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Brij Krishna Chandiwala

(1900 – ★) – (Delhi)

Born in 1900, Brij Krishna Chandiwala was an Indian freedom fighter and a political associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1963 for his contributions to the field of social work. The Chandiwala family was a family of silver traders from Chandni Chowk in Delhi. Brij Krishna Chandiwala was educated at St Stephen’s College, Delhi, where he met Gandhi in 1918 when Gandhi had gone there as a guest of the college principal, S. K. Rudra.

Chandiwala was deeply influenced by Gandhi and became his ardent follower and close associate. Under Gandhi’s influence, he took to spartan meals and wearing khadi. He also took on the task of supplying goat’s milk to Gandhi whenever he stayed in Delhi, which earned him the nickname “gwalin” (milkmaid) from Dr. M. A. Ansari. During the 1930s, Chandiwala helped organise the stone breakers of Delhi into a union and took up cases of violation of their rights with the Delhi administrators and in courts of law to ensure better compliance with government regulations regarding their work and to get compensation for them.

When Gandhi stayed in Delhi, he used to stay at Chandiwala’s house, and it was there that Gandhi undertook his 21-day fast for communal harmony in 1924. Chandiwala was with Gandhi on the day of his assassination and prepared Gandhi’s body for cremation.

After Independence, Chandiwala devoted himself to social work. He became a founding member and president of the Bharat Sewak Samaj and Sadachar Samiti. In 1952, he founded the Shri Banarsidas Chandiwala Sewa Smarak Trust Society, initially headed by Gandhi’s son Devdas. The trust runs several hospitals and educational institutes in Delhi, including the Janki Devi College for Women, which is named in honour of his mother. For his contributions to the field of social work, Chandiwala was awarded the Padma Shri in 1963.