Mahadevi Varma was an Indian writer, women’s rights activist, freedom fighter, educationist and poet, best known for her contribution to the Chhayawadi movement of Hindi literature. She has been also addressed as the “Modern Meera.” Varma had witnessed India both before and after independence. She was one of those poets who worked for the wider society of India. Mahadevi’s works won her some prestigious Indian Literary Awards and recognitions, such as ‘Padma Bhushan’, ‘Sahitya Akademi Fellowship’, and ‘Padma Vibhushan’. She won the Jnanpith Award for her collection of poems “Yam”. Her poetry was known for its characteristic ways and romanticism. Though married at a young age, Mahadevi mostly stayed away from her husband, only met him occasionally. She died in Prayagraj (Allahabad) at the age of 80. Many of the works of Mahadevi Varma have been included in the curriculum of Hindi schools in India.
Biography of Mahadevi Varma
|Date of Birth||March 26, 1907|
|Place of Birth||Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh, India|
|Parents||Govinda Prasad Varma (Father), Hemarani Devi (Mother)|
|Spouse||Swarup Narain Varma|
|Death||September 11, 1987|
Childhood and Early Life Mahadevi Varma
Mahadevi Varma was born on March 26, 1907 in Farrukhabad (now Uttar Pradesh) in the United Provinces of Agra to a Hindu Chitraguptavanshi Kayastha. Her father’s name was Govind Prasad Varma and her mother’s name was Hemarani Devi. Her father Govind Prasad Varma was a professor in a college in Bhagalpur. Her mother was a religious, passionate and vegetarian woman with a keen interest in music. She grew up in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh and studied there. Mahadevi Varma and her family later moved to Allahabad. Sumitranandan Pant and Suryakant Tripathi Nirala were closed friends of Mahadevi Varma. She initially enrolled in a convent school, but upon protests and an unwilling attitude, she took admission in Crosthwaite Girls College at Allahabad.
In ‘Crosthwaite’, students of different religion lived together. There, she started writing poems secretly; but upon discovery of her hidden stash of poems by her roommate and senior Subhadra Kumari Chauhan (known in the school for writing poems), her hidden talent was exposed. Then they started writing poems together. She and Subhadra also used to send poems to publications such as weekly magazines and managed to get some of their poems published. Both the budding poets also attended poetry seminars, where they met eminent Hindi poets, and read out their poems to the audience. This partnership continued till Subhadra graduated from Crostwaite.
Mahadevi Varma’s father was a professor of English. This explained her interest in language. Mahadevi Varma received her Master’s degree in Sanskrit from Allahabad University.
Varma had a generous family, and her grandfather wanted to make her a scholar. Her mother was a well-known in Hindi and Sanskrit and was a major inspiration behind her interest in literature.
Mahadevi Varma was deeply influenced by Buddhism and also contributed to the Indian freedom movement. Even tried to become a Buddhist monk. Mahadevi was appointed as the first principal teacher of Allahabad Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth, which was started with the aim of imparting cultural and literary education to girls through Hindi medium. Later, she became the vice chancellor of the institute.
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Family, personal life and death of Mahadevi Varma
Mahadevi Varma is married to Dr. Swarup Narain Varma in 1916, at a very young age. Following her graduation in 1929, Mahadevi absolutely refused to go and live with her husband Swarup Narain Varma because they were incompatible. She found him hunting and meat eating offensive. Since she had been married as a child, she was to go and live with her husband only after completing her education, as was the custom, but when she finished her BA, she absolutely refused to stay with him. Mahadevi Varma then asked him to remarry, which he did not do. They lived separately and met occasionally until the death of Swarup Narain Varma in 1966. After that, she moved permanently to Allahabad. Sources claim that Mahadevi thought of turning into a Buddhist nun but eventually decided not to. However, her interest in Buddhism became clear when she studied Buddhist Pali and Prakrit texts as a part of her master’s degree.
Mahadevi Varma breathed her last in Allahabad, India on September 11, 1987. She was 80 years old at the time of her death.
Career of Mahadevi Varma
In 1930, Mahadevi started teaching at a village school near Allahabad. Though she was active in politics, she believed in Gandhian ideology.
