Saalumarada Thimmakka is a household name in India for she is one among those few persons who has done everything she can to protect mother earth. Saalumarada Thimmakka has planted over 8000 plants in the past 65 years including over 400 banyan trees which have earned her the name ‘Saalumarada Thimmakka’ which means ‘a row of trees’ in Kannada. Saalumarada Thimmakka is one of the most inspiring personality in the country because this lady wanted to give up on her life when she was 40-years-old. A plant saved her life then, now she saves the plant and also gives life to plants every day. The same lady who wanted to commit suicide beams with pride when people call her as ‘Vruksha Mathe’ (Mother of trees).
Saalumarada Thimmakka was born in Hulikal village, Magadi Taluk of Bangalore District. Saalumarada Thimmakka has had no formal education; she used to work from morning to evening in the field helping her family make ends meet. When she was only 20 years old, she was married off to Bikkalu Chikkaiah, a cattle herder. The hardships she faced at her husband’s house increased with time. She went through a period which was both physically and more importantly mentally demanding. She was made to do all the household chores and then help her husband out in the field. She spent several days without having any food what so ever, she used to survive only on water for long periods of time and most importantly she also went through outrageous behavior meted out by her husband’s family for she could not give birth to a child.
But all through this difficult phase, her husband stood by her. Bikkalu Chikkaiah, a simple farmer of Hulikal village, became the greatest strength of support for Saalumarada Thimmakka. When she could not conceive even after 20 years of marriage, she and her husband decided to walk out of his parent’s house and find solace in planting trees.
An ordinary woman becomes ‘Saalumarada Thimmakka.’
The couple used to work hard in the field in the mornings and would be found digging holes to plant banyan trees in the afternoon. Both of them treated these plants/trees as their children and gave all the love and care they would give to their children. The couple started by planting ten saplings in the first year, followed by 15 saplings in the second year and 20 saplings in the third year. The couple used to carry water for a distance of 4 kilometers to water the plants and also used to fence the plants for protecting them from grazing cattle’s.
This lady, who started with meager resources to plant a tree, found great joy in watching them grow over the years and this gave her the motivation to plant as many as 8,000 trees over the next 65 years. She treats these trees as her children and proudly says, “My oldest tree is 65 years old.”
The saplings that the couple planted 50 years ago have grown to be big trees and provide shade to the passerby, and the view of this line of trees is a majestic view to the eyes which is why she is called as ‘Saalumarada Thimmakka’ by the localities. This shows the immense respect they have for her amazing work.
In 1991, Bikkalu Chikkaiah passed away, after a long companionship of 63 years. Though Thimmakka misses her husband, a visit to the Hulikallu village brings back the sweet memories she had planting those thousands of trees along with her husband. And every time she thinks about those golden moments, she lets out the most beautiful smile.
Awards and Accolades
In 1958, the couple were felicitated and awarded a silver medal, which is the most prized possession for Thimmakka even after almost six decades.
In 1994, Thimmakka’s life took an interesting turn, when a politician overjoyed by her amazing work gifted her Rs. 5000. The politician was so happy with the work of Thimmakka that he used to mention efforts put in by the lady at various platforms which brought the media limelight on Saalumarada Thimmakka.
In 1996, she received National Citizen Award for her exemplary work in protecting the environment.
In 2015, ‘Saalumarada Saradaarini’ a book on the life of Saalumarada Thimmakka was published. This biography written by Indiramma Belur carries all the truthful incidents that Saalumarada Thimmakka has faced in her life.
The biggest of the recognition came when BBC selected her as Top 100 most influential and inspiring women for the year 2016. This was a moment of great pride and joy not only for Saalumarada Thimmakka but also for the Indians world over.
The state government has also recognized her for her exemplary work. The Karnataka Government announced funds for ‘Saalumarada Thimakka Shade Plan’ in 2014-15 and 2015-16. These funds were announced as a part of the mission to plant trees along the roadside in every nook and corner of the state.
Though she has achieved a lot in her life and has experienced every bit of emotions a human can go through she is not finished yet. Yes, this 106-year-old Thimmakka has no plans to rest as of now. Saalumarada Thimmakka wants to build a hospital for the poor people and help them get best medical services available at the lowest fees possible. This is the dream she sleeps with every day and is optimistic that she will surely make her dream come true before she breathes her last.
Saalumarada Thimmakka has been an inspiration for the current generation and will be a guiding light and source of energy, motivating the future generation to work towards nurturing and protecting the environment by planting trees and making the greenery flourish over the earth once again. We salute Saalumarada Thimmakka for her exemplary work in protecting the environment and for the immense determination and grit she has displayed all her life.