Jump to content

Mahadevi Varma

This is a good article. Click here for more information.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mahadevi Varma
Born(1907-03-26)26 March 1907
Farrukhabad, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, British India
Died11 September 1987(1987-09-11) (aged 80)
Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
OccupationPoet, essayist and sketch story writer
Alma materAllahabad University
Literary movementChhayavaad
Notable works
  • Yama
  • Mera Parivaar
Notable awards1956  Padma Bhushan
1982  Jnanpith Award
1988  Padma Vibhushan
SpouseVikas Narayan Singh
Best wishes message in Hindi with signature beneath

Literature portal

Mahadevi Verma (26 March 1906 – 11 September 1987) was an Indian Hindi-language poet, essayist, sketch story writer and an eminent personality of Hindi literature. She is considered one of the four major pillars[a] of the Chhayawadi era in Hindi literature.[1] She has been also addressed as the Modern Meera.[2] Poet Nirala had once called her "Saraswati in the vast temple of Hindi Literature".[b] Varma had witnessed India both before and after independence. She was one of those poets who worked for the wider society of India.[3] Not only her poetry but also her social upliftment work and welfare development among women were also depicted deeply in her writings. These largely influenced not only the readers but also the critics, especially through her novel Deepshikha.[4]

She developed a soft vocabulary in the Hindi poetry of Khadi Boli, which before her was considered possible only in Braj bhasha. For this, she chose the soft words of Sanskrit and Bangla and adapted them to Hindi. She was well-versed in music. The beauty of her songs lies in the tone that captures the euphemistic style of sharp expressions.[5] She started her career with teaching. She was the Principal of Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth. She was married, but she chose to live an ascetic life.[6][7] She was also a skilled painter and creative translator. She had the distinction of receiving all the important awards in Hindi literature. As the most popular female litterateur of the last century, she remained revered throughout her life.[8] The year 2007 was celebrated as her birth centenary. Later, Google also celebrated the day through its Google Doodle.[9]

Life and education[edit]

Early life[edit]

Verma was born on 26 March 1907[10] in a Hindu Chitraguptavanshi Kayastha[11][12][13][14][15] family of Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh, India.[16] Her father Govind Prasad Verma was a professor in a college in Bhagalpur. Her mother's name was Hem Rani Devi. Her mother was a religious, passionate and vegetarian woman with a keen interest in music. [10] Her mother would recite for many hours of Ramayana, Gita and Vinay Patrika. On the contrary, her father was a scholar, music lover, atheist, hunting enthusiast and cheerful person. Sumitranandan Pant and Suryakant Tripathi Nirala were close friends of Mahadevi Varma.[17] It is said that for 40 years Varma kept tying Rakhis to Nirala.[18]


Verma was originally admitted to a Convent school, but upon protests and an unwilling attitude, she was admissioned to Crosthwaite Girls College at Allahabad.[6] According to Verma, she learned the strength of unity while staying in the hostel at Crosthwaite. Here students of different religions lived together. Verma started to write poems secretly; but upon discovery of her hidden stash of poems by her roommate and senior Subhadra Kumari Chauhan (known in the school for writing poems), her hidden talent was exposed.[19]

While others used to play outside, me and Subhadra used to sit on a tree and let our creative thoughts flow together...She used to write in Khariboli, and soon I also started to write in Khariboli...this way, we used to write one or two poems a day...

— Mahadevi Verma, Smrti Chitra (Memory Sketch) English Translation[20]

She and Subhadra also used to send poems to publications such as weekly magazines and managed to get some of their poems published. Both the budding poets also attended poetry seminars, where they met eminent Hindi poets, and read out their poems to the audience. This partnership continued till Subhrada graduated from Crosthwaite.[21]

In her childhood biography Mere Bachpan Ke Din (My Childhood Days),[22] Verma has written that she was very fortunate to be born into a liberal family at a time when a girl child was considered a burden upon the family. Her grandfather reportedly had the ambition of making her a scholar; although he insisted that she comply with tradition and marry at the age of nine.[23] Her mother was fluent both in Sanskrit and Hindi, and was a very religious pious lady. Mahadevi credits her mother for inspiring her to write poems and to take an interest in literature.[24]

