Mahashweta Devi, 90, is a renowned social activist and writer. She was born in 1926 in Dhaka Bangladesh to Manish Ghatak and Dharitri Devi, both of whom were writers.
Mahashweta moved to West Bengal following the partition of India. In India, she studied BA (Hons) in English from Vishvabharati University and went on to acquire a Master’s Degree from Calcutta University.
The famous Bengali film director Rittik Ghatak is the profound writer’s brother.
She married a well-known Bengali actor, Bijon Bhattacharya and in 1948, mothered Nabarun Bhattacharya, who followed in her footsteps to become a writer.
Mahashweta Devi’s first book titled Jhansir Rani (The Queen of Jhansi), was published in 1956.
In 1964, she became a professor and started a teaching career at Bijoygarh College. Along with teaching, she also followed a profession in journalism.
In 1984, she retired as professor to dedicate time to her literary career.
As an activist, she devoted herself to the tribal people in various states. Her groundbreaking work in support of the Sabar tribe earned her the title “The Mother of the Sabars”. She was associated with the West Bengal Oraon Welfare Society, All Indian Vandhua Liberation Morcha and Aboriginal United Association, for which she was a founding member. She was also an editor for Bartike, a tribal magazine.
In 1979, she was awarded with the Sahitya Akademi award, followed by the Padmashree award in 1986, the Jnanpith award in 1997, the Asian Nobel Prize in 1997 and the Deshikottam award in 1999 in light of her works as a social activist and a writer.
Mahashweta Devi’s publications cover over a hundred novels and twenty collections of short stories. Her work has been recognised internationally and has also inspired many films including Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Sunghursh, Gangor, Rudaali and Maati Maay.
Devi gives credit of her magnificent career in literature to ordinary people who have always inspired her stories.