Mamoni Raisom Goswami

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Indira Goswami
Mamoni Raisom Goswami (cropped).JPG
Born(1942-11-14)14 November 1942
Guwahati, Assam, British India
Died29 November 2011(2011-11-29) (aged 69)[1]
Guwahati, Assam, India[2]
Pen nameMamoni Raisom Goswami
OccupationActivist, editor, poet, professor and writer
GenreAssamese literature
SubjectPlight of the dispossessed in India and abroad
Notable works-The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker
-The Man from Chinnamasta
-Pages Stained With Blood
SpouseMadhaven Raisom Ayengar (deceased)

Indira Goswami (14 November 1942 – 29 November 2011), known by her pen name Mamoni Raisom Goswami and popularly as Mamoni Baideo,[3] was an Assamese editor, poet, professor, scholar and writer.

Indira Goswami in inauguration ceremony of a 2nd India Saraswati temple at Bijoy Nagar, Guwahati

She was the winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award (1983),[4] the Jnanpith Award (2001)[5] and Principal Prince Claus Laureate (2008).[6][7] A celebrated writer of contemporary Indian literature, many of her works have been translated into English from her native Assamese which include The Moth Eaten Howdah of the Tusker, Pages Stained With Blood and The Man from Chinnamasta.

She was also well known for her attempts to structure social change, both through her writings and through her role as mediator between the armed militant group United Liberation Front of Asom and the Government of India. Her involvement led to the formation of the People's Consultative Group, a peace committee. She referred to herself as an "observer" of the peace process rather than as a mediator or initiator.

Her work has been performed on stage and in film. The film Adajya is based on her novel won international awards. Words from the Mist is a film made on her life directed by Jahnu Barua.

Early life and education[edit]

Indira Goswami was born in Guwahati to Umakanta Goswami and Ambika Devi, a family that was deeply associated with Sattra life of the Ekasarana Dharma. She studied at Latashil Primary School, Guwahati; Pine Mount School, Shillong; and Tarini Chaudhury Girls' School, Guwahati and completed Intermediate Arts from Handique Girls College, Guwahati.[8] She majored in Assamese literature at Cotton College in Guwahati and secured a master's degree from Gauhati University in the same field of study. Indira goswami impressed by Akka Mahadevi's Kannada vachanas as she said in Bengaluru.


In 1962, she published her first collection of short stories, "Chinaki Morom", when she was a student.[9]

Popularly known as Mamoni baideo in Assam,[10] she was encouraged by editor Kirti Nath Hazarika who published her first short stories — when she was still in Class VIII (thirteen years old) — in the literary journal he edited.[11]


Goswami has suffered from depression since her childhood.[12][13][14] In the opening pages of her autobiography, The Unfinished Autobiography,[12] she mentions her inclination to jump into Crinoline Falls located near their house in Shillong.[15] Repeated suicide attempts marred her youth. After the sudden death of her husband, Madhaven Raisom Ayengar from Karnataka, in a car accident in the Kashmir region of India, after only eighteen months of marriage, she became addicted to heavy doses of sleeping tablets.[16][17] Once brought back to Assam, she joined the Sainik School, Goalpara as a teacher.

At this point she went back to writing. She claims that she wrote just to live and that otherwise it would not have been possible for her to go on living. Her experiences in Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh, Indian states where her husband had worked as an engineer, were used in her novels Ahiron and The Chehnab's Current, respectively.[18]

Life in Vrindavan[edit]

After working at the Sainik School in Goalpara, Assam, she was persuaded by her teacher Upendra Chandra Lekharu to come to Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, and pursue research for peace of mind.

Her experiences as a widow as well as a researcher finds expression in her novel The Blue Necked Braja (1976), which is about the plight of the Radhaswamis of Vrindavan who lived in abject poverty and sexual exploitation in everyday life. One of the main issues that the novel touches upon is the plight of young widows for whom companionship beyond the confines of their ashrams and fellow widows become impossible. Their urge to live, as well as the moral dilemma that they face vis-a-vis the order of precepts of religion in this regard, are brought out with astonishing clarity and feeling in the novel. The novel exposed the uglier face of Vrindavan – the city of Krishna, a Hindu deity – inviting criticism of Goswami from conservative sections of the society.[19] It remains a classic in modern Indian literature. It is autobiographical in character as she says the anguish of the main character Saudamini, reflects what she had gone through after her husband had died.[19] It was also the first novel to be written on this subject.[citation needed] The novel was based on Goswami's research on the place as well as real-life experience of living in the place for several years before she joined the University of Delhi as a lecturer.