In 1933, she became the first principal of the Allahabad Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth. It was a private college to educate girls through Hindi medium. Soon became the vice chancellor of the institute. While at the institute, she organized a Poetry Conference or “Kabi Sammelan”. She also organized a conference for short story writers (“Galpa Sammelan”) in 1936, presided over by writer Sudakshina Varma. She was writing continuously in her teaching career. In 1923, She took over the women’s leading magazine ‘Chand’, and also contributed to it as an editor. These works were collected and published in 1942 as ‘Shrankhla Ke Kariyan’ (‘Connecting our series’). In the year 1955, Varma established the Literary Parliament in Allahabad and with the help of Ilachandra Joshi, and took up the editorship of its publication. She laid foundation of ‘Women’s poets’ conference in India. Mahadevi was greatly influenced by Buddhism. Under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi, she took up a public sector and worked in Jhansi alongside Indian freedom struggle. In 1937, Mahdevi Varma built a house in a village called Umagarh, Ramgarh, Utarakhand, 25 km from Nainital. She named it ‘Meera temple.‘ She started working for the village people and for their education till she stayed there.
Major Works of Mahadevi Varma
Mahadevi is remembered as one of the four leading poets of the Chhayawadi School of Hindi Literature.
She wrote some of her poetic works, For example, she also portrayed for her collection ‘Yama’ (1940). Yama included her poems ‘Nihar’ (1930), ‘Rashmi’ (1932), ‘Niraja’ (1934), and ‘Sandhya Geet’ (1936). ‘Neelakantha,’ is another important work of her.
Her work ‘Gaura’ was based on her own life and narrated the story of a cow. One of her best works is her childhood biography, ‘Mera Bachpan ke Din.’
She supported the women’s rights movement of her time through most of her works, Even in prose, many of which were published in her composition ‘Chand’.
The 1941 book ‘Ateet Ke Chalachitra’ was a collection of short stories based on her experiences with women who inspired her during her tenure working in girls’ school.
Some of the other major works of Mahadevi Varma are ‘Smriti Ki Rekhain’ (‘Pilgrimage to the Himalayas, and other siluates from memory,’ 1943), ‘Path Ke Saathi’ (Bhramonot Hahajugi,’ 1956), and ‘Mera Parivar (‘Mur Poriyal,’ 1971). Her works have earned her the title of “Modern Meera”. The literary works of Mahadevi Varma are –
Attet ke Chalachitra, ‘Smriti Ki Rekhain’, ‘Mera Parivar, Sansmaran, Skandha, Himalaya etc.
Deepsikha, Nihar, Rashmi, Neerja, Agni Rekha, Sandhyageet, Pratham Ayam etc.
Geetparba, Mahadevi Sahitya, Parikrama, Thakur Bhola Hain, Aaj Kharidenge hum Jwala etc.
Awards and Achievements
Mahadevi Varma’s works enabled her to win numerous prestigious literary awards in India. In 1956, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India. She received the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 1979, thus becoming the first Indian woman to receive the award.
In 1982, she received the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary honour, for his poetry collection ‘Yam’. She won ‘Padma Vibhushan’ in 1988. On April 27, 2018, ‘Google’ paid tribute to her through “doddle” on its Indian homepage.
Mahadevi Varma is known as an outstanding Hindi poet, was a freedom fighter, a female activist and an educationist in India. She is widely considered “Modern Mira.” She was a leading poet of the Chhayawadi generation, a period of romanticism in modern Hindi poetry from 1914-1938. Over time, her limited but outstanding prose has been recognized as unique in Hindi literature. She was a prominent poet at the Hindi Kabi Sammelan (gathering of poets). She was awarded India’s highest literary award for lifetime achievement, the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 1979 and then the Jnanpith Award in 1982. She received The Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award, in 1988. Her literary career has made an invaluable contribution to Indian literature.
1. When and where was Mahadevi Varma born?
Ans: Mahadevi Varma was born on March 26, 1907 at Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh, India.
2. Who is known as modern Meera?
Ans: Mahadevi Varman.
3. Why is Mahadevi Varman called modern Meera?
Ans: Mahadevi was widely recognized as ‘Modern Meera’ for her stirring works with theme of Love.
4. Who is the husband of Mahadevi Varma?
Ans: Dr Swarup Narain Varma.
5. Name some of the notable works of Mahadevi Varma.
Ans: Some of the notable works of Mahadevi Varma are- ‘Yama‘,‘Mera Bachpan ke Din,’Ateet Ke Chalachitra’, ‘Smriti Ki Rekhain’, ‘Mera Parivar’ etc.
6. When dis Mahadevi Varma died?
Ans: Mahadevi Varma breathed her last in Allahabad, India on September 11, 1987. She was 80 years old at the time of her death.
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