Sarala Devi Chaudhurani

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Sarala Devi Chaudhurani
Sarala Devi Chaudhurani.jpg
Sarala Devi Chaudhurani
Born(1872-09-09)9 September 1872
Died18 August 1945(1945-08-18) (aged 72)
OccupationEducationist, political activist
Rambhuj Dutt Chaudhuri
(m. 1905; his death 1923)
ChildrenDipak (son)

Sarala Devi Chaudhurani, born Sarala Ghosal,[1] (9 September 1872 – 18 August 1945) was the founder of the first women's organisation in India, the Bharat Stree Mahamandal in Allahabad in 1910. One of the primary goals of the organization was to promote female education, which at that time was not well developed. The organization opened several offices in Lahore (then part of undivided India), Allahabad, Delhi, Karachi, Amritsar, Hyderabad, Kanpur, Bankura, Hazaribagh, Midnapur and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) to improve the situation of women all over India.


Early life[edit]

Sarala was born at Jorasanko, Kolkata on 9 September 1872 to a well known Bengali intellectual family. Her father Janakinath Ghosal was one of the earliest secretaries of the Bengal Congress. Her mother Swarnakumari Devi, a noted author, was the daughter of Debendranath Tagore, a leading Brahmo leader, and elder sister of poet Rabindranath Tagore. Her older sister, Hironmoyee, was an author and founder of a widow's home. Sarla Devi's family was a follower of Brahmoism, a religion founded by Ram Mohan Roy and later developed by Sarala's grandfather Debendranath Tagore.[2]

Sarala and her sister Hironmoyee

In 1886, she passed her University Entrance examination.[citation needed] In 1890, she passed her BA examination in English literature from Bethune College and received the Padmavati Gold Medal for the best woman student.[2] She was also one of the few women graduates of her time, and probably the first woman political leader from Bengal in the Indian independence movement. During anti partition agitation she spread the gospel of nationalism in Punjab and maintained secret revolutionary society.[citation needed]


After finishing her study, Sarala went to Mysore State and joined the Maharani Girls' School as a teacher; after a year she came back at home started writing for Bharati, a Bengali journal, and then began her political activities.[3]

From 1895, she edited Bharati jointly with her mother and sister for a few years,[4] and on her own from 1899 to 1907, with the aim propagating patriotism and a patriotic spirit and to raise up the literary standard of the journal. In 1904, she started the Lakshmir Bhandar (women's store) in Kolkata to popularize native handicrafts produced by women. In 1910, she founded the Bharat Stree Mahamandal (All India Women's Organization),[2] which regarded by many historians as the first all-India organization for women.[5] With several branches in the country, it promoted education and vocational training for women without consideration of class, caste and religion.[2]

After marriage[edit]

In 1905, under family pressure, Sarala Devi married Rambhuj Dutt Chaudhary (1866–1923), a lawyer, journalist, nationalist leader and follower of Arya Samaj, the Hindu reform movement founded by Swami Dayananda Saraswati.[4][2]

After her marriage, she moved to Punjab, where she helped her husband to edit the nationalist Urdu weekly Hindusthan, which later converted in English. When her husband was arrested for his involvement in Non-cooperation movement, Mahatma Gandhi visited her home in Lahore as a guest; which resulted into profound friendship between the two, and she became a follower of Gandhi. Her only son, Dipak, married Gandhi's granddaughter Radha.[2]

Later life[edit]

After her husband's death in 1923, Sarala Devi returned to Kolkata, and started again editing Bharati from 1924 to 1926. She established a girls' school, Siksha Sadan in Kolkata in 1930. She retired from public life in 1935 and indulged towards religious, accepting the Bijoy Krishna Goswami, a Vaishnavite, as her spiritual teacher.[2]

She died on 18 August 1945 in Kolkata.[2]

Her autobiography Jivaner Jhara Pata was serialized in Desh, a Bengali literary magazine, during the later period of her life, in 1942–1943. It was later translated into English by Sikata Banerjee as The Scattered Leaves of My Life (2011).[6][7]


  1. ^ Ray, Bharati (13 September 2012). "Sarala and Rokeya: Brief Biographical Sketches". Early Feminists of Colonial India: Sarala Devi Chaudhurani and Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. Oxford University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-19-808381-8 – via Oxford Scholarship Online.(subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Ray, Bharati. "Chaudhurani, Sarala Devi". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/94958.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Ghosh, Sutanuka (2010). "Expressing the Self in Bengali Women's Autobiographies in the Twentieth Century". South Asia Research. 30 (2): 110. doi:10.1177/026272801003000201.(subscription required)
  4. ^ a b Neogi, Goutam (1985). "Bengali Women in Politics : The Early Phase (1857-1905)". Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. Indian History Congress. 46: 487. JSTOR 44141393.closed access
  5. ^ Majumdar, Rochona (2002). ""Self-Sacrifice" versus "Self-Interest": A Non-Historicist Reading of the History of Women's Rights in India". Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Duke University Press. 22 (1–2): 24 – via Project MUSE.(subscription required)
  6. ^ Mookerjea-Leonard, Debali (2017). Literature, Gender, and the Trauma of Partition: The Paradox of Independence. New York: Taylor & Francis. p. 188. ISBN 978-1-317-29389-7.
  7. ^ McDermott, Rachel Fell; Gordon, Leonard; Embree, Ainslie; Pritchett, Frances; Dalton, Dennis, eds. (2014). "Radical Politics and Cultural Criticism, 1880–1914: The Extremists". Sources of Indian Traditions: Modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Columbia University Press. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-231-13830-7 – via De Gruyter.(subscription required)

Further reading[edit]

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