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Jyotisangh

`Don`t stop – the perpetrators of atrocities will not stop – continue the fight` This was the clarion call of the 1930 Satyagrah. Never before had the common man been shaken so deeply by such a call to awakening – the bravery of the braves, the reverberating call of war, the call of the mother earth to throw off the restraining reigns of slavery by the intruders. In an unprecedented social transformation, workers abandoned their jobs, students abandoned their studies, women abandoned their homes and mothers shrugged off their ties to children – all were eager to do their bit in the fight for freedom! The very air was alive with the spirit of mutiny - an unstoppable undercurrent of excitement that rippled through society and built to a crescendo! Prabhat Pheris or dawn patrols, lessons on the spinning wheel, exercise sessions and the enforcement of the ban on imported goods – these were the new occupations that consumed the passions of the newly awakened masses. Gandhiji’s call to action had a profound effect on the bhartiya nari – unleashing a never before force of a social transformation that liberated the woman from the suffocating ties of social norms, home & hearth. An achievement that had defeated English educationists, political leaders and social transformers alike. And once the women had tasted the power of self-reliance, the bottomless depths of their resilience, confidence and skills, it became impossible to cork their emancipation. Gandhiji anchored his anti-liquor, anti-imported goods and Khadi promotion programs by creating a women’s cadre. Empowered thus, a lot of women willingly came forward to volunteer and lead this critical portion of the resistance. Mridulaben, daughter of a prominent industrialist in Ahmedabad, Seth Ambalal Sarabhai, was one such pioneer who created an organization that took up cudgels against social ills like alcoholism and child marriage. When the awakened women of Ahmedabad demonstrated their readiness to join constructive work in which to expend their energies, Gandhiji sought to harness this enthusiasm. He turned to Mridulaben, an ardent supporter of the freedom struggle in Ahmedabad. He said, “Mrudi, aa kaam taaru” meaning – ‘Mrudi, I entrust this work to you’. At the age of a mere 23 years, Mridulaben accepted this great challenge and dispensed her responsibilities with rare dedication, fervour and exemplary flair. This initiative which was ignited as a part of the freedom struggle found a permanent voice in the society through the establishment of the Jyoti Sangh on 24th April, 1934. And Mridulaben became the face of women’s liberation in Ahmedabad. When Gandhiji officially inaugurated the creation of the Jyotisangh on 29thJune, 1934, he explained the motto and meaning of the organization thus: “Jyoti means a lamp. And Sangh means a society of like-minded people. Just like a lamp spreads light, I entreat you to help awaken the common people to their abilities, help them to shine. And collectively these enlightened individuals will spread the light through the entire society.” Jyotisangh’s first office was established in the Dudhiya Building on Ritchie Road. But very soon, as the reach of the organization and its activities increased, they had to find more space. Between 1934 & 1937, the programs were run from a multitude of premises: the Baronet’s house in Desai ni Pol, Khadia; from Shri Jiwanlal Barrister’s house, from Dr Kanuga’s Dehla in Lakhiya pol, Jethabhai Pol and for a little while even from the New Gujarati School. By December 1937, all the programs and venues were able to come together under one roof at the new premises – the Mangalbhai Karamchand Haveli. Volunteer training, music classes, embroidery classes, nursing classes, drawing classes, typing classes and primary education classes were all conducted from here. Relief work as well as the industrial training cells also functioned from here. Having received the full backing of the Congress & its leaders, Gandhiji and Nehru, as well as society, the organization was soon able to embark on its third expansion phase in 1959 from its new office at Tilak Marg – courtesy, a grant from the Social Development Board and land obtained at discounted rates through the good offices of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Donations by leading citizens like Navinchandra Mafatlal and other prominent traders helped in setting up the new premises which was inaugurated by the then Prime minister, Shri Jawarlal Nehru. Bharat Ratna and eminent singer Shubhalaxmi raised a substantial amount for the organization through a popular concert without charging any fee. As the scope of activities at Jyoti Sangh kept on expanding, the need was felt for a new building to cater to the ever-increasing number of women approaching Jyoti Sangh with their problems. In 1984, funds were collected to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the organization. Gujarat government too allotted a plot of land. The family of Shri Jaykrishna Harivallabhdas donated a large amount to build the new building. A concert of Anup Jalota was organized which raised further funds. The Shreemati Mahalakshmi Harivallabhdas Udyog-Education-Training-Research Bhavan became operational on 11th February 1997. Keeping in mind the needs of women of all strata, various classes for Tailoring, Knitting, Embroidery, Jewellery making, English Speaking, Dance-Garba, Art & Craft, Nursing Aid Assistant Course, Computer Courses are conducted here. Aprroximately 20,000 women have taken advantage of these courses. A women’s welfare centre is also run on the premises with the help of the Commissioner, Women & Child Welfare. The building also houses the Charumatiben Yoddha Relief Cell which has resolved approximately 5,000 cases till date. Jyoti Sangh also has a library which houses around 6,500 books which exposes women to new ideas & thoughts that help in expanding their horizo

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Jyotisangh Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India