Sultana's Dream

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Sultana's Dream
AuthorBegum Rokeya
CountryBritish India
GenreFeminist, Utopian fiction
PublisherThe Indian Ladies Magazine
Publication date
Preceded byMatichur 1st Vol. (1904) 
Followed byMatichur 2nd Vol. (1922) 

Sultana's Dream is a 1905 Bengali feminist utopian story in English, written by Begum Rokeya, also known as Rokeya Sahkawat Hossain, a Muslim feminist, writer and social reformer from Bengal.[1][2] It was published in the same year in Madras-based English periodical The Indian Ladies Magazine.[3][a]


It depicts a science fiction feminist utopia called Ladyland, in which women run everything and men are secluded, in a mirror-image of the traditional practice of purdah. The women are aided by technology which enables laborless farming and flying cars; the women scientists have discovered how to trap solar power and control the weather. This results in "a sort of gender-based Planet of the Apes where the roles are reversed and the men are locked away in a technologically advanced future."[4][5]

There, traditional stereotypes such as “Men have bigger brains” and women are "naturally weak" are countered with logic such as "an elephant also has a bigger and heavier brain" and “a lion is stronger than a man” and yet neither of them dominates men.[3] In Ladyland crime is eliminated, since men were considered responsible for all of it. The workday is only two hours long, since men used to waste six hours of each day in smoking. The religion is one of love and truth. Purity is held above all, such that the list of "sacred relations" (mahram) is widely extended.[5]

Origin of the story[edit]

According to Hossain, she wrote Sultana's Dream as a way to pass the time while her husband, Khan Bahadur Syed Sakhawat Hossain, a deputy magistrate, was away on a tour. Her husband was an appreciative audience and encouraged Hossain to read and write in English. Thus, writing Sultana's Dream in English was a way of demonstrating her proficiency in the language to her husband. Sakhawat was very impressed by the story and encouraged Hossain to submit the piece to The Indian Ladies Magazine, which published the story for the first time in 1905. The story was later published in book form in 1908.[6]

Hossain (1880-1932) was born into a rich family who owned land. Though she knew how to read and write in Urdu, she was prevented from learning Bangla and English. In those days, English was seen as a language that would expose girls to new ideas, which society thought unsuitable. Rokeya learned to read and write English and Bangla with the help of her elder sister and elder brother. She wrote Sultana's Dream when she was merely 25 years old. In 1910, she started a school for girls in Kolkata and to this day, the school is in operation.

In artwork[edit]

In 2018, the Indian-American artist Chitra Ganesh created 27 linocuts to illustrate the story.[7][8][9]

In 2023, the Spanish artist and filmmaker Isabel Herguera released an animated movie inspired by Sultana's Dream and Begum Rokeya.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The word sultana here means a female sultan, a Muslim ruler.[4]


  1. ^ "Sultana's Dream". Feminist Press. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  2. ^ D. Bandyopadhyay. স্বপনচারিনী: চিনিতে পারিনি? [Dream-Lady: Can't I Recognize?]. (in Bengali).
  3. ^ a b Rafia Zakaria. "The manless world of Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain". Dawn. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  4. ^ a b Nesrine Malik (30 July 2009). "What happened to Arab science fiction?". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Sultana's Dream". Retrieved 2022-03-01.
  6. ^ Hossain, Rokeya Sakhawat; Jahan, Roushan (1988). Sultana's Dream and Selections from The Secluded Ones. New York, NY: Feminist Press at CUNY. pp. 1–2.
  7. ^ "Virtual Residency With Chitra Ganesh | University of Michigan Museum of Art". Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  8. ^ Chheda, Urvi (2020-05-22). "Chitra Ganesh Visualizes Sultana's Dream by Begum Rokeya | DailyArt". - Art History Stories. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  9. ^ "Mandeville Gallery Exhibition and 3D Virtual Tour: Chitra Ganesh: Sultana's Dream with 3D Virtual Tour | Mandeville Gallery". Retrieved 2021-04-02.

External links[edit]