Budhni Manjhiyain (Nehru’s Tribal Wife) Wiki, Age, Death, Husband, Family, Biography & More

Budhni Manjhiyain

Budhni Manjhiyain (1943-2023) was an Indian tribal woman. She was labelled as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s tribal wife. She passed away in 2023 due to old age.


Budhni Manjhiyain (also spelt as Budhini) was born in 1943 (age 80 years; at the time of death) in Jharkhand.

Physical Appearance

Height (approx.): 5′ 4″

Hair Colour: Salt and pepper

Eye Colour: Black

Budhni Manjhiyain, Nehru's tribal wife

Family & Caste

Budhni was born into a family belonging to the Santhal tribe in Jharkhand.

Parents & Siblings

There is not much information about her parents and siblings.

Husband & Children

Budhni was married to Sudhir Dutta. He was a contract worker. The couple had a daughter named Ratna Dutta.


Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC)

Budhni Manjhiyain had a job in thee Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) project in Jharkhand. The DVC project was India’s first multipurpose project focused on building dams and thermal and hydroelectric plants. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru described as “the noble mansion of free India”. In 1959, when Budhni was 15 years old, she was selected by the DVC to welcome the then Prime Minister Nehru who insisted that women should be a part of the inauguration. On 6 December 1959, Prime Minister Nehru visited Dhanbad to inaugurate the dam over its river. During this event, Budhni became the centre of controversy and she was expelled from her village. In 1962, DVC fired her without giving any reason and she was forced to become a daily wage worker in Purulia, West Bengal. In 1985, Budhni’s story was brought to the attention of Rajiv Gandhi, Nehru’s grandson, who helped her get back her job at DVC. In an interview, her grandson Baapi Dutta said,

The Centre had received a lot of criticism for the treatment meted out to my grandmother. During a visit to West Bengal, a local MLA told then PM Rajiv Gandhi about her ordeal. This later led to her getting a job at the DVC around 1985-86 as a contract labourer. [1]The Indian Express

She continued working in DVC until her retirement in 2005. After she retired, she insisted that her grandson be given a job in the DVC, where he works now.


“Marriage” To Jawaharlal Nehru

On 6 December 1959, Prime Minister Nehru visited Budhni’s hometown Dhanbad for the inauguration of a dam. Budhni, who was 15 years old at the time, was chosen to welcome Nehru. During the inauguration, she put a tilaka (a red mark worn on the forehead by Hindus) and a garland on Nehru and was surprised when Nehru put a garland around her neck as well. He also made her press the button in the power station that started the dam’s operations.

A 15 year old Budhni Manjhiyain inaugurating the dam in Dhanbad with the then Prime Minister Nehru

A 15 year old Budhni Manjhiyain inaugurating the dam in Dhanbad with the then Prime Minister Nehru

When Budhni returned to her village after the inauguration, the village headman told her that she had to leave the village because she married someone outside their tribe. Budhni was a part of the Santhal tribe, according to whose customs, two people who garlanded each other were officially married. The Santhal tribe was strictly against marriage outside their tribe and expelled those who went against the customs. Although she tried to reason with the villagers and stay, she was made into an outcast and received several death threats. She was forced to leave her hometown and live in Panchet, Jharkhand, with the help of a man named Sudhir Dutta. [2]BBC


Budhni Manjhiyain passed away on 17 November 2023 at the age of 80 due to “complications related to old age”.  [3]The Indian Express She passed away after suffering from a prolonged illness, in her home (a shack) in Panchet, a town in Jharkhand, India, with her daughter. Speaking about her death, her grandson Baapi Dutta said,

What happened to my grandmother was very wrong, but I have let it go… During her last moments, she did not complain and was at peace when she passed away.” [4]The Indian Express

Budhni’s remains were kept in Dhanbad where several people paid homage to her.


  • Budhni stated that she longed to go back to her village in the Manbhum district (present-day Jharkhand), but was never able to do so.

    Budhni Manhiyain, overcome by emotion, during an interview

    Budhni Manhiyain, overcome by emotion, during an interview

  • Budhni was labelled as the “tribal wife of Nehru” in 2001 due to news reports covering her story. Jawaharlal Nehru who played an important role in her being banished from her village was completely unaware of the controversy.
  • In 2012, the newspaper The Hindu falsely reported that Budhni had passed away in 2011 at the age of 60. [5]The Hindu
  • In 2021, author Sarah Joseph published the book “Budhini”, which is inspired by Budhni Manjhiyain’s life. Sarah researched Budhni’s life for several years before writing the book.

    Budhni Manjhiyain (left) with author Sarah Joseph, who wrote a book inspired by Budhni's life

    Budhni Manjhiyain (left) with author Sarah Joseph, who wrote a book inspired by Budhni’s life


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