Book Review: “Mahatma Gandhi Chitra Katha” and Sarla Devi Mazumdar

“Mahatma Gandhi Chitra Katha” has been translated into 30 languages so far. In January this year, its Dogri, Gojri, Shina, Bodo, Khasi, Kokborok, Konkani, Garo, Arabic,  Russian and Persian versions also came out.

By: Ghulam Mohammed Ansari

Gandhiji’s biography has been translated into most languages of the world. Because of this, people of different languages of the world tried to understand Gandhiji closely. And thus Gandhiji became their own hero and role model. Gandhiji’s biography “Satya na Prayogo” which has been translated into Urdu as “Talaash-e- Haque”, this biography is still being translated into other languages of the world. Similarly, the series of illustrated (Picture) stories of Mahatma Gandhi can also be seen.

The series was started by Shrimati Sarla Devi Mazumdar on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth centenary in 1968-69 with “Mahatma Gandhi, a pictorial story in Gujarati”. Shrimati Sarla Devi who saw Gandhiji closely. She joined JJ College of Arts, Mumbai in 1937 and mastered painting in two years. This is the reason that keeping in mind the age, intelligence and interest of children, Shrimati Sarla Devi Mazumdar presented all the important events from the birth of Mahatma Gandhi to his last breath in the light of text and pictures for the first time in Gujarati language. And all the pictures were made by Sarla Devi. These pictures are very attractive and all relate to the story. There are 25 stories in this book. Which travels from the innocent “Mohan” to the “Mahatma”. Thus, according to each story and keeping in mind its psychological aspect, Shrimati Sarla Devi has also created pictures. That is, each story is preceded by an image that can be used to judge the story. Interestingly, after reading the story, these images become more attractive and these pictures seem to be talking to us.

Sarla Devi Mazumdar, as she was skilled in painting. While making all these pictures, She took care that all these stories are being written for children, in children’s language. Therefore, these pictures should also be made keeping in mind the mental age of the children, their interest and their psychology. And so they did. She also wrote the story in Gujarati language herself and constructed the pictures related to the story by herself. Such a task is often a challenging task.

In which both the creative and visual worlds have to be built by the same person. After looking at all the pictures and stories inside the book from the cover, the artwork by Shrimati Sarla Devi, reaches its peak. And if this is felt, then there can be no greater homage to Shrimati Sarla Devi.

Since, Sarla Devi saw Gandhiji closely. Therefore, after the death of Gandhiji, She was disappointed for many days. The shock of Gandhiji’s sudden death was haunting everyone in India. Sarla Devi was also going through this trauma. Therefore, to come out of this shock, she thought it appropriate to introduce Gandhiji to the children. And then Sarla Devi created “Mahatma Gandhi Picture Story” to present Gandhiji’s life and his services in simple language and easy style.

The first time, this utterly beautiful book was created and dedicated to children in 1969, the birth centenary Year of Mahatma Gandhi. The book highlights the evolution of Mahatma Gandhi through practice of different virtues acquired by him through his life.

The creator of this book was born in 1911 on the first day of the nine day Navaratri Festival as per the Hindu calendar. She was passionately patriotic since childhood. She was a born artist. She had inherited her scholastic abilities and adherence to high values in life from her father who was a judge and a mother who was progressive with a liberal mindset.

After school, she joined Karve University (SNDT now) and got (P.A.) (Proficiency In Arts) equivalent to present Master’s In drawing. 

She got married in 1935. There she pursued a two year course in Arts at the J.J. School of Arts (Mumbai) to hone her drawing skills. She participated in the freedom struggle in 1942 and was imprisoned.

Thereafter her personal life and her pursuit of art moved in tandem, with the flame of Gandhian thoughts flickering in her heart.

India won freedom in 1947. In 1948 she set off on her mission of rural social service all by herself, with the full support and encouragement of her immediate family members. For decades she struggled for the rights and progress of the rural masses.

