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DAYAWATI MODI (1915–1994)

Dayawati Modi was a philanthropist and wife of the industrialist Gujar Mal Modi. She was born in Kashganj, a small village in Uttar Pradesh. She lost her mother at a young age and educated herself, acquiring knowledge of the Vedas, and the Gita was the book to which she looked for guidance. In 1932 she married Gujar Mal Modi and came to live in a joint family in Patiala comprising about a hundred people, whose needs and comfort she looked after with dedication. At her suggestion, Gujar Mal came to Begumabad, renamed it Modinagar and set up his first sugar factory. The fortunes of the Modi group of industries began to rise. Now that he had money, Gujar Mal in 1935 gave Dayawati two options: either she could buy jewellery with their new funds or she could use them to develop Modinagar. She chose the latter, and set out with vigour and determination to establish schools and colleges. A firm believer in women’s self-reliance, widow remarriage and education, she set up in 1954 the Samaj Kalyan Parishad, to provide vocational training, adult education, and widow rehabilitation. Many development schemes were started in the districts surrounding Modinagar. She was also the founder of the Gujar Mal Modi Science Research Institute.

A karma yogini (one who seeks spiritual realisation through work), Dayawati sought guidance from her guru Anandamayi Ma (q.v). Understanding the need for constructive counselling in women’s lives, she would meet the women of Modinagar every Monday at the Lakshminarayan temple the family built with her inspiration for the city, completed in 1963. After her husband’s death in 1976 for 18 years she lived on her own, yet she continued to guide her children and the people of her city. She motivated her family to contribute to the development of a multifaceted India. Her driving principal was ‘Work is Worship.’

Her strong conviction was that the minimum prerogative of every woman was to receive due respect as a person and to have economic freedom. In 1982 she received the Shiromani Award for Sikh Studies, Kala Sangam Award in 1983, Bharat Seva Ratna by World Religious Parliament in 1986.She served as a member of the Planning Committee of the All India Women’s Conference. She was included by Cambridge University in their Who’s Who of Intellectuals of 1978. To commemorate her, the family has instituted three awards to reflect her varied interests, the Dayawati Modi Kavi Shekhar Samman, the Dayawati Modi Award for Art, Culture and Education and the Dayawati Modi Stree Shakti Samman.
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