ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mahasweta Devi (1926-2016)

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Mahasweta Devi, the activist writer, was born in a village in Pabna district (now in Bangladesh) of undivided Bengal. She studied English literature in Visva-Bharati and came into direct contact with Rabindranath Tagore and other luminaries in Santiniketan. Her father, Manish Ghatak, was a poet, and writer with the Kallol literary group in Bengal. The icono­clast film director Ritwik Ghatak, and Sachin Chaudhuri, the founder-editor of the Economic Weekly and the EPW, were her paternal uncle and maternal uncle, respectively. She married the radical Bengali playwright and actor, Bijan Bhattacharyya and went through a life of financial hardship. They separated in 1962.

Mahasweta Devi’s historical novel, Jhansir Rani (The Queen of Jhansi) was published in 1956. The novel was focu­sed on Lakshmibai, the queen of Jhansi, who valiantly fought against British troops in the 1857 mutiny and became a martyr. It was based on extensive research, which explored diverse sources, including family reminiscences and local memories. In the early 1950s, Mahasweta Devi travelled to various places—including Bundelkhand, Datiya, Orchha, Kalpi, and Gwalior—for collecting materials. She discovered a particular type of folk song about the Jhansi queen, called Rawso, and collected a large number of such songs. This testifies to her seriousness at the beginning of her literary journey.

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