‘Sulagatti’ Narasamma, India’s Oldest Midwife, Passes Away at 98

People’s immense faith in Narasamma and her ways have seen her deliver over 15,000 babies in the last 77 years.

2 min read

‘Sulagatti’ Narasamma, the 98-year-old Padma Shri awardee and one of the most respected traditional midwives of the country, passed away on Tuesday, 25 December around 3pm in a Bengaluru hospital.

She was admitted in BGS Hospital in Kengeri in early December. She was suffering from a severe lung ailment and was breathing with the assistance of ventilator for the past five days. She is survived by four sons and three daughters.

Her death has brought sorrow to a lot of admirers not only from her village in Tumakuru district but the whole state.

A state-government-organised funeral is expected to be held at her home district on Wednesday. CM HD Kumaraswamy, Deputy CM G Parameshwara and former CM BS Yeddyurappa have issued statements expressing grief over her demise.


Who Was Narsamma?

Narasamma had started assisting women giving birth, free of cost, from the age of 20 in the 1940s, in underdeveloped areas of Tumakuru. She continued to do so for more than 70 years since then, until she fell ill in late 2017.

Her work earned her the moniker ‘Sulagatti’ Narasamma - Sulagatti in Kannada means ‘delivery work’.

Her lifetime of service to women in need was recognised on Republic Day this year and she was conferred the Padma Shri by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Speaking to TNM, her son Sriram had earlier said she had started assisting deliveries since she was very young, like her grandmother and mother. Encouraged by her grandmother and aunt, Narasamma began delivering babies and soon became the go-to person in Pavagada for pregnant women.

Midwives were an integral part of rural life in Tumakuru until technological innovations in medicine reached there. The introduction of hospitals contributed to the gradual fall in the prominence of women who help during childbirth.

“Margamma (her grandmother) herself was locally famous in Tumakuru for delivering babies around 70 years ago. When she (Narasamma) delivered her aunt’s child – her first – her aunt remarked ‘Narsu, your hands are special’. That was the start,” Sriram had told TNM.

“Even now, though there are hospitals, many people don’t like to go there. Instead, they prefer Narsamma since they know her,” Sriram had added.

People’s immense faith in Narasamma and her ways has seen her deliver over 15000 babies in the last 77 years. And until a few years ago, she did this apart from her agricultural work. “If you ask her, she will say I don’t have a count since she has been doing it all her life,” her son had said.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More