Most gynecologists are about 24 years old when they graduate but Sulagitti Narasamma was only 20 when she helped deliver her aunt’s baby. The humble midwife from a small district in Karnataka helped bring over 20,000 babies into this world. For this, she was awarded the Padma Shri in 2018.
Sulagitti Narasamma – Early Years
Sulagitti Narasamma was born in 1920 in a village called Pavagada in the Tumkur district of Karnataka. She was part of a hilly mountain tribe called Adi Jambava and spoke Telegu as a child. She did not attend school and was married to Anjinappa at the age of 12 years.
What she lacked in formal education, she learned from her community. In particular, her grandmother; Marigemma.
Marigemma was a midwife. She helped Narasamma deliver 5 of her own 12 children and taught her midwifery skills as well. Only 8 of Narasamma’s 12 children survived past the first few years.
Sulagitti Narasamma The Midwife
Narasamma was 20 years old in 1940 when she helped with her aunt’s delivery. The region was bereft of medical facilities and hence, Narasamma had many opportunities to practice her midwifery skills whenever nomadic tribes stopped at the village. She performed over 20,000 natural deliveries free of charge in a span of 70 years.
In addition to helping women deliver their babies, she also learned how to prepare natural medicines for pregnant women and the art of checking on a fetus without modern medical equipment.
She could detect the baby’s pulse while in the womb as well as identify the baby’s position and help women prepare for childbirth accordingly. By her 97th birthday, Narasamma was known as the go-to midwife of Krishnapura.
Narasamma didn’t keep this knowledge to herself. She trained 180 students in midwifery. This included her daughter Jayamma who followed in her mother’s footsteps to become a local midwife.
Awards And Recognition
Sulagitti Narasamma’s work earned her national recognition. In 2012, she was felicitated with the D. Devaraj Urs award by the Karnataka state government. She earned the Kitturu Rani Chennamma award, the National Citizen award of India and the Karnataka Rajyotsava award in the next year.
In 2014, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Tumkur University. In 2018, she was honored with India’s highest civilian award, the Padma Shri.
Narasamma was 98 years old when she passed away as a result of chronic lung disease. She died in Bengaluru’s BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital. Her body was kept at the Glass House in Tumakuru on the 25th of December 2018 for public viewing.
She was laid to rest in Gangasandra village with full state honors on the following day. Several religious and political leaders attended her funeral. Half an acre of land was set aside to build a memorial in the lady’s name.