Chaudhurani, Karimunnesa Khanam

Chaudhurani, Karimunnesa Khanam (1855-1926) a poet and social worker, was the eldest daughter of Zahiruddin Muhammad Abu Ali Saber and Rahatunnesa Sabera Chaudhurani. Karimunnesa came of a zamindar family of Pairaband Pargana under Rangpur. begum rokeya was her younger sister.

Following the traditions of conservative Muslim families of her time, Karimunnesa had to observe purda and was not allowed any education excepting recitation of the holy quran. But this could not satisfy her thirst for knowledge. Her younger brothers used to learn Persian verses from their teachers. Karimunnesa memorised those only by hearing their recitations. By dint of effort and attention she learnt a bit of Bangla and English as well. To know the meaning of the holy Quran she started learning Arabic at the old age of 67.

Karimunnesa was married to Abdul Halim Khan Ghaznavi of Delduar (Tangail) zamindar family at the age of 14 and became a widow at the age of 23 with two minor sons. A lady of liberal ideas, she was determined to give her sons western education and for that she took them to Calcutta and arranged their proper education. In 1885, she sent her elder son abdul karim ghaznavi to England for higher education at the tender age of 13 only. She also managed to get her second son abdul halim ghaznavi admitted to the St. Xavier's College. Her both sons, when they came of age, played active role in the public life of Bengal during 1920s and 30s. Karimunnesa also promoted the education of her younger sister Begum Rokeya. When almost the entire society stood against Rokeya's learning Bengali, it was Karimunnesa who strongly supported Rokeya and inspired her in her literary pursuit.

Karimunnesa herself was a poet of some repute and composed many poems on family events and social matters. She was a poet of nature. She authored two books - Duhkha Tarangini and Manas Bikash.

The name of Karimunnesa was connected with the liberal movements of the time. She patronised and financed the Ahmadi, a fortnightly, edited by Abdul Hamid Khan Yusufzai. First published in 1886 from Delduar, the Ahmadi was the first Muslim magazine, which aimed at Hindu-Muslim unity. It also carried articles on socio-political and cultural issues of the Muslims.

Karimunnesa Khanam also patronised mir mosharraf hossain, who served the Delduar Estate as its manager during the period from 1884 to 1892. Mir Musharaf dedicated the 1st edition of his great work, the Bisad Sindhu (1885), to Karimunnesa Khanam as a mark of respect to her. Begum Rokeya also dedicated her work Motichur (Vol II) to Karimunnesa Khanam. She died on 6 September 1926 at the age of 7l. [Muhammad Abdus Salam]