A lover of ice cream, hardworking and ‘Dossi Maa’ to children: Narendra Modi’s mother Hiraben’s life and legacy


“A glorious century rests at the feet of God… In Maa, I have always felt that trinity, which contains the journey of an ascetic, the symbol of a selfless Karmayogi and a life committed to values.”

With these words on Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi bid adieu to his mother, Hiraben, who passed away on Friday morning (30 December) at the UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Centre in Ahmedabad. The 100-year-old had been admitted to the hospital on Wednesday after her health had deteriorated.

Catch all the live updates from Prime Minister Modi’s mother’s death HERE

Politicians, leaders and people from all walks of life quickly grieved the loss of Prime Minister Modi’s mother Hiraben, also called Hiraba.

As the country mourns the loss of Hiraba, let’s take a look at the woman who moulded Narendra Modi into the man he is and the close ties the mother-son shared even though they lived away from each other.

Hiraba’s life an inspiration to Modi

Hiraben was born in Visnagar in Gujarat’s Mehsana district in 1923. Prime Minister Modi has stated in an earlier blog post that Hiraba’s childhood was one of poverty and deprivation.

Records show that as a teen was she married to Damodardas Mulchand Modi and moved to the town of Vadnagar a few kilometres away. Her marital house in Vadnagar was tiny, which did not have a window nor a toilet or a bathroom.

During a 2015 event in Menlo Park in the United States, Modi recalled all the hardships that his mother had to endure — washing utensils in neighbours’ homes to bring up her children. He was quoted as saying then: “When we were small, in order to make ends meet, my mother would wash utensils in neighbours’ homes. She used to clean the dishes, fill water, work as a labourer; you can imagine what a mother had to do to raise her children, the difficulties she went through.”

Modi has credited Hiraba for several principles that he has advocated for as prime minister. His push for cleanliness — Swachch Bharat — comes from his mother’s teachings and her daily activities. In a blog to celebrate her 100th birthday, Modi had written, “Her focus on cleanliness is evident. Whenever I go to Gandhinagar to visit her, she offers me sweets with her own hands. And just like a young child’s doting mother, she takes out a napkin and wipes my face once I finish eating. She always has a napkin or small towel tucked into her saree.”

Modi had also stated that it was his mother’s small efforts had taught him concepts such as ‘water conservation’. “During the rains, our roof would leak, and the house would flood. Mother would place buckets and utensils below the leaks to collect the rainwater. Even in this adverse situation, mother would be a symbol of resilience. You will be surprised to know that she’d use this water for the next few days. What better example than this of water conservation! (sic),” he had written about Hiraba.

Hiraba was also known for her large-heartedness. An instance of her generosity was when Hiraben took in Modi’s friend’s son Abbas into their home, after the boy’s father’s untimely death. “He stayed with us and completed his studies. Mother was as affectionate and caring towards Abbas just like she did for all of us siblings. Every year on Eid, she used to prepare his favourite dishes,” Modi had said about his mother in the past.

Prahlad Modi, Narendra Modi’s younger brother, had also described his mother as loving and compassionate to all. In an India Today report, he spoke of how despite not finishing her studies, she would treat small children and females in the area with home remedies. “My mother knew so many desi nuskhe. She was known as Dossi Maa. Even though she never went to school, she was a doctor in our village,” he was quoted as telling India Today.

He also revealed that his mother was extremely fond of ice cream and could never resist it.

Shied away from limelight

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past has described Hiraben as a simple woman, who also never had had high aspirations for Modi, and had said that even if he had landed an ordinary job, she would have been equally happy.

As Modi climbed the political ladder and became a prominent figure, his mother shied away from the cameras and didn’t attend public event with her son.

There are only two instances when she attended events with her son; the first was when she attended a function in Ahmedabad and applied tilak on Modi’s forehead after his return from Srinagar.

The other instance was when her son first took oath as the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001.

Even when Modi was sworn in as prime minister in 2014, she was absent at the event and visited him in Delhi only two years later. Modi had then tweeted images of himself with her at the official residence — 7 Race Course Road (RCR).

However, over the years, Modi has made it a point to visit her on his birthday and seek her blessings.

As her son worked tirelessly for the nation, she stayed away from the Capital and the politics but she often made news for her acts.

Despite her age, she always made it a point to vote. In the recently-concluded Gujarat Assembly elections, where her son’s party rode to a stunning victory, she had reached the polling booth in Raysan village, near Gandhinagar on a wheelchair with the help of family members and exercised her democratic right. No guesses, who she voted for though.

In November 2016, she had once again made headlines as the then 95-year-old had queued up outside a bank to exchange her notes as part of the nationwide demonetisation exercise.

Hiraben opted to remain in Gujarat with Narendra Modi’s younger son — a move that invited several questions, with even the Opposition training their guns at the prime minister, alleging that he didn’t care for her.

In April 2019, when asked why she stayed away from him despite their loving relationship, Modi had said, “My mother says what will I do at your home. What will I talk to you about? She also gets upset seeing me return late in the night.”

Say what you may, but the love between the prime minister and his mother was evident and that the two shared a bond unlike any other.

With inputs from agencies

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A lover of ice cream, hardworking and ‘Dossi Maa’ to children: Narendra Modi’s mother Hiraben’s life and legacy
A lover of ice cream, hardworking and ‘Dossi Maa’ to children: Narendra Modi’s mother Hiraben’s life and legacy
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