Mahasweta Devi – A women of vigor and compassion: Biography

In this article we will cover everything about Mahasweta Devi, an Indian writer who spent her life working for the tribes of India.


  1. Introduction
  2. Personal Life
  3. Career 
  4. Mahasweta Devi books
  5. Mahasweta Devi Awards and Recognition



When India was facing social problems like discrimination, there was one voice who did not stop even under the oppression of British Raj. Mahasweta Devi was a woman of vigor and compassion. She spent her life working for the tribes of India. She wrote about the injustices towards Dalits and tribes. She reached an international platform because of her contribution to literature. Let us discuss life of Mahasweta Devi from the start.


Personal Life

Mahasweta Devi was an Indian writer and activist who predominantly worked for rights and discrimination against scheduled tribes. Mahasweta Devi was born in Decca, which is now Dhaka. She was born to Maish Ghatak and Dhairitri Devi, the former was a poet and novelist, and the latter was a writer and social worker. Mahasweta’s paternal uncle was Ritwik Ghatak, and her maternal uncles were Sankha and Sachin Chaudhary, a famous sculptor and the other founder of Economic and Political Weekly of India.

She first attended Eden Montessori School in Dhaka but later shifted to West Bengal. There she studied in Midnapur Mission Girls High School. She has also attended Santiniketan and Beltala Girls’ School. She joined VIsva Bharati University to complete her B.A. in English and then went on to earn an M.A. in English from Calcutta University. 

She got married two times. On 27 February 1947, she married Bijon Bhattacharya. A playwright and founder of the Indian People’s Theatre Association movement. She has a son with Bijon named Nabarun Bhattacharya, who became a novelist and a political critic as well. She did various jobs in her lifetime, the first being in a post office, but she was fired from there due to her communist ideology. She even wrote letters for illiterate people. In 1962 she married Asit Gupta, but the relationship ended in 1976.

She suffered a heart attack on 23 July 2016 and was admitted to Belle Vue Clinic in Kolkata. She had multiple organ failure and took her last breath on 28 July 2016. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his remorse on Twitter


Mahasweta Devi – Career 

Mahasweta Devi produced 100 novels in the Bengali Language. Her works are often translated into other languages. In 1956 she published Jhansir Rani, a biographical work on the life of Jhansi ki Rani. She researched in Jhansi to write this novel. 

She actively worked for the Adivasi, Dalit, and minorities in India. She spent several years in Adivasi villages, trying to understand the injustice and struggle these communities face by Britishers and Upperclassmen. Her work “Chotti Mundi Ebong Tar Tir” was inspired by the struggle of the people of our country. 

In 1964 she joined Vijaygarh Jyotish Ray College as a professor. The college was for working-class women students. During that period, she was also a journalist and creative writer. Her works depicted the oppression of Dalits by the British Raj and Upper Caste people. She studied Lodhas and Shabars, the tribes of Bengal. Her works were translated in English by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. 

Apart from literature, Devi raised her voice against discrimination several times. Her novel Aranyer Adhikar was about Birsa Munda; her activism led to the removal of the manacles from the figure of Birsa Munda by Jharkhand State Government. Devi led the movement against the industrial policies of her time. She was against the hand over of land from the farmers to the industrial houses by the government. In 2011 she supported Mamta Banerjee. She was the head of the movement against the industrial policy by the Communist Party of India. She is the reason Manoranjan Bypari rose to prominence early as his writings were published in her journal. She gave a heartfelt and emotional speech in the 2006 Frankfurt Book Fair.


Mahasweta Devi Books

Mahasweta Devi produced hundreds of works, but some of her notable novels are listed below:

  1. Jhansi Rani published in 1956 a biography on Jhansi ki Rani
  2. Hazar Churashir Maa published in 1974
  3. Agnigarbha published in 1978 (Short stories collection)
  4. Aranyer Adhikar published in 1979
  5. Murti published in 1979 (Short stories collection)
  6. Neerete Megh published in 1979 (Short stories collection)
  7. Stanyadanyani published in 1980 (Short stories collection)
  8. Chotti Munda Ebong Tar Tir published in 1980 (Short stories collection)

Several of her short stories and novels have been adapted into film features. Bollywood movie Sangharsh and Rudali were based on her books. Sangharsh was based on Layli Asmaner Ayna, and Rudaali was based on novel Rudaali. Bayen, a Hindi film, was based on a short story. Similarly, movies Maati Maay, Gangor, and Ullas were based on short stories Baayen, Choli Ke Peeche and Daur, Mahadu Ekti Rupkatha, and Anna Aranya respectively.

Buy Mahasweta Devi Books at Amazon.

Mahasweta Devi Awards and Recognition

  • In 1979 she received Sahitya Akademi Award for Aranyer Adhikar
  • In 1986 she received Padma Shri from the Government of India for her Social Work. 
  • In 1996 she received Jnanpith Award from Bharatiya Jnanpith
  • In 1997 she received the Ramon Magsaysay Award
  • In 2003 she was honored as Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
  • In 2006 she received Padma Vibhushan from the Government of India.
  • In 2007 she received SAARC literary award.
  • In 2009 she was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize.
  • In 2010 she received Yashwantrao Chavan National Award.
  • In 2011she received Banga Bibhushan from the Government of West Bengal.
  • In 2012 she was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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