Gandhi left his imprint on Mahila Seva Samaja

Metrolife finds out that this place still retains a strong connection with Gandhi and follows his ideas even today

The Mahila Seva Samaja, that stands strong, near National College in Basavanagudi, is an institution steeped in history. It is one of the few places that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi visited on July 13, 1927, when they came to the city.  

The staff and students of the school are proud of its glorious past. Some recall that Gandhiji thanked the members of the Samaja and emphasised that if women worked on the charkha, it could be a way to provide food to millions in India.

“We have also heard that on the day of Gandhi’s visit,  many ladies gave away their ornaments to help the poor. The value of these voluntary gifts amounting to about Rs 350,”  Sheela Murthy, academic director of Mahila Seva Samaja, tells Metrolife. Talking about the history of this institution, Sheela says, “Built in 1913, this institution was initially called Seva Sadan. It was started by Parvatiamma Chandrasekhara lyer, who belonged to one of the aristocratic families in this area. Her husband was a chief justice and they were a childless couple. She wanted to do something for the women and Seva Samaja was started for empowering them, especially destitute women and child widows.”

She says that the institution introduced tailoring and midwifery classes. “Initially, boys were admitted till class seven and only girls studied in high school. But in the late 90s, they opened the place up for boys as well. Now, it is a full-fledged co-educational school,” says Sheela. 

The value-based education imparted at the Samaja promotes independent thinking and learning among students. “The children are taught the importance of following values, tradition and culture with a healthy mix of modernity,” adds Sheela.   

The frontal facade and structure of the school have been retained over the years. “The school has a heritage tag from INTACH, so we are not allowed to make any modifications. It is hard to even drill a nail into the wall. But the structure is in perfect condition,” adds Sheela.

“The school is run by a committee comprising 14 women, who have been associated with the school in one form or the other. Some of them are past students as well,” adds Sheela.

“Along with academic knowledge, the children are taught values like truth and honesty. To preserve the heritage of this place, we still conduct tailoring classes,” says Rajalakshmi, headmistress.   

S Nagesh Rao, manager admin, says  “Corporate culture is more professional and people don’t really have the time to listen to one another. Here, they give you enough space to breathe and people value your opinion,” adds Nagesh.

Gandhi’s’ association with Mahila Seva Samaja 

During his second visit to Seva Samaja in January 1934, a purse containing Rs 567 was presented to Gandhi as a gesture of support to the Khadi fund.

The Samaja contributed clothes and medicines to soldiers on the battlefield. 

The charkha meant many things to Gandhi. It was a step towards economic independence and an expression of outrage against British exploitation. The women of the Samaja imbibed this message and took up spinning on the charkha.

Old students get nostalgic 

“We were taught the importance of team spirit and accepting success and failure as a part of life. Even in class ten, we were not put under any academic pressure but were encouraged to pursue sports. I was a part of NCC, quizzing, debating and the dramatics teams. Participating in these gave me a lot of confidence, ” says Bina Sreedhar.

“That a few of us have returned to work in this institution shows that we are eager to give back what we received from it. The value-based education taught at school has done us a lot of good. We are all grounded.”
Susmitha Ramaswamy, honourary general secretary of the Samaja.


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