Saalumarada Thimmakka is the Daughter of Nature

There are many women in India who have overcome various shortcomings in life to achieve a lot and leave their mark forever. One such lady is Saalumarada Thimmakka whose work was recently recognised by the government of India through a Padma Shri award.

Known as the ‘Mother of Trees’ the 106 year old lady blessed the President of India as she received her award. True to herself, after receiving the award, she planted a sapling at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Thimmakka works for preserving the environment. Initially, she was criticised for not being able to conceive, have children. She ignored the criticism and decided to dedicate her life to nature and the environment.

She became known for planting 385 banyan trees along a four km stretch between Hulikal and Kudoor in Karnataka.


Saalumarada Thimmakka is otherwise called as Aalada Marada Thimmakka. She was born in Gubbi taluk, Tumukuru district Karnataka. Due to financial constraints she did not get any education. To support her family she worked as a labourer in a quarry. Later she got married to a fellow casual labourer Chikkaiah of Hulikal village.

The turning point in her life

Unfortunately Thimmakka could not have children. She was very disappointed and even attempted suicide. However, thanks to her husband’s support she changed her decision.

As time passed they had a beautiful thought of planting trees. There were plenty of banyan trees near Thimmakka’s village. Both of them collected a few saplings and planted ten saplings in the villages nearby.

The results were extremely impressive. In one year they saw ten banyan trees growing up. Next year they planted fifteen saplings and the year after that twenty. And the most interesting fact is they used the little resources that were available to them. Every day they carried buckets of water and travelled four kms to water the banyan saplings.

They were smart enough to realize that saplings planted during the monsoon season would automatically get enough water to grow. To protect the plants from animals they even fenced the area.

They nurtured and took care of these plants just like parents do for their children. As a result of their painstaking efforts, within a couple of years, 384 big banyan trees were seen.  Additionally, they planted 8,000 other trees along with the banyan trees.  

The name “Saalumarada” Thimmakka

Aalada Maraud is what Thimmakka was named as a child. In Kannada language, Saalumarada means “rows of trees”. Hence after her work was recognized, she was given the name, Saalumarada Thimmakka.

Her passion, grit, and determination

Growing 384 banyan trees was not easy. Trees need utmost care and constant observation. Both of them made sure they showered those plants with love and care. Every day after work they walked to that place and watered the trees.

Unfortunately her husband Chikkaiah passed away in 1991. She was very sad. This did not however stop her passion for planting trees. In fact she continued with the same passion and determination.

Nothing deterred her. During a monsoon heavy rains washed her house away. With the help of a few close people she built a mud house for herself.

Her financial troubles

Right from her early teens she worked as a casual laborer. Same was the case with her husband. They hardly had enough money for their daily costs. In spite of this, they managed to grow and take care of the trees.

When her husband passed away Thimmakka applied for a widow pension. She received a measly Rs 75 but managed to survive with that. Even after getting nationwide recognition for her work she lives on a monthly pension of only Rs 500/.

Lack of financial resources never affected her and the deeper purpose of planting trees.

Righty said “Failure will never overtake you if your determination to succeed is strong enough”

Her invaluable contribution to the environment

According to botanical reports the value of the trees was app Rs 1.75 crs. Without asking anything for herself she handed over the property to the government of Karnataka. All this whilst she continues to live with a pension of only Rs 500.

This makes one wonder, how much money does one need to survive? After all, there is no end to the amount of money one can spend to satisfy desires.

Her zeal and passion towards preserving the environment continues. Saalumarada still plants trees along the sides of roads, mountains, hills, and public places.

Padma Shri Award

Her work began to get recognised slowly, first within the state and then nationally.

She received the Padma Shri from President Ram Nath Kovind recently. Interestingly she walked into the Rashtrapati Bhawan bare foot. As a measure of respect to her achievements and age (106) the President sought her blessings. He left a message that reads, “It was a touching moment for me, to give away the award to Saalumarada Thimmakka”.

Other awards and recognition

She has also received the many awards some of which are National Citizen Award by the Government of India, Karnataka Rajyothsava Puraskar, Indira Ratna Award, Mother of Tree Award, Dr. B.R Ambedkar State Award, Suvarna Shri Award, Green India Puraskar, Vagdevi Parisara Ratna Award - 2012, National Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Award 1997, Sevak Green Revolution Puraskar and an award by the All India Jain Women’s Conference.

Apart from the above-mentioned awards, Thimmakka is also honoured with titles like Vanamitra, Vrikshapremi, Nisargaratna, and Vrikshasri.

Her current life

Thimmakka now lives with her foster son Umesh who is also an environmentalist. She now attends afforestation programs across the country and is invited to colleges, welfare programs that seek to create awareness about the environment and preserving trees.

Through her selfless work Thimmakka has become an inspiration for women across India and a legend in her own right.

She has proven that one doesn’t need education or financial support to bring about change in society. All that is required is passion, determination and focused attention to achieve your goals.

If you are touched by her story honour her by planting trees wherever you are and making more people know about Thimmakka’s work.

To see her video of receiving Padma Shri Award

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