Saalumarada Thimmakka,an environmentalist, is one of the well-known personalities of Karnataka. She has earned recognition due to her untiring efforts in planting and tending to 284 banyan trees along the highway covering a distance of four kilometers. Her persistent work has earned her several national and international awards.
She has been honored with the prestigious National Citizen’s Award of India for her selfless works in the field of environment. She also has a U.S. environmental organization called Thimmakka’s Resources for Environmental Education named after her.
Saalumarada Thimmakka – A Brief History
Saalumarada Thimmakka was born in a village named Hulikal that falls under the Magadi taluk of Bangalore Rural district. She was known as Thimmakka then. She did not go to school or get any formal education.
From an early age she worked as a laborer in a quarry near her home. She was married off to Chikkaiah, a cattle herder. The couple wanted children but were unable to get any even after 25 years of their married life.
One day the husband-wife duo decided to plant trees to overcome the sadness and empty feeling of their lives. That was around 50 years ago. From there started a journey of untiring love and selfless service of an ordinary couple towards an extra ordinary mission: a mission to raise as many trees as possible with love and care and as their own children.
Her journey to become Saalumarada Thimmakka
Thimmakka and her husband decided to plant trees along the roadside and they selected the road to the next village, Kudur to fulfill their plans. This particular road was one that did not have a single tree and caused immense hardship to the travelers on the dry and hot days.
They started grafting saplings from Ficus (banyan) trees as there were plenty of Ficus trees near her village. They grafted ten saplings in the first year and planted them along a stretch of 4 kilometers on the road that led to Kudur. They increased the number to 15 in the next year. They continued with their efforts and increased the number of saplings with each passing year.
They not only planted the saplings, but also tended to the young saplings. Each morning they started from their home with four pots filled with water and watered the saplings. When the pots emptied out they refilled them from the nearby ponds and wells and continued watering the saplings while covering the whole stretch on feet and returned home doing the same thing.
They treated the saplings as their own children and each day followed the same routine. They also protected the saplings from the grazing cattle by fencing them with thorny shrubs. Their tireless efforts began to bear fruit when the saplings grew into large and strong trees.
The couple planted the saplings mostly in the monsoon season so that the plants would get the rain water for their growth. The couple planted more than 300 trees in total and today the asset value of the trees stands at more than 1.5 million rupees. Thimmakka’s husband passed away in 1991 but she continued with her mission alone and undaunted. The Government of Karnataka has taken over the management of the trees now.
Thimmakka was referred to as Saalumarada Timmakka after her work got popular among the people. Salumarada means the row of trees in Kannada language. She was given the name to honor her dedication towards planting the saplings and preserving the environment despite the numerous hardships that she and her husband had to face along the way.
Other Social Activities of Timmakka
Salumarada Timmakka did not stop at only planting trees. She got involved in various social activities like construction of a tank to store rain water for the annual fair of her village. She has plans of building a hospital in her village and has set up a trust for the purpose.
She is an active crusader for spreading the message of afforestation. Her simple philosophy of life is that every person on this earth must leave behind some asset for humanity.
She still lives in economic crisis and just manages to somehow make a living from the various awards and a monthly pension. But this has never managed to kill her spirit or her passion for doing good work for humankind.
Awards and Recognition for Timmakka
Saalumarada Thimmakka is the idol of every environmentalist today. She has shown the world how one illiterate woman can make a huge difference to the society through her hard work and patience.
She has been honored with titles like Vanamitra, Nisargaratna, Vrikshapremi and Vrikshasri. For her uncompromising efforts towards saving the environment she has been conferred with several awards and citations like:
Nadoja Award by Hampi University – 2010
Godfrey Phillips Bravery Award – 2006
Karnataka Kalpavalli Award – 2000
National Citizen’s award – 1995
Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshmitra Award – 1997
Veerachakra Prashasthi Award – 1997
Honor Certificate from the Women and Child Welfare Department, Government of Karnataka
Vishalakshi Award by Art of Living Organization
Certificate of Appreciation from the Indian Institute of Wood Science and Technology, Bangalore