September , 2023
Madame Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama: The Mother of Indian Revolution
15:40 pm

Dr. Ravindra Kumar

Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama, better known as Madam Cama, was born in Mumbai on September 24, 1861 to Jaijibai Sorabji Patel, wife of an elite Parsi businessman Sorabji Framji Patel, four years after India’s first attempt to freedom in 1857 (known as the First War of Independence) at Navsari (present-day Gujarat).

After the incident of 1857, India was at a new turning point from a political as well as socio-cultural and religious viewpoint. The great socio-religious reformers like Swami Dayanand ‘Saraswati’, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Dadabhai Naoroji, Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Mahadev Govind Ranade, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and many more educationists and nationalists were active during that period. Rabindranath Tagore was born in the same year, i.e., 1861 as Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama’s birth, and he was also active late in the Nineteenth Century.

Since childhood, the spirit of serving and helping the people was deeply embedded in her. She was a hardworking, disciplined and wise woman having knowledge of many languages. Along with actively participating in public works, especially to serve the people, she also engaged herself in activities for the freedom of the country from the English rule. Even after her marriage with Rustom Cama in the year 1885, Bhikhaiji Cama’s works to serve the people and her activities for the independence of the country did not decrease even a bit; rather, they expanded. In the year 1896, when there was a very bad situation in Bombay Presidency caused by the famine and also terrible plague spread in the city of Mumbai, she did an unprecedented work of public service without worrying about her health. She joined a health care team, but herself became a victim of plague while doing work for the people. In fact, she became very ill at that time after being hit by the plague.

After some time, Madam Cama had recovered to some extent, But, she could not be completely disease free for a long time. Therefore, she was advised to go to Europe for her treatment and recovery to get completely cured. In the year 1902, she went to London and there she continued her struggle especially for India’s independence. She was influenced by the nationalist like Dadabhai Naoroji, better known as the ‘Grand Old Man of India’. Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama toured America, England and Germany and along with Shyamji Krishna Varma and Har Dayal, she worked tirelessly to generate an atmosphere abroad in favour of India’s freedom from British Colonialism. She created a history by hoisting India’s national flag at the International Socialist Congress on August 22, 1907 in Stuttgart, Germany. Thus, she was the first brave and determined woman to hoist the Indian flag on a foreign land. On that occasion in her address she said, “The continuation of British rule in India is a blot on the name of humanity. The interests of a great country India are being badly damaged by this.”

She called on people around the world to co-operate and support Indians in their struggle for the liberation of the county from British slavery. On the other hand, calling on her compatriots to step forward to get the freedom of their Motherland from the English, she said, “Go ahead, we are Indians and India belongs to Indians.” 

She published ‘Vande Matram’ from Paris (France), which became very popular among Indians overseas to divulge the spirit of India’s national consciousness. It helped in creating awareness among Indians living abroad to love their Motherland, patriotism and for the work of freedom from British Imperialism. Thus, Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama posed a big and direct challenge to British imperialism through these two events: by hoisting India’s national flag in Germany and publishing ‘Vande Matram’ from France.

The longing and enthusiasm she had for India’s independence and its revival, the determination she had to work in this regard, that could be clearly understood from a letter written by her to the eminent Russian writer Maxim Gorky. In fact, Gorky had requested Bhikhaiji Cama to write an article for the Russian press under the title, ‘Indian Women’. In this regard, in his request to Bhikhaiji Cama he had written, “The Russian democracy, the Russian women, will be very grateful to you for showing them the struggle of the people living on the banks of the Ganges…that is, the democrats and women of great India.”

In her reply to Gorky on October 31, 1912, Madam Cama wrote to him, “All my time and energy are devoted to my country and her struggle (for India’s freedom from colonialism). But, if I can write an article dedicated to my nation, I shall put all my energies into fulfilling your offer.”

Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama showed indomitable courage while serving the country, especially during the struggle for India’s independence, despite living in exile for a long period. With determination and strong willpower, she presented before the compatriots an exemplary ideal to be followed for a long time, specifically the women-community. By generating awakening among people around the world and preparing public opinion against imperialism, especially calling on fellow beings to support Indians in their struggle against injustice along with continuously fighting herself for the liberation of the Motherland from the foreign rule, she rendered a great service to the nation. Due to her noteworthy contribution, she is an integral part of the golden pages of the history of India’s freedom struggle. 

*A Padma Shri and Sardar Patel National Awardee Indologist  Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a
Former Vice Chancellor of CCS University, Meerut; he is also the Editor-in-Chief of Global 
Peace International Journal.

*Mrs. Kamlesh Kumari, currently, works with Education 

Department of Haryana State. 


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