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Tulasi Gowda, 77-Year-Old ‘Encyclopedia Of The Forest’ Came Bare-Foot To Receive Her Padma Shri!

Her pics, walking bare-foot in traditional Halakki tribal wear, have gone viral. Here's more on the inspiring Tulasi Gowda, who has planted 1 lakh trees and is known as the 'Tree Goddess'.

Tulasi Gowda or Tulasi aaji (grandmother) as she is lovingly called by the people around her is a 77-year-old woman from Honnali village in the state of Karnataka. She was conferred the Padma Shri by the President of India for her immense contribution in environmental conservation for over 60 years.

Tulasi has single-handed planted over 30,000 saplings (mind you these are the official numbers). There are other reports that read that she is responsible for planting and nurturing over one lac trees in the state of Karnataka.

Humble beginnings to reaching great heights – the inspiring journey of Tulasi Gowda!

Born into poverty, Tulsi’s father died when she was two years old. She was raised in a family with limited means. She belongs to the Halakki tribe in a small village in Karnataka. She did not receive any formal education while growing up, but she always loved nature. She worked in a local nursery with her mother at a very young age.

As per reports, she got married even before she was a teenager. Since the age of twelve she has planted and nurtured innumerable trees. Due to this, her knowledge about various plants and diverse herbs is unparalleled. She is known as the ‘Encyclopedia Of The Forest’ and ‘Vriksha Devi’ (Goddess of Trees) because of her love for plants.

After her husband died, she joined as a volunteer in the forest department. She was lauded and recognized for her contribution towards planting and protecting trees. She was later offered a permanent job in the same department. Tulasi Gowda can recognize over 300 species of herbs and plants and has been involved in conservation and preservation activities since six decades. She’s dedicated her entire life to nurturing greens.

As she was quoted in one of her interviews, “I wish to plant more trees. Trees help to improve and maintain the quality of air, water and soil and remove pollutants from the air. Trees enrich people’s lives and beautify landscapes. We need to grow more trees since we destroy hundreds every day for developmental activities.”

The pics that went viral!

PM Narendra Modi posted her image on Instagram with the caption, “Proud of all those grassroots level achievers who have been conferred the Peoples Padma.”

The photo went viral and was widely shared across all social media by netizens. Many on Twitter captioned it as ‘Image of the Day’.

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What caught everyone’s attention was that Tulasi Gowda, who received the award in Rashtrapati Bhavan, walked barefoot in the historic Durbar Hall wearing her traditional Halakki attire with a black and yellow bead necklace adorning her neck. Her simplicity and humble demeanor have won the hearts of the people of India.

She stopped briefly to greet the PM with folded hands, with  PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah greeting her back. In another viral photo, she is seen in a conversation with the PM.

Tulasi Gowda

She was honoured as a Tree Goddess by the Halakki tribe. Tulasi is retired now and presently lives on pension. She is on a mission to create awareness and encourage preservation of the environment.

Environmentalist Dr A.N. Yellappa Reddy was quoted as saying, “The plants she raises are like children for her. She knows each one down to its last roots. She can’t explain how but she knows this because she speaks the language of the forest. Seeing her work is an incredible experience.” He also added that she can recognize a mother tree of any species anywhere in the forest.  Her knowledge about the forest–its plants and medicinal herbs is unmatched and invaluable.

Our kids know of Greta Thunberg but haven’t heard of Tulasi Gowda!

It is sad that so many of us were unaware of this hidden treasure of our country until she won the Padma Shri award. She has won multiple awards for her work before this. In the year 1986, she was conferred with the ‘Priyadarshini Vrukshamitra Award’ and the ‘Kannada Rajyotsava Award’ in 1999. She said that she is very happy to get the Padma Shri and values it, but she values the forests and trees more than anything else.

She is a living example for how an ordinary woman has made extraordinary changes through her dedication and passion. It saddens me to see that our children know about Greta Thunberg,  but none have heard of Indian environment heroes like our our loving and nurturing Tulasi Aaji until she won a Padma Shri.

We need to learn about our indigenous tribes and teach the coming generations about their rich culture and contribution to our country. Padma Shri Tulasi Gowda taught us how nurturing and preserving our forests will go a long way in combating climate change. She also taught us that simplicity and humility is more valuable than any award or recognition.

Lastly let us all do our bit and take steps. We can all begin by planting a tree. As the saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the second best time is NOW!”

Image source: Still from Instagram videos 


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