14 January 1926 |
Dhaka, British India
|Genres||novel, short story, drama, essay|
|Subjects||Denotified tribes of India|
|Notable work(s)||Hajar Churashir Maa (No. 1084's Mother)
Aranyer Adhikar (The Occupation of the Forest)
Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in Dhaka, to literary parents in a Hindu Brahmin family. Her father Manish Ghatak was a well-known poet and novelist of the Kallol era, who used the pseudonym Jubanashwa. Noted filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak was the youngest brother of Manish Ghatak. Mahasweta's mother Dharitri Devi was also a writer and a social worker whose brothers were very distinguished in various fields, such as the noted sculptor Sankha Chaudhury and the founder-editor of the Economic and Political Weekly of India, Sachin Chaudhury. Her first schooling was in Dhaka, but after the partition of India she moved to West Bengal in India. She joined the Rabindranath Tagore-founded Vishvabharati University in Santiniketan and completed a B.A. (Hons) in English, and then finished an M.A. in English at Calcutta University as well. She later married renowned playwright Bijon Bhattacharya who was one of the founding fathers of the IPTA movement. In 1948, she gave birth to Nabarun Bhattacharya, currently one of Bengal's and India's leading novelist whose works are noted for their intellectual vigour and philosophical flavour. She got divorced from Bijon Bhattacharya in 1959.
In 1964, she began teaching at Bijoygarh College (an affiliated college of the University of Calcutta system). During those days, Bijoygarh College was an institution for working class women students. During that period she also worked as a journalist and as a creative writer. Recently, she is more famous for her work related to the study of the Lodhas and Shabars, the tribal communities of West Bengal, women and dalits. She is also an activist who is dedicated to the struggles of tribal people in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In her elaborate Bengali fiction, she often depicts the brutal oppression of tribal peoples and the untouchables by potent, authoritarian upper-caste landlords, lenders, and venal government officials. She has written of the source of her inspiration:
I have always believed that the real history is made by ordinary people. I constantly come across the reappearance, in various forms, of folklore, ballads, myths and legends, carried by ordinary people across generations....The reason and inspiration for my writing are those people who are exploited and used, and yet do not accept defeat. For me, the endless source of ingredients for writing is in these amazingly noble, suffering human beings. Why should I look for my raw material elsewhere, once I have started knowing them? Sometimes it seems to me that my writing is really their doing.
At the Frankfurt Book Fair 2006, when India was the first country to be the Fair's second time guest nation, she made an impassioned inaugural speech wherein she moved the audience to tears with her lines taken from the famous film song "Mera Joota Hai Japani" by Raj Kapoor (the English equivalent is in brackets):
This is truly the age where the Joota (shoe) is Japani (Japanese), Patloon (pants) is Englistani (British), the Topi (hat) is Roosi (Russian), But the Dil... Dil (heart) is always Hindustani (Indian)... My country, Torn, Tattered, Proud, Beautiful, Hot, Humid, Cold, Sandy, Shining India. My country.
Recent activity 
Mahasweta Devi has recently been spearheading the movement against the industrial policy of the government of West Bengal, the state of her domicile. Specifically, she has stridently criticized confiscation of large tracts of fertile agricultural land from farmers by the government and ceding the land to industrial houses at throwaway prices. She has connected the policy to the commercialization of Santiniketan of Rabindranath Tagore, where she spent her formative years. Her lead resulted in a number of intellectuals, artists, writers and theatre workers join in protesting the controversial policy and particularly its implementation in Singur and Nandigram. She is a supporter of Budhan Theatre - the theatre group of Chhara Denotified Tribals of Gujarat.
- The Queen of Jhansi (biography, translated in English by Sagaree and Mandira Sengupta from the 1956 first edition in bangla Jhansir Rani)
- Hajar Churashir Maa
- Aranyer Adhikar (The Occupation of the Forest, 1977)
- Agnigarbha (Womb of Fire, 1978)
- Bitter Soil tr, Ipsita Chandra. Seagull, 1998. Four stories.
- Chotti Munda evam Tar Tir (Choti Munda and His Arrow, 1980) Translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.
- Imaginary Maps (translated by Gayatri Spivak London & New York. Routledge,1995)
- Dhowli (Short Story)
- Dust on the Road (Translated into English by Maitreya Ghatak. Seagull, Calcutta.)
- Our Non-Veg Cow (Seagull Books, Calcutta, 1998. Translated from Bengali by Paramita Banerjee.)
- Bashai Tudu (Translated into English by Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak and Shamik Bandyopadhyay. Thima, Calcutta, 1993)
- Titu Mir
- Breast Stories (Translated into English by Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak. Seagull, Calcutta, 1997)
- Of Women, Outcasts, Peasants, and Rebels (Translated into English By Kalpana Bardhan, University of California, 1990.) Six stories.
- Ek-kori's Dream (Translated into English by Lila Majumdar. N.B.T., 1976)
- The Book of the Hunter (Seagull India, 2002)
- Outcast (Seagull, India, 2002)
- In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (Translated into English by Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak. Methuyen and Company, 1987. New York, London)
- Till Death Do Us Part
- Old Women
- Kulaputra (Translated into Kannada by Sreemathi H.S. CVG Publications, Bangalore)
- The Why-Why Girl (Tulika, Chennai.)
- Dakatey Kahini
Films based on Mahasweta Devi's works 
- Sunghursh (1968), based on her story, which presented a fictionalized account of vendetta within a Thuggee cult in the city of Varanasi.
- Rudaali (1993)
- Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa (1998)
- Maati Maay (2006), based on short story, Daayen
- Gangor (2010) Directed by Italo Spinelli, based on her short story, Choli Ke Peeche, from the Book, Breast Stories
Major awards 
- 1979: Sahitya Akademi Award (Bengali): – Aranyer Adhikar (novel)
- 1986: Padma Shri
- 1996: Jnanpith Award - the highest literary award from the Bharatiya Jnanpith
- 1997: Ramon Magsaysay Award - Journalism, Literature, and the Creative Communication Arts
- 1999: Honoris causa - Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)
- 2006: Padma Vibhushan - the second highest civilian award from the Government of India
- 2010:Yashwantrao Chavan National Award
- 2011: Bangabibhushan - the highest civilian award from the Government of West Bengal
- 2012: Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Sahityabramha - the first Lifetime Achievement award in Bengali Literature from 4thScreen-IFJW.
- Detailed Biography Ramon Magsaysay Award.
- John Charles Hawley (2001). Encyclopedia Of Postcolonial Studies. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 142–. ISBN 978-0-313-31192-5. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Sunil Sethi (15 February 2012). The Big Bookshelf: Sunil Sethi in Conversation With 30 Famous Writers. Penguin Books India. pp. 74–. ISBN 978-0-14-341629-6. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- Hajar Churashir Maa (No. 1084's Mother, 1975)
- Mahasweta Devi at the Internet Movie Database
- Marathi cinema has been producing a range of serious films.. Frontline, The Hindu Group, Volume 23 - Issue 20: Oct. 07-20, 2006.
- Citation Ramon Magsaysay Award.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Mahasweta Devi|
- from the website of Emory University
- Mahasweta Devi: Witness, Advocate, Writer - A film on Mahasweta Devi by Shashwati Talukdar
- Mahasweta Devi at imdb
- Interview with Outlook magazine
- The Rediff Interview/Mahasweta Devi
- Sawnet-Bookshelf:Mahasweta Devi