In addition to the Padma award, Sindhutai Sapkal has received more than 750 honours in her life.
Renowned social worker Sindhutai Sapkal, fondly known as 'the mother of orphan children', passed away following a heart attack in a private Pune hospital, doctors said today.
Sapkal, who received the Padma Shri last year, passed at the age of 73. Growing up in extreme poverty and enduring immense hardship during her early years, Sapkal is known for the numerous institutes she has set up for orphan children.
She had been admitted to the Galaxy Care Hospital in Maharashtra's Pune. "She had undergone a hernia surgery one and a half months ago and recovery was very slow. Today she died of a heart attack around 8 pm," said Dr Shailesh Puntambekar, Medical Director of the hospital.
Born on November 14, 1948, in the Wardha district of Maharashtra, Sapkal was forced to drop out of school after she had passed the 4th standard.
At as young as age 12, she was married to a 32-year-old man. After she gave birth to three children, her husband abandoned her while she was pregnant. At one point, as her own mother and the village where she had grown up refused to help her in her plight, Sapkal had to resort to begging in order to raise her daughters.
However, overcoming these circumstances, she soon started working for orphans' welfare. Having raised over 1,050 orphan children, she can boast of having 207 sons-in-law and 36 daughters-in-law.
In addition to the Padma award, Sapkal has received more than 750 awards and honours in her lifetime. She has used the award money to further build shelters for orphans.
Her life has been an inspiration to many. In 2010, a Marathi biopic on her life, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, was released and selected for the world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.
Paying tribute to the renowned social worker, PM Modi tweeted, "Dr Sindhutai Sapkal will be remembered for her noble service to society. Due to her efforts, many children could lead a better quality of life."
"She also did a lot of work among marginalised communities. Pained by her demise. Condolences to her family and admirers. Om Shanti," said the Prime Minister.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also condoled her death. Sapkal, who took care of thousands of children, was a veritable goddess in the form of mother, he said. Her last rites would be conducted with state honours on Wednesday, noted a tweet from the Chief Minister's Office.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis further said that Sapkal grew up facing adversities and dedicated her life to those who had been rejected by society. In her death, Maharashtra had lost a mother, said Mr. Fadnavis in tribute.