Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay Biography

by Feb 16, 2022

Introduction to Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay

As I always say, India freedom and Independence came with a cost. The many selfless freedom fighters paid this cost. These are the land heroes, and all deserve celebration for their unconditional love for their motherland. It only takes a fearless person to fight on behalf of an entire nation. And that is what these freedom fighters were like. Fearless and selfless.

So today am back again with yet another exciting story of an imposing woman—a daughter, a wife, a mother and now a legend freedom fighter. Kamaladevi was an amazing lady of substance. She understood that freedom and Independence come with sacrifice and dedication. Even though she was a married woman, she balanced family matters with political matters perfectly.

She did a lot for India, and much remains unrecorded in the history books. She was a freedom fighter as well as a social reformer. Her immense contribution during the struggle for Independence in India remains unquestionable. Did you know that some of the cultural centres in India are a result of her vision? Even though she faced a lot of opposition, she kept stressing the importance of Cooperative Grassroot Movements and Handicrafts in uplifting the economy and social status of the Indian people.

Do you want to know about Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay? Read on and get informed.

Brief Information

Facts Information
Full Name Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay
Reign 1903-1988
BirthOn the 3rd of April 1903, Mangalore, India
OccupationSocial Reformer & freedom Fighter
parentsFather: Ananthayya Dhareshwar


Mother: Girijabai

SpouseKrishna Rao
ChildrenRamakrishna Chattopadhyay
AwardsPadma Bhushan


Ramon Magsaysay

Padma Vibhushan

DeathThe 29th of October 1988 (85 years)

Birth & Early Life

Image Credits: Wikipedia

Kamaladevi was born on the 3rd of April in 1903. Her family, Saraswat Brahmin, lived in Mangalore, where Kamaladevi was born. She was the fourth born and the youngest daughter in the family. Her father’s name was Ananthayya Dhareshwar, while her mother was named Girijabai. Kamaladevi’s father worked as a district collector and thus a prominent personality in the community.

Her mother was a strong woman who always believed in Independence and freedom. She was from Karnataka and belonged to a wealthy family, the Chhatarpur Saraswat brahmana family, best known for owning a lot of lands. Girijabai, Kamaladevi’ mother, was well educated despite growing up in the 18th century when education was not a priority. However, She did most of her education from home (home tutoring). I must say, Kamaladevi inherited a lot about her mother, and most importantly, she grew up with the spirit of a freedom fighter.

The presence of both parents in her life gave her a very form background. She believed that one day she would be respected and above, she would change her peoples live, something that came to pass later on. She was well disciplined, and a responsible young lady who knew her purpose in life always looked forward to living her dreams.

Her parents were well connected and thus made friends who were then freedom fighters. Intellectuals like Gopal Krishna and Mahadev Govind Ranade were close friends to her parents. Her parent’s closeness to such dignitaries inspired her a lot, and she became an enthusiast of the Swadesh Nationalist Movement at a very young age.

Education, Marital Life

From her childhood, Kamaladevi was a brilliant young lady and always displayed brilliance and unshakable determination. She was fearless, and nothing seemed to challenge her. So, when she got to school, she was a bright student and thus did well in her studies.

Kamaladevi studied drama, ancient Sanskrit drama to be precise. The best guru trained her. She was a focused student and entirely responsible. She knew what she was doing and focused on her goal, which was a success.

At some point, her elder sister, a role model, died while a teenager. Her sister had been married at a very young age. At the age of seven, Kamaladevi was also hit by another tragedy when her father passed away. Her father’s death came with many issues in the family and a huge burden to her mother, Girijabai. Her father died before writing any will for his property. So, according to Indian laws of the property then, all his property was inherited by Kamaladevi’s stepbrother. She and her mother were only allowed to get a monthly allowance, which was insufficient for them. Her mother now decided to take care of her using her dowry.

Her First Marriage

Kamaladevi grew up into a beautiful young woman. And just like any other young lady, she fell in love. In 1917, she got married even at the very tender age of 14 years. Two years later, her husband passed away, and she, therefore, became a widow at the age of 16 years.

Second Marriage

So later on. Kamaladevi joined Queen Mary’s College located in Chennai to continue her studies. Here she made friends with a fellow student, a sibling to Sarojini Naidu, who later linked her up with their brother Harin. Harin was a very talented young man and was a very famous poet and a playwright actor by then. Their mutual love and passion for art created the chemistry between the two.

Kamaladevi finally decided to settle down with Rabindranath Chattopadhyay. By then, she was 20 years old. Their marriage was against the orthodox society then that discouraged the remarrying of a widow. However, the two had decided to stop at nothing but union. They both kept a blind eye on the opposition and settled down.

A year later, the couple got a son, Rama. Kamaladevi and her husband stayed together in love and pursued a shared dream, which was art. They both did wonders when it came to art. They composed and scripted skits despite the hard times.

After a couple of years after their union, Harin moved to London, which marked his first trip abroad. A couple of months later, Kamaladevi joined him there, and she managed to enter Bedford college and attain a diploma in sociology.

Her acting Career

Later on, Kamaladevi started acting in films. People considered acting a career, not for women from prominent families. As always, she didn’t care about what traditions said; all she wanted was to pursue her dream. For the first time, she featured in two silent movies, one of them being Mricchakatika, one of the most famous silent plays of the Kannada Film Industry.

Many years later, Kamaladevi broke up with her husband and filled out a divorce form, which was also against the traditions of the land.


