Mahasweta Devi (b. 1926)

Mahasweta Devi (mahaashbetaa debI) was born in 1926 at Dhaka, Bangladesh in a family of literateurs and social workers. Manish Ghatak, her father, was a poet and a novelist and her mother, Dharitri Devi was a social worker and also a writer. Mahasweta started her schooling in Dhaka, but after the partition, she moved with her family into West Bengal in India. She completed her high school and the bachelor's degree (English Hons.) at Visva-Bharati, in Shantiniketan (the school founded by Rabindranath Tagore). Thereafter she earned an M.A. in English from the Calcutta University.

A prolific and best-selling author of novels and short stories in Bengali, Mahasweta is equally well known for her pioneering work among the most down-trodden in the Indian society - the disposessed tribals and the marginalized segments such as landless labourers of eastern India. The quarterly Bortika that she had been editing since 1980 has been a mouthpiece for these peoples. Mahasweta's writings are often based upon meticulous research, conducted sometimes via unconventional means (such as oral history), into the history of the peoples she writes about.

Unlike other Bengali authors, Mahasweta Devi's works have fortunately been translated (and continue to be translated) into many languages (check out the excellent SAWNET archive.) She has received many awards, including Sahitya Akademi (1979), Jnanpith (1996), Ramon Magsaysay (1996), and for her work among the tribals, the Padmashree in 1986.

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