A tribute to social reformer and freedom fighter – Ambujammal
Every time I read about this lady, my respect and admiration for her grow. Ambujammal, a lady who was born into an affluent family voluntarily took up a simple life and spent her fortunes in the welfare of the sisters and brothers of her motherland. Her dedication and attitude of sacrifice and service brought her many leadership roles. Through those roles, Ambujammal contributed to the lives of many deserving people. Consider the following highlights of her life:
An ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, she took part in Satyagraha and the Non-Cooperation Movement several times. She not only participated in Salt Satyagraha but also motivated many young and middle-aged ladies to take part in the freedom movement.
She donated all her jewelleries to the social welfare programs of Mahatma.
She stopped wearing silk dresses and draped herself only with Khadi sarees. Thereby, she earned the moral right to advocate boycotting foreign goods. For propagating that cause, she was imprisoned twice.
She took forward the initiatives of the Swadeshi Movement. Along with, several like-minded men and women she formed the Women’s Swadeshi League, Madras. In 1929, she was nominated Treasurer of the League, which was an apolitical wing of the Congress, implementing Gandhi’s social and economic programs.
She shared several responsibilities in the Women’s India Association (WIA), holding the position of Secretary from 1939 to 1942 and of Treasurer from 1939 to 1947. Through the WIA, she worked actively on many issues such as the Abolition of Child Marriage, Polygamy, and the Devadasi system; she contributed to bringing about legislation to protect the rights of women and their property rights. On behalf of the WIA, she was nominated to the Madras Corporation. In 1947, during the All-India Women’s Conference in Madras, she was nominated as the Chairperson of the reception committee.
She actively led the women’s upliftment activities of downtrodden and illiterate women. Srinivasa Gandhi Nilayam was established by her in 1948 exclusively for carrying out the above activities.
Ambujammal was part of the Managing Committee of the Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha from 1934 to 1938. We may recall here that Hindi Prachar Sabha was established in 1918 by Mahatma Gandhi with Devadoss Gandhi as the first pracharak. Ambujammal played a significant role in propagating Hindi in several parts of the. As part of her activities with the Hindi Prachar Sabha, she attended the All-India Congress Session in Bombay in 1934. She stayed at Wardha Ashram with Gandhi from November 1934 till January 1935. As part of her role as Secretary of the Mylapore Ladies Club (a post she held from 1936), she conducted Hindi classes. Probably, this generation may not know that ‘Hindi Prachar’ was a movement that emerged as part of the Freedom Movement, and the leaders who led the nation to ‘FREE INDIA‘ felt the necessity of making a single Indian language the national language, and through that language unify the people and thereby intensify national integration. It is quite unfortunate that the Hindi Prachar was relegated to the background by the very same congress leaders post-independence. Particularly, in Tamil Nadu, the nationalist-minded citizens feel the absence of the leaders like Ambujammal.
She translated many works from Hindi to Tamil, notably the famous novel Seva Sadan (of Munshi Premchand) into Tamil. She has written three books in Tamil and the book titled Naan Kanda Bharatam (Bharat as I perceive it) and Tulsi Ramayanam.
She accompanied Acharya Vinoba when he visited Tamil Nadu as part of the Bhoodaan Movement in 1956. Following the footsteps of Mahatma and Acharya, Ambujammal also favoured self-sufficient villages through small industries employing local resources.
She was the Vice-President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee from 1957 to 1962, and the chairman of the State Social Welfare Board from 1957 to 1964.
Quite fittingly, she was honoured with the Padma Shri award in 1964.
Ambujammal was born on 8 January 1899 in a family of legal luminaries. She got married to Srinivasan, who was an advocate in Kumbakonam. Mahatma had stayed twice in her father’s place during his tour in Madras Presidency. Naturally, she was captivated by Gandhi’s ideas, and later she was inspired by eminent ladies like Sister Subbulakshmi Ammal, Annie Besant, and Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy. They all contributed to moulding her in leading a life of service and sacrifice till she breathed her last in 1983.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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