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About Maai

Sindhutai Sapkal AKA” Maai” & “MOTHER OF ORPHANS” is an Indian social worker especially working for raising orphans. she has taken care of thousands of orphans while facing many difficult situations. She was conferred the Padma Shri in 2021 in Social Work category.

Birth and childhood

Sindhutai was born on 14th November 1947 in at Pimpri Meghe village in Wardha district Maharashtra to Abhimanji Sathe, a cowherd by profession. she was nicknamed as a chindhi because she was a unwanted child. Sindhutai’s father Abhiman used to work as a cattle herder. The village is small and lacks facilities. 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. Although she was originally intelligent, she was able to learn till 4th standard.


Sindhutai got married at the age of 12 to Shrihari Sapkal, who is almost 26 years older than her. There is no educational environment in her new family. sindhutai used to bring home the pieces of paper found in the forest while collecting wood and dung and hide them in rat burrows. Rarely did she try to study when she was alone at home. By the age of twenty, sindhutai had three children. when she was pregnant for the fourth time, the first struggle of her life started.

Back then, turning cattle was the business. There used to be hundreds of cattle. Collecting dry cow dung for fertilizer is very hard and exhausting job. And the poor people in the village were not getting any wages for this work. Forest department used to auction this dung and sell it, without paying anything to the villagers. Here Sindhutai revolted and started fighting. Her agitation brought the district collector to her village and on realizing she was right. district collector passed an order in favour of sindhutai and villager, which the jamindar did not like beacuase The income from the forest department was cut off. Stung by the insult at the hands of a poor woman, Jamindar managed to convince Sindhutai’s husband to abandon Sindhutai when she was beyond 9 months of her pregnancy.

The struggling and changing period

Sindhutai’s husband became suspicious of her character and beat her to death all day long. He then thrashed her and kicked her on her full term belly and threw her in a cowshed. Tormented and tortured, Sindhutai with her world falling apart, and in great pain, gave birth to a baby girl. Sindhutai cut her umbilical cord with the stone which was lying there and then she passed out.

After being evicted by her husband, the villagers also evicted her from village. After she came back to her senses she went to her maternal village but everyone shunned her and rejected her. Even her mother closed the doors to her. Sindhutai was alone in the world with her little daughter to look after. She was hungry and the baby was hungry two. Pangs of hunger were intolerable. Later sindhutai wander town to town singing and begging in railway stations, temples. Sindhutai used to beg all day. But she never ate there alone.She call beggars at the station and then all the beggars would sit together and eat And the same beggars were protecting Sindhutai. Because she feared being picked up by men at night, she often spent the night at cemeteries. Such was her condition that people called her a ghost since she was seen at night in the cemeteries.

This was a period of soul searching for sindhutai and she found the purpose of her life, and that was to be maai (Mother) of orphaned and abandoned Tribal Kids. It’s become a mission of her life.

Sindhutai’s Work

In 1986 Sindhutai Founded organasation called “ Vanwasi Gopalkrushna Bahuudeshiya Mandal “ during the period of struggle, she purchased one acer land for the organizations future resources. She planned to start her future project in this place. With the understanding of the state of the affaires in chikhaldara and the consequences of the hunger pangs,the food for starving was decided to be the first step. Healthy means medical care and proper facilities for the expecting mothers will ensure healthy children.

Sindhutai has devoted her entire life for orphans. As a result she is fondly called 'Mai' (mother). She has nurtured over 1050 orphaned children. As of today, she has a grand family of 207 son-in-laws, 36 daughter-in-laws.

She still continues to fight for the next meal for her children. Many of the children whom she adopted are well-educated lawyers, lecturer and some including her biological daughter, are running their own independent orphanages. One of her children is doing a Ph.D. on her life. She has been honoured with more than 750 awards for her dedication and work. She used the award money to buy land to make a home for her orphan children. Because of her dedication and sacrifices, today the children have their own building at Manjari, Dist. Pune with all facilities i.e. Computer room, Big hall for cultural activities, Solar System, Water filter, Library, Study room, and all required facilities. Mai is always trying to give a good standard of living to her children along with food, clothing, shelter, education and rehabilitation.

At the age of 70, 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 a bottomless source of energy and inspiration, with absolutely no negative emotions or ill will for anybody. A marathi film 'Mee Sindhutai Sapkal' released in 2010, is a biopic inspired by the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal. The film was selected for world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.

Awards and Recognation

Sindhutai’s extensive social work has been recognized through over 900 awards. She received the prestigious national award for the Iconic Mother and Mother Teresa Awards for Social Justice in 2013. Sindhutai was conferred a Doctorate in Literature by the DY Patil Institute of Technology and Research, Pune in 2016.

She also got an award known as ‘The Mind of Steel’ in 2010. True to the award’s name, Sindutai has a mind of pure steel. In order to acknowledge her remarkable contribution to society, she was given the prestigious Ahilyabai Holkar award by the Maharashtra government in 2002. Sindhutai also received the Ahmadiyya Peace Prize at the National Peace Symposium held in London in 2014. on International Women's Day 2018, President Ram Nath Kovind honored women achievers with Nari Shakti Puraskar. Sindhutai was one of the thirty-nine women achievers who received this prestigious award. Recently She was conferred the Padma Shri in 2021 in the Social Work category

  • 2021 - Padma Shri in Social work category
  • 2017 – Nari Shakti Puraskar from the President Of India.
  • 2016 – Honorary doctorate by the Dr. D.Y. Patil College of Engineering, Pune.
  • 2016 – Social Worker of the Year award from Wockhardt Foundation
  • 2014 – Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize
  • 2014 – BASAVA BHUSANA PURASKAR-2014, awarded from Basava Seva Sangh Pune.
  • 2013 – Mother Teresa Awards for Social Justice.
  • 2013 – The National Award for Iconic Mother ---- (first recipient)
  • 2012 – Real Heroes Awards, given by CNN-IBN and Reliance Foundation.
  • 2012 – COEP Gaurav Puraskar, given by College of Engineering, Pune.
  • 2010 – Ahilyabai Holkar Award, given by the Government of Maharashtra to social workers in the field of women and child welfare
  • 2008 – Women of the Year Award, given by daily Marathi newspaper Loksatta
  • 1996 – Dattak Mata Purskar, given by Non Profit Organization Sunita Kalaniketan Trust
  • 1992 – Leading Social Contributor Award.
  • Sahyadri Hirkani Award (Marathi: सह्याद्रीची हिरकणी पुरस्कार)
  • Rajai Award (Marathi: राजाई पुरस्कार)
  • Shivlila Mahila Gaurav Award (Marathi: शिवलीला महिला गौरव पुरस्कार)