Ashapurna Debi (1909 - 1995)

Born to a conservative Bengali family of North Kolkata on 8 January 1909, Ashapurna Debi was one of the first female writers who stood out against all odds and claimed her justified place among the Indian authors.

Her charisma, will power, the strength to pursue her individuality and yet the maturity of abiding by the social rules and regulations, remaining the traditional soft hearted family woman make her life itself an amazing tale. In her restricted household, she never had the chance to attend formal school. Ashapurna, however, was keen on learning about the world outside.

Her introduction to the Bengali alphabet was through her elder brother who used to prepare his lessons aloud. Ashapurna sat near him and tried to memorise the alphabets as he pronounced them.

She published her first poem in a children’s magazine named ShishuSathiat the age of 13. Married at an early age of 15 to Kalidas Gupta of Krishnanagar, Ashapurna pursued her dream and enchantment about the outer world through her writings. Her very first book was for children -- Choto Thakurer Kashi Jatra published in 1938. Her first novel came out six years later named Prem O Proyojon (1944).

Through her lifespan Ashapurna has written tirelessly in many genres including children's literature. Her published novels are 176 in number on top of which she has written many children’s books, poetry, short stories and articles on various subjects. A lot of her work was later translated into other, mostly Indian, languages.

Her famous trilogy Pratham Pratisruti, Subarnalata and Bakulkatha depicts the aspirations, joys and sorrows that all women in the world would relate to.

She has received the Jnanpith Award (1977) for Pratham Pratishruti. Ashapurna has also received Rabindra Puraskar, and Honorary Doctorate Degrees in Literature from several universities and many Government Awards. She was elected Fellow of the Sahitya Akademi in 1994.

In the long literary life spanning over 70 years, Ashapurna’s greatest achievement was her ability to remain honest to her roots and courageous enough to question and draw attention to a lot of social injustices. It’s amazing that she could understand and express through her writings the inner layers of so many complexities and conflicts of the outer world in her day while remaining confined in the interiors of her own household. While voicing the dreams, sorrows and heart-aches of women Ashapurna’s writing never showed aggression towards men, rather her writings truly bring out the flavour of her days, people and society which take the reader through a refreshing journey in time and culture.

First page of the manuscript of Ashapurna's novel Jaar Bodole Jaa, serialized in the weekly Bortoman. (Courtesy: Mr. Susanta Gupta)

Published January 31, 2003

Click here to send your feedback

* To learn more about the ITRANS script for Bengali, click here.