In 1968, she created “Gandhi Chitra Katha” in Gujarati. It was subsequently translated into many languages and collectively about one lakh copies of the book were sold immediately.

In 1975, on the occasion of the International Women’s Year, she painted pictures of 27 well known women from the times of Upanishads till date.

This version of the book brings to life once again her art and her devotion to the Mahatma.

So far, “Mahatma Gandhi Chitra Katha” has been translated into 30 languages, including Urdu, Kashmiri, Dogri, Gojri, Shina, Bodo, Khasi, Kokborok, Konkani, Garo, Arabic, Russian, Persian, French, German, English and Nepali etc. Thus, it can also be said that Shrimati Sarla Devi Mazumdar became immortal by creating “Mahatma Gandhi Chitra Katha”.


As far as the 25 titles of this book are concerned, among them. 

Dawn of Truthfulness, The Seed of “Ram Nam”, Bhakti (Devotion) Waters the Seed, Truthful Schoolboy, Three Solemn Vows, His first ‘Satyagraha”, Courage and Compassion, Kasturba’s Firmness Gandhiji’s Service, Forgiveness Works Miracle, Burning Sympathy, Champion of Millions, Tending the Sick, Ba and Bapu of India, To the Round Table Conference, Among the Factory-Workers in London, The Cup of Poison, The Epic Fast, Temples Opened to Harijans, Quit India, Death of Kasturba, Lonely Pilgrim, India Wins Swaraj, Miracle of Non-Violence, Peace Eternal and Trinity of Non-Violence… as effective titles count.

Kaka Kalelkar, Gandhiji’s favorite writer and famous educationist, wrote:  “ Numerous artists hailing from all parts of the world have tried to draw Gandhiji’s pictures. Some of them have fared wonderfully well, while some others, who never possessed a creative, have failed. 

He further writes that “Everybody knows that the greater the effort put in for the attainment of a goal, the more sacred and valuable the achievement becomes. Had Saralaben joined Gandhian activities from the very childhood, perhaps they would not have appeared to her so scared, so valuable, and also hard to gain as a prize, as they have. The environment of her home, though not hostile, could not be very helpful to her, as her father was a Government Servant under the British regime. But impelled by an irresistible inner urge she took to Gandhian activities.

According to famous Gujarati writer, Shri Ravi Shankar Rawal “Shrimat Sarlaben’s artistic feat of creating a series of paintings depicting Gandhiji’s chronological life-snaps/events in a sweet playful style with a self avowed spiritual engagement will always bear a unique character.”

Similarly, famous Gujarati writer Krishna Ved Dikshit wrote in his Gujarati column “Kalam Ane Kitab” that” There is complete harmony between the pictures and the narration. These pictures will inspire the children and the adolescents quite effectively.”

The Government of Gujarat had organized a competition of books written in Gujarati during 1969-70. This book was awarded first prize in the category of biographies in children’s section. From the beginning, the publisher of this book (Guru Design_Vallabhvidyanagr_Anand) has shouldered all the responsibilities for it, for which they deserves to be congratulated.

Similarly, Dr. Pranav Desai and Ketan Ojha, who are Sarla Devi’s nephews, have taken the entire responsibility of this book series. Every year, experts are translating this book into different languages.

One more link has been added in this regard. And that is that for the last two years translators have been invited and honored during a grand gathering. This time the program was held in Ahmedabad on January 30. This time along with this program an exhibition of paintings of Ms. Sarla Devi Mazumdar was also organized at Hatti Singh Art Gallery, Ahmedabad. Which successfully continued for four days. The credit for the success of this program also goes to these nephews.

I have done the Urdu and Persian translations of this book, which was liked. It would not be wrong to say that this series of “Mahatma Gandhi Chitra Katha” has proved to be an important addition to Gandhian knowledge so far.

 The author is a (Assistant Editor : “Asasa”  an Urdu Quarterly, Ahmedabad) (Member SWA : Screen Writers Association, Mumbai)

Email : [email protected]

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