A commemorative postage stamp on the 20th Death Anniversary of Kasturbai Mohandas Gandhi (Ba), an Indian freedom fighter, wife of Mahatma Gandhi :
Issued by India
Issued on Feb 22, 1964
Issued for : The P & T Department deems it a great privilege to honour her memory through a special commemorative stamp on the occasion of her 20th death anniversary.
Photo on the Stamp : by Kanu Gandhi.
Type : Stamp, Postal Used
Colour : Mineral Red
Denomination : 15 Naya Paise
Overall Size : 3.30 x 2.46 cms.
Printing Size : 2.99 x 2.10 cms.
Perforation : 13½ x 14
Watermark : All over multiple ‘Lion Capital of Asoka’
Printing Process : Photogravure
Designed and Printed at : India Security Press
Name : Kasturbai Makhanji Kapadia
Born on Apr 11, 1869 at Porbandar, Kathiawar Agency, British India [now in Gujarat]
Died on Feb 22, 1944 at Aga Khan Palace, Poona, Bombay Province, British India [now in Pune, Maharashtra]
- “I am happy to know that the Posts and Telegraphs Department is honouring the memory of Kasturba Gandhi by issuing a special commemorative stamp on the occasion of her 20th Death Anniversary. She exemplified in her life the best traditions of Indian womanhood through the ages. Simple and self-effacing, she stood devotedly by her great husband during all his trials and tribulations and considered no sacrifice too great for the ideals for which he worked and lived. The memory of Kasturba will inspire the people of India for all time to come.” – S. Radhakrishnan, February 15, 1964, Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi-4.
- “ACROSS THE PAGES of history, the names of six women stand out in the reflected glory of their saintly husbands – Maitreyi, wife of the Upanishadic sage Yajnavalkya; Yasodhara, wife of Gautama the Buddha; Xanthippe, wife of Socrates; Jijai, wife of the Maratha poet – saint Tukaram; Sophia, wife of Tolstoy; and Sharada Devi, wife of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. To these must be added the name of Kasturba, wife of Mahatma Gandhi…..” Thus wrote R. K. Prabhu in his book Sati Kasturba.
- She was a true partner of Gandhiji in all respects, a sahadharmini. As such she has been compared by discerning critics to the great satis of Indian mythology. “Epic in her single-minded self-surrender to her husband,” observes one, “she was like Sita and Savitri.” A distinguished Indian philosopher considers that Kasturba’s silent suffering, sacrifice, humility and faith were reminiscent of Anasuya and Arundhati. Her selfless existence helped to ennoble the nation.
- Kasturba was born in the same year – 1869 – and the same place – Porbandar – as Gandhiji. Her father, Gokuldas Makanji, and Gandhiji’s father, Karamchand Gandhi, were great friends. The boy and the girl were betrothed when they were seven and married when they were thirteen.
- By nature Kasturba was simple and unsophisticated. Amidst the palatial buildings of big cities, she pined for the low-roofed cottages of Sevagram. She had no education as such and, indeed, could with difficulty write letters and read simple Gujarati books. She was, however, endowed with a measure of native intelligence and keenness. The traditional culture, devotion, faith and self-effacement of Indian womanhood were superbly exemplified in her. Gandhiji once observed that, by leading a faithful life, a wife can appropriate the merits of her husband. But Kasturba had a stature and strength of her own.
- Being Gandhiji’s wife was no easy thing for her. It entailed great sacrifice and suffering – Gandhiji said he had “left no stone unturned to make her suffer.” But Kasturba did not flinch. Often, during the early years of married life, there were bitter domestic bickerings, but in the end Kasturba, with her matchless power of endurance, compelled her husband to make peace.
- Her life was full of ordeal. Accompanying Gandhiji to South Africa, in 1897, she found that she had to become the constant helpmate and, sometimes, the ‘victim’ of his experiments with truth. She had to give up ornaments and finery and forgo gifts. She had to yield to his food fads and adopt a diet without salt and pulses. During her serious illness, when more than once she was close to death, she had to submit to his hydropathy and nature cure. She had to accept a husband’s authority, reinforced through a week-long fast, to harbour Harijans at home in South Africa and in the Sabarmati Ashram, and look after their needs. For visiting the Jagannath temple at Puri, barred to Harijans, she had been strongly criticized by him; and once, when she had indiscreetly accumulated some money, privately, in the Ashram, he had castigated her in the columns of Young India.
- A crucial test was Kasturba’s submission to Gandhiji’s Brahmacharya, when, in 1906, he decided that he could not live “both after the flesh and the spirit.” But she did not stand in the way of his renunciation. The inexhaustible tolerance and courage which she displayed in all such exacting situations were her notable qualities.
