53230-3.
- Tarlo, Emma (1997). "Married to the mahatma: The predicament of Kasturba Gandhi". Women: A Cultural Review. 8 (3): 264–277. doi:10.1080/09574049708578316. ISSN 0957-4042.
- Gandhi, Arun (14 October 2000). Kasturba: A Life. Penguin UK. ISBN 9780140299717. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
- Guha, Ramachandra (15 October 2014). Gandhi Before India. Penguin UK. ISBN 9789351183228. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
- Hiralal, Kalpana. "Rethinking Gender and Agency in the Satyagraha Movement of 1913". Journal of Social Sciences. 25: 94–101.
- Kapadia, Sita (1989). "Windfall: Tribal Women Come Through". Women's Studies Quarterly. 17(3/4) (3/4): 140–149. JSTOR 40003104.
- Routray, Bibhu Prasad. "Kasturba Gandhi: Indian Political Activist". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
- Banerjee, Mita. "Kasturba Gandhi Strength of a Woman." Alive 02 2013: 32-4. ProQuest. Web. 27 Sep. 2017
- "Kasturba Gandi". MANAS. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
- Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand. My Experiments With Truth: An Autobiography. Jaico Publishing House.
- "Birth Anniversary of Kasturba Mohandas Gandhi". english.dcbooks.com. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
- "Death Takes Gandhi's Wife". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 23 February 1944. p. 2. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
- Bhatt, Neela. "The Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust: Plan, Development and Programme of the First nation-Wide Movement of its Kind for Dealing with the Problem of Women and Children in Rural India". Indian Journal of Social Work. 10: 94–101.
- "Ahemdabad-based theatre group to perform KASTURBA in Mumbai... Penned by veteran Gandhian Narayan Desai... : www.MumbaiTheatreGuide.com". mumbaitheatreguide.com. 16 May 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- Gandhi, Arun (2000). Kasturba : a life. New Delhi: Penguin Books. ISBN 0140299718. OCLC 46314502.
- Gupta, Indra (31 December 2010). India's 50 Most Illustrious Women. Icon Publications. ISBN 978-8188086047.
- Nayyar, Sushila (1948). Kasturba, wife of Gandhi. Pendle Hill. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Thomas, KP (1944). Kasturba Gandhi: A biographical study. Orient Illustrated Weekly. Retrieved 25 March 2017.