KASTURBA GANDHI: INDIAN FREEDOM FIGHTER
Leader of Women's Satyagrapha
I was looking at some photos recently of this great women, Kasturba Gandhi, the Dharma Pathani of Mohandas Gandhi. You see her spiritual essence come through to you, and it deeply touches your soul. Behind every great man is a great woman. Behind every great woman is a great man. To many she was known as "Ba" or Kasturbai, the name Mahatma called her.
She was born on April 11, 1869. He father was Gokuladas Makharji of Porbandar. She married Mahatma was they both were 13 though an arrangement between parents. Mahatma states in his autobiography Gandhi that his brothers were all married at the same time he married Ba. At the time he looked at it as a fun celebration. From the time they were 13 until 18, Mahatma was still in school and Ba was often with her parents helping the family.
He taught her how to read during this period because she was illiterate. This was considered very progressive and radical at the time. Later on he opposed child marriages on principle. In the ancient tradition women were 18 and over and chose their own husbands at a special ceremony where men had to prove their intellectual, physical and spiritual abilities. By the 1940's women had gradually lost their former high status. The Indian Independence Movement revived this status in the political sphere and many great female activists and leaders were a part of the movement. Kasturba was the leader of the Women's Satyagrapha (truth force).
When Mahatma first married her, he wanted her to stay home all the time. He soon learned she did not like that idea. She liked her freedom to visit family, friends, attend events, run errands and buy food to prepare meals. This was one of his great lessons of their early marriage: realizing that both needed freedom to interact beyond the home on an equal basis. Over time he evolved as a person who eventually worked with many articulate female activists and leaders in the Satyagrapha Movement. Many of these women became diplomats, governors, doctors, lawyers, members of the Indian Congress and Parliament.
For many years they raised a family of four sons. Harilal was born in 1888, followed by Manilal in 1892. Ramdas was born in 1997 and their last son, Devdas, was born in 1900. In 1906 both Mohandas and Kasturba made a vow of brahamacharya in their marriage. From that time forward they ceased any sexual relations. Most married couples would find this arrangement not to their liking, but they stayed together for 62 years.
Kasturba became more heavily involved in the social activism of her husband in South Africa. In September of 1913 she was arrested and imprisoned for three months of hard labor. She often took her husband's place when he was in prison or fasting, delivering speeches and organizing action in the movement with women and men. She is most well known for her work with the cause of the indigo workers in Champaran, Bihar and the No Tax Campaign in Kaira, Gujarat. She picketed liquor and foreign cloth shops and participated in the Rajkot Satyagrapha. In Gandhi's autobiography he relates how she taught children in a number of campaigns for the indigo workers. Champaran is known as the city of King Janaka, who was the father of Mother Sita, the wife, consort and queen of Sri Ram in the Ramayan.
Kasturba lived the Dharma Pathani relationship as his support, companion and equal. As the Vedas states, "When a woman enters a family, she enters as a river into the sea to rule with her husband." Her health was one of her greatest challenges. Broncitis was one of the chronic conditions she endured living in ashrams and being involved with various actions and movements of her husband. She was arrested in the Quit India Movement actions along with her husband. They both ended up in detention at the Aga Khan's Palace in Poona. She became ill with pneumonia and died from a heart attack on February 22, 1944 in Mahatma's arms while in prison.
After her death he was never the same again. His Shakti and energy had left the Earth plane. Their bond of love was so deep and strong. She was a woman of independence and at the same time his great support and companion in life and the movement. He started out as many of us, not as enlightened as he could be. She taught him enlightenment in their relationship and also this effected the Indian Independence Movement. Mahatma Gandhi was a greater man for having been married to such a great woman. He learned what true equality was through his relationship with Kasturba. Out of this great movement, Satyagrapha, came the basis and philosophy for many great change movements: civil rights, women's and ecological movements worldwide and in India. What a great philosophy: "Be the change you want to see in the world."
JAI SHRI KASTURBAI! JAI SHRI MAHATMA!