MADAME BHIKHAIJI CAMA
An outstanding lady of great courage, fearlessness, integrity and passion for freedom, Madame Bhikhaiji Cama was a pioneer amongst those who worked for the freedom of the country from abroad. Madame Cama’s intense love for the nation made her sacrifice her family life and work tirelessly for the cause of liberty, equality and fraternity. Right from her early years, she cultivated a well-defined social outlook and clear political vision. It was her motto to serve humanity with utmost love and affection and to raise her voice against any exploitation of fellow beings.
The portrait of Madame Cama was unveiled by the then Vice-President of India, Dr. Shanker Dayal Sharma on 2 August 1989.The portrait was donated by the Parsi Pragati Mandal, Surat.Dear ZTFE Members & Well-wishersMadame Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama, one of India’s earliest revolutionary fighters for freedom who gave India the first National Flag, was born on 24th September 1861, which was the same month and year the ZTFE was established!ZTFE archives have a rare black and white photograph of the 45 year old ‘Mother of the Indian Revolution’ Madame Bhikhaiji Cama seated at the top table next to our then president Dr Dadabhai Naoroji, taken at the Criterion Restaurant, Piccadilly Circus, during the Shahenshai Pateti Banquet on 14th September 1906. This photograph also has the Captain Sisters (grand daughters of Naoroji) and the young Indian lawyer practicing in South Africa – Mohandas K Gandhi dressed in a black tuxedo and white tie and is one of two of the oldest photographs in the ZTFE archives. The other was taken during the Jamsheedi NoRuz Banquet at the Cafe Royal in Regents Street on 21st March 1906. Both these photos are exhibited in the foyer of the Zoroastrian Centre.Eleven months after this photograph was taken Madame Cama, following a fiery speech, unfurled the first tricolour flag of Indian Independence with the inspiration of Vande Mataram, dressed in a blue silk kor sari, in front of 1000 delegates including Lenin, at the Second International Socialists Congress in Stuttgart, Germany. This was the first time in the history of the struggle for Indian Independence that a flag of independent India was unfurled at an international gathering.During her lifetime, Madame Cama was a popular revolutionary freedom fighter for Indian Independence. She was known to the IRA and Sinn Fein, to Lenin and the Russians and other European revolutionaries, Egyptian nationalists and Iran constitutionalist. Her movements were constantly monitored by the British and the Indian Secret Services.Madame Cama was a staunch Zoroastrian and always wore her Sudreh and Kusti. She was known to admonish those Zoroastrians who opted to discard their Sudreh and Kusti. She was also known to carry her copy of her Khordeh Avesta prayer book everywhere in her handbag and was in the habit of constantly repeating the Yatha Ahu Vairyo.Madame Cama was born into an affluent Zoroastrian Parsi family. Her father was a well known businessman Sorabji Framji Patel, while her grandfather Framji Nusserwanjee Patel had built a Kadmi Agairy in 1845 on Gunpowder Road, Mazgaon, Bombay. Mazgaon in the mid 19th century was a sought after affluent Parsi locality.Sadly her end was tragic! Madame Cama was forcefully impoverished by the British authorities who had sequestrated her assets. She passed away quietly aged 75, unhonoured and unmourned, in the B D Petit Parsee General Hospital on 12th August 1936. Fearing British reprisals because of her revolutionary activities prevented many from befriending her. She had very few visitors at the hospital, noted amongst them was Sir Cowasji Jehangir who had intervened with the British authorities to allow the ailing Madame Cama to return home to Bombay from Paris. She was consigned to the Towers of Silence on 13th August 1936 and all her after death ceremonies were performed at her family agairy. Even today, Madame Cama’s name is invoked during the annual Muktad ceremony at the Framji Nusserwanjee Patel on Gunpowder Road, Mazgaon.Madame Cama was also forgotten in post Independent India. It was because of the All India Women’s Conference paying her homage during her birth centenary in 1961 as; ‘One of India’s earliest revolutionary fighters for freedom who gave India the first National Flag, who had to leave her home, family and land of her birth to be a refugee in foreign countries on account of her Nationalist activities’ and urged the Government of India to take suitable steps to commemorate her memory. This led to the Greater Bombay Municipal Corporation naming a road after Madame Cama and the Government of India issuing a commemorative stamp on Republic Day 1962. On 2nd August 1989 her portrait, painted by Cumi Dallas, was unveiled by the then Vice President of India, Dr Shanker Dayal Sharma, in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House), Parliament of India. Pasted above is a copy of the portrait with the caption in the parliamentary catalogue.Friday 12th August 2016 marks her 80th death anniversary! Mr Hemant G Padhya whose family hails from Sanjan is a good friend of the ZTFE, has written a rousing article on Madame Cama commemorating her 80th death anniversary, titled; ‘Forgotten Heroine of India’s Independence Movement: Madame Bhikhaiji Cama’ in the India Link International, August – September 2016 issue, as attached.Also attached is an article titled; ‘Madame Bhikaiji Rustom Cama: A Builder of Modern India’ by Late Khorshed Adi Sethna, published in ‘Threads of Continuity: Zoroastrianism Life & Culture’. This compendium was published by her daughter Dr Shernaz Cama of PARZOR for the recent exhibition in New Delhi, ‘Threads of Continuity: Zoroastrianism Life & Culture’, which formed one of the 4 Zoroastrian exhibitions of the Everlasting Flame International Programme. Khorshed and Lt Gen Adi M Sethna (elder brother of our former trustee Cawas M Sethna) together with the well known Gujarati poet Dr Ratan Marshal of Surat were instrumental in persuading the Government of India in installing the above portrait of Madame Cama in the Indian Houses of Parliament.Our Ervad Shahibs at the Zoroastrian Centre will invoke the Faravashi (Guardian Spirit) of Madame Bhikaiji Rustom Cama during the muktad prayers on Ahunavad Gatha,Friday 12th August 2016. After the Muktad prayers all the worshipers will be requested to recite one Ashem Vohu Prayer in the memory of Madame Bhikhaiji Rustomji Cama.May Madame Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama’s soul continue to rest in Garothman Behest. May her immense self sacrifice for Indian Independence never be forgotten. May her famous quote; “Resistance to Tyranny is obedience to God” continue to inspire countless others to serve humanity and seek independence against all adversity.Yours sincerely