When Karnataka’s Padma Shri winner S Thimmakka ‘blessed’ the President

Express News

After receiving her award, Saalumarada Thimmakka also planted a sapling at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

By News Desk| Updated: March 19, 2019

Known as the mother of trees or ‘Vriksha Mathe’, 106-year-old Saalumarada Thimmakka from Karnataka on Saturday blessed the President as she received her Padma Shri award. The award ceremony, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other notable dignitaries, followed the usual rigorous protocol.

However, when President Ram Nath Kovind handed the award to Thimmakka, who is more than three decades older to him, and asked her to face the camera, she put her palm over the President’s forehead as a gesture of blessing. This prompted rapturous applause from the audience at the hall. She then later posed for the camera.

The President took to Twitter to recall the gesture. “At the Padma awards ceremony, it is the President’s privilege to honour India’s best and most deserving. But today I was deeply touched when Saalumarada Thimmakka, an environmentalist from Karnataka, and at 107 the oldest Padma awardee this year, thought it fit to bless me,” he tweeted.


He also said, “Saalumarada Thimmakka represents the resilience and determination and perseverance of the ordinary Indian citizen, especially of women in our country. May her example, and that of every Padma awardee, inspire our India to greater heights.

After receiving her award, Thimakka also planted a sapling at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Saalumarada Thimmakka is an environmentalist from Karnataka, who shot to fame for planting and tending to 385 banyan trees along a four-kilometre highway stretch between Hulikal and Kudoor village near her husband’s hometown in Tumakuru district. Thimmakka and her husband do not have children. Although she contemplated suicide for not being able to conceive children, they started spending their evenings tending to trees until they grew sturdy.

She is also the recipient of the Karnataka Rajyotsava award, Nadoja award by Hampi University and National Citizen award by Government of India, among other national and international accolades. Her selfless work has also inspired several others to take up environmental causes.

Thimmakka was one of the four Padma awardees from the state this year. The awards winner list were declared earlier in January.

The other winners from Karnataka were noted particle physicist and professor at IISc, Rohini Godbole, who is best known for her work at CERN, European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Other winners are Sharda Srinivasan, a  pioneer in archaeometry, archaeometallurgy and other forms of engineering applications and Rajeev Tharanath, a classical musician from Karnataka and a disciple of Ali Akbar Khan. He is considered one of India’s leading exponents of sarod.