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Mother of Indian Orphans - Sindhutai Sapkal
【Victory Over Poverty to Live a Grateful Life】

 
I’m a mother of all abandoned children, so taking care of them is my source of happiness
—Sindhutai Sapkal
Turning misfortune into legend
Sindhutai Sapkal has received 750 charity medals worldwide, and three Indian presidential affirmation medals. She is one of the greatest mothers - for over the past 40 years, she has founded four orphanages and adopted more than 1,400 orphans, as well as 282 sons-in-law, 49 daughters-in-law, and thousands of grandchildren. She has even cultivated them to stand above others; many of them have become doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers who contribute back their services to the society in India and around the world.

Today, she is nearly 70 years old. She was forced to drop out of school at the age of 9, forced to get married at the age of 10 as a child bride, abandoned by her husband at the age of 20, and rejected by her parents. She had once been sleeping, begging and singing on the street.

Her biological parents named her “a piece of rag.” Until now, she has turned suffering into love and transformed ill luck into legend. She is now living a magnificent life.

She cannot bear to see any children being abandoned, even children with intellectual disabilities and being thrown away in the trash can, or poor children living on the street with stray dogs who cannot speak. Everyone is considered her sweetheart.
 
Sindhutai Sapkal is very grateful with her life, for hunger has taught her to speak, painful has taught her to sing, helping others has taught her to give up suicide, and accompanying the children to grow up has taught her to love life. She defeated poverty and ill luck and now living a grateful life. She has witnessed that life is yet another relay for love without ending. She has become the mother of thousands of orphans in India. In the story of passing lives from one generation to another, this is exactly the most touching one. She deserves to be praised as the “Mother of Orphans” and stood out among 2616 candidates of Loved Life Medal from all walks of life in the world and won the “21st Fervent Global Love of Lives Award” in 2018 from Chou, Ta-Kuan Foundation in Taiwan. The Foundation always welcomes recommendations for life warriors from all walks of life in the world who are hardworking, benevolent, courageous, and have made great accomplishments, etc. (Fervent Global Love of Lives Award recommendation hotline of Chou, Ta-Kuan Cultural and Educational Foundation of Taiwan: 02-29178770, Fax: 02-29178768, Address: 3F, No. 52, Mingde Road, Xindian District, New Taipei City, Website: http://www.ta.org.tw, e-mail: ta88ms17@gmail.com).

A piece of rag
Sindhutai Sapkal was born on November 14, 1948 at Pimpri Meghe village in Wardha District of Maharashtra, India. Her father Abhimanji Sathe is a full-time shepherd.

As she was not welcomed in the world at birth, so she was named “Chindhi” which means a piece of rag.

Sindhutai Sapkal’s father was eager to let her receive more education, but her mother took an opposite attitude.

Her father used to send her to school under the pretext of cattle grazing. Due to limited financial resources, she could not afford to buy real slate. At that time, she used the leaf of Bharadi tree as a slate for writing.

She ranked among the best in her academic achievements.

However, abject poverty, ill luck and early marriage had forced her to quit school after the age of 9.
 
A life of broken home
At the age of 10, she was married to Shrihari Sapkal, alias Harbaji, who was more than twice her age and was a cowherd from Navargaon Village in Wardha District. Under the age of 20, Sindhutai Sapkal had given birth to three sons.
 
However, she could not believe that when she was beyond nine months of her pregnancy for her fourth child, she was swept out of the door by her husband who used to abuse her violently.

She could only gave birth to a baby girl in the cowshed by herself, cut off the child’s umbilical cord with a dirty stone on the ground, and took the frail baby back to her mother’s place to seek for asylum. She gritted her teeth and walked hungrily for several kilometers on dirt roads, but found out that her mother refused to shelter her.

Her parents ruthlessly drove away the fragile mother and daughter. While leaving, she spent a long time wondering the house, could not believe what had just happened. She had just become a mother of a new life and yet was abandoned by her parents and forced into desperation.

She did not want her daughter to experience the same indifference and desperation of this world as her. She has always had the courage and strength to stay in trouble. The child has lost her father and all her family and must never lose her mother.

However, another voice emerged occasionally: Wouldn’t everything be solved if I just kill myself? She sometimes hesitated with this idea.

