Madras Week 2012: The Roads Project: Day 4: Kasturba Nagar

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Where is Kasturibai Nagar?

Kasturibai Nagar is immediately North of Indira Nagar, and to the West of Adyar. It is separated from Gandhi Nagar by Sardar Patel Road, which runs immediately North of Kasturibai Nagar.

Who was Kasturba Gandhi?

 

Kasturba Gandhi, affectionately called Ba, was the wife of Mohandas Gandhi. She was born in Porbandar. When she married Gandhi (at age 13), she was illiterate, and so Gandhi taught her to read and write – an unusual and radical step, considering the low status of women in Indian society at that time. When Gandhi left to study in London in 1888, she remained in India to raise their newborn son Harilal. She had three more sons – Manilal (1892), Ramdas (1897), and Devdas (1900). In 1906, Mohandas Gandhi decided to practice brahmacharya, and the couple became celibate. Though Kasturba supported her husbands activities, she sometimes had to be persuaded to see his point of view. Kasturba was deeply religious. Like her husband, she renounced all caste distinctions and lived in ashrams. Kasturba often joined her husband in political protests.

Her public life began after she joined her husband in South Africa in 1897. From 1904-14, she was part of the ‘Phoenix Settlement’ and began to “mother” all the residents, who began addressing her as “Kasturba”. She continued to be viewed as a motherly figure in various other ashrams in India. During the 1913 protest against working conditions for Indians in South Africa, Kasturba was arrested and sentenced to three months in a hard labour prison.

Later, in India, she sometimes took her husband’s place when he was under arrest. In 1915, when Gandhi returned to India to support indigo planters, Kasturba accompanied him. She taught hygiene, discipline, reading and writing to women and children. Kasturba suffered from chronic bronchitis. Stress from the Quit India Movement’s arrests and ashram life caused her to fall ill. After contracting pneumonia, she died from a severe heart attack on February 22, 1944.

Gandhi mourned – “I can’t imagine a life without Ba. She went away to freedom, imprinting on the heart to work or to die.”

Gandhi, who is generally accepted as the epitome of ahimsa and satyagraha, was heard to confess that Kasturba was really the one who taught him the practice of Satyagraha. She adhered to the principles of sacrifice, silence and dedication to the cause. Gandhi said in his autobiography that she had helped him work through all the major changes in his life.

Sources:

(n.d.).  Kasturba Gandhi. In WhereInCity. Retrieved May 7, 2012, from http://www.whereincity.com/india/great-indians/women/kasturba-gandhi.php.

(n.d.).  Kasturba Gandhi. In RRTD. Retrieved May 7, 2012, from http://www.rrtd.nic.in/kasturbagandhi.html.

(2010). Kasturba Gandhi, Freedom Fighter, Biography. In IndiaVideo. Retrieved May 7, 2012, from http://www.indiavideo.org/text/kasturba-gandhi-1209.php.

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