Jadav Payeng

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Jadav Payeng
Jadav Payeng.png
Jadav Payeng in 2014
Jadav Payeng

1963 (age 57–58)
Jorhat, Assam, India
Other namesMolai
Years active1963–present
Spouse(s)Binita Payeng
ChildrenMumuni, Sanjay, Sanjiv
AwardsPadma Shri (2015)

Jadav "Molai" Payeng (born 1963) is an environmental activist[1] and forestry worker from Majuli,[2] popularly known as the Forest Man of India.[3][4] Over the course of several decades, he has planted and tended trees on a sandbar of the river Brahmaputra turning it into a forest reserve. The forest, called Molai forest after him,[5] is located near Kokilamukh of Jorhat, Assam, India and encompasses an area of about 1,360 acres / 550 hectares.[6][7] In 2015, he was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.[8] He was born in the indigenous Mising tribe[9] of Assam.


In 1979, Payeng, then 16, encountered a large number of snakes that had died due to excessive heat after floods washed them onto the tree-less sandbar. That is when he planted around 20 bamboo seedlings on the sandbar.[7][10] He started working on the forest in 1979 when the social forestry division of Golaghat district launched a scheme of tree plantation on 200 hectares at Aruna Chapori situated at a distance of 5 km from Kokilamukh in Jorhat district. Molai was one of the labourers who worked in that project which was completed after five years. He chose to stay back after the completion of the project even after other workers left. He not only looked after the plants, but continued to plant more trees on his own, in an effort to transform the area into a forest.

The forest, which came to be known as Molai forest, now houses Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, and over 100 deer and rabbits. Molai forest is also home to monkeys and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures.[6] There are several thousand trees, including valcol, arjun (Terminalia arjuna), ejar (Lagerstroemia speciosa), goldmohur (Delonix regia), koroi (Albizia procera), moj (Archidendron bigeminum) and himolu (Bombax ceiba). Bamboo covers an area of over 300 hectares.[11]

A herd of around 100 elephants regularly visits the forest every year and generally stays for around six months. They have given birth to 10 calves in the forest in recent years.[11]

His efforts became known to the authorities in 2008, when forest department officials went to the area in search of 115 elephants that had retreated into the forest after damaging property in the village of Aruna Chapori, which is about 1.5 km from the forest. The officials were surprised to see such a large and dense forest and since then the department has regularly visited the site.[11]

In 2013, poachers tried to kill the rhinos staying in the forest but failed in their attempt due to Molai who alerted department officials. Officials promptly seized various articles used by the poachers to trap the animals.[11]

Molai is ready to manage the forest in a better way and to go to other places of the state to start a similar venture. Now his aim is to spread his forest to another sand bar inside of Brahmaputra.[12][13]

Personal life[edit]

Jadav Payeng belongs to the Mising tribe in Assam, India. He lives in a small hut in the forest. Binita, his wife, and his 3 children (two sons and a daughter) accompany him.[6] He has cattle and buffalo on his farm and sells the milk for his livelihood, which is his only source of income.[6] In an interview from 2012, he revealed that he has lost around 100 of his cows and buffaloes to the tigers in the forest, but blames the people who carry out large scale encroachment and destruction of forests as the root cause of the plight of wild animals.[12]


Jadav Payeng receiving Padma Shri award from President Pranab Mukherjee

Jadav Payeng was honoured at a public function arranged by the School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University[14] on 22 April 2012 for his achievement. He shared his experience of creating a forest in an interactive session, where Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh and JNU vice-chancellor Sudhir Kumar Sopory were present. Sopory named Jadav Payeng as the "Forest Man of India".[7][15] In the month of October 2013, he was honoured at the Indian Institute of Forest Management during their annual event Coalescence. In 2015, he was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India. He received honorary doctorate degree from Assam Agricultural University and Kaziranga University for his contributions.

