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Remembering Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s Fiery Poetry On Her 116th Birthday

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Khub ladi mardani who toh Jhansi wali Rani thi,” these are lines that every Indian is familiar with. From the poem Jhansi Ki Rani, we have all come across these lines in our student life. But how much do we know about Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, the woman poet who penned them? On her 116th birthday, we look back to see the way Chauhan merged literature, her poetry and prose along with her participation in the Indian Nationalist Movement. Her writings contain strong nationalist undertone as a reflection of the times she lived in and the sentiment that thrived in the heart of every Indian fighting for their country’s independence.

Early Life

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan was born on 16 September 1904 in Allahabad. Born into a landowning family, she had always been inclined to writing poetry. She wrote her first composition at the age of nine titled Neem. This poem was published in Maryada magazine.

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Chauhan received formal education till class nine but she stuck to writing her poetry even after it was discontinued. At the age of 16, she was married to Thakur Lakshman Singh who was a resident of Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh. Chauhan and her life partner were active participants in the Indian National Movement, the traces of which are found in her poetry.

Literary Works

The form of writing Chauhan was adept at was poetry. However, she realised poetry writing wasn’t financially feasible. Thus for remuneration, she started writing prose. Chauhan has two poetry collections to her name, titled Mukul and Tridhara. She also penned three story collections titled Bikhre Moti or Scattered Pearls, followed by Unmadini and Sidhe Sadhe Chitra.

Her writings are known for being lucid, simple and straightforward. The language she primarily wrote in was khadi boli dialect of Hindi. Most characters in her stories and poems are women. Her writings capture the issues that women faced then within social settings. The women in her stories counter social evils such as caste discrimination and differential treatment.

In Bikhre Moti, a collection of 15 short storiesmost of the stories are about women and discuss issues that they face. Unmadini consists of nine stories all of which tackle some form of social evil, while Sidhe Sadhe Chitra consists of 14 stories, most of which are also women-centric.

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Participation in Indian National Movement

Chauhan’s poetry, on the other hand, runs on the themes of nationalism and patriotism. The idea behind writing fiery prose was to reach out to the youths to encourage them to participate in the Indian Nationalist Movement.

She and her husband actively supported and participated with Mahatma Gandhi in the Satyagraha movements. Chauhan was infact the first woman Satyagrahi to be arrested, that too on two occasions. She was jailed in 1923 and in 1942 for her involvement in protests against the British rule.

Why It Matters?

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan continues to be one of the strongest voices in Hindi Literature. Every classroom even today is serenaded with the poem Jhansi ki Rani. She wrote during a time when voices of women were not heard beyond the household. She contributed to the male-dominated spaces of writing and revolution. She is also one of the few faces of the Indian National Movement and was a member of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly. It was rare in the early 1900s for women to have prosperous careers and she was breaking and challenging social norms.

Also Read: How Social Activist Sister Nivedita Influenced Indian Nationalist Movement

Ideologically driven, socially aware and, working to bring about changes by participating in movements and politics, Chauhan practised what she preached. She continues to be a beacon of hope and a relevant writer who can move people to take a step towards causes that matter to the Nation.

Priyanka Chakarbarty is an intern for SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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