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Maharashtra: Sondara Gurukul’s founder Sudam Kaka Bhondave and 3 family members pass away in a tragic road accident, son critical

For the last 36 years, the Gurukul has functioned solely on social and economic support without any government aid. This has added to the confidence of the people about the project. The Gurukul undertakes rural development along with students’ education.

Social worker Sudam (Kaka) Shankar Bhondave, known for his dedicated contribution to the education and upbringing of students from farmer families and families of sugarcane labourers, by setting up gurukuls in a very remote area of Marathwada passed away in a tragic road accident that took place on 21 February 2023. Sudam Kaka Bhondave was 66 years old.

His wife Sindhu Bhondave (age 60), his daughter-in-law Kartiki (age 32), and his granddaughter Anandi (age 3) also suffered fatal injuries and died in this road accident that took place near Falkemala, Karegaon on the Ahmednagar-Pune road. His son Ashvin Bhondave (age 35) who was driving the car at the time of this accident is critical with serious injuries.

Sudam Kaka Bhondve’s car met with an accident. Image Source: Facebook profile of Baban Pawar

At around 12:30 PM, the family’s speeding car hit a container parked on the roadside while going towards Pune as the family wanted to attend a family program in Chakan near Pune. The police have registered an FIR against the driver of the container, Bablu Lahari Chauhan, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, and he has been arrested. The car was reduced to rubble because of the mishap. Sudam Kaka Bhondave, Sindhu Bhondve, and Anandi who were trapped in the car died on the spot. The car which had been crushed badly in the road accident had to be pulled apart by a crane to extract the bodies.

The car crashed on this container parked on the roadside. Image Source: Facebook profile of Baban Pawar

Kartiki Bhondave was seriously injured. She died while being taken to Ahmedagar for treatment. Ashvin Bhondave was seriously injured and is being treated in a private hospital in Shirur. The death of the founder of the Sondara Gurukul and his family members who gave their whole life to educating poor pupils is mourned by 200 students in the Gurukul and more than 3000 alumni of the institute and thousands of others in the Marathwada region.

Sudam Kaka Bhondve started Sondara Gurukul with the blessings and guidance of Nanaji Deshmukh

In 1986, India adopted an education policy that was newer for that era. The Rajiv Gandhi government had brought it with bubbling enthusiasm. It had many exciting features but rural parts of India were not equipped with educational infrastructure, connectivity, and institutes as it is today. Sudam Kaka Bhondave identified this gap as an inspired youth of 28-29 years of his age and started Sondara Gurukulam – a residential educational project of the NGO Deendayal Navarachana Pratishthan located in the Beed district of the Marathwada region of Maharashtra.

The Beed district is a draught-prone and economically backward region where a large number of people temporarily relocate for nearly six months every year during the sugarcane harvest season. This dislocation is a great hurdle for the education of their children. And this lack of education is the main root cause of many social problems. To combat this predicament, the Sondara Gurukulam was established in 1986 under the guidance of Bharat Ratna Hon. Shri Nanaji Deshmukh.

Education and rural development are the foundations of this project. Though the Gurukul was initially founded focusing on the Beed district, today it has encompassed the entire state of Maharashtra with beneficiaries from various districts like Jalna, Nanded, Osmanabad, Aurangabad, Ahmednagar, Mumbai, Pune, Parbhani, Sangli, etc. More than 3000 students have availed the opportunity for education from this Gurukul and at present, around 200 students are being taken care of by the project.

The humble beginning of a grand work

Since its inception in 1986, the Gurukul has developed a lot. The idea of Gurukul was conceived by KD Joshi. The project was seeded with 3 huts and 23 students on 21st July 1986 to educate the children of sugarcane workers in the Beed District.

Sondara Gurukul started in 3 huts. Image Source: www.Sondara.in

Sudam Kaka’s father Shankar Bhondave donated his seven acres of land in the Domri village of the Patoda tahsil of the Beed district. On the first day, Sudam Kaka Bhondave and his wife Sindhu Bhondave dedicated themselves to this work for the rest of their lives as full-time workers to this project.

Gurukul operated through the huts for 12 years. Image Source: www.sondara.in

The Gurukul flourished under the consistent guidance of Nanaji Deshmukh. The project began without any infrastructure like residential accommodations, electricity, water supply, road, manpower, or capital. Management of the Gurukul started under Deendayal Research Institute. The school started without any Government grant money.

Bharat Ratna Nanaji Deshmukh would often take a review of the activities in the Sondara Gurukul. Image Source: Facebook profile of Hamid Khan Pathan

30 days ‘Dhanyata Camp’ was organized for 2000 people in May 1987 under the guidance of Nanaji which resulted in the creation of a beautiful lake in the vicinity of the Gurukul. The Gurukul was run in huts for initial 12 years. Basic infrastructure was made available by Deendayal Research Institute in the year 2004-05.

Sudam Kaka Bhondave’s vision turned a barren hilly terrain into a pleasant landscape. Image Source: Facebook profile of Hamid Khan Pathan

The Gurukul was given approval by the Government of Maharashtra in 2004. Since 2007, to ease administration, the management has been transferred from Deendayal Research Institute to Deendayal Navarachana Pratishthan.

Aerial view of the Sondara Gurukul campus. Image Source: YouTube channel of the Sondara Gurukul

Building nation one brick at a time

Sudam Kaka Bhondave was attached to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But while teaching in Gurukul, he never forced any thought on the young pupils and he let it solely to their experience what they wanted to think. This freedom built a different confidence in the students of the Gurukul.

Sondara Gurukul ensures the all-round development of students. Image Source: Facebook page of Sondara Gurukul

However, Sudam Kaka Bhondave would always ensure that students of the Gurukul get to know the things they should. There is no wall in the Gurukul that does not converse with its students. Even the classroom complexes in the building are named Nalanda, Takshashila, Vikramshila, etc. The Gurukul houses a swimming pool and it has a garden called “The Kadamb Van”. The Gurukul teaches computers to the kids, and it also teaches them Yoga and meditation. The Sondara Gurukul also has a dedicated section for Ayurvedic medicines of common purposes.

Sudam Kaka Bhondave and his wife’s death is a big shock to the Sondara Gurukul. Image Source:

In this way, Sudam Kaka Bhondave went on to enrich his students with a blend of contemporary useful knowledge and ancient Indic awareness. All the staff members live in Gurukul with students. This is seen as a unique experiment in the state of Maharashtra, and many other schools later took inspiration from this.

Sondara Gurukul today

The success of Sondara Gurukul can be evaluated in various ways. For the last 36 years, the Gurukul has functioned solely on social and economic support without any government aid. This has added to the confidence of the people about the project. The Gurukul undertakes rural development along with students’ education. The Gurukul has established itself as a high-cadre educational inspiration center and has become a role model for many educational institutions in Maharashtra. 

Students from poor farmer’s families studying in the Sondara Gurukul frequently get admitted to government medical colleges, government engineering colleges, and to other professional courses. Besides, Gurukul has produced many braveheart soldiers, intelligent farmers who keep doing various experiments, researchers, lawyers, and more than anything else citizens who regard the motherland and fellow countrymen above all.

The Bhondave family members will always be remembered for their work

The Gurukul went has suffered heartbreaking pain as the accident took away three very important pillars of the Gurukul. Kartiki Bhondave had also started to work full-time for the Gurukul in the last few years. Ashvin Bhondave – the only survivor in this accident had also left his engineering career and joined his father to contribute to the process of nation-building. This accident has taken away from the Gurukul one of the most loved disciples of Bharat Ratna Nanaji Deshmukh and his equally loving and caring family.

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