Honourable Sindhutai Sapkal
आदरणीय सिंधुताईं सपकाळ
|Other names||Mother of Orphans, Mai (mother)|
|Known for||Raising orphan children|
|Children||One daughter and three sons|
Sindhutai Sapkal, affectionately known as the "Mother of Orphans", is an Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for her work in raising orphaned children in India. She was conferred a Doctorate in Literature by the DY Patil Institute of Technology and Research in 2016.
Early life and education
Sindhutai was born on 14 November 1948 in a cattle grazing family in Maharashtra’s Wardha district. Being an unwanted child, she was referred to as Chindhi (Marathi for "torn piece of cloth"). However, her father was keen on educating Sindhutai, much against the wishes of her mother. Abhimanji (Sindhutai's father) used to send her to school under the pretext of cattle grazing, where she would use the 'leaf of Bharadi Tree' as a slate as she could not afford a real slate due to her family's limited financial resources. Abject poverty, family responsibilities and an early marriage forced her to quit formal education after she successfully passed the 4th standard.
Marriage and early work
At the age of nine, she was married to a man twenty years her senior in Wardha District. Post marriage she faced a difficult life but she did not lose hope. In her new home, she fought against the exploitation of local women, who collected cow dung, by the forests department and landlords. This only made things more difficult for her. She bore three sons by the time she turned twenty.
At the young age of twenty, when nine- months pregnant, she was beaten badly and left to die by her husband. She gave birth to a baby girl Mamta in that semi-conscious state and struggled to stay alive on 14 October 1973 in a cow shelter outside their house that night. Sindhutai took to begging on the streets and railway platforms to survive. Because she feared being picked up by men at night she often spent the night at cemeteries. Such was her condition that people called her a ghost since she was seen at night in the cemeteries.
“In this constant tussle to survive, she found herself in Chikaldara, situated in the Amravati district of Maharashtra. Here, due to a tiger preservation project, 84 tribal villages were evacuated. Amidst the confusion, a project officer impounded 132 cows of Adivasi villagers and one of the cows died. Sindhutai decided to fight for proper rehabilitation of the helpless tribal villagers. Her efforts were acknowledged by the Minister of Forests and he made appropriate arrangements for alternative relocation.”
With no hope left, she walked several kilometres away to her mother's place. Her mother refused to shelter her. She had to set aside the thought of suicide and started begging on railway platforms for food. In the process, she realised that there were so many children abandoned by their parents and she adopted them as her own and started begging even more vigorously to feed them. She decided to become a mother to anyone and everyone who came across to her as an orphan. She later donated her biological child to the trust Shrimant Dagdu Sheth Halwai, Pune, only to eliminate the feeling of partiality between her daughter and the adopted ones.
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She has devoted her entire life to orphans. As a result, she is fondly called 'Mai'(mother). She has nurtured over 1400 orphaned children. As of today, she has a grand family of 207 sons-in-law, thirty-six daughters-in-law, and over a thousand grandchildren. She still continues to fight for the next meal. Many of the children whom she adopted are well-educated lawyers and doctors, and some, including her biological daughter, are running their own independent orphanages. One of her children is doing a PhD on her life. She has been honoured with over 273 awards for her dedication and work. She used award money to buy land to make a home for her children. Construction has started and she is still looking for more help from the world. Sanmati Bal Niketan is being built in Manjari locality at Hadapsar, Pune where over 300 children will reside.
At the age of 80, her husband came back to her apologetically. She accepted him as her child stating she is only a mother now! If you visit her ashram, she proudly and very affectionately introduces him as her oldest child! In person, she comes across as an unlimited source of energy and very powerful inspiration, with absolutely no negative emotions or blaming anybody.
A Marathi-language film Mee Sindhutai Sapkal released in 2010, is a biopic inspired by the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal. The film was selected for its world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.
Sindhutai fought for the rehabilitation of the eighty-four villages. In the course of her agitation, she met Chhedilal Gupta, the then Minister of Forests. He agreed that the villagers should not be displaced before the government had made appropriate arrangements at alternative sites. When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi arrived to inaugurate the tiger project, Sindhutai showed her photographs of an Adivasi who had lost his eyes to a wild bear. "I told her that the forest department paid compensation if a cow or a hen was killed by a wild animal, so why not a human being? She immediately ordered compensation."
Soon she realized the plight of orphaned and abandoned Adivasi children. Initially, she took care of the children in return for some meager food. Looking after them was a source of livelihood. It didn't take long for it to become the mission of her life.
- Sanmati Bal Niketan, Bhelhekar Vasti, Hadapsar, Pune
- Mamata Bal Sadan, Kumbharvalan, Saswad
- Mai's Ashram Chikhaldara, Amravati
- Abhiman Bal Bhavan, Wardha
- Gangadharbaba Chhatralaya, Guha
- Saptsindhu' Mahila Adhar, Balsangopan Aani Shikshan Sanstha, Pune
Sindhutai Sapkal has been honoured with more than 750 awards.
- 2017 – On 8 March 2018 on Women's day Sindhutai Sapkal has been honoured with Nari Shakti award 2017 from President Of India. This is the highest civilian award dedicated for Women.
- 2016 – Social Worker of the Year award from Wockhardt Foundation 2016
- 2015 – Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize for the year 2014
- 2014 – BASAVA BHUSANA PURASKAR-2014, awarded from Basava Seva Sangh Pune.
- 2013 – Mother Teresa Awards for Social Justice.
- 2013 – The National Award for Iconic Mother ---- (first recipient)
- 2012 – Real Heroes Awards, given by CNN-IBN and Reliance Foundation.
- 2012 – COEP Gaurav Puraskar, given by College of Engineering, Pune.
- 2010 – Ahilyabai Holkar Award, given by the Government of Maharashtra to social workers in the field of women and child welfare
- 2008 – Women of the Year Award, given by daily Marathi newspaper Loksatta
- 1996 – Dattak Mata Purskar, given by Non Profit Organization – By Sunita Kalaniketan Trust (In the memories of – Late Sunita Trimbak Kulkarni ), Tal – Shrirampur Dist Ahmednagar. Maharashtra Pune.
- 1992 – Leading Social Contributor Award.
- Sahyadri Hirkani Award (Marathi: सह्याद्रीची हिरकणी पुरस्कार)
- Rajai Award (Marathi: राजाई पुरस्कार)
- Shivlila Mahila Gaurav Award (Marathi: शिवलीला महिला गौरव पुरस्कार)
The 2010 Marathi film Mee Sindhutai Sapkal by Anant Mahadevan is a biopic inspired by the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal. The film was selected for world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.
- Mother of Orphans
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- Sindhutai Sapkal to receive state award child welfare
- "Sindhutai Sapkal". reminderindia.com.
- Mee Sindhutai will have its world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival