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Baba Amte

Murlidhar Devidas Amte

Baba Amte
Born (1914-12-26)December 26, 1914[1]
Hinganghat, Maharastra, British India
Died 9 February 2008(2008-02-09) (aged 94)
Anandwan, Maharastra, India
Nationality Indian
Spouse Sadhana Amte
Children Dr. Vikas Amte
Dr. Prakash Amte

Murlidhar Devidas Amte (December 26, 1914 – February 9, 2008), popularly known as Baba Amte (Marathi: बाबा आमटे), was an Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for his work for the rehabilitation and empowerment of poor people suffering from leprosy.[2]


  Early life

Amte was born to Devidas and Laxmibai Amte in the town of Hinganghat in Wardha District of Maharashtra. The family was a wealthy jagirdar Brahmin family. His father was also a British official with responsibilities for district administration and revenue collection.[3] Amte had acquired his nickname Baba in his childhood.[4][5][6]

He came to be known as Baba not because "he is a saint or any such thing, but because his parents addressed him by that name." (as explained by his wife Sadhanatai)

As the eldest son of a wealthy Brahmin landowner, Murlidhar had an idyllic childhood. By the time he was fourteen, Baba owned his own gun and hunted boar and deer. He developed a special interest in cinema, wrote reviews for the film magazine The Picture Goer and even corresponded with Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer. (Norma Shearer would become one of his first foreign donors when he began working with leprosy patients.) When he was old enough to drive, Baba was given a Singer sportscar with cushions covered with panther skin! But even then, Amte did not appreciate the restrictions that prevented him from playing with the 'low-caste' servants' children.

"There is a certain callousness in families like mine." Baba says. "They put up strong barriers so as not to see the misery in the world outside and I rebelled against it." [7]

  Dedicated work

Trained in law, Amte developed a successful legal practice at Wardha. He soon got involved in the Indian struggle for freedom from the British Raj, and fggghg started acting as a defense lawyer for leaders of the Indian freedom movement whom the British authorities had imprisoned in the 1942 Quit India movement. He spent some time at Sevagram ashram of Mahatma Gandhi, and became a follower of Gandhism for the rest of his life. He practiced various aspects of Gandhism, including yarn spinning using a charkha and wearing khadi.

Amte founded three ashrams for treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients, disabled people, and people from marginalized sections of the society in Maharashtra, India.

In 1973, Amte founded the Lok Biradari Prakalp to work among the Madia Gond tribal people of Gadchiroli District.

Amte devoted his life to many other social causes, the most notable among which were generating public awareness of importance of ecological balance, wildlife preservation, and the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

  Dedicated work of family members

In 1946, Amte married Sadhana Ghule.[4] She actively participated in her husband's social work with equal dedication. Their two sons, Dr. Vikas Amte (born 1947) and Dr. Prakash Amte, and two daughters-in-law, Dr. Mandakini and Dr. Bharati, are all doctors. All four have dedicated their lives to social work and causes similar to those of the senior Amte.

Son Dr. Prakash Amte and his wife Dr. Mandakini run a school and a hospital at Hemalkasa village in the underprivileged district of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra where people belonging to the "Madia Gond" tribe live. After marrying Prakash, Mandakini left her governmental medical job and moved to Hemalkasa to eventually start a hospital, a school, and an orphanage for injured wild animals, including a lion and some leopards. Their two sons, Digant, a doctor, and Aniket, an engineer, have also dedicated their lives to the same causes as their parents.[8][9] In 2008, Prakash and Mandakini were given the Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership.[10]

Baba Amte's elder son Vikas and his wife Bharati run a hospital at Anandwan and coordinate operations between Anandwan and satellite projects.[11]

In those days, leprosy was associated with social stigma and the society disowned people suffering from leprosy. There was also a widespread misbelief that leprosy was contagious. Amte strove to dispel the misbelief and once allowed bacilli from a leprosy patient to be injected into him while participating in an experimental test aimed at proving that leprosy was not contagious.[12]

Today, Anandwan and Hemalkasa village have one hospital, each. Anandwan has a university, an orphanage, and schools for the blind and the deaf. Currently, the self-sufficient Anandwan ashram has over 5,000 residents.[5] The community development project at Anandwan in Maharashtra is recognized around the world. Besides Anandwan, Amte later founded "Somnath" and "Ashokwan" ashrams for treating leprosy patients.

His philosophy:
I sought my soul, my soul I could not see;
I sought my God, my God eluded me;
I sought my brother and found all three.


Amte followed Gandhi's way of living and taru, and led a spartan life. He wore khadi clothes made from the looms at Anandwan. He believed in Gandhi's concept of a self-sufficient village industry that empowers seemingly helpless people, and successfully brought his ideas into practice at Anandwan.

Amte also used Gandhian principles to fight against corruption, mismanagement, and poor, shortsighted planning in the government. Thus, he used non-violent means to fight the Indian government in the fight of independence.[13]

In spite of his emulation of social and political work, unlike Gandhi, Amte was an atheist.[14]

  Narmada Bachao Andolan

In 1990, Amte left Anandwan for a while to live along the Narmada River and join Medha Patkar's Narmada Bachao Andolan ("Save Narmada" Movement), which fought against both unjust displacement of local inhabitants and damage to the environment on account of the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river.[15][16]


Amte was not physically well during his later years. He was confined to the bed due to a severe spondylosis condition. In 2007, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Amte died in Anandwan on February 9, 2008 aged 94. Respecting his wishes, his body was buried instead of being cremated, the traditional funeral of Hindus.

Upon Amte's death, the 14th Dalai Lama, said, "Amte's demise is a great loss to all of us. I am an admirer of Baba Amte. I vividly remember my visit to his thriving community of handicapped people at Anandwan in 1990".[17]

  Awards from the Government of India

  Other awards

  • Rashtriya Bhushan (Pride of the Nation), 1978: FIE Foundation Ichalkaranji (INDIA)
  • Jamnalal Bajaj Award, 1979 for Constructive Work [19]
  • N.D. Diwan Award, 1980: National Society for Equal Opportunities for the 'Handicapped' (NASEOH), Bombay
  • Ramshastri Award, 1983: Ramshastri Prabhune Foundation, Maharashtra, India
  • Indira Gandhi Memorial Award, 1985: Government of Madhya Pradesh for outstanding social service
  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy Award, 1986: Delhi
  • Fr. Maschio Platinum Jubilee Award, 1987: Bombay
  • G.D. Birla International Award, 1988: For outstanding contribution to humanism
  • Templeton Prize, 1990 [Baba Amte and Charles Birch (Emeritus professor of University of Sydney)were jointly awarded the prize in 1990]
  • Mahdeo Balwant Natu Puraskar, 1991, Pune, Maharashtra
  • Adivasi Sewak Award, 1991, Government of Maharashtra
  • Kusumagraj Puraskar, 1991
  • Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Dalit Mitra Award, 1992, Government of Maharashtra
  • Shri Nemichand Shrishrimal Award, 1994
  • Fr. Tong Memorial Award, 1995, Voluntary Health Association of India
  • Kushta Mitra Puraskar, 1995: Vidarbha Maharogi Sewa Mandal, Amravati, Maharashtra
  • Bhai Kanhaiya Award, 1997: Sri Guru Harkrishan Education Trust, Bhatinda, Punjab
  • Manav Sewa Award, 1997: Young Men's Gandhian Association, Rajkot, Gujarat
  • Sarthi Award, 1997, Nagpur, Maharashtra
  • Mahatma Gandhi Charitable Trust Award, 1997, Nagpur, Maharashtra
  • Gruhini Sakhi Sachiv Puraskar, 1997, Gadima Pratishthan, Maharashtra
  • Kumar Gandharva Puraskar, 1998
  • Apang Mitra Puraskar, 1998, Helpers of the Handicapped, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • Bhagwan Mahaveer Award, 1998, Chennai
  • Diwaliben Mohanlal Mehta Award, 1998, Mumbai
  • Justice K. S. Hegde Award, 1998, Karnataka
  • Baya Karve Award, 1998, Pune, Maharashtra
  • Savitribai Phule Award, 1998, Government of Maharashtra
  • Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Award, 1988: FICCI, for outstanding achievements in training and placement of disabled persons
  • Satpaul Mittal Award, 1998, Nehru Sidhant Kendra Trust, Ludhiana, Punjab
  • Adivasi Sevak Puraskar, 1998, Government of Maharashta
  • Gandhi Peace Prize, 1999[20]
  • Dr. Ambedkar International Award for Social Change, 1999, "in recognition of outstanding work done in pursuing the cause of the exploited and the underprivileged, reconciling differences among conflicting social groups and contributing significantly to social change"
  • Maharashtra Bhushan Award, 2004, Government of Maharastra[21][22]
  • Bharathvasa award, 2008

  Honorary titles

  • Gandhi had conferred on Amte the title Abhayasadhak ("A Fearless Aspirant") for his fight against leprosy.