In Vrindavan she was involved in Ramayana studies. A massive volume of Tulsidas's Ramayana purchased during her stay there for just eleven rupees was a great source of inspiration in her research. This finds expression in her book Ramayana from Ganga to Brahmaputra, an unparalleled comparative study of Tulsidas's Ramayana and the fourteenth-century Assamese Ramayana[20] written by Madhava Kandali.[21]

Life at the University of Delhi[edit]

Goswami relocated to Delhi, India, to become Professor of Assamese in the Modern Indian Languages & Literary Studies(MIL) Department at the University of Delhi under the guidance of her lifelong mentor Prof. Bhabananda Deka, who was subservient in the introduction of Assamese Language in MIL Department of Delhi University (DU).[22] While at the university, she wrote most of her greatest works. Several short stories, including Hridoy, Nangoth Sohor, Borofor Rani, used Delhi as the background.

During later part of her life, after she became Head of the MIL Department in Delhi University, she, in collaboration with award-winning Assamese popular short-story writer and novelist Arnab Jan Deka made efforts and persuaded Delhi University to set up a Chair in the name of Middle Age Assamese saint-philosopher-littérateur-artist Srimanta Sankardev. They also convinced the Chief Minister of Assam to make a contribution of Rupees One Million to Delhi University to create the corpus for the proposed Chair. However, Dr Goswami could not see the fruits of her effort during her lifetime.[23]

Her two classics – Pages Stained With Blood and The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker— were also written during this period. The other books completed while she lived in Delhi were Ahiron,The Rusted Sword, Uday Bhanu, Dasharathi's Steps and The Man from Chinnamasta.

In Pages Stained With Blood she writes about the plight of Sikhs in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India. Goswami had witnessed the riots while staying in the Shakti Nagar area of Delhi. She visited many of the other sites to complete this novel. She even went to G. B. Road, Delihi's red-light district, to depict the lives of the prostitutes who lived there which forms a part of her novel.

In The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker she writes about the plight of Assamese Brahmin widows in Satra, religious institutions of Assam. This novel was anthologised in The Masterpieces of Indian Literature and was made into a film, Adajya, which won several national and international film-festival awards. The novel was also made into two television mini-series; Nandita Das played the role of Giribala in one of the mini-series.

At the peak of her literary career she wrote the controversial novel The Man from Chinnamasta, a critique of the thousand-years-old tradition of animal sacrifice in the famous Hindu Shakti temple to Kamakhya, a mother goddess, in Assam.[24] Goswami reported that there was even threat to her life[citation needed] after writing the novel. In this novel she quotes scriptures to authenticate the argument she puts forward in the novel – to worship the Mother Goddess with flowers rather than blood. She said in an interview, "When the novel was serialized in a popular magazine, I was threatened with dire consequences. Shortly after this, a local newspaper, Sadin, carried an appeal about animal sacrifice, which resulted in quite an uproar—the editor was gheraoed and a tantrik warned me. But when the appeal was published, the response was overwhelmingly in favour of banning animal sacrifice. I also had to contend with rejection from a publisher who was initially keen and had promised me a huge advance, but who later backtracked, offering instead to publish any other book of mine. But the rest, as they say, is history and Chinnamastar Manuhto went on to become a runaway bestseller!"[25]

Another major piece of her fiction during the period was Jatra (The Journey), based on the problem of militancy/secessionism that has affected almost the entire North-East India frontier ever since Indian independence.

