Mahasweta Devi

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Mahasweta Devi
মহাশ্বেতা দেবী
Born (1926-01-14) 14 January 1926 (age 90)
Dhaka, British India
Occupation Political Activist associated with TMC, author, diplomat
Period 1956–present
Genre novel, short story, drama, essay
Subject Denotified tribes of India
Literary movement Gananatya
Notable works Hajar Churashir Maa
(Mother of 1084)
Aranyer Adhikar
(The Occupation of the Forest)
Titu Mir
Spouse Bijon Bhattacharya
Children Nabarun Bhattacharya (son)


Mahasweta Devi (born 14 January 1926)[1][2] is an Indian social activist and writer.


Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to literary parents. Her father, Manish Ghatak, was a well-known poet and novelist of the Kallol movement, who used the pseudonym Jubanashwa.[3] Ghatak's youngest brother was noted filmmaker Ritwik 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. Mahasweta's 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. 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, one of Bengal's and India's leading novelists, whose works have been 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:

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 parentheses):

Postcolonial scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has translated Devi's short stories into English, most notably the 1995 collection Imaginary Maps, published by Routledge.

Recent activity[edit]

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 joining together in protest of 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 ("Mother of 1084", 1975; translated by Samik Bandyopadhyay, Seagull Books, 1997)
  • 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
  • Rudali
  • 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)
  • Draupadi
  • 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[edit]

  • 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),[4] based on short story, Daayen[5]
  • Gangor directed by Italo Spinelli, based on her short story, Choli Ke Peeche, from the Book, Breast Stories

Major awards[edit]

. 2014: 1st Mamoni Raisom Goswami National Award for Literature constituted by Assam Sahitya Sabha and sponsored by Numaligarh Refinery Limited, Assam


  1. ^ Detailed Biography Ramon Magsaysay Award.
  2. ^ a b c John Charles Hawley (2001). Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 142–. ISBN 978-0-313-31192-5. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Mahasweta Devi at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ Marathi cinema has been producing a range of serious films.. Frontline, The Hindu Group, Volume 23 – Issue 20: 7–20 Oct. 2006.
  6. ^ Citation Ramon Magsaysay Award.

External links[edit]