Budhni Manjhiyain from Jharkhand: ‘Nehru’s Tribal Wife’, read why she was ostracised by her tribal community

There are many faces in Indian history who are recognized for their unique stories, and another one is that of Budhni Manjhiyaan, who is known as ‘Nehru’s tribal wife‘. Budhani Manjhiyaan faced many hardships in his life, and his story reflects the times when caste and cultural barriers in society pushed a man out of his tribe.

A Santhali named Budhani Manjhiyain died four days ago at the age of 80. Manjhiyain was not a regular woman from Jharkhand. In 1959, when she was just 16 years old, an incident changed her life forever. And she came to be known as the “tribal wife” of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

Manjhiyain was ostracized by her community because when she was a 16-year-old project worker, then Prime Minister Nehru garlanded her at the inauguration of a dam. According to online sources, the garland honorably placed by Nehru at the inauguration of the Panchet Dam – now near Dhanbad – became a milestone in Budhni’s life as the Santhal tribals considered this gesture as “marriage”. The report said she was ostracized and denied entry to her village for “marrying outside her community, especially a non-tribal”.

On 17 November, when Manjhiyain died in a hut in Panchet, where she lived with her daughter Ratna, hundreds of people – including local politicians and officials – came to bid farewell to her, who was remembered by many present there. People described her as “the first tribal wife of the country’s first Prime Minister”.

That’s when he demanded a memorial in his honor next to the existing statue of Nehru in a local park, TOI said. He also demanded a pension for Ratna. JMM leader Ashok Mandal said that Manjhiyain’s contribution to the construction of Panchet Dam will always be remembered.

According to reports, Panchet Panchayat head Bhairav Mandal and others have written to the DVC management about a memorial and a house for Ratna in the local DVC colony. DVC Damodar Valley Corporation is the public sector undertaking under which the dam was built and operates. The report said that Ratna’s son Bapi is an accountant in DVC and lives in nearby Maithon.

Sweta Dagar is an avid reader and writer. She hails from Bulandshahr (U.P) where she completed her formap education. She loves exploring varieties of topics that shape the public opinion at large. If you have any queries, feel free to contact her at [email protected].