Unsung Heroes | History Corner | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ministry of Culture, Government of India

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Paying tribute to India’s freedom fighters

Lilavati Munshi

Bombay, Maharashtra

June 30, 2022

Lilavati Munshi was born on 21 May 1899 in a Gujarati Jain family, in Bombay. She was the wife of Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, India’s independence activist, politician, lawyer, and much celebrated Gujarati author. Being a life partner of a literary laureate, Lilavati too developed a knack in rhetorically addressing the gathering. In the mid-1930s, patriots who favoured full independence could agree on one thing, that they would not tolerate British domination anymore. One amongst them was Lilvavati Mushi who presided over a meeting on 1 March 1932, This public meeting of Congress Jubilee Celebration was held at Dadar on 31 December 1935. Her impactful speech influenced the audience to practice hundred percent swadeshi and to work alongside men to promote the country’s cause. In a gripping narrative, the newspaper columns reported how a group of intelligent, committed women such as Lilavati supported the civil disobedience movement and registered careful political participation in this meeting.

It wasn’t until Congress acknowledged the role of Lilavati Munshi and other prominent women in the salt satyagraha that it could manage to get women’s participation. Lilavati Munshi was also reciprocally convinced that the inspirational women would not be known to the country without the Congress’ social reforms. She was also active during the civil disobedience period which was marked by much strife among many who were fighting for independence. She was sentenced to one year of rigorous imprisonment, something that earned her a special reverence from her followers. She is also remembered as a woman of charity. She actively participated in the planning and funding of a good deal of charitable activities like The Children’s Aid Society, the Bombay Infant Welfare Society, the Society for the Protection of Children in Western India, Women’s Rescue Home at Umarkhadi, Gujarati Stri Mandal, Bhagini Samaj Seva Mandir among other. The combination of social and political works in one woman is emblematic. Her effective leadership for the Congress party to needs attention. Among the scores of females who graciously participated in the nationalist movement, Lilavati Munshi’s name stands quite tall.

Leaving a strong patriotic imprint, she passed away on 20 February 1978.