Bhikaji Cama was one of the pioneers of India’s struggle for independence.
She was born in a Parsi family and was quite well educated. She married Rustom Cama but was not happy in the marriage, so she used to spent most of her time in different philanthropic activities and social work.
The 1896 Bombay Famine and the plague affected her so much that Cama decided to dedicate herself to the service of the people.
Little did she knew that this famine would not only change her life, but also the history of Indian independence.
While working for the relief team, she herself became a victim of the plague. But luckily, for all of us, she survived.
The plague made her weak and she was sent to London to get medical assistance. Her voyage to the foreign land was probably one of the most important chapters in India’s struggle for independence.
When she was in London she came in contact with famous leaders like Shyamji Krishna Varma and Dadabhai Naroji. She even became his secretary.
Varma was a well-known nationalist and was popular for his speeches in support of India’s Independence in London. He introduced her to the Grand Old Man of India and the then face of Indian Freedom Struggle, Dadabhai Naroji. Soon both became very close.
While in London, Cama was one of the first people who supported the founding of the famous Indian Home Rule Society.
Her work for India’s independence took her to Paris, where she co-founded the Paris Indian Society. She became a kind of a global ambassador of India’s quest for Independence.
While most of us were fighting the British Rule in our native land, she was one of the few to do so outside the country. She founded the famous Paris Indian Society along with Rewabhai Rana and Munchershah Burjorji Godrej. While in Paris, she also became the publisher of “Vande Mataram” a revolutionary magazine. Cama achieved such fame that even famous revolutionaries like Lenin came to meet her in Paris.
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On 22 August 1907, at Stuttgart, Germany, she unfurled the first Indian flag outside the Indian Subcontinent.
22 August 1907 was probably the most important day in her life. It is because of this day Bikaji Cama’s name would be written with golden letters in the pages of India’s history. She went to attend the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart, Germany and there she voiced the pains and sufferings that Indians were going through. It was at this very place that she unfurled the first Indian flag outside the Indian Subcontinent.
Cama herself co-designed the flag. The eight lotuses in the flag represented the eight provinces.
In the flag, the three different stripes represented unity among all religions of India. The tricolour-flag had the words Vande Mataram written in the middle.
This flag served as one of the templates from which the current flag was created.
The flag is now on public display at the Maratha and Kesari Library in Pune.
Cama was more than just a freedom fighter, she was also an advocate of woman rights. She was India’s first cultural representative to the United States.
She was one of the first people who advocated the role and significance of women in politics. She even went to places like Cairo to fight and promote women rights.
Cama worked all her life to make the world realize the evils of imperialism. It is sad that today only a handful of people know and acknowledge the contribution of this legendary freedom fighter, who dedicated her entire life to her Motherland.