There are a lot of accomplished women authors in India, today. Writing is a serious profession in India now, and it is something we should be proud of. Women are more expressive and want to publish books and articles about everyday life, and also about topics that are taboo in India. We appreciate these women, as they have helped us grow in our own lives. However, have you ever thought about the women before India became independent? How did those women express themselves? Were there many women authors then? It was especially hard for these women to rise up in times of the Indian partition and other issues in India. For our special articles to celebrate World Book Day (April 23rd), we thought we’d take you back a century and make you want to read some of the oldest women authors from India.
A Bengali poet, and a feminist, born in 1868 was India’s first woman to receive honours graduate in British India. She was also among one of the earliest girls to receive school education in India. Kamini Roy came from a family of elite Bengalis. Her father was a judge and a writer, and she picked up writing from him. She started young, at the age of eight. Her first book of poems was published in 1889. It was called Alo O Chhaya.
Some of her other notable work is Mahasweta, Pundorik, Dwip O Dhup, and more. She also wrote some remarkable poems such as Smritichihno, She Ki, Sukh, Era Jodi Jane and more.
One of the very first, great women to write in Urdu. Ismat Chughtai has a lot of revolutionary writing to her name. Generations of women have been influenced by her words, which were bold and sometimes taboo too. Ismat was also a feminist, and the first woman author to write about same-sex desire.
Born in 1915, Ismat was much ahead of her times, often writing about female sexuality and other such topics. Her writings are inspirational and are idolised by young writers and authors. Some of her best work has been Lihaaf, which was summoned to court in 1944 for obscenity.
Born in 1919, Amrita Pritam was an author who wrote mainly in Hindi and Punjabi. She was Punjab’s first female poet. In 1947, when India was partitioned, she moved from Lahore to India. However, she was, and is loved by readers and intellectuals from both Pakistan and India. She has over 100 poems, Punjabi folk songs, essays and more to her name. Her work has been translated to many foreign languages.
Her most remembered poem, known as Ajk Aakhaan Waris Shah nu (An Ode to Waris Shah) has been read all around the world. It was a tribute to the lives lost during the partition of India and her anguish towards it. It is addressed to the Sufi poet, Waris Shah – and is one of most elaborate pieces written that remind us of the massacres of the partition.
One of the most notable Hindi authors, Krishna Sobti won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980 for her novel Zindaginama. Also a resident of Pakistan, she moved to India during the partition. She is considered the pioneer of Hindi literature. Some of her work is now translated and available in Urdu and English.
She is well known for her novel called Mirto Marajani, published in 1966, which was about women’s sexuality. Some of her other famous work includes Yaaron Ke Yaar, Daar Se Bichchuri and Zindaginama. She also has a lot of short stories to her name, notable ones include Nafisa and Sikka Badal Gaya.
Gaura Pant (Shivani)
Gaura Pant, who was better known as Shivani, was the first woman to write woman based fiction. She wrote for magazines such as Dharmayug and Saptahik Hindustan and had quite a following of readers during the 60s and 70s.
She has a large number of Hindi literature work in her name, as well as novels such as Mera Beta, Surangma and Teesra Beta. Some of her work has also been turned into Indian television shows. In 1980, she received the Padma Shri award for her contribution to Hindi literature.