In popular culture[edit]

Payeng has been the subject of a number of documentaries in the recent years . His character was the basis for a fictional film made by a Tamil director Prabhu solaman casting Rana Daggubati released in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi as Kaadan, Aranya and Hathi mera sathi. A locally made documentary film, produced by Jitu Kalita in 2012, The Molai Forest,[16] was screened at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Jitu Kalita, who lives near Payeng's house, has also been featured and given recognition for good reporting by projecting the life of Payeng through his documentary.

The 2013 film documentary Foresting life,[17][18] directed by the Indian documentary filmmaker Aarti Shrivastava, celebrates the life and work of Jadav Payeng in the Molai forest. These are also the focus of William Douglas McMaster's 2013 film documentary Forest Man.[19] With US$8,327 pledged on its Kickstarter campaign, the film was brought to completion and taken to a number of film festivals.[20] It was awarded the Best Documentary prize at the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase in the American Pavilion at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[21][22]

An illustration of Jadav 'Molai' Payeng, from the children's book 'Jadav and the Tree-Place'
An illustration of Jadav Payeng, from the biographical children's book Jadav and the Tree-Place[23] by Vinayak Varma

Payeng is also the subject of the children's book Jadav and the Tree-Place,[23] written and illustrated by Vinayak Varma.[24] The book was published by the open-source children's publishing platform StoryWeaver,[25][26] and its production was funded by a grant from the Oracle Giving Initiative.[27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jadav Molai Payeng – the 'Forest Man of India', Current Science, 25 February 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  2. ^ "Meet Jadav Payeng, India's Forest Man, who created 550 hectares of forest single-handedly". The Hindu.
  3. ^ "The man who made a forest". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012.
  4. ^ "Strombo – This Guy's A One-Man Forest-Planting Machine". CBC News.
  5. ^ "Jadav "Molai" Payeng". greenjacketmoments.com. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d Mosbergen, Dominique (3 April 2012). "Indian Man, Jadav "Molai" Payeng, Single-Handedly Plants A 1,360 Acre Forest in Assam". HuffPost. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  7. ^ a b c "30-year journey from tribal boy to Forest Man". The Times of India. 3 August 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Padma Bhushan for Jahnu Barua, Padma Shri for Dr LN Bora, Jadav Payeng".
  9. ^ "The Strange Obsession of Jadav Payeng".
  10. ^ "Incredible story of Persistence and Devotion: Jadav Payeng Single-handedly Converts a Sandbar into a Prosperous 1,360-acre Forest". Success Stories. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d "Man creates forest single-handedly on Brahmaputra sand bar". The Asian Age. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  12. ^ a b "One of the Greatest Achievements of the Human Race – Jadav Payeng". Ajith Kumar. CC. 3 August 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  13. ^ "Real Eco Heroes | ecotourismsocietyofnortheast". Ecotourismsociety.in. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  14. ^ Kr. Deka, Dr. Arun. "Green Crusader". The Assam Tribune.
  15. ^ Manimugdha S Sharma (24 April 2012). "JNU honours 'forest man' on Earth Day". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  16. ^ The Molai forest 2012 at IMDb
  17. ^ "Foresting life". Humanity Watchdog. Archived from the original on 9 May 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  18. ^ Foresting life 2013 at IMDb
  19. ^ Forest Man 2013 at IMDb
  20. ^ "Forest Man post production". 14 February 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  21. ^ "Payeng film gets Cannes award". The Telegraph, Calcutta, India. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  22. ^ "The American Pavilion 2014 Finalists Emerging Filmmaker Showcase". Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  23. ^ a b "'Jadav and the Tree-Place' by Vinayak Varma on StoryWeaver". storyweaver.org.in. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  24. ^ "Mixtape". Mixtape. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  25. ^ "Download, print, read 800 children's stories for free". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  26. ^ "StoryWeaver". storyweaver.org.in. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  27. ^ "StoryWeaver". storyweaver.org.in. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  28. ^ "StoryWeaver". storyweaver.org.in. Retrieved 14 March 2016.

External links[edit]