Devi, Swarna Kumari

Swarna Kumari Devi

Devi, Swarna Kumari (1855-1932) poet, playwright, lyricist, journalist, social worker, was born into the illustrious Tagore family of Jorasanko, being Debendranath's 10th child and sister of rabindranath tagore. She was educated at home according to the custom of the day and was married at the age of 12 to Janakiram Ghosal, a deputy magistrate. Her husband belonged to the progressive part of bhadralok society in Calcutta and encouraged his wife to discard purda and pursue writing and social work. Swarna Kumari had exhibited literary talent from an early age and was very much a part of the cultured milieu and literary activities at Jorasanko.'

SK Devi achieved fame as writer and editor of the well-known literary monthly bharati for 30 years. Her novel Dipnirban (1870) was widely acclaimed. Her other works include Chhinna Mukul (A Picked Bud), Snehalata or Palita (adopted girl) 1892-3, and perhaps her best work Kahake, 1898. The book was translated into English as The Unfinished Song. Swarna Kumari published in 1879 what might well be the first opera written in Bengal, Basanta Utsav.

Swarna Kumari often used forms that her more famous younger brother Rabindranath later picked up. In all she wrote 25 books in Bangla.

Active in the sphere of social reform and nationalist politics, Swarna Kumari helped form the Xakhi Samiti, an organisation to help widows and destitute women. In 1889 and 1890 along with Pandita Ramabai, Ramabai Ranade and kadambini ganguly she took part in the annual sessions of the indian national congress. She was one of the first two members elected from Bengal to represent that state at the session. In 1927 the university of calcutta awarded her the Jagattarini gold medal and in' 1929 she became the president of the Vangiya Sahitya Sammelan. [Sonia Amin]