Offering of faith
Two young Indian women founded this unit in 1980
and gave it the Sanskrit name 'Shradhanjali', meaning 'Offering of faith'.
One of them, Abha, who still runs the company, came from Delhi, where
she had studied psychology. Having come to Auroville in 1978, she started
with drawing survey maps in the Architect's Office, then milked cows
at the Aspiration dairy and later worked at Matrimandir.
As the two women liked to work with their hands,
they started Shradhanjali with a capital of Rs 5,000. They picked flowers
from the gardens of Aspiration residents and pasted them on handmade
paper bought at the Ashram handmade paper factory in Pondicherry. During
the 1980 Auroville Today exhibition which toured 5-6 major Indian cities,
all their handmade flower cards and envelopes were sold, even though
the quality of the products was very school-girlish. This enthusiasm
and goodwill for their work encouraged them to continue.
Although there was a great deal of support from
Auroville (flowers were supplied freely; they could use a space in the
old polyester building in Aspiration, etc), it was a hard time. Many
of the requirements needed for the running of a company were not available
in Pondicherry in those days, and the two women would return from Madras
with bursting rucksacks on their back after a day of purchasing; the
infrastructure in Auroville was not developed (Parcels has to be taken
to Pondicherry for posting), Radhika, the co-founder of the unit left
after 6 years, Aurovilians came to help but went off again, etc etc.
Searching for a plot to build
However, production started to gear up, young girls
were employed from nearby villages and satisfying sales of the products
made savings for new facilities possible. Then began the struggle to
find a suitable plot of land for a new building. Some residents of the
Auroshilpam area objected to the unit since, they said, "Flowers
stink, we do not want you..."!
From Aspiration to Auroshilpam
Eventually a new plot of land was bought for the
construction next to CSR in the Auroshilpam area of Auroville's Industrial
Zone. The shifting from the premises in Aspiration (what is now the
financial service) to Auroshilpam was completed in 1994, and the calmness,
peace and space in the new work environment amply compensated for all
the past troubles.
Finely designed flower arrangements
"The flowers in our gardens are organically
grown, and no chemicals or artifical colourings are used. There is also
no noise or other form of pollution involved in the production process,"
says Abha. And indeed, no mechanical presses are used. The flowers are
picked by hand and pressed between thick paper presses, which look like
"We seek beauty and perfection in our work
and products. The pressed flower still carries the significance and
radiation of the plant. Flowers represent the joy and beauty of Nature,
and are symbolic of its aspiration towards the Light. Every flower has
its own particular vibration, and at Shradhanjali we try to capture
and preserve that unique quality of each flower, blade of grass or leaf,
and work it into finely designed arrangements of dried and pressed flowers."
The product range gradually grew from cards and
stationery to place mats and coasters, laminated serving trays, flower
pictures and lampshades, wall hangings and mirror frames, each one individually
Self-confidence of the employees
The goal of Shradhanjali is, however, not only to
bring beauty to our homes but also to improve the situation of its employees.
The company strongly supports the self-confidence of its thirty employees,
most of whom are young women from the surrounding villages.
They accomplish this through the harmonious atmosphere of the production
rooms, where the well trained young women are allowed to follow their
own creativity and intuition in the patterns and designs used, and also
by periodic awareness programmes on -for instance- health, nutrition,
education and social welfare.
Maximum support to Auroville
The third main aspect of Shradhanjali's philosophy
is to contribute as much as possible to Auroville.
"Most of the time we don't specify our contributions
to the community. I don't think it is up to the unit to choose where
the money goes; the larger, broad-based financial group should decide
on its usage. When we do specify, it is towards Matrimandir, the securing
of the land, for schools or for education",Abha explains.
Abha also stresses the point that she does not see
Shradhanjali as her unit. "I'm a trustee for Auroville. If I find
someone who can run it as well, I'll be able to step out. There is a
freedom in knowing that. My vision of Auroville is that we must learn
to give a maximum of ourselves to this fabulous dream and advanture
that is Auroville, every hour and minute of the day, without bargaining
or looking for returns or even acknowledgement of one's work. That's
what I attempt to do."
Abha definitely needs help. She has a family and
is a mother, is teaching hatha yoga, and hasn't enough time for herself.
She hopes that the right person will come along one day to help her
in Shradhanjali. Until then she will continue running the unit; will
continue observing people around Auroville copying Shradhanjali's products
with lower quality; and will continue taking care of her protégées,
the village women, plus her husband and daughter Smiti, and, of course,
all the beautiful tropical flowers.