One of her most significant achievements was living her dream as an artist. When she got married to Hiran, they composed and scripted skits together. Later on, she became an actress and featured in a few Indian films, including the silent movies.

Secondly, she acquired a diploma in Sociology from a prominent college, Bedford college in London. That level of education was an outstanding achievement then.

She was a Successful Social Activist

While in London, Kamaladevi learned about Mahatma Gandhi’s vision and his Non-cooperative Movement in 1993, and she decided to go back to India. She then joined a Gandhian organization called the Seva Dal. This was the beginning of her journey as a social activist and freedom fighter. After a while, she was appointed the Women Section of the Organization leader. As a leader of the Women’s Seva Dal, she was in charge of recruiting, training and mentoring all women all over India.

She became the first female to run for a legislative position

Kamaladevi met the founder of AIWC (All India Women’s Conference), Margaret Elizabeth, an Irish-Indian woman who in the year 1926 and persuaded her to go for the provincial Legislative Assembly seat for Madras. Being the determined and fearless woman she was, Kamaladevi went for it but lost. However, she had only a few days to campaign. Interestingly, she lost with only 55 votes.

She became a co-founder of the All-India Women’s Conference (AIWC)

Just a year after losing in the elections for the Provincial Legislative Assembly, Kamaladevi joined the founding team of the AIWC. She was appointed the organizing secretary of the organization. A few years later, AIWC had grown into a reputable organization at the national level. The organization had established branches across the country, and voluntary programs were launched throughout India.

She was a successful Social Reformer

During her reign, she visited various European countries, learning a lot from the Europeans. She got inspired by the ways of living of the Europeans and decided to get into social reform programs. She established many institutions and training centres precisely for uplifting the female gender. An excellent example of her remarkable and commendable work was establishing and launching the Lady Irwin college explicitly for home sciences. It was a college for women and run by women.

Mahatma Gandhi appointed her as one of the Seven Member lead team

In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi formed the seven-member lead group, and Kamaladevi was among the seven members to run the Salt March, a nonviolent civil opposition movement. Kamaladevi decided to approach a nearby court and engaged a magistrate there, asking him to purchase the Freedom salt.

Kamaladevi got a lot of fame in the media when she protected the Indian Tricolor during a Scuffle.

She struggled For India’s Independence.

During world war II, Kamaladevi had travelled to England. Here, she launched a world tour to present India Situation to other nations across the world. She sought support from the foreign countries for India’s Independence once the war was over. Kamaladevi knew that India would get Its Independence soon.

She Established Refugee Rehabilitation

After Independence, many people in India got displaced, which forced Kamaladevi to rehabilitate the refugees. This was when she established the Indian Cooperative Union to support Rehabilitation. Through this union, she put up plans to develop a township. She finally got the approval to develop the township because she would do it Independently.

She struggled so much, and later the township was established and rehabilitated over 50000 refugees. This township created new jobs and homes for the refugees. Kamaladevi ensured that the refugees got relevant training and acquired new skills. She also launched health facilities within the township for medical care of the refugees.

Interesting facts

  1. She had two husbands

At first, Kamaladevi was married at the age of 14 due to the challenges they were facing after her father’s death. This marriage did not last for long, for the husband died a year later, leaving her a widow.

When Kamaladevi went back to school, she met friends who later introduced her to her new husband, Haran. The chemistry between the two was bonded by their mutual passion and love for art. They got married despite the tradition of unhappy land marriage for widows. This was the second marriage for Kamaladevi. However, the marriage ended years later.

  1. She had Many first Attached to her credits

She got herself a few first credits. When she vied for the provincial Legislative Assembly, she became the first female candidate in India to go for a legislative position. She established many institutions to keep and promote art across India on different occasions. I this she became the first woman to develop national institutions.

  1. She only Had one Child

Kamaladevi gave birth to only one Son, Ramakrishna Chattopadhyay, whom she got for her second marriage with Haran. In a first marriage, she did manage to conceive since her husband died almost immediately after they got married.

  1. She was Fearless and Strong

Nothing seemed to challenge Kamaladevi. She did the things that almost every woman will try as much to keep off. She maintained her stands no matter what. When her first husband died, she remarried, which was against the traditions and laws of the land. In the second marriage, she signed divorce papers even after it was discouraged by the orthodox society of the times.

Awards & Honors

Like any other hero, a freedom fighter a d asocial reformer, Kamaladevi managed to pocket a few awards. First of all, she earned the first award in 1955, when the Indian government gave her the Padma Bhushan award. On a different occasion, she received the Padma Vibhushan over 30 years later, in 1987. These two awards were for her contribution to the struggle for Independence and her fantastic job in her social reform mission in India.

In 1966, Kamaladevi received another award, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, recognizing her outstanding leadership skills. In 1974, She was awarded the fellowship due to her participation in art and drama.

Later on, in 1977, she received an award from UNESCO. This was to appreciate her contribution to promoting handicrafts. She got the highest award called the Desikottama.

On the 3rd of April in 2018, on a day supposed to be her 115th birthday, google put up her doodle on their homepage to honour her heroism.


Kamaladevi passed away on the 29th of October 1988. The cause of her death is linked to her old age (85 years).

Last Words

Kamaladevi was indeed a multitasking person. She was a social reformer, a freedom fighter, a family woman, a politician and many more things she did while she lived. Above all, the people of India will keep her in their hearts and minds for her remarkable role in bringing the India Ancient handicraft back to existence after India attained its Independence.







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