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Where have all the flowers gone?

A portrait on Shradhanjali

Life must blossom like a flower offering itself to the Divine.

The Mother       


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.

Hobby unit

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.

Initial struggle

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 small accordions.

"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 designed.

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.


For more datails, check http://www.shradhanjaliauroville.com

contact:  shradhan@auroville.org.in 

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