View Full Version : Mahasweta Devi

30-Jan-2009, 13:18
Mahasweta Devi (Bengali: মহাশ্বেতা দেবী M?hashsheta Debi) is an Indian social activist and writer.

She was born in 1926 in Dhaka (now Bangladesh) to literary parents. After the partition of India she moved to West Bengal in India. She joined the Rabindranath Tagore founded Vishvabharati University in Santiniketan and completed a B.A. (Hons) in English, and then finished an M.A. in English at Calcutta University. She later married renowned playwright and actor Bijon Bhattacharya.

In 1964, she began teaching at Bijoygarh College (an affiliated college of the University of Calcutta, primarily for working-class women students) and combined it with working as a journalist and as a creative writer. Recently, she is more famous for her work related to the study of the Lodhas and Shabars,the tribal communities of West Bengal, women and dalits. She is dedicated to the struggles of tribal people in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In her elaborate Bengali fiction, she often depicts the brutal oppression of tribal peoples and the untouchables by potent, authoritarian upper-caste landlords, lenders, and venal government officials. She's won several awards for both her fiction and her journalistic work.

Devi, according to an interview in the book I'm currently reading, claims to have written "somewhere between 100 and 150" books from children's books to novels, "about 30 of which are good." Wikipedia provides the following rather messy list:

Hajar Churashir Ma (No. 1084's Mother, 1975)
Aranyer Adhikar (The Occupation of the Forest, 1977)
Agnigarbha (Womb of Fire, 1978)
Choti Munda evam Tar Tir (Choti Munda and His Arrow, 1980)
Imaginary Maps (translated by Gayatri Spivak London & New York. Routledge,1995)
Dhowli (Short Story)
Dust on the Road (Translated into EnglishBy Maitrayee Ghatak. Seagull, Calcutta.)
Our Non-Veg Cow (Seagull Books, Calcutta, 1998,Translated from Bengali by Paramita Banerjee.)
Bashai Tudu (Translated into EnglisBy Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak and Shamik Bandyopadhyay. Thima, Calcutta, 1993)
Titu Mir
Breast Stories (Translated into English by Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak. Seagull, Calcutta, 1997)
Of Women, Outcasts, Peasants, and Rebels (Translated into English By Kalpana Bardhan,University of California, 1990.)
Ek-kori's Dream (Translated into English by Lila Majumdar. N.B.T., 1976)
The Book of the Hunter (Seagull India, 2002)
Outcast (Seagull, India, 2002)
In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (Translated into English by Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak. Methuyen and Company, 1987. New York, London)
Till Death Do Us Part
Old Women
Kulaputra (Translated into Kannada by Sreemathi H.S. CVG Publications, Bangalore)
The Why-Why Girl (Tulika, Chennai.)
Dakatey Kahini

Mahasweta Devi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahasweta_Devi)

1997 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism, Literature, and the Creative Communication Arts - Mahasweta Devi (http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/BiographyDeviMah.htm)

IMDb: Mahasweta Devi (I) (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1194313/)

30-Jan-2009, 14:26
Thanks Bjorn for starting this thread.

Mahasweta Devi is a prominent writer in India for last 3-4 decades. I have read few of her writings in my mother tongue, being translated and have fallen for them. Many of her works have been adapted into movies ( not the Bollywood type movies, but by those art-house directors ).

Of late, she has been quite active in Social issues in Kolkota (Calcutta) and in many issues around the country.

She was awarded the Jnanpith ( Indian equivalent of Nobel for Literature! ) in 1995.

Here is an interview with the writer : Rediff On The NeT: The Rediff Interview/Mahasweta Devi (http://www.rediff.com/news/dec/24devi.htm)

Some more reading:

proXsa: Inspiration: Mahasweta Devi (http://www.proxsa.org/inspiration/maha_devi.html)

Mahasweta Devi | outlookindia.com (http://www.outlookindia.com/author.asp?name=Mahasweta+Devi) ( you might have to register once)