Mamoni Raisom Goswami died at the Gauhati Medical College Hospital on 29 November 2011.[26]


She received the Sahitya Akademi Award (1982). She received the Jnanpith Award (2000), India's highest literary award, for writing about the subalterns[clarification needed] and marginalised. Two of the main features in Goswami's writing has been the focus on women and the cultural and political construct of the Assamese society. However, it is also to her credit that she also created possibly one of the finest male characters in contemporary Assamese literature, viz. the character of Indranath in Datal Hantir Une Khowa Howdah (The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker). Her contribution in the Assamese feminist literature is self-evident in this work. She takes up the issue of patriarchy existing within Assamese Brahmin families with an illustration taken from a small place in Assam known as Amranga, Borihat. This work is also encrusted with a post-colonial tinge in it as we see the mimicry of the colonizers among the colonised. It is also to her credit that she made extensive use of the relation between different variants of the modern Assamese language as both signifiers of the politics of social and cultural differences among the various Assamese communities. But the overall emphasis remained on the unity of the Assamese identity. This may be taken as her way of dealing with the nature of contemporary politics in Assam marked by ethnic confrontation, besides the larger politics of the militant secessionism. She also contributed a major sum of the Claus Laureate[2008] to a Public Health Centre of Amranga, Borihat in Assam. This contribution is not merely material in its nature but a dream since her childhood, come true.




  • An Unfinished Autobiography (Assamese: আধা লেখা দস্তাবেজ)
  • biography's new pages (Assamese: দস্তাবেজ নতুন পৃষ্ঠা)
  • biography's new pages (Assamese: অপ্সৰা গৃহ )

Short stories[edit]

  • Beasts
  • Dwarka and His Gun
  • Parasu's Well
  • The Journey
  • Sanskar
  • To Break a Begging Bowl
  • Udang Bakach
  • relive


  • Pain and Flesh
  • Pakistan
  • Ode To A Whore


Online works[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jnanpith award winning Assamese litterateur Indira Goswami dies". Times of India. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  2. ^ "Mamoni Raisom Goswami passes away". Times of Assam. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  3. ^ Intimate Mornings with Mamoni Baideo Archived 27 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ A History of Indian Literature Archived 10 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Jnanpith Award Presented, The Hindu, 25 February 2002 Archived 7 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "Principal Prince Claus Award for Indira Goswami". Assam Times. 11 December 2008. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011.
  7. ^ Chaudhuri, Supriya (2008). "Indira Goswami: Writer, Woman, Activist". 2008 Prince Claus Awards (PDF). Amsterdam: Prince Claus Fund. pp. 30–43. ISBN 978-90-76162-14-0. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  8. ^ Goswami, Mamoni Raisom (1990). The Unfinished Autobiography. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers. ISBN 978-81-207-1173-0.
  9. ^ "Dr. Mamoni Raisom Goswami". Archived from the original on 26 August 2014.[unreliable source?]
  10. ^ Pisharoty, Sangeeta Barooah (9 December 2011). "Adieu baideo…". The Hindu.
  11. ^ "Mamoni Raisom Goswami | Dr Mamoni Raisom Goswami | Indira Raisom Goswami | Indira Goswami". Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  12. ^ a b Goswami, Mamoni Raisom (1990). The Unfinished Autobiography. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers. ISBN 978-81-207-1173-0.
  13. ^ Assam's Fiery Pen
  14. ^ Khan, Shehar Bano. "Dr Indira Goswami: Assam's fiery pen".[unreliable source?]
  15. ^ Adha Lekha Dastabej, 1983, Students' Stores, Guwahati
  16. ^ Indira Goswami Archived 27 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Confessions : Indira Goswami Archived 23 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "The Days of Mamoni Raisom Goswami". Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  19. ^ a b AUTHOR: Dr Indira Goswami: Assam’s fiery pen
  20. ^ the first Ramayana to be written in any modern Indian language
  21. ^ "Dr Mamoni Raisom Goswami". Assam Online Portal. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  22. ^ Dr Mamoni Raisom Goswami Archived 24 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine,
  23. ^ India, The Times of (30 November 2011). "Writer's dream to set up Sankardeva chair in DU remains unfulfilled". Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  24. ^ Struggle for Change Archived 5 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "The Man from Chinnamasta" comes to Chennai Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "In Memoriam Indira Goswami". Prince Claus Fund. December 2011. Archived from the original on 6 October 2015.
  27. ^ van Oranje-Nassau van Amsberg, Johan Friso Bernhard Christiaan David (2008). "Speech by H.R.H. Prince Friso at the 2008 Prince Claus Awards Ceremony". Prince Claus Fund. Archived from the original on 6 October 2015.

External links[edit]