She is one of those people whose work and contribution towards environment and society is very crucial and should be always remembered and acknowledged, especially today when climate change is hitting us worst than ever. Most people, including some influential leaders, are busy ignoring it and only giving importance to economic growth when we all should try to balance both.
In such times, individuals like her give hope and motivation to do better towards environment.
Currently aged 107, she is an Indian environmentalist who is known for her work in planting and tending to 385 banyan trees along a four kilometer stretch of highway between Hulikal and Kudur of Karnataka, India.
Through her remarkable work, she has since sparked awareness in the minds of people throughout India the significance of trees for the environment.
She is also known to have planted 8000 other trees. She always had her husband’s support during her efforts to plant as well as to tend to the trees and she found solace in doing so.
Her tremendous diligence also earned her the name, Saalumarada which means ‘row of trees’ in the kannada language.
She was born in Gubbi Taluk, Tumukuru District in Karnataka. She didn’t have any formal education and worked as a casual laborer in a nearby quarry.
She got married at a very young age to Bikaalu Chikkaiah, a cattle herder who was a native of the village that she is credited to have given a banyan canopy later, Hulikal.
The couple couldn’t have children and the circumstances that followed weren’t easy for her in a traditional family and village where women’s lives were not easy, even more difficult when she was childless.
The couple faced ridicule from the society but instead of succumbing to it, being without child made her to venture on to this journey, along with her husband, of planting and nurturing trees like their own children.
Her husband passed away in 1991.
She continued to plant trees, achieving success in her dedication to not only plant but tend and protect the trees.
She was even received numerous awards for her exemplary work, including India’s prestigious Padma Shri award and Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Awards.
She was also recognized by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), listing her as one of the most influential women of the world in 2016.
In 2019, the 385 banyan trees planted and nurtured by her came under threat of being chopped down for the widening of roads. After her request to reconsider the project was made, the Government decided to look for alternatives to save the trees.
Today, she is also invited to many afforestation programs in India as well as she is involved in other social activities.
Truly inspirational, she is Saalumarada Thimmakka.