|First Lady of India|
25 July 1987 – 25 July 1992
|Prime Minister||Rajiv Gandhi|
Vishwanath Pratap Singh
P. V. Narasimha Rao
|Vice President||Shankar Dayal Sharma|
|Preceded by||Pardhan Kaur|
|Succeeded by||Vimala Sharma|
|Second Lady of India|
20 August 1982 – 27 July 1987
|Preceded by||Pushpa Shah|
|Succeeded by||Vimala Sharma|
Pegu, Burma (now Myanmar)
|Died||13 August 2010 (aged 89)|
New Delhi, India
Janaki Venkataraman (1921 – 13 August 2010) was the First Lady of India from 1987 until 1992. She was the wife of Indian President R. Venkataraman who served as India's head of state from 25 July 1987 until 25 July 1992.
Janaki was born in Pegu, Burma, to Tamil Iyer Burmese Indian parents, Kamala and Krishna Iyer. Her mother died with she was five and as her father did not remarry, she assisted with the household duties along with her siblings. Janaki was married to R. Venkataraman in 1938 and had three daughters. She was considered "deeply pious" in her Hinduism by Gopal Gandhi. After her marriage, her husband's political and unionist activities increased. To assist him, she became a partner in the Labor Law Journal which he had established.
Janaki was a human rights activist and led "hundreds of supporters" in protests about the war violence perpetrated upon women during the Bangladeshi War. She was an ardent feminist and supported women's self-reliance, as well as a humanitarian, working on projects for the poor. In addition, she was an animal rights activist refusing to wear silk which required worms to be killed and instead popularized the wearing of Ahimsa silk, which does not require harming the cocoon. Her promotion of wearing saris created without harming the silkworms led to popularity of Ahimsa Silk (also called "mulberry silk") and inspired entrepreneurs to develop the technology further. In addition to obtaining a patent, the Andhra Pradesh State Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society began marketing its "vegan wild silk" products to high end fashion labels.
When a documentary about her husband's life was made and Janaki was included in only one frame, she requested removal of the image. She preferred to be "noticed in the absence than to be ignored as an insignificant presence." She accompanied her husband on state visits and was the public face of "Indian womanhood" during his presidency. As an active first lady, she was responsible for implementing social welfare programs that came from the president's office.
Janaki Venkataraman died on 13 August 2010, a year and a half after her husband died. She is survived by her three daughters.
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- Former first lady Janaki Venkataraman dies. The Hindustan Times. 14 August 2010