Dina Sanichar

History Uncovered Episode 35:
Dina Sanichar, The Real-Life Mowgli

Published September 29, 2023

After he was found living with wolves inside an Indian cave in 1867, Dina Sanichar was reintegrated into human society — but he remained ultimately feral for the remainder of his short life.

On a Saturday in February in 1867, a group of hunters in the Bulandshahr district of India came across a shocking sight. After they tracked a lone wolf to a cave in the jungle, they peered inside and saw the last thing they’d ever expect to find: a six-year-old human boy, alive and well.

The boy immediately struck the hunters as odd. Of course, being with wolves in the wild was unusual for a child. But the boy looked upon the hunters without any glimmer of recognition or relief in his eyes. He didn’t run to them. And he didn’t answer any of their questions.

The alarmed men quickly decided to bring the boy out of the woods and back into civilization. They simply couldn’t leave a child, however bewildering his behavior was, behind.

The hunters thus snatched him up quickly, by some accounts killing one of the wolves right there on the spot, and then carried the six-year-old to the Sikandra Mission Orphanage in the city of Agra.

Dina Sanichar

Wikimedia CommonsToward the end of his life, Dina Sanichar walked upright and wore clothing.

There, missionaries observed that the so-called Wolf Boy had picked up some wolfish traits and behaviors. He couldn’t stand straight up or speak, and he rejected cooked food in favor of raw meat. Missionaries at the orphanage judged the boy to be about six years old, and soon dubbed him Dina Sanichar, Sanichar meaning Saturday — the day he was found.

Eventually, this feral child developed the ability to understand what people said to him. He started wearing pants and shirts and developed an affinity for smoking cigarettes. But the boy found in the jungle remained “restless and fidgety” and ill at ease around people, seemingly out of place. He never spoke a word in his life.

Though Sanichar led a strange and short life, forever trapped at the dividing line between human society and the animal kingdom, his legacy lives on. In fact, he’s allegedly the inspiration for the character of Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling’s novel The Jungle Book, which was later adapted into a Disney film.

But the true story of Dina Sanichar is nowhere near as innocent, charming, or joyful as the Disney version might have us believe. Disney’s lighthearted story about a boy found in a wolf’s den obscures this tale’s far more disturbing real-life inspiration.

Learn more about the tragic story of Dina Sanichar.

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