  • "I don't want to be a great leader; I want to be a man who goes around with a little oil can and when he sees a breakdown, offers his help. To me, the man who does that is greater than any holy man in saffron-colored robes. The mechanic with the oilcan: that is my ideal in life."[3] (Self-description given to British journalist Graham Turner)
  • "I am leaving to live along the Narmada. Narmada will linger on the lips of the nation as a symbol of all struggles against social injustice." (About going to the Narmada valley to support Narmada Bachao Andolan)
  • "One can live without fingers, but not self-respect."
  • "I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see, I sought my god, but my god eluded me; And then I sought my sisters and my brothers, and in them I found all three."
  • "The air is not thin yet, so keep climbing." AG
  • "भिती असते तिथे प्रीति नसते" (Where there is fear, there is no love)


  1. ^ "India daily obituary". http://www.indiadaily.org/entry/end-of-an-era-baba-amte-passes-away/. 
  2. ^ Students' Britannica India. Popular Prakashan. 2000. p. 62. ISBN 0-85229-760-2. http://books.google.com/?id=Kpd9lLY_0-IC. 
  3. ^ a b "BIOGRAPHY of Murlidhar Devidas Amte". http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/BiographyAmteMur.htm. 
  4. ^ a b "Collector office chandrapur -Maharashtra Bhushan Baba Amte". http://chanda.nic.in/htmldocs/anandwan.html. 
  5. ^ a b "An interview with Baba Amte". http://www.rediff.com/freedom/amte3.htm. 
  6. ^ Wisdom song: My Mother's Madness, http://baba.niya.org/index.php?page=mother_maddness 
  7. ^ http://mss.niya.org/people/baba1_amte.php
  8. ^ "Social workers Drs. Prakash and Manda Amte inspire listeners at Asha NYC/NJ". http://www.ashanet.org/nycnj/?id=79. 
  9. ^ "Dr Prakash and Dr Mandatai Amte - The Spirit of Mastek Award". http://www.mastek.com/content/mastekpapers/23June2006.asp. 
  10. ^ "Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation: Awardees". http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Citation/CitationAmtes.html. 
  11. ^ "Maharogi Sewa Samiti". http://mss.niya.org/people/amte.php. 
  12. ^ "Amte: The last follower of Mahatma Gandhi". http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/feb/09amte2.htm?zcc=rl. 
  13. ^ "Baba Amte: The Gandhi after that Gandhi". http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/feb/09amte4.htm. 
  14. ^ "Baba Amte Obituary: The Economist". February 28, 2008. http://www.economist.com/obituary/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10757984. 
  15. ^ "Right Livelihood Award: 1991 - Medha Patkar &Baba Amte / Narmada Bachao Andolan". http://www.rightlivelihood.org/narmada.html. 
  16. ^ President Pratibha Patil, Manmohan Singh condole Baba Amte's death - Yahoo! India News
  17. ^ "His Holiness the Dalai Lama mourns the demise of Baba Amte". http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=19218&t=1&c=1. 
  18. ^ Microsoft Word - year-wise 07.rtf
  19. ^ "Jamnalal Bajaj Awards Archive". Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation. http://www.jamnalalbajajfoundation.org/awards/archives/2010. 
  20. ^ "The Miracle Worker". http://www.rediff.com/freedom/amte3.htm. 
  21. ^ "Award for Baba Amte, Mashelkar". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 1 May 2005. http://www.hindu.com/2005/05/01/stories/2005050102571000.htm. 
  22. ^ "The various awards that Baba Amte won in his lifetime". http://www.aol.in/news/story/2008020902039022000001/. 

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