There’s a five km stretch on a highway in Karnataka, between Kudur and Hulikal, that’s lined with majestic Banyan Trees. No, they do not hold secrets to everlasting youth, nor are they a portal to Narnia or some other magical land. These trees are special, because they were all planted by one woman. A woman who turns 106 this year.
Born in Gubbi Taluk, in a small district in Karnataka, this 106-year-old lady is an inspiring environmentalist. She is indeed a daughter whose name the country takes with immense pride. Saalumarada Thimmakka has planted over 8000 plants in the past 65 years including close to 400 banyan trees which have earned her the name ‘Saalumarada Thimmakka’, which means ‘a row of trees’ in Kannada. In the early stages of her life, she had no formal education, and worked day and night in the farm to help her family make ends meet. At the tender age of 20, she was married off to Bikkalu Chikkaiah, who was a cattle herder. As time progressed, the hardships in her family also burdened her shoulders. She went through a period in life, which required physical and more importantly mental strength. She would work long hours helping her husband out in the fields and also do the household chores.
Unable to conceive, the couple faced a social ridicule and also went through outrageous behavior meted out by the husband's family. After not being able to conceive for over 20 years of marriage, the couple turned a deaf ear to the world and decided to walk out of their parent’s house and find solace in trees.
They resorted to planting trees and taking care of them as if they were their own children.
They would often be found working in the fields or digging holes to plant the banyan trees which are now fully grown. Taking one step at a time, they planted 10 saplings the first year, 15 the next, and so on. She planted trees along the 4 KM stretch from her village Hulikal to Kudoor. She not only planted those trees but also tended them until they grew into sturdier, independent trees.
Although her passion of caring for the environment has not helped in her financial conditions, she has earned immense respect and is recognized massively by the people of the world as a great environmentalist. According to one of the botanical reports done by a survey, the value of a tree which Thimmakka has planted is nothing less than Rs. 1,75,00,000. One can only imagine how much all of the trees would cost in total. Despite this, she has dedicated all the trees to the state and has never expected anything in return.
She has been bestowed upon with hundreds of accolades and awards. She received the National Citizen Award by the Government of India in 1965, National Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Award, Karnataka Rajya Parisara Award and many others.
But the only way to truly honour her, is to continue her fight to save the environment. Because it is not a one-person fight. Making the smallest of changes to our lifestyle will go a long way in the betterment of the environment. Changes as simple as carrying re-usable water bottles, fixing the leaking taps in our homes, reducing the amount of plastic waste generated on a daily basis, etc.
Saalumarada Thimmakka has been an inspiration for us, and her story continues to motivate us to work tirelessly towards the betterment of the environment. Join us. Switch to products that are natural, safe and better for both, you and the environment. Choose natural.