5 Indian Fundraisers The World Cannot Forget

By: Hitesh & Chiara

Published On: January 05, 2021

Donating for a cause has a long and decorated history in our country. At various points of time - even during our independence struggle, in fact - people came forward to donate. No matter what they had or how much they earned, Indians did not hesitate to contribute for a genuine cause. What’s more, these fundraising efforts were led by some of India’s most respected figures, who recognised the underlying kindness of the people, as well as the sheer power of all Indians, when united for a common cause. 

1. Mahatma Gandhi - Streedhan

In 1927, Mahatma Gandhi was touring the country. Amidst India’s struggle for independence, Gandhiji was also working to secure equality for the marginalized Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes communities. Reaching Bangalore, he encouraged people to join this movement, and to those who could not, he requested for any monetary help possible. 

A large number of women were in the audience. When they responded that they had no money of their own, Gandhi reminded them of their ‘streedhan’ - the wedding jewellery that women get from their parents, and over which they have sole rights. Their response? 

 “Woman after woman took out one or two of their jewels adorning their bodies and threw them into the handkerchief that he was holding. One threw a diamond and gold ring, another a gold necklace, another a ruby and gold earring, and so on.”

-Rajeshwari Chatterjee, (Professor and later Chairperson of the Department of Electro-communication Engineering, IISc.), Lifescapes, A Personal History

2. MS Subbulakshmi - Charity Fundraising Concerts

Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi has several firsts to her name: first musician to receive a Bharat Ratna, first Indian musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay award, first Indian musician to perform for the United Nations General Assembly. But what few know is that she left behind a promising career in film, and a successful one in playback singing, to sing almost exclusively for charity fundraisers. 

MS Subbulakshmi is said to have sung for at least 200 charities. This includes the Kasturba Memorial Fund (1944), the Sapru Memorial Fund (1950), for the Kashmir Flood Relief Fund (1959), and a Muslim girls’ school in Mangaluru. Her belief in what she was doing was implacable; even as they had to sell their home to bolster their depleted savings, MS Subbulakshmi and her husband Kalki Sadasivam continued giving concerts for causes.

3. The National Defence Fund (1962)

As war began on India’s borders, every Indian stepped up. MG Ramachandran, the famous Tamil star and then-emerging politician, set aside his party’s quarrel with the Centre, and contributed Rs. 75,000 to the National Defence Fund. Meena Kumari, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor from Bollywood donated Rs. 50,000 each. 

Ordinary Indians donated what they could; in Punjab, for instance, people gave away necklaces, rings, bangles, even gold coins. From other parts of the country, women donated their jewellery. Even blood banks reportedly got more blood donations than they could handle!


4. Pandit Ravi Shankar - Bangladesh War

India and its armed forces played a role in liberating Bangladesh. But India also played a role in securing relief efforts for Bangladesh, through the power of music.

Pandit Ravi Shankar’s father was born and brought up in Bangladesh. Unable to see the tragedy unfolding there - from wartime killings to flooding to starvation - he reached out to his fellow musicians, especially his friend George Harrison (from the Beatles). 

Over the following weeks and months, they managed to convince leading legends to sign up for a pair of benefit concerts in New York. Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Billy Preston and many others lit up the stage, while also reminding their audience of why the concert was happening, and why Bangladesh needed their help.

The tickets for the concerts, along with money raised from the sales of the live album and film went towards relief efforts. More than that, the concerts brought Western media attention to the war, making it an international issue. 

5. Kargil War (1999)

The last war India was involved in saw citizens supporting their armed forces in whatever way they could. A snapshot of these efforts (July 19, 1999; India Today) is presented here:

  • 81-year-old Gurdayal Singh (Rajasthan), a World War 2 veteran, gave his month’s pension.

  • 26-year-old Veni Prakash (Rajasthan) took his dowry from his father-in-law, added his own savings to it, and donated it to war efforts.

  • 6-year-old Satarupa Das (West Bengal) sang for commuters in the 5:30 train, and donated the amount they gave her.

  • 31-year-old SB Rangaraju (Andhra Pradesh) added a surcharge to each idli plate he sold. The entire surcharge was donated to the Army Relief Fund.

  • Beggars outside Chamundi Devi Temple (Himachal Pradesh) donated their day’s earnings for the collection.

  • The elderly residents of a welfare home (Tamil Nadu) went on a fast for a day, and donated the amount saved to the war efforts.


Today, we celebrate the day India adopted its own Constitution and became a republic in its own right. Let us also celebrate those Indians who live up to the spirit of our Constitution, and try to create a better future for India and humanity as a whole.