Sindhutai Sapkal

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Dr. Sindhutai Sapkal
Sindhutai Sapkal.jpg
Born (1948-11-14) 14 November 1948 (age 70)
Residence Hadapsar, Pune
Nationality Indian
Other names Mother of orphans Mai (mother)
Known for Raising orphan children
Spouse(s) Shrihari Sapkal
Children One daughter and three sons[citation needed]
1400 Adopted
  • Abhimanji Sathe (father)

Sindhutai Sapkal, affectionately known as the "Mother of Orphans",[1] 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 Sapkal was born on 14 November 1948 at Pimpri Meghe village in Wardha district Maharashtra to Abhimanji Sathe, a cowherd by profession.She was poor due to his financial crises.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 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.[2]

Marriage and early work

At the age of ten, she was married to Shrihari Sapkal alias Harbaji, a 30-year-old cowherd from Navargaon village in Wardha District. She bore three sons by the time she turned twenty. She put up a successful agitation against a local strongman who was fleecing the villagers on collection of dried cow dung used as fuel in India and selling it in collusion with forest department, without paying anything to the villagers. Her agitation brought the district collector to her village and on realising she was right, he passed an order which the strongman did not like. Stung by the insult at the hands of a poor woman, the strongman managed to convince her husband to abandon her when she was beyond 9 months of her pregnancy. She gave birth to a baby girl on 14 October 1973 in a cow shelter outside their house that night, all by herself and 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.[3]

Later work

She has devoted her entire life to orphans. As a result, she is fondly called 'Mai'(mother). She has nurtured over 1,050 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.

Operating organisations

  • 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 honored with more than 750 awards.

  • 2017 - On 8th March 2018 on Women's day Sindhutai Sapkal has been honoured with Nari Shakti award 2017 from President Of India[4]. This is the highest civilian award for Women.
  • 2016 - Social Worker of the Year award from Wockhardt Foundation 2016
  • 2015 - Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize for the year 2014[5]
  • 2014 - BASAVA BHUSANA PURASKAR-2014, awarded from Basava Seva Sangh Pune.
  • 2013 - Mother Teresa Awards for Social Justice.[6][7]
  • 2013 - The National Award for Iconic Mother ---- (first recipient)[8]
  • 2012 - Real Heroes Awards, given by CNN-IBN and Reliance Foundation.[9]
  • 2012 - COEP Gaurav Purskar, given by College of Engineering, Pune.
  • 2010 - Ahilyabai Holkar Award, given by the Government of Maharashtra to social workers in the field of woman and child welfare[10]
  • 2008 - Woman 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.[11]
  • 1992 - Leading Social Contributor Award.
  • Sahyadri Hirkani Award (Marathi: सह्याद्रीची हिरकणी पुरस्कार)
  • Rajai Award (Marathi: राजाई पुरस्कार)
  • Shivlila Mahila Gourav 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.[12]

External links

Receiving award from President Of India Ram Nath Kovind


  1. ^ Mother of Orphans
  2. ^ "Sindhutai Sapkal". Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education,TIFR.
  3. ^ "Mother of orphans – Sindhu Tai Sapkal – Part 1". Indya Unlimited. 9 March 2011.
  4. ^ "Nari Shakti Puraskar". The Times of India. Mar 7, 2018.
  5. ^ Zia H Shah (March 14, 2015). "This year Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize went to a Hindu Humanitarian Sou. Sindhutai Sapkal". The Muslim Times.
  6. ^ "Harmony Foundation to host Mother Teresa awards on Nov 9". dna. Diligent Media Corporation Ltd. 8 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  7. ^ "Mother Teresa Awards given to promoters of social justice". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  8. ^ "Mukherjee confers first National Award for Senior Citizens". NetIndian. 1 October 2013.
  9. ^ "Real Heroes". Reliance Foundation. Archived from the original on 31 March 2016.
  10. ^ Sindhutai Sapkal to receive state award child welfare
  11. ^ "Sindhutai Sapkal".
  12. ^ Mee Sindhutai will have its world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival
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