- In Gandhiji’s momentous public life, too, Kasturba stood by his side, “simple, serene, and dauntless in the hour of trial and tragedy.” In September 1913, she led a party of women and men across the border into the Transvaal in defiance of law. She had earlier told Gandhiji: “If you can endure hardships, and so can my boys, why cannot I? I am bound to join the struggle.” Arrested, she spent 3 months, with hard labour, in jail. Indeed, the vision of her active participation – from her “inner promptings” – in the satyagraha movement in South Africa was, in Sarojini Naidu’s words, one of “brave, frail, hard-worn hands which must have held aloft the lamp of her country’s honour undimmed in one alien land….” In England, on her way back home, in the second half of 1914, she toiled at weaving rough garments for wounded soldiers, while Gandhiji and his associates underwent ambulance training and nursed the sick.
- In November 1917, she responded to Gandhiji’s call for social workers in Champaran and joined a team of teachers; she entered the huts of the villagers, imparting to them the knowledge of cleanliness, good manners, order and discipline. But her real trials were yet to come. The first of these was Gandhiji’s incarceration for 6 years, in 1922, on a charge of sedition. The heavy sentence was a crushing blow to her, but she rallied and issued a spirited call to her countrymen: “I appeal to all men and women who feel for me and have regard for my husband, to wholeheartedly concentrate on the Constructive Programme and make it a success.”
- In September 1924, when Gandhiji undertook a 21-day fast for Communal harmony, she faced the ordeal with rare fortitude and a touching resignation. His several fasts, involving the “crucifixion of flesh”, were, in fact, her most agonizing trials.
- Kasturba took active part in the great national movements of her time: the Non-Co-operation and the Civil Disobedience campaigns. In April 1930, she led a batch of Ashram women volunteers and picketed shops of foreign liquor. In the course of the 1932 movement, she suffered first a six-weeks’ imprisonment in January-February, and then, a term of six months from March 15, when she was re-arrested at Bardoli. In 1933, she again underwent imprisonment along with Gandhiji and other Ashram inmates. Her fearless example inspired thousands of Indian women to stand shoulder to shoulder with their men-folk in the freedom struggle and suffer untold hardships. In 1938, she answered a call which, as a “daughter of Rajkot”, she found impossible to resist; joining the satyagraha in that State, she was arrested and sentenced to solitary confinement in an interior village. When Gandhiji went on a fast as a protest against the ruler’s “breach of faith”, she reproached him for not consulting her beforehand, but refused to let him plead with the authorities to release her so that she could remain with him during the fiery ordeal. In her simple but unshakable faith, she believed: “God who has taken care of him during all his previous trials will pull him safely through this, too!”
- The final test came in 1942. In the morning of August 9, Gandhiji and most other prominent Congress leaders were arrested in Bombay by the British Government in a lightning move to forestall the “Quit India” struggle. Kasturba resolved to address that evening, at Shivaji Park, a mass meeting which Gandhiji was to have addressed; but she was arrested. The shock of the country-wide arrests undermined her health; she fell ill and was removed to the Aga Khan Palace in Poona to be with Gandhiji. In the words of Devdas, her youngest son, this was “for her the most trying of ordeals in which both the spirit and the body withered.” A week later, on August 15, Mahadev Desai, who was more than a son to her, died suddenly in prison, a martyr. This calamity further aggravated her distress. Between March and December 1943, she suffered a series of heart attacks.
- On February 20, 1944, there was a grave setback in her condition, and she passed away on the evening of February 22, which was the holy Shivratri day. It was noticed that her end came exactly one year after she had, like Savitri, through her prayers, as it were, snatched Gandhiji from the jaws of death, on the critical twelfth day of his fast in prison, in February 1943. By Kasturba’s death, prison itself acquired a sanctity.
- How did Gandhiji himself evaluate Kasturba? “Her greatness lay in complete self–effacement…..her ability to lose herself in me…. She was unique and in a class by herself…. Ba gave me her heart first, her head followed gradually in its wake.” She had co-operated with him in the great changes of his life. “I learnt the lesson of non–violence from my wife. What I did in South Africa was an extension of the rule of satyagraha which she….practised in her own person.” He said on another occasion: “For thirty years she had filled the place of my mother.” Indeed, She was ‘Ba’, not only to the Ashram inmates, but to the millions of her countrymen. She was in large measure responsible, observed Devdas Gandhi, for what Gandhiji was. She was an indivisible part of him, the warp and woof of his life, and her death left a gap which could never be filled.
- In her own quiet and unassuming modesty, Kasturba had once claimed: “I do nothing all my life except to follow Bapu, observe the Ashram rules and rest. Those moments when I have to work like Bapu are so rare.” But she left behind an example that will live in the memory of generations.
- Of all the world-wide tributes that were paid to her on her passing away, none is truer and more touching than that of Sarojini Naidu: “Never once did her feet falter or her heart quail on the steep path of perpetual sacrifice which was her portion in the wake of the great man whom she loved and served and followed with such surpassing courage, faith and devotion. Let us rejoice that she has passed from mortality to immortality and taken her rightful place in the valiant assembly of the beloved heroines of India’s legend, history and song.”
- A grateful nation has since raised in her memory a fund of over a crore of rupees for welfare work among women and children in the villages, a cause that was dear to her heart.