Mahadevi Varma was not only a poet and novelist but also a freedom fighter, who devoted her life to championing the cause of women’s education. Even today, she continues to inspire many women throughout the country. Varma paved the path for hundreds of women writers who came after her, by becoming the voice of liberation and writing on issues which were considered a taboo.

Why Should We Know Mahadevi Varma

Mahadevi Varma is largely known as a poet, novelist, as well as freedom fighter. Many have widely regard her as the ‘modern Meera’. She dominated Hindi literature at one point of time. Varma also became one of the important writers of the Hindi movement of romanticism, or Chhayavaad. Apart from her literary prowess, Mahadevi Varma also assumed the roles of teacher and headmistress to educate girls.

Mahadevi Varma was much too aware of the loneliness of a woman who lived a creative life and was unrelenting in her commitment to her craft.

What Makes Her Badass

Mahadevi Varma managed to carve out for herself a legacy that lives on even today. At a time when women were denied any opportunities, she not only completed her education but went on to teach. She was also the first woman to receive the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship. Moreover, she initiated the Chhayavaad movement in Hindi literature, a period of romanticism in Modern Hindi poetry. The period saw an upsurge of romantic and humanist content in Hindi literature. Mahadevi Varma was one of the four pillars of the movement.

Also Read: Swarnakumari Devi, A Forgotten Name In Bengali Literature

Biggest Battles She Faced

Mahadevi Varma was only nine years old she was married off to Swarup Narain Verma, a boy from Bareilly. She was tutored at home. Then, she was sent to Crosthwaite Girls College in Allahabad. After graduating from college, Varma refused to fulfill her marital obligations. Instead, she chose to live an ascetic life. Varma was often dismissed as a woman who only wrote about sorrow even though she was widely respected because of her proximity to Gandhi, Nehru and the poet Narela. She, however, was much too aware of the loneliness of a woman who lived a creative life and was unrelenting in her commitment to her craft.

Verma’s essay Hindu Stri Ka Patnitva (The Wifehood of Hindu Women) compared marriage to slavery. With no political or financial authority, she said, women were relegated to lives of being wives and mothers.

Things She Said

In her literature, Varma asks important questions about women’s position in society. In ‘Chand’, a women’s magazine, she published essays that tackle the issues faced by women. She also analyses the reason for women being denied freedom. Using her gift of writing unforgettable characters, Varma boldly put the focus on issues such as widow remarriage, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, bigamy, child marriage. She is extremely critical of the certainty enjoyed by men and torment faced by women. At the same time, she is aggressive about women standing against women.

Her Feminism

Verma’s essay Hindu Stri Ka Patnitva (The Wifehood of Hindu Women) compares marriage to slavery. With no political or financial authority, she writes, women are relegated to lives of being wives and mothers. Her feminism, often overshadowed by her poetic persona, shines through on a closer inspection. Through poems like Cha, she has explored themes of female sexuality, while her short stories such as Bibia, touch on the subject of physical and mental abuse that women experience.

In her essay, Ghar Aur Bahar (Home and The World), she writes, “As soon as (women) are married, the dreams of a happy home life become handcuffs and chains and grip their hands and feet in such a way that the flow of the life-force stops within them.”

Also Read: Mahasweta Devi, A Writer And Activist 

Prapti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV

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