Mahadevi Varma received the Gyanpeeth Award, which recognises outstanding contribution to Indian literature, on this day in 1982. She was on Friday honoured by Google with a doodle created by its guest artist Sonali Zohra. Varma was a transformative poet, essayist and advocate for women’s rights in India.
Mahadevi Varma was born in 1907 and grew up near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Her father, a professor, encouraged her to pursue her education. Her mother, in particular, inspired her to learn both Sanskrit and Hindi. She married at the age of nine, but continued to reside with her parents.
While pursuing a masters degree in Sanskit, Varma began writing poetry. Her early work, a secret, was discovered by her roommate and friend Subhadra Kumari Chauhan. Varma and Chauhan began writing in Hindi and went on to become well-known poets.
Varma is considered one of the spearheads of the Chhayavad movement in Hindi literature. The movement (1914-1938) marked a period of romanticism in Hindi poetry. A lot of her work was written around the experience of being a woman. Her collection of short stories, ‘Sketches from My Past’, portrays her experiences while being principal of an all-girls school.
Varma has been celebrated by several popular Hindi poets, including Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, Sumitra Nandan Pant, and their contemporaries. She died in 1987.