oday we celebrate kamaladevi chattopadhyay: freedom fighter, art enthusiast, social activist, actor, youth leader, and forward-thinking women’s movement organizer (and all in one lifetime!).
chattopadhyay’s contributions to india were numerous. though widely known for persuading mahatma gandhi to call upon women to march with him in the indian independence movement in the early 20th century, she is also credited for reinvigorating the culture of indian handicrafts, handlooms, and theatre, and for using cooperative grassroots movements to pave the way for a higher socioeconomic standard for indian women around the country.
chattopadhyay had a career of ‘firsts’ - from being the first woman to run for legislative office to setting up some of the first national institutions to archive, protect, and promote indian dance, drama, art, puppetry, music, and handicrafts. she was also one of the few women of her time to propose that women’s rights, religious freedoms, environmental justice, political independence, and civil rights are all interrelated movements.
today’s doodle by finland-based desi artist parvati pillai depicts chattopadhyay surrounded by many of the cultural objects and practices she fought to elevate and protect, including the bhangra, the sitar, the sarangi, karthak dance, chhau dance, embroidery, basket weaving, and kathaputli.
happy birthday, kamaladevi chattopadhyay!