The greatest bond and maternal love
Sindhutai Sapkal would never forget: She tried to cut the child’s umbilical cord with a stone beside her, and only succeeded on the 18th attempts. She only realized at that time how strong a bond she had with the child.

Her husband and other family members wanted them to be self-destructed. After returning to consciousness, she returned to her family’s village, but everyone avoided her and rejected her, even her mother was no exception.
 
While taking the little girl along that needed good attention, both Sindhutai Sapkal and the little daughter were hungry. The pain of hunger was unbearable, but she decided to stay away from hunger and the evil people.

Later on, she settled in a crematorium and saw a corpse burning. After the ceremony and the relatives of the dead left without taking the flour that served as a tribute to the final ritual to worship the soul of the departed.

 Sindhutai Sapkal took the flour and kneaded it into flour masses and baked them into a bhakari (roti) on the still burning fire.
 
She was convinced that Heaven never closes its roads against a man, and she had to rely on singing with her natural good voice in the future. She sang while begging to feed herself and her child. She went to the temples and train stations and continued to sing and beg.

Turning over a new leave to live courageously
On one such evening, she received a lot of bhakari from singing and decided to enjoy a good meal and then end this life that has made her so miserable.

While sitting down and eating the bhakari, she heard an elderly beggar mumbling in pain and talking to himself about death. She decided to share her simple food with the old man and fed him personally.

I think even if we must die, we should at least fill up our stomachs,” she said.

Later on, that beggar lived on and made her think that: I could save his life by only giving a little help. Why must she die? She can actually help people to live.

That day had changed her destiny as helping that beggar had given her a sense of satisfaction and set aside the thought of suicide.

When she begged for food on the street and strived to survive every day, she found that so many orphans were left helpless.

Hence, she decided to take care of them and see them as their own. She began to sing more vigorously to earn money and food. She bore the responsibility herself to allow them to stay alive and feed them.

She wandered around to sing and beg every day for many years. She brought the children that needed care along and sang the touching songs and begged for money at the same time.

A small tale but big revelation
A real hero is not a constant victor, but a person who keeps on fighting despite continual setbacks.

Whenever Sindhutai Sapkal encounters any difficulties, she faces them courageously by breaking the obstacles and opening up another door of hope.
 
Her little tale has given us great revelation: When everyone faces major setbacks in life, as long as they can face them courageously, they can change their lives.
 
When she was only 20 years old, some hooligans in the village came to rob the dried cow dung that the villagers used as fuel. The number of villagers obviously outnumbered the hooligans, but none of them would dare to fight against the bad guys because of cowardly.

Such habit had allowed the hooligans to rob all the dried cow dung and resell it the forest department to earn easy money, but the villagers were beaten by them badly and endured the tearless grief.

As one of them being robbed, she was very furious then, but did not confront with them impulsively as she knew she simply could not won the agitation through force.

There is a good saying that: the common people are afraid of hooligans, but the hooligans are afraid of officials. She complained the matter to the government wisely and the officials quickly found out the truth and rectified the arrogant hooligans.

 Losing but recovering the cow dung, her inner heart was not moved. She knew that even if the fate is unfair, if you learn to fight against it, you would possibly win.

 From this small courageous tale of her, it is not difficult to see how she helped the orphans step by step and transformed new lives for so many orphans in the future.

Creating a new future with selfless love
Later on, to take care of other children, Sindhutai Sapkal left her daughter in the orphanage only to eliminate the feeling of partiality between her daughter and the adopted ones.

So she named her younger daughter Mamata and entrusted her to be taken care of by Shrimant Dagaduseth Halwai Trust. After settling down her daughter, she continued to sing and beg.
 
Slowly, as the story about Sindhutai Sapkal spread, more and more people handed over the abandoned children and orphans to her. She even began to fight for the rights of the chikhaldara tribe and took care of the abandoned children in their communities.

Sindhutai Sapkal took care of the orphans, impoverished and unfortunate children wholeheartedly, devoted herself with motherhood and care to the orphans and protected them under her own wings. She did everything in her power to provide them with food and shelter.

They intimately called her Mai (meaning mother).

Her orphanage is different. An ordinary orphanage would only take care of children up to the age of 18, but Sindhutai Sapkal’s one would take care of them until they find a job, get married and settle down.

