Mahadevi Varma is considered one of the best gifts to modern Hindi poetry. Together with Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Jaishankar Prasad and Sumitranandan Pant, Varma was one of the founding poets of the Chhayavad school of Hindi literature.
A vocal advocate for women’s rights in India, Mahadevi Varma was a transformative poet , essayist and also an artist who drew a number of illustrations for her poetic works.
On April 27, 1982, Varma received the Jnanpith Award for her outstanding contributions to Indian literature. Google commemorates the day with a doodle on her for Indian audience.
The doodle by artist Sonali Zohra shows Varma penning her thoughts sitting in the lap of nature.
Born on 26 March, 1907 , Varma spent her childhood near Allahabad city where her father taught in a professor. While she was born at a time when girls did not get much freedom to choose her career and life options, both her parents encouraged her to pursue her education. It was in fact Varma’s mother who is said to have inspired her to write in Sanskrit and Hindi. In her biography Mere Bachpan Ke Din (My Childhood Days), she has written that a girl child was considered a burden upon the family during her time but she was very fortunate to be born into a liberal family.
Varma was pursuing her Masters in Sanskrit, when she penned her first verses. Though she had written it in secret, the poem got discovered — by none other than Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, who went on to become a well-known poet herself. There had been no looking back since. The two were roommates and friends. Varma and Subhadra grew together as acclaimed writers, publishing their work and reading out their verses at kavi sammelans.
Her experience of being a woman reflects in Varma’s poignant poetry. In her poems such as “Main neer bhari dukh ki badli…”, one of her most famous works, she has elegantly essayed the pain, sufferings and struggles of a woman.
Varma later started writing essays and ventured into the genre of short stories too. A firm supporter of women’s rights, Mahadevi Varma championed the cause of girls’ education.
She was the principal of Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth, a woman’s residential college in Allahabad. She became the Vice-Chancellor of the university later. In her work, “Sketches from My Past”, she portrayed the women she met when she was the principal of an all-girls school.
A recipient of Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, the poet, novelist, essayist and short story writer died on 11 September, 1987, at the age of 80.