Unsung Heroes | History Corner | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ministry of Culture, Government of India

Unsung Heroes Detail

Paying tribute to India’s freedom fighters

Dr. S. Soundaram

Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu

November 21, 2022 to November 21, 2023

Dr. S. Soundaram was born on 18 August 1904 to T. V. Sundaram Iyengar, in Tirunelveli. She was married at the age of 14 in 1918, but he died when she was still in her teens. Her parents urged her to continue with her studies. It was at Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi that she did her degree in medicine. During her college days in Delhi, she became friendly with Sushila Nayyar and through her, she met Gandhiji. She was immediately drawn to the freedom struggle, but she did not give up her studies. She was 32 years old in 1936 when she graduated as a doctor. She then involved herself wholeheartedly in the freedom struggle and through Gandhiji met G. Ramachandran who was active in the Harijan movement. They got married on 7 November 1940. T.S. Sundaram and her husband were soon in the thick of the Quit India Movement, but as freedom neared Gandhi thought she would serve India better by not getting involved in politics. He made her the representative in South India of the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust and entrusted her with setting up an institution in a rural area that would improve a lot of the poorest of the poor. So, was born the idea of Gandhigram, where villagers were taught skills and provided support to revive village industries and the economy of the rural community. T.S. Soundaram threw herself wholeheartedly into this project that focused on healthcare, education, economic development and social welfare in the rural communities in the surrounding area. In 1947, Soundaram started the Kasturba Hospital as a two-bed clinic in a house in Chinnalapatti, a small town on the Madurai Dindigul highway. Along with her husband, Dr. G. Ramachandran, she notably founded the Gandhigram Rural Institute in 1947 as a memorial to Kasturba Gandhi, the deceased wife of Mahatma Gandhi. This was set up as a rural institution, in a remote place in Dindigul district, Tamil Nadu to serve the most deprived of people. The Gandhigram Rural Institute became a deemed university in 1976. She passed away on 21 October 1984.