02-Mar-2009, 10:30
I finished a short story collection by Devi a while back, and was quite impressed. It mostly consisted of stories she wrote in the 70s - Fishermen, Breastgiver, The Hunt, The Statue and a few others. This is pissed-off literature; Devi writes about the tribal and castless people in the Bengal region who, she claims, have fallen through the cracks in modern independent India - and none fall further than the women. It's certainly a far cry from the romanticized take of Slumdog Millionaire - with her sober, seemingly objective reporter's eye that still retains a hint of oral tradition, as if to point out that these are stories that have been going on for centuries, she chronicles the way the weak kick downwards with much the same disillusionment and righteous anger as, say, Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Petals of Blood. Just steps in and chronicles the lives of her characters; the fisherman who's working for the police, pulling bodies out of the river and not saying anything about the truncheon marks on them; the girl who executes her would-be rapist and dances all night; the holy Indian mother who breastfeeds entire generations of both her own and others' children until she's eaten up by cancer from within. Strong stuff. ****0

Mystic Melody
22-Feb-2012, 16:14
Mahasweta Devi is one of the prolific contemporary Indian writers. She was born in 1926 in Dhaka (a part of India before independence, now Capital of Bangladesh ) to literary (Father a poet and mother a novelist) parents in a Hindu family. now she lives at West Bengal India. She is also an activist who is dedicated to the struggles of tribal people in the Naxalite Movement in various states in India. In her elaborate Bengali fiction that has been translation into English by Gayatri Spivak, she often depicts the brutal oppression of tribal people and the untouchables by potent, authoritarian upper-caste landlords, lenders, and venal government officials.

“Language is a weapon, its not for shaving your armpits." this is how Mahasweta Devi comments on her life and work.

At the center of a half-century of tumultuous change, the lifetime of Mahasweta Devi has spanned the British period, Independence, and fifty years of postcolonial turmoil. Her writing has given Indian literature a new life and inspired two generations of writers, journalists and filmmakers. A celebrated writer and tireless activist; for the last two decades, she has led a battled on the behalf of the De-notified tribes of India-indigenous groups who were branded “natural criminals” by the British Colonial State, who face discrimination to this day, despite being “de-notified.”

she has won various awards for her writing in India, but somehow has not got a well deserved universal recognition, but now the scene is changing gradually as many people are into translating her novels and short stories.

She has been writing on the spine-chilling real life incidents of these tribals. I had goose bums as I was reading her short story “Draupadi”
I have read her "Mother of 1084", "Rudali" and many other short stories namely Draupadi and "Standayani" (breast giver)....
here is a list of her works and more on her on these sites:
http://www.sawnet.org/books/authors.php?Devi+Mahasweta (http://www.sawnet.org/books/authors.php?Devi+Mahasweta%3Cbr)

http://www.rediff.com/news/dec/24devi.htm (http://www.rediff.com/news/dec/24devi.htm%3Cbr%3E%3Cbr)

24-Feb-2012, 04:07
Thanks for that, Muystic Melody. I'll ask a Bangladeshi I know whether he has read her.

24-Feb-2012, 06:42
Eric, She lives in kolkata ( Calcutta) and hugely popular here. Her books are available in translation to most of the other indian Languages. so, you can ask any Bangla language speaker and mostly this side of the border.

I remember seeing another thread on her. May be we can merge the threads.

28-Jul-2016, 13:59
Mahaswetadevi passed away today after a month long illness. She was 91. Great loss to Bengali/Indian Literature


06-Aug-2016, 01:16
A magnificent writer and a terrible loss. Underrated, undertranslated, and unheralded outside of India. She is the embodiment of the masterful fusion of literary technique and social conscience.

It saddens me to think that such a writer was unacknowledged by the world at large in her lifetime. World literature is far poorer for the omission.

07-Aug-2016, 20:23
I have been wanting to read some her works, but they are incredibly difficult to find and the few editions that are out there are very expensive. Mother of 1084 strikes me as particularly interesting. Any suggestions on where to start from those who are familiar with her?

08-Aug-2016, 22:20
I have been wanting to read some her works, but they are incredibly difficult to find and the few editions that are out there are very expensive. Mother of 1084 strikes me as particularly interesting. Any suggestions on where to start from those who are familiar with her?

If you don't mind reading on a computer or tablet screen, some of Mahasweta Devi's short stories are available for free online. Perhaps checking them out will give you an idea of what kind of writer she is and whether or not you would like to commit to her longer works. For the latter, Mother of 1084 is indeed a good place to start.


(The story proper begins on page 13 of the PDF file or page 392 of the scanned pages.)


These are in PDF format. The Spivak translations are, of course, the superior ones.

09-Aug-2016, 04:55
Downloaded and placed on my ereader. Thank you for the links.