Poornima Arvind Pakvasa, freedom fighter Odissi exponent Sonal Mansingh’s mother, passed away on Monday at 103. An eminent social worker who worked for the empowerment of tribals in the Dangs, where she spent her entire life, Pakvasa was cremated on Tuesday in the presence of her dancer daughter. Pakvasa is survived by two daughters — Aarti and Sonal — and son, Anuj. While Sonal lives in Delhi, Aarti and Anuj are based in Mumbai.
Pakvasa’s work in the district had earned her the epithet, “Didi of the Dangs”. She was sent to jail for participating in the Dandi march. She met Kasturba Gandhi there and taught her English. She established the Ritambhara Kanya Vidyapith at Saputara hill station in the Dangs district in south Gujarat where tribal girls were educated.
The Dangs district administration officials, along with leaders from different parties, participated in the funeral procession, which started from Saputara and congregated at Nawagam. The funeral was attended by her three children and their kids. Along with them, over thousands of girl students of Ritambhara Kanya Vidyapith came to pay their last respects.
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Hasmukh Desai, who is in-charge of the school, said, “We have lost a great soul and feel orphaned. Poornimaben was bed-ridden due to ill health and age. I was by her side at the school quarters late on Monday evening when she breathed her last. We immediately called her children and informed them about her demise. We have arranged prayer on Wednesday afternoon at the school premises.”
Pakvasa first met Mahatma Gandhi at Ranpur as an eight-year-old. She joined the freedom struggle movements at Limdi in Saurashtra and the Dandi march. At 18, she was jailed for participating in Dandi march. Kasturba was one of the inmates. Pakvasa taught English to Kasturba who, in turn, taught her yoga and self-defence.
In 1969, Pakvasa started Ritambhara Kanya Vidyapith at Saputara in the Dangs and devoted her entire life to the empowerment of tribal girls and women. In 2004, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan.