In an era when Indian women were still secondary citizens and confined to their homes, there have been a few exceptional ones who’ve boldly and confidently stepped out of the four walls to explore the world beyond. The story of Madam Bhikaji Cama, one of the prominent figures in the Indian independence movement is an inspirational one as it a testament to the strength and the endurance of a woman.
The year was 1907, four decades before our country was declared independent. A fearless lady with the fire of patriotism burning in her heart stood before the Socialist Congress at Stuttgart, Germany and unfurled what she called the “Flag of Indian Independence.” This tricolour of green, saffron, and red stripes was co-designed by Madam Cama, and Shyamji Krishna Varma, and would later serve as one of the templates from which the current national flag of India was created.
As Madam Cama unfurled the flag on Aug. 22, 1907, she became the first Indian woman to display the national flag on international soil. All the representatives at the conference stood and saluted the flag as Madam Cama highlighted the poverty, starvation and oppression under the British Raj and appealed for human rights, equality and autonomy from them. While most of the Indians were fighting British rule in their native land, she was one of the few to do so outside the country. She has travelled a great deal to promote the cause of India’s independence.
Apart from being an indomitable force in India’s freedom struggle, Madam Cama is also recognized for her altruistic activities and for being an advocate of woman rights. The 1896 Bombay Famine and plague affected her so much that she dedicated herself to the service of the people. She herself became a victim, but luckily survived. She was advised to move to Europe for rest and recuperation and in 1902, she left for London where she would spend the rest of her life. In November 1935, 74-year-old Bhikaji returned to India and the nation lost a fearless leader when she breathed her last on August 13, 1936.
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