The people she cares for range from 8-day-old babies to 80-year-old elderly.

The good deeds of Sindhutai Sapkal have moved tens and thousands of people, and virtually driven all walks of life to offer help.

She never let the hardships of her life depress her.

On the contrary, the great number of solitary children has even made her stronger.
 
Her moving speeches, lectures, poetry recitations and gazals are very compelling.
 
After more than 40 years of hard work, Sindhutai Sapkal is now assisted by her daughter Mamata, her son Deepak, and other children who have grown up. She has always been the “mother” of all.

I’m a mother of all abandoned children
Ridiculously, after her deeds spread, some people even deliberately handed over the abandoned children to Sindhutai Sapkal, and the “mother of orphaned children” has never refused, even though she knew that those who handed the children are actually their biological mothers.

Unlike other orphanages, she will not drive away the orphaned children who have grown up, but even give them directions in life, allow them to be educated, arrange their marriages, etc.

One of the orphans, Vinais, who is now 26, said: “If I didn’t meet Sindhutai Sapkal, I might end up as a criminal like the abandoned kids on the street. Fortunate enough, I met my mother. I’ve completed my university law degree and even married, where the marriage was arranged by her too.”

Up to this end you might think that she is a kind and wealthy grandmother born in a good family, but it is actually just the opposite. She was born in a poor family and abandoned by her husband and family when she was 20. She had no choice but to beg everywhere.

Knowing the pain in poverty without a family has prompted her to accomplish this career in life. Even if she leaves the world in the future, she hopes that the orphanage would continue to operate. The operation of the orphanage has now been handed over to the eldest children.

I’m a mother of all abandoned children, so taking care of them is my source of happiness.”
 
Besides looking after the orphans attentively, Sindhutai Sapkal, who is now semi-retired, also gives speeches and raises donations everywhere. She also visits the remote villages and adopts local orphans. For her, children are never too many.
 
The mother of orphans
She will devote her entire life to orphans! So, she is fondly called “Mai” (mother).

As she has raised more than 1,400 orphans, she now owns a grand family of 282 sons-in-laws and 49 daughters-in-law, as well as thousands of grandchildren.

She is still struggling for the children’s next meal. Many children adopted by her are well educated and become lawyers, teachers, accountants, architects, doctors, etc. Some people, (including her biological daughter) even run their own independent orphanages to spread love from one generation to another.

One of her sons took her life story as a doctoral thesis and won a doctorate degree with a highest score.
 
For more than 40 years, she has devoted herself to her work and dedication. She has been honored with more than 750 global charity awards. She used the award money to buy land to build houses for her orphans.

Thanks to her dedication and sacrifice, these children today have their own houses in Manjari District of Pune. Their houses are furnished with necessary facilities, such as a computer room, living room for cultural activities, solar energy system, water filtration system, library, research room, etc.
 
Mai always wants her children to have a good quality of life, food, clothing, shelter, education and rehabilitation facilities.

In addition to taking care of the abandoned children, Sindhutai Sapkal also shelters homeless women to allow them to learn some skills. Most of them would help around the kitchen and take care of the children together.

Forgiveness to overcome fear
When she was 70, her husband came back to her apologetically. She accepted him like her child stating that she is only a mother now! If you visit her ashram, she would proudly and affectionately introduce him as her oldest son!

In person, she seems to possess unlimited source of energy and inspiration, with absolutely no negative emotions or malice to anybody.

The life of Sindhutai Sapkal is quite inspirational. She had rebelled against poverty and abuse in childhood and established four orphanages. Now she has nurtured more than 1,400 orphans and fought for the poor and the disadvantaged.
 
A Marathi-language film “Mee Sindhutai Sapkal” released in 2010 is a biopic inspired by the true story of Sindutai Sapkar. The film was selected for its world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival, causing a sensation in the world.

Her meticulously maternal love, devotion to caring the orphans, taking every possible measure to care for them, and providing them with food and shelters have inspired many people and encouraged the vulnerable women who were persecuted, discriminated, and abused to stand up and live in dignity and hopes.

Sindhutai Sapkal has truly embodied the fact that when we overcome fear, we will succeed.

 Maternal love, in particularly, can overcome everything, and maternal love can also accomplish everything.