Dhanvanthi Rama Rau

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Dhanvanthi Rama Rau
Alma materPresidency College, Chennai
Occupation(s)Women's rights activist and social worker
Known forWomen's rights and family planning advocacy
SpouseSir Benegal Rama Rau
AwardsPadma Bhushan
Kaisir-i-Hind gold medal
Griggs Gold Medal

Dhanvanthi, Lady Rama Rau (1893–1987) was founder and president of the Family Planning Association of India and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. She was married to Sir Benegal Rama Rau, the noted civil servant, and was the mother of Santha Rama Rau, the writer.

Early life[edit]

Dhanvanthi was born into a Kashmir Brahmin family as Dhanvanthi Handoo, born and brought up in Hubli (now in Karnataka) and was therefore conversant with Kannada. After schooling in Hubli, she moved to Madras to join the Presidency College, from where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in arts, and was awarded the Griggs Gold Medal in English.[1][2]

In Madras, she met and married the distinguished economist and diplomat Sir Benegal Rama Rau a Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin and a south Indian from a distinguished family.[3]


She started her career as an assistant professor at Queen Mary's College, Madras.[2]

In 1917, she co-founded the Women's Indian Association along with Annie Besant, Margaret Cousins, Jeena Raja Dasa, and others. This organization aimed to address and improve the difficult socio-economic and political conditions women faced during the 19th and early 20th centuries.[2]

In 1932, she attended the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship in Berlin, leading the Indian delegation at the behest of Sarojini Naidu.[2]

In 1946, she was elected president of the All India Women's Conference.[2]

In 1949, she started the Family Planning Association of India.[4]

In 1952, Dhanvanthi co-founded and served as the joint president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, along with Margaret Sanger.[5]



Her memoirs have been published under the title An Inheritance.[7]


  1. ^ "A pioneer to remember". Deccan Herald. 2 July 2021. Retrieved 21 October 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Dhanvanthi Rama Rau". The Open University.
  3. ^ "Dhanvanthi Rama Rau (1893–1987)". StreeShakti. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Band of brothers". New Indian Express. 2 March 2010.
  5. ^ Vicky Claeys (2010). "Brave and angry – The creation and development of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)". The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care. Tandfonline. 15: S67–S76. doi:10.3109/13625187.2010.526726. PMID 21091170. S2CID 38114562.
  6. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  7. ^ Dhanvanthi Rama Rau (1977). An Inheritance: The Memoirs of Dhanvanthi Rama Rau. Harper & Row. p. 305. ISBN 9780060135089.