For years, he was called a madman for toiling away on the rocks. But Dashrath Manjhi was not crazy. His quest to break a path through a small mountain to benefit the entire village is now legendary because he carved an entire road with hand tools, working for 22 years.
Manjhi started off his extraordinary task in 1960, after his wife was injured while trekking up the side of one of the rocky footpaths. To reach the nearest hospital, he had to travel around the mountains, some 70 kilometers.
The laborer from Gehlour Hills in Bihar, India wanted his people to have easier access to doctors, schools, and opportunity. Armed with only a sledge hammer, chisel, and crowbar, he single-handedly began carving a road through the 300-foot mountain that isolated his village from the nearest town.
“People told Manjhi that he wouldn’t be able to do it,” said Dahu Manjhi, the man’s nephew, “that he is a poor man who just needs to earn and eat.”
He sold the family’s three goats to buy the hammer and chisels and worked every day on the project to make it successful. After plowing fields for others in the morning, he would work on his road all evening and throughout the night.
He toiled from 1960 to 1982, having developed his own technique. He burned firewood on the rocks, then sprinkled water on the heated surface which cracked the boulders making it possible to reduce them to rubble.
Finally, the road was completed. With sides 25 feet high, the road is 30 feet wide and 360 feet in length. Because of his singular dedication, the distance to public services was reduced from 70km to just one.
It has been over three decades since the “Mountain Man,” as he was called, completed the road. The feat brought the Gehlour man international acclaim. After he died of cancer in 2007, Bihar’s Chief Minister gave him a State funeral. Though many believe he deserved it, he never received the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian honor that recognizes “exceptional service” in the community.
“Now the whole society is worshiping him,” said Dahu, “but only after he died.”
Though his descendants now have easier access to hospitals and the outside world, people of his village still live in poverty. Carrying on the Mountain Man’s broader vision for economic progress, Manjhi’s lifelong friend has committed to opening a trade school in the village, setting up the Dashrath Manjhi Welfare Trust to inspire the youth and offer meaningful education to change their lives for the better. You can help.
Milaap.org, the micro-loan organization featured here, with their solar light project, is helping the 82 year-old social worker, Ram Charit Prasad, to raise the needed money through contributions. If you want to donate $25 or more, visit Milaap’s page here.
“I did what I could through my limited means,” said Ram Charit, “but only with the support of people like you can we take it forward, and break through the mountain.”
(WATCH the beautiful video below to experience the road leading out of Manjhi’s village)
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