Smt. Ratan Shastri



Born in the middle class family of school teacher, Ratanji was brought up with that blending of affection a discipline which is congenial for the development of rounded personality. She could get little formal education owing to her early marriage but she was a true example of education as the "manifestation of perfection already in man".

That was the reason, when her husband resigned from the prestigious post of Secretary in Home and Foreign Department of former Jaipur State, with a view to take up a programme of village reconstruction in a small, remote backward village, she welcomed the move and stood by him amid all the troubles and tribulations.

For seven years the Shastris made Banasthali, a very small village, far way from any town and which could be reached only by bullock cart, their field of activity. There, they trained a group of like-minded workers for taking up similar programme in other villages.
The programme that the Shastris took up in the village included Khadi and self-reliance, literacy and medical relief, and social and political awakening. An institution called ''Jiwan Kutir'' was founded by the Shastris in 1929 for rural reconstruction work and for training of workers for similar work in other parts of the country.

Giving up Purdah and ornaments in the Rajasthan of those times (1929) by a middle class woman in itself was an act of great courage. Creating an example for others and persuading others to do so was a great achievement of Smt. Ratan Shastri. A number of women workers thus prepared to take up work in society in those difficult days.

The Shastris lost their daughter, Shanta, at the tender age of 12. Shanta had evinced great interest in teaching young children and wanted a room for her school for which she had even prepared 600 mud bricks with her own hand. Ratanji took upon herself the task of translating Shanta's dream into reality.

This was the genesis of the Banasthali Vidyapith for which Ratanji earned fame. The Vidyapith, a national institution for education and training of women was founded in 1935. Smt. Shastri remained the moving spirit behind the Vidyapith all through. Generations of young girls blossomed under her personal, supportive care. She was actively involved in public life all through. Even during the initial years of the Vidyapith she took a leading part in organising the Jaipur Satyagraha. After Independence, She was an acting member on several prominent state and central Board and committees in the field of social welfare and education.

She was a recipient of Padma Shri in 1955, Padma Bhushan in 1975, and Jamnalal Bajaj Award for outstanding contribution in the field of uplift and welfare of women and children.