Meenatai Thackeray or Meena Thackeray (1932-1995) was the wife of Bal Thackeray, an Indian politician who is known for founding the Shiv Sena, a right-wing pro-Marathi and Hindu nationalist political party, which is mainly active in the state of Maharashtra.
Meenatai Thackeray was born as Sarla Vaidya on Wednesday, 6 January 1932 (age 63 years; at the time of death). She was a homemaker. Although Meena never plunged into active politics, she played a crucial role behind the scenes in the formation of Shiv Sena.
Parents & Siblings
Not much is known about her parents. Her younger sister, Kunda Thackeray (aka Madhuwanti), was married to Bal Thackeray’s brother Shrikant Thackeray.
Husband & Children
On 13 June 1948, she got married to Balasaheb Thackeray.
Bal Thackeray and Meena Thackeray
Together, they had and had three sons, the oldest son Bindumadhav Thackeray, the middle son Jaidev Thackeray, and the youngest son Uddhav Thackeray. Bindumadhav was a filmmaker who is known for producing the Bollywood film ‘Agni Sakshi,’ starring Jackie Shroff, Nana Patekar and Manisha Koirala. Bindumadhav died on 20 April 1996 in a car accident. Following the footsteps of his father, Uddhav Thackeray ventured into politics and went on to become a leader of the Shiv Sena.
Uddhav Thackeray (extreme left) with Bal Thackeray (centre) at the funeral of his elder brother Bindumadhav Thackeray
Uddhav Thackeray with his elder brother Jaidev Thackeray (right)
In an interview, Balasaheb Thackeray, while talking about his wife, Meena, revealed that she was a deeply pious woman. He said,
My wife was so pious, so devoted, so religious. But it came to nothing. After she went to a Ganesh Chaturthi function in Bombay, we forgot the emergency bottle of her medicine and went to Karjat. Here was a test for gods and goddesses. It was the duty of God to remind her of the emergency bottle. If not, then you and your faith are led astray.”
Matoshree, Bandra-east, Mumbai
On 6 September 1995, she died due to a heart attack in Karjat, Maharashtra. After attending a Ganesh Chaturthi function in Mumbai, she forgot to carry her emergency bottle of medicines along with her when she went to Karjat.
- Maasaheb Meenatai Thackeray Smarak outside Shivaji Park, Mumbai
- Minatai Thakare Stadium in Nashik, Maharashtra
- Maasaheb Meenatai Thackeray Hospital, Nerul, Navi Mumbai
- Meenatai Thackeray Blood Bank – Siddharth Hospital, Siddharth Nagar, Prabhodhan Kridabhawan Marg, Goregaon (W) Mumbai
- Meenatai Balasaheb Thackeray Banquet Hall, Mira-Bhayandar, Maharashtra
- Maasaheb Minatai Thakre Maternity Home, Sion Chunabhatti, Mumbai
- She was also referred to as Maa-saheb, by Shiv Sainiks (staunch followers of Shiv Sena).
- Indian actress Amrita Rao played the Meena Thackeray in the 2019 Indian biographical film ‘Thackeray.’
Amrita Rao as Meena Thackeray in the film Thackeray (2019)
- In the 1980s, Balasaheb and Meenatai watched a black and white film based on the life of Gadge Maharaj, an Indian mendicant-saint and social reformer. The film showcased how Gadge Maharaj developed residential centres for people to take shelter and spent the rest of their lives there. Intrigued by the film, Meena Tai decided to start a similar initiative. Balasaheb agreed to the idea and laid the foundation of Ramadham Old Age Home near Khopoli, Maharashtra, in 1990.
- She played a prominent role in setting up The Mahila Aghadi, the women’s wing of the Shiv Sena formed by Bal Thackeray in 1985.
- After the death of her wife, Balasaheb turned into an agnostic and discarded his rudraksh malas given to him by Swami Gagangiri Maharaj. Remembering his wife, in an interview, Balasaheb said,
When she needed it, the medicine was not there and we lost her. If the gods do not come to your help when you need them, then what’s the use. I have removed all pictures of Ganesh from my house. But her picture will be there.”