All about Mahasweta Devi, the woman who was called the 'mother' of tribals in India

Today is Mahasweta Devi's 92nd birth anniversary.

Sarwat Fatima Sarwat Fatima Jan 14, 2018
She was a writer and an activist that you must know about. Photo Courtesy: Twitter

If you've had the chance to open Google Chrome today, you would have noticed a special Doodle in its place instead of the regular colourful logo. You see, it's Mahasweta Devi's 92nd birth anniversary today and the Doodle is Google's tribute to her. But, do you know who she was? Well, Mahasweta Devi was an Indian Bengali fiction writer and a social activist. She had written over 100 novels and 20 collection of short stories. And not only that, she also dedicated her life to the welfare of tribals in different parts of India. Yup, she is one woman you must know about.

So, on her birth anniversary, we bring to you some facts about her:

1. Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in Dhaka and her parents moved to India after partition.

2. Her father, Manish Ghatak, was a poet and a novelist too. He used to write under the pen name Jubanashwa. Interestingly, he was also contributed a lot to the Kallol movement in Bengal. Wondering what it was? Well, it was one of the most influential literary movements in Bengali literature, which took place between 1923 and 1935. Her mother, Dharitri Devi, was also a writer and a social worker.

Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in Dhaka. Photo Courtesy: Twitter Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in Dhaka. Photo Courtesy: Twitter

3. After completing her masters in English literature at Calcutta University, she married Bijon Bhattacharya. Bijon was one of the founding fathers of the Indian People's Theatre Association movement. But, the marriage did not last long and the couple got divorced in 1959. Mahasweta Devi gave birth to her son Nabarun Bhattacharya in 1948, who is now a well known novelist and political critic.

4. She worked endlessly for the tribals in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Gujarat. She opposed acquisition of farmers' lands and selling it to corporates by the West Bengal government.

5. Mahasweta Devi studied about Lodhas and Shabars, the tribal communities of West Bengal, women and dalits. This inspired her to work for them. Later, her work in support of the Sabar tribe earned her the title 'The Mother of the Sabars'.

Mahasweta Devi studied about Lodhas and Shabars, the tribal communities of West Bengal. Photo Courtesy: Twitter Mahasweta Devi studied about Lodhas and Shabars, the tribal communities of West Bengal. Photo Courtesy: Twitter

6. In her work, she described the brutality inflicted on the tribes by the upper-caste landlords. In one of her interviews, she revealed the source of her inspiration.

"I have always believed that the real history is made by ordinary people. I constantly come across the reappearance, in various forms, of folklore, ballads, myths and legends, carried by ordinary people across generations. The reason and inspiration for my writing are those people who are exploited and used, and yet do not accept defeat. For me, the endless source of ingredients for writing is in these amazingly noble, suffering human beings. Why should I look for my raw material elsewhere, once I have started knowing them? Sometimes it seems to me that my writing is really their doing," she said.

7. Some of her most famous works are Jhansir Rani (1956), Hajar Churashir Maa (1975), Aranyer Adhikar (1977) and Rudaali (1993). She also edited a tribal magazine called Bartike.

8. In 1964, she began teaching at Jadavpur, Kolkata-32 (an affiliated college of the University of Calcutta system). Though, in 1984, she decided to quit teaching and dedicate her time to writing and activism.

She opposed acquisition of farmers' lands and selling it to corporates by the West Bengal government. Photo Courtesy: Twitter She opposed acquisition of farmers' lands and selling it to corporates by the West Bengal government. Photo Courtesy: Twitter

9. Devi spearheaded the movement against the industrial policy of the earlier Communist Party of India (Marxist) government of West Bengal.

10. Some of her notable works have now been turned into films like Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Sunghursh, Gangor, Rudaali and Maati Maay.

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