This Padma Shri awardee has rescued over 20,000 cows in India

German national Friederike Bruning, popularly known as Sudevi Maataji, was moved by the plight of an injured calf, which led her to open the Radha Surabhi Gaushala in UP, which houses over 2,500 cows.
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About 40 years ago, 19-year-old Friederike Bruning came to India from Germany as a tourist and in search of life’s purpose. Intrigued by its rich culture, spiritual heritage, and traditions, she says she found her answers in the Bhagavat Gita. But wanting the guidance of a guru, she continued her search.

She finally found Tin Kori Baba in RadhaKund near Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, who helped her in her spiritual journey. After receiving Mantra Diksha (an initiation into a new spiritual life), she came to be known as Sudevi Maataji.

Sudevi Maataji with a calf

About 20 years into this journey, she realised she had a bigger purpose in life when she saw an injured calf lying outside the village.

“She had been thrown there like a piece of rubbish. Her upper hindleg was broken and a big wound was made by the sharp bone ends. Maggots had gone in the wound and spread to half her body. They had begun to eat the other parts of the body,” Sudevi tells SocialStory.

Having witnessed this horrible sight, she took the calf home and took care of it. And thus began her journey aiding abandoned, injured, and sick cows and calves. As the number of animals increased, Sudevi shifted to a bigger place on the outskirts of the village.

Today, the Padma Shri awardee takes care of over 2,500 cows at the Radha Surabhi Gaushala in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.

A home for injured cows

Sudevi says, “We take care of cows we find on the streets, or those brought in by other people by giving them food, shelter, medicines, and treatment.”

“We try to nurse them back to health if possible, or we try and relieve their suffering if it is their last days,” she adds.

At present, the gaushala houses about 2,500 cows. She says the healthy cows are sent to another big gaushala in Barsana near Mathura. They get between 5 and 15 new cases every day on an average, and have rescued more than 20,000 cows in the last 15 years.

A glimpse of the Gaushala

In this journey, Sudevi says, a numbers of villagers helped her to take care of the cows. “These are all poor and hardworking people from the surrounding villages, and cannot afford to volunteer. Nobody will do such hard work if they did not need the money,” she says.

She adds, “A few of my best people have never seen a school from the inside. But they are intelligent and able to take responsibility. I have taught them what I learned myself and they were able to learn and are doing very well. We have people from all castes and religions. I insist that all are treated as equals.”

                                                                                                                 

In 2019, Sudevi received the Padma Shri award for her untiring efforts from President Ram Nath Kovind, which according to her really helped her promote the cause of the cows.

Apart from cows, the gaushala is also home to a few buffalos that were saved from the slaughterhouse, and there are horses and donkeys too that were found injured.

Impact of the pandemic

The ongoing expenses of the gaushala are taken care of mostly by donations. “In the beginning, it was my parents’ money that enabled me to take care of them. But now, the expenses have grown so much that the inheritance that I pooled in is only a small part of the whole thing,” says Sudevi.

However, the pandemic has been a challenge in this sense for Sudevi. She struggled to feed and care for her cows. Every grain of food and every medicine was hard to come by. However, there was a silver lining - crowdfunding

Donatekart, one of the popular crowdfunding platforms in India, helped Sudevi raise about Rs 1.55 crore for the materials needed for the Gaushala during the pandemic.

Sudevi Maataji has rescued over 20,000 cows and nurtures about 2500 at the shelter

Sudevi says that it collected donations for their food and medicines, and thanks to their help, she has been able to nearly double the amount of nourishing food. Though they always had sufficient food, it was just the right amount of food and no particular surplus as such.

“Donatekart has supported more than 50 gaushalas in the past, but this campaign of Sudeviji is very special because of her selfless love towards cows. We are overwhelmed to see more than 10,000 donors contributing Rs 1.5 crore looking at our appeal. Campaigns like this reiterate the power of crowdfunding and the generosity of people,” says Anil Kumar Reddy, CEO and Co-founder of DonateKart.

According to Sudevi, the biggest challenge they faced was to overcome the lack of seva bhav (the emotion of selfless service), and the propensity to profit from every other living entity. These animals may be considered unworthy if they cannot be profited from and are sent out.

Sudevi says that in the future, there will be rescuing more animals, for which more space is needed.

“The greatest problem now is lack of space. We are hopelessly overcrowded. We shall try to buy some land and also approach the government to give us land for the cows,” she says.
Edited by Megha Reddy

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