Dhaka, Thursday, 18 July 2019
Bangla Insider

Swarnakumari Devi: First female Bengali novelist

Published on : 03 July 2019, 09:25 AM
Swarnakumari Devi: First female Bengali novelist

The name of another bright star of Jorasanko`s Tagore family is Swarnakumari Devi, the first significant female litterateur of Bengali literature. Devi, one of the first representatives of educated Bengali female community of subservient India, was born on August 28, 1855. She was the fourth amongst the daughters of Debendranath Tagore and was a granddaughter of Dwarkanath Tagore.

Tagore family had a reputation of nurturing education-friendly environment. The creativity of the male members of Devi`s family in music, drama and literature touched her deeply. At that time, Jyotirindranath Tagore was conducting various experiments. Akshay Chandra Chaudhury, Swarnakumari Devi and Rabindranath Tagore were helping on his experiment.

In 1876, Swarnakumari first novel `Dipnirban` was published. Earlier, Hana Catherine Mullens gained the status of the first novelist of the Bengali language by publishing `Fulmoni o karunarbibaran` in 1852. Swarnkumari was the first Bengali female novelist in that sense. `Dipnirban` was a nationalist novel. After that she wrote many novels, dramas, poems, songs and science related articles. In 1879, Devi wrote the first Bangla opera Basanta Utsav (Spring Festival). Subsequently, Rabindranath followed this trend.

In 1877, Jyotirindranath launched the family magazine ‘Bharati’. The first editor of this newspaper was Dwijendranath Tagore. Thereafter for eleven years, Swarnakumari took charge as the editor and worked hard to enhance the uniqueness of the journal. Critics highly praised this magazine.

Swarnakumari Devi`s husband was the secretary of the Indian National Congress. She herself was actively associated with social reform and nationalist politics. In 1889 and 1890, she participated in the annual session of the National Congress with Pandita Ramabai, Ramabai Ranade and Kadambini Ganguly. She was the first woman to participate publicly at the national congress session. In 1896, to help the orphans and widows, Swarnakumari Devi introduced Sakhi Samiti with the other members of her family. She organized an annual fair in Bethune College after realizing that this organization cannot be managed only with member’s contribution. Her aim was to showcase and sell Indian products. The fair created quite a stir in Kolkata then.

University of Calcutta honored her with the Jagattarini gold medal in 1927. This poet, novelist, musician and social worker left her last breath on 3 July 1932. Today marks her 87th death anniversary. We remember Swarnakumari Devi on her death anniversary with great respect.


Bangla Insider/ SM