BORN ON AUGUST 28, 1855, SWARNAKUMARI DEVI, FOURTH AMONGST THE DAUGHTERS OF DEBENDRANATH TAGORE AND SARADA DEVI, WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED POET, NOVELLIST, MUSICIAN AND SOCIAL WORKER. SHE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST WOMEN WRITERS IN BENGALI TO GAIN PROMINENCE AND WENT ON TO PUBLISH SOME OF HER WRITINGS IN ENGLAND
Swarnakumari was always an imaginative child like her youngest brother, Rabindranath. Her eldest sister, Soudamini, was one of the earliest students of Bethune School but Swarnakumari had been educated primarily at home. There was a vibrant environment of learning and debate at the Jorasanko Thakur Bari.
Swarnakumari has recalled in her memoirs how in her early days a governess had been employed for her and her sisters and she would write something on a slate which the girls then had to copy. When Debendranath discovered this mindless method of teaching, he at once stopped and brought in a better teacher, Ajodhyanath Pakrashi, a male outsider in the womenʼs quarters – to the delight of his sons and the horror of his wife!
The eﬀorts of the male members of the Tagore family in the ﬁeld of music, theatre and writing must have penetrated into the inner precincts of the Jorasanko Thakur Bari and touched a chord in Swarnakumari. When Swarnakumariʼs ﬁrst novel, Deepnirban, was published in 1876, it instantly assisted in rousing the national spirit. Thereafter she wrote extensively ‒ novels, plays, poems and scientiﬁc essays. She also composed numerous songs. In that age, the rise of women writers such as Swarnakumari and Kamini Roy was of exceptional importance. In 1879, Swarnakumari composed what was possiblythe ﬁrst opera written in Bengali, Basanta Utsav.
Bharati was a family magazine started by Jyotirindranath Tagore in 1877 and edited ﬁrst by Dwijendranath Tagore for seven years. Thereafter, for eleven years, Swarnakumari took charge as editor. As her husband – Swarnakumari was married in 1868 to Janakinath Ghosal, a well-educated young man belonging to a zamindar family of Nadia district – was secretary of the Indian National Congress, she too became actively involved in politics.
Sakhi Samiti (Society of Friends) was started by Swarnakumari in 1896 and christened by Rabindranath. He even wrote a dance drama, Mayar Khela, to be staged by Sakhi Samiti for fund raising. The objective of the society was to assist helpless orphans and widows.Swarnakumari was, indeed, atrue daughter of Bengal.