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Updated on October 13, 2013

Wife & Mother of Prime Ministers

For those of you who lived through the 1960's and 1970's, Gandhi became a central figure to the philosophy of the Civil Rights, Chipko, Ecological and Women's Movements. Civil disobedience combined with non-violence were central to the philosophy of these movements.

Many of us remember wearing Nehru jackets. These jackets were the height of fashion. As a child I remember wearing one along with other members of my family. I was not really very aware as a child of the Nehru family and what they went through to achieve independence for India. I was just being a child. I was aware of some of the other movements who sacrificed to the max, so that others could live better, more just lives.

Before Jawaharial Nehru became India's first prime minister, there was the Indian Independence Movement. He was the first who said India should be totally independent without a transition period. His wife, Kamala Kaul Nehru, was very committed to the movement. In Allahabad she was quite involved with the organization of processions and picketing of liquor and foreign cloth shops. She addressed meetings and played a major role in organizing the No Tax Campaign in the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh). She went to jail like her husband for the cause of an independent India.

She was born in 1899 and died in 1936 of tuberculosis at the age of 36. On Febuary 8, 1916 she married Jawaharial Nehru. It was an arranged marriage. She was 16 and he was 26 at the time of their marriage. Kamala came from Delhi and was a Kashmiri Brahmin like the Nehru family. The wedding lasted nine days in Delhi and several weeks at Anand Bhavan in Allahabad. On Vasant Panchami Day they were married in a very elaborate ceremony.

In 1917 Kamala gave birth to their daughter, Indira Priyadarshini, who became India's first female prime minister after her father served as prime minister. Kamala also birthed in 1925 a son who was born prematurely and who died a few days later. Indira married a college friend, Feroze Gandhi. Both of them, unlike their parents, had the total choice in marrying each other. They married for love, friendship and a shared philosophy and commitment to the Indian Independence Movement. He was a Parsi, a follower of Zoroaster, a Persian prophet. Some people with prejudices spoke against their marriage because he was a Parsi and of a lower class/caste than the Nehrus. Mahatma Gandhi (not related to Feroze) spoke against those prejudices. Gandhi worked for the goal of independence along the Nehrus. Kamala knew Kasturba Gandhi, Mahatma's wife, and they met at Gandhi's ashram.

Humans can have these prejudices and they can become so engrained that people think they are right in promoting this kind of intolerance of diversity. Nature is diverse and flourishes because of the diversity. When there is too much inter-marriage within one family, you get children with birth defects and various diseases which are inherited from their family. Morally and spiritually we are all one and one should not be promoting intolerance of diversity.

Indira actually had the right ideal in marrying a friend who she knew and loved. This is often a great recipe for a good marriage. Later on, next year, I will be writing a blog specifically on Indira more in depth. Both her and her husband went to jail for their involvement in the Independence Movement. They are examples of the many who sacrificed, so that others would have a better life. Not all realize this movement included Europeans, North and South Americans and English who agreed India should be free.

In 1921 Kamala organized women's groups in Allahabad as part of the Non Cooperation Movement. They picketed shops selling foreign cloth and liquor. She read Jawaharial's speeches when he was in jail much like Kasturba Gandhi did, and she went to jail a couple times herself for involvement in the movement.

Indira Gandhi described the support her mother had for the movement and her father in the book, An Indian Dynasty, by Tariq Ali, " Many people know the part which was played by my father and grandfather (Motilal). But in my opinion, a more important part was played by my mother. When my father wanted to join Gandhiji and to change the whole way of life, to change our luxurious living, to give up his legal practice, the whole family was against it. It was only my mother's courageous and persistent support and encouragement which enabled him to take the big step which made such a big difference not only to our family but to the history of modern India."

As a child she endured both parents being in prison for the movement, having to sell items in the household and always being on the move. When she became a mother, she decided to give her children as much time as possible.

Kamala was one of the many women in the India Independence Movement who made it possible for India to achieve its independence from the British. All these great mothers were Divine Shakti on earth. As we have celebrated Navratri this month, we have focused on the warrior and loving aspects of life. Kamala, Indira and many other women in the movement were great examples of both aspects of life. May we live these aspects of life just like these great fore mothers who sacrificed so much for us all.




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    • radhapriestess profile image

      radhapriestess 4 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Oh, yes. It was a dynasty. I am still reading the book I mentioned in the blog. Oh, how neat about your mother. I used to wear a blue Nehru jacket when I was growing up.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      Contribution of Nehru-Gandhi in Indian politics is unmatched in the history of India.

      PS: I never wore Nehru jackets, but My father just loves it. My mother shares the name with Nehru's daughter.