Sarla Thukral

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Sarla Thukral
सरला ठकराल
Born(1914-08-08)8 August 1914
Died15 March 2008(2008-03-15) (aged 93)
Occupation(s)Businesswoman, painter and designer
Known forOne of the first Indian women to fly aircraft
  • P. D. Sharma
  • R.P Thakral

Sarla Thukral (8 August 1914[1] – 15 March 2008[2]) was among the first Indian women to fly aircraft.[3][4][5]

Early life and marriage[edit]

Born in 1914, she earned an aviation pilot license in 1936 at the age of 21 and flew a Gypsy Moth solo. After obtaining the initial license, she persevered and completed one thousand hours of flying in the aircraft owned by the Lahore Flying Club. Her husband, P. D. Sharma,[6] whom she married at 16 and who came from a family which had nine pilots, encouraged her.

Aviation career[edit]

While P.D Sharma had been the first Indian to get his airmail pilot's license, flying between Karachi and Lahore, his wife was among the first women in India (Mrs Imtiaz Ali received an A license in June 1936,[7] but Urmila Parikh was the first woman of Indian nationality to get a license in 1932. Sylla and Rodabeh Tata, sisters of J.R.D. Tata got licenses earlier but the Tatas were of British nationality. Sylla Petit née Tata was technically the first woman in British India to obtain a license, Certificate No. 11, May 1929.[8]) to attain her "A" license, when she accumulated more than 1,000 hours of flying.[9]

Tragically, Sharma died in an airplane crash in 1939. After some time, Sarla tried to apply to train for her commercial pilot license, but World War II had begun and civil training was suspended. With a child to raise, and needing to earn her livelihood, Sarla abandoned her plans to become a commercial pilot, returning to Lahore and attending the Mayo School of Art where she trained in the Bengal school of painting, obtaining a diploma in fine arts.[10]

Personal life and death[edit]

Thukral was a dedicated follower of the Arya Samaj, a spiritual community dedicated to following the teachings of the Vedas.[11] Within this community, remarriage was a possibility for Thakral. After the Partition of India, she moved to Delhi with her two daughters, where she met R. P. Thakral and married him in 1948.

Thukral, also known as Mati, became a successful businesswoman, painter and began designing clothes and costume jewellery.[9] She died in 2008.[2][12][13]

In popular culture[edit]

On 8 August 2021, Google honoured Thukral with a Google Doodle on her birth anniversary.[14]


  1. ^ "Google doodle honours Sarla Thukral, first Indian woman to fly an aircraft". Hindustan Times. 8 August 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Sarla Thukral, in a clear sky". 14 May 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  3. ^ "First National Pilot Licences: Sarla Thukral – India". Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide. 25 July 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  4. ^ "Women's Day: Top 100 coolest women of all time: 72/100". CNN-IBN. 8 March 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  5. ^ "Down memory lane: First woman pilot recounts life story". NDTV. 13 August 2006. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  6. ^ "In 1936, she was the first woman pilot to enter the cockpit in a saree!". NTDTV. 16 September 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  7. ^ Anon (January 1937). "Indian Womanhood". The Modern Review: 92.
  8. ^ Chandra, P.T., ed. (1934). Indian Cyclopedia. p. 338.
  9. ^ a b Ramachandran, Smriti Kak (5 February 2006). "Flying colours & ground reality". The Tribune. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  10. ^ "Sarla Thakral Google Doodle: Family, Quotes, First Indian Female Pilot". Samachar Khabar News. 8 August 2021. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  11. ^ Kulkarni, Jayant (25 November 2009). "Remember Sarla Thukral's maiden flight of fancy". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  12. ^ Chavan, Vivek (17 October 2007). "India'खाइs First women in air – India's first lady pilot – Sarla Thakral". Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  13. ^ Austa, Sanjay (2003). "Sarla Thakral - India's First Lady Pilot - Still Flying High". Archived from the original on 26 December 2008. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Sarla Thukral's 107th Birthday". Retrieved 8 August 2021.