Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay’s 115th birthday marked with Google Doodle’s ode to firebrand thinker, leader

On 3 April 2018, what would have been her 115th birthday, a special Google Doodle commemorates the firebrand who was Kamaladevi.

Google is celebrating the 115th birthday of "freedom fighter, art enthusiast, social activist, actor, youth leader, and forward-thinking" Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay with a doodle to highlight her life's work. To list the achievements of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay is a mildly anxiety-inducing activity: quite simply, she was so much.

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay’s 115th birthday marked with Google Doodle’s ode to firebrand thinker, leader

Google Doodle celebrates the 115th birthday of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay. Google.

She was among the leaders of the Indian freedom struggle, she was a pioneering feminist and socialist, she was a social activist, a prolific writer of books, and a master revivalist of India craft and culture.

The list of organisations she founded or was closely associated with, All India Women's Congress, National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Central Cottage Industries Emporium, the Crafts Council of India, Indian Cooperative Union, barely begin to scratch the surface of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay’s many achievements. She was the first Indian woman to contest an election (to the Madras Legislative Assembly), was part of the first silent film ever made in Kannada, Mricchakatika, and much more.

Kamaladevi was born in Mangalore in 1903; her father was a district collector, and her mother hailed from an aristocratic family. It was an illustrious home to be born into, but Kamala’s early years were marred by sorrow. The first blow was the death of her older sister, followed by the demise of their father when Kamala was only seven. In the absence of a will, Kamala’s father's property was entirely inherited by a stepson, leaving the children and their mother in a precarious position. It is said that this was when Kamala began to develop her ideas about what it meant for women to be empowered. At the same time, other ideas too were taking root: prominent figures from the Indian freedom struggle were frequent visitors to Kamala's home and she was enthralled by what they had to say.

Google Doodle Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay

Early drafts of the doodle for Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay.

Having been married at the age of 14 (and swiftly widowed, within the space of a couple of years), Kamala would later strike up a friendship with Suhasini Chattopadhyay (Sarojini Naidu’s younger sister). It was Suhasini who introduced Kamala to their older brother Harindranath. They bonded over a love for the arts and theatre and married in the face of much societal opposition. Before their wedding, when Harin was in the UK, Kamala followed him there and earned a degree in Sociology.

On her return to India, Kamaladevi threw herself into the freedom struggle. She joined the Seva Dal, then became a vociferous supporter of the Salt Satyagraha. Among the striking images of Kamaladevi is of her holding on to (and protecting) the flag of the Indian National Congress as a group of satyagrahis were caught in a scuffle with the authorities.

During World War II, she extensively toured the US and some other parts of the world, drumming up support for Indian independence and for colonialism to be overthrown. Several of the books (from among the 20 or so she wrote during her lifetime) dealt with what she had observed during her travels. This was also a time when she contributed immensely to the global discourse on feminism.

In the time after Partition, she worked tirelessly to set up the city of Faridabad where refugees from the Northwest Frontier province could be resettled. She also began to focus on reviving the handicrafts and textiles of India. Her contribution to the field of puppetry, handlooms, and theatre cannot be understated.

Google Doodle celebrating Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay.

Google Doodle celebrating Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay.

For her label-defying work that moved away from any convention, the government of India bestowed the Padma Bhushan on Kamaladevi, followed by the Padma Vibhushan. She was also the recipient of a Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay passed away in 1988, but her ideas and legacy live on. On 3 April 2018, what would have been her 115th birthday, a special Google Doodle commemorates the firebrand who was Kamaladevi.

The doodle is only visible to Internet users accessing Google from India to ensure that the doodle is relevant to the region. Other reasons will see other Google Doodle's that are relevant to their country or region.

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