Mahasweta Devi


Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in the city of Dacca in East Bengal (modern day Bangladesh). As an adolescent, she and her family moved to West Bengal in India. Born into a literary family, Mahasweta Devi was also influenced by her early association with Gananatya, a group who attempted to bring social and political theater to rural villages in Bengal in the 1930's and 1940's.

Translated Work

After finishing a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University, Devi began working as a teacher and journalist. Her first book, Jhansir Rani (The Queen of Jhansi), was published in 1956. This work also marked the beginning of a prolific literary career. In the last forty years, Devi has published twenty collections of short stories and close to a hundred novels, primarily in her native language of Bengali. She has also been a regular contributor to several literary magazines such as Bortika, a journal dedicated to the cause of oppressed communities within India. In 1984, she retired from her job as an English lecturer at a Calcutta university to concentrate on her writing. She currently resides and works in Calcutta, India.

Mahasweta received the Magsaypay award which is the Indian equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is also a winner of the Jnanpith award for journalism, literature and creative communication.
Today she concentrates and dedicates herself to serving the needs of the poor people in India, not allowing her much time to write. She spends time as an editor with a quarterly journal Vartika and Yosana. In her journal writing and editing she addresses the oppression of the Indian people. She advocates for the disadvantaged and those people of India who are considered outcasts. In all her writings she tries to depict the life of Adinag men and women. She also writes about Adivesi (tribal) people like the Sandhals, Ledhas, Shabars and Mivelas. She's extremely dedicated and devoted to these tribes. Her experience in working with tribes has had a great influence in her writing.

Mahsweta has published forty books which include novels and stories in Bangali. Her mission is to continue working with the Komadic tribes, non tribal poor and people who are desolate and unprepared for India's political system. This incredible author spends days and months living with the people she writes about. Her hands on experience are significant and alluded to in many of her writings. Her books focus in on the simplistic lifestyles of the tribes but more importantly their sufferings and feelings of exploitation.

Since 1871 these tribes have been discriminated against and classified as criminals by the British. They are victims of violence, the women are molested and their huts are destroyed. She is expected and entrusted to eliminate the injustices done to them. In her meetings, conferences and writings she urges the people to stand up for their rights and resist abuse. She demands equality of human rights and encourages her people, especially girls, to educate themselves.

Her first published book, a biography, Jhansir Rani was written in Bengali in 1956. Her first novel NATI was written in 1957. Among her other masterpieces are Haazar Churasi Kimau, Rudali, Bioscopes and Chatti Munda O Tan Ti . Some of these books have been converted to film and depict the lives of the poor people of India and other social issues.