BORN INTO A CONSERVATIVE NORTH KOLKATA BENGALI FAMILY IN 1909, ASHAPURNA DEVI WAS ONE OF THE FIRST FEMALE WRITERS TO, JUSTIFIABLY, CLAIM HER A PLACE AMONG INDIAN AUTHORS. OFTEN REFERRED TO AS THE JANE AUSTEN OF BENGALI LITERATURE, HER CHARISMA AND WILL-POWER TO PURSUE HER INDIVIDUALITY AND YET REMAIN THE TRADITIONAL, SOFT-HEARTED FAMILY WOMAN MAKES HER LIFE AN AMAZING TALE
Ashapurna Deviʼs early childhood was spent in a traditional and extremely conservative family at Vrindaban Basu Lane in north Kolkata amongst a large number of relatives. Because of her dominating grandmother, a staunch supporter of old customs and conservative ideals, the female children of the house were not allowed to go to school. Private tutors were employed only for the boys.
As a little girl, Ashapurna used to listen in when her brothers were studying, sitting opposite them, and learnt the alphabet that way. Ashapurnaʼs father, Harendra Nath Gupta, used to work as a designer for C Lazarus & Co, the cityʼs ﬁnest furniture makers. Her mother, Sarala Sundari, came from a very enlightened home and was a great book lover. It was her intensive thirst for reading the classics and other stories that was transmitted to Ashapurna and her sisters at an early age.
Ashapurna Devi published her ﬁrst poem in a childrenʼs magazine named Shishu Sathi at the age of 13. Married at the age of 15 to Kalidas Gupta of Krishnanagar, she pursued her dream to get to know the outer world through her writings. Her very ﬁrst book was for children and her ﬁrst novel, Prem O Proyojon, was published in 1944.
Ashapurna wrote tirelessly throughout her life. Over a distinguished literary career spanning more than 70 years, her greatest achievement was her ability to remain honest to her roots and question social injustices. Her famous trilogy – the Satyabati Trilogy of Pratham Pratishruti, Subarnalata and Bakulkatha – depicts the aspirations, joys and sorrows women throughout the world can relate to. In 1976, she was awarded the Jnanpith Award (for Prathom Pratishruti) and the Padma Shri by the Government of India. She was also bestowed the Rabindra Puruskar, several D.Litt. degrees by the Universities of Jabalpur, Rabindra Bharati, Burdwan, and Jadavpur while Vishwa Bharati University honoured her with Deshikottama in 1989. The Sahitya Akademi conferred on her its highest honour – the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, in 1994.