Sindhutai Sapkal
Sapkal in 2018
Sindhu Abhimanyu Sathe

(1948-11-14)14 November 1948
Died4 January 2022(2022-01-04) (aged 73)
Other namesMai (lit. mother), Mother of orphans
SpouseShrihari Sapkal
ChildrenArunbhau Sapkal, Mamata Sapkal.
HonoursMother Teresa Awards (2013),

Nari Shakti Puraskar (2017),

Padma Shri (2021)

Sindhu Shrihari Sapkal (14 November 1948 – 4 January 2022) (pronunciation), affectionately called Sindhutai, was an Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for her work in raising orphaned children in India. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2021 and many other awards in the Social Work category.

Early life

Sapkal was born on 14 November 1948,[1] in Pimpri Meghe in Wardha district in the then Central Provinces and Berar of Dominion of India to Abhimanyu Sathe, a cowherder.[2][3] Being an unwanted child, she was referred to as Chindhi (Marathi for "piece of rag"). Abject poverty, family responsibilities and childhood marriage to an older man forced her to quit formal education after she successfully passed the fourth standard.[4] Sapkal was married off at age 12 to Shrihari Sapkal, who was 20 years older than her, and moved to Nawargaon, Seloo in Wardha. The marriage did not last long and at the age of 20, she was violently forced out of her home by her husband, leaving her on her own to care for a daughter.[5][3][6]

Early work with Adivasis

Sindhutai Sapkal later found herself in Chikhaldara, where she started begging for food. In the process, she realised that there were many children abandoned by their parents and she adopted them as her own. She had to beg even harder to feed ever the larger family. She decided to become a mother to everyone who came across to her as an orphan. She later gave away her own daughter to the Shrimant Dagdu Sheth Halwai trust of Pune, to eliminate the feeling of partiality between her own child and the adopted children.[7][8]

Details of Sapkal's struggle were provided in the weekly Optimist Citizen on 18 May 2016:

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. Sapkal 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.[9]

Sapkal fought for the rehabilitation of eighty-four villages.[9] 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, Sapkal showed her photographs of an Adivasi who had lost his eyes to a wild bear.[10] She is quoted as saying, "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."[10]

After being informed of the plight of orphaned and abandoned Adivasi children, Sapkal took care of the children in return for meager amounts of food. Shortly thereafter, it became the mission of her life.[9]


Sapkal devoted herself to orphans. As a result, she was fondly called "Mai", which means "mother". She nurtured over 1,500 orphaned children and through them had a grand family of 382 sons-in-law and 49 daughters-in-law. She has been honoured with more than 700 awards for her work. She used award money to buy land to make a home for orphaned children.[11][12]



She died of a heart attack in Pune, Maharashtra, on 4 January 2022, at the age of 73.[18]


President Ram Nath Kovind presenting the Nari Shakti Puraskar to Sapkal in 2017


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.[30]

TV serial

The 2023 Marathi TV serial Sindhutai Majhi Mai aired on Colors Marathi and is also inspired by the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal.


  1. ^ "About Sindhutai Sapkal". Sindhutai Sapkal Organization.
  2. ^ "Sindhutai Sapkal Birthday: From begging to becoming the mother of thousands of orphans". Mumbai Mirror. 14 November 2020. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b "दिवंगत सिंधूताईंच्या कार्याचा आढावा घेणारे फोटो आणि आता फक्त सोबत उरलेल्या आठवणी". TV9 Marathi (in Marathi). 4 January 2022. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  4. ^ "Sindhutai Sapkal". Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education,TIFR.
  5. ^ a b "ज्येष्ठ सामाजिक कार्यकर्त्या सिंधुताई सपकाळ यांचं निधन, वयाच्या ७४ व्या वर्षी घेतला अखेरचा श्वास". Loksatta (in Marathi). 5 January 2022. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  6. ^ Kashyap, Dev (5 January 2022). "Sindhutai Sapkal Passed Away: मशहूर सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता पद्मश्री सिंधुताई सपकाल का 74 साल की आयु में निधन". Amar Ujala (in Hindi). Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  7. ^ Satyajit, Anita (10 December 2015). "Sindhutai Sapkal was begging at train stations when she found her calling – helping street children". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  8. ^ "Mother of orphans – Sindhu Tai Sapkal – Part 1". Indya Unlimited. 9 March 2011.
  9. ^ a b c Sen, Tuhin (8 May 2016). "Story of Sindhutai Sapkal – The Mother of thousands of Orphans". The Optoimist Citizen. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Meet Sindhutai Sapkal: Mother of Indian Orphans Children". Suger Mint. 14 May 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  11. ^ Bose, Mrityunjay (4 January 2022). "Sindhutai Sapkal, 'mom to thousands of orphans', passes away". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  12. ^ "Sindhutai Sapkal Birthday: From begging to becoming the mother of thousands of orphans". Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  13. ^ "Pune: NGO ties up with Sindhutai Sapkal's foundation to empower orphans". The Indian Express. 14 July 2021. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  14. ^ a b "Mother of Orphans". Moneylife NEWS & VIEWS. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  15. ^ "Begging for a greater cause". Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  16. ^ "SocialPrimes". Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  17. ^ a b "Official Sindhutai Sapakal Donation Website". Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  18. ^ "Sindhutai Sapkal, 'orphan children's mother', dies". Press Trust of India.
  19. ^ "Padma Awards 2021 announced". Press Information Bureau (Press release). Delhi, India. 25 January 2021. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  20. ^ "गिरीश प्रभुणे, सिंधुताई सपकाळ यांना पद्मश्री". Loksatta (in Marathi). 26 January 2021. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  21. ^ "Nari Shakti Puraskar". The Times of India. 7 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Sindhutai Sapkal". Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  23. ^ "Sindhutai Sapkal : The mother of orphans". One India One People Foundation. 1 March 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  24. ^ Zia H Shah (14 March 2015). "This year Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize went to a Hindu Humanitarian Sou. Sindhutai Sapkal". The Muslim Times.
  25. ^ "Harmony Foundation to host Mother Teresa awards on Nov 9". dna. Diligent Media Corporation Ltd. 8 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  26. ^ "Mother Teresa Awards given to promoters of social justice". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  27. ^ "Mukherjee confers first National Award for Senior Citizens". NetIndian. 1 October 2013.
  28. ^ "Real Heroes". Reliance Foundation. Archived from the original on 31 March 2016.
  29. ^ a b c d e f "Sindhutai Sapkal – WOMAN of ACTION™". Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  30. ^ a b "Sindhutai Sapkal to receive state award child welfare - Times Of India". 3 November 2012. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012.
  31. ^ "Sindhutai Sapkal".