Following her graduation in 1929, Mahadevi refused to go and live with her husband Swarup Narain Verma because they were incompatible. She found his hunting and meat-eating offensive.[25] Since she had been married as a child, she was to go and live with her husband only after completing her education, as was the custom, but when she finished her BA, she refused to live with him.[26][page needed] Her remorseful father offered to convert along with her if she wanted to divorce and remarry (as Hindus could not legally divorce at the time) but she refused, saying she wanted to remain single.[27] She even unsuccessfully tried to convince her husband to remarry.[23] Later, she was reported to have considered becoming a Buddhist nun but eventually chose not to, although she studied Buddhist Pali and Prakrit texts as part of her master's degree.[23]

Professional career[edit]


Nihar (IPA: Nīhār) was her debut collection of poems. In 1930, Nihar,[28] in 1932, Rashmi,[29] in 1933, Neerja[30] were composed by her. In 1935, her collection of poems called Sandhyageet[31] was published. In 1939, four poetic collections were published with their artworks under the title Yama.[32] Apart from these, she had written 18 novels and short stories in which Mera Parivar (My Family), Smriti ki Rekhaye (Lines of Memory), Patha ke Sathi (Path's Companions), Srinkhala ke Kariye (Series of Links) and Atit ke Chalachrit (Past Movies) are prominent.[33] She is also considered the pioneer of feminism in India.[34]

Women's advocacy[edit]

Mahadevi Varma (on right) receiving the Jnanpith Award from then Britain Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1982

Varma's career had always revolved around writing, editing and teaching. She contributed significantly to the development of Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth in Allahabad .[6] This kind of responsibility was considered a revolutionary step in the field of women's education during that time. She also had been its Principal.[35] In 1923, she took over the women's leading magazine Chand. In the year 1955, Varma established the Literary Parliament in Allahabad and with the help of Ilachandra Joshi and took up the editorship of its publication. She laid the foundation for women's poets' conferences in India.[36] Mahadevi was greatly influenced by Buddhism. Under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi, she took up public service and worked in Jhansi alongside the Indian freedom struggle.[37] In 1937, Mahadevi Varma built a house in a village called Umagarh, Ramgarh, Uttarakhand, 25  km from Nainital. She named it Meera Temple. She started working for the village people and their education till she stayed there. She did a lot of work, especially for women's education and their economic self-sufficiency. Today, this bungalow is known as Mahadevi Sahitya Museum.[38][39][40] In the series of attempts, she was able to raise the courage and determination for the liberation and development of women.[41] The way she has condemned social stereotypes made her to be known as a woman liberationist.[42] She had also been called a social reformer due to the development work and public service towards women and their education.[43] Throughout her creations, there are no visions of pain or anguish anywhere, but the indomitable creative fury reflected in the society's indomitable desire for change and an innate attachment towards development.[43][44]

In Hindu Stree Ka Patnitva (The Wifehood of Hindu Women) marriage is compared to slavery. Not being affiliated with any political or financial authority, she writes, women are assigned to lives of being wives and mothers. Her feminism is often overshadowed by her poetic persona. Through poems like Cha, she explored themes and ideas of female sexuality, while her short stories such as Biblia, discuss the subject of experiences of women's physical and mental abuse.[45]

She spent most of her life in Allahabad (Prayagraj) of Uttar Pradesh. She died in Allahabad on 11 September 1987.[46]


Verma was a poet as well as a distinguished prose writer. Her creations are as follows.


  • Nihar[28] (1930)
  • Rashmi[47] (1932)
  • Neerja[30] (1933)
  • Sandhyageet[31] (1935)
  • Pratham Ayam[48] (1949)
  • Saptaparna[49] (1959)
  • Deepshikha[4] (1942)
  • Agni Rekha[50] (1988)

Several other poetic collections of Mahadevi Verma are also published, in which selected songs from the above compositions have been compiled.


List of selected prose works includes[33]

  • Ateet Ke Chalchitr (1961)
  • Smriti ki Rekhaye (1943)
  • Patha ke Sathi (1956)
  • Mera Parivar (1972)
  • Sansmaran (1943)
  • Sambhasan (1949)
  • Shrinkhala ki Kadiyan (1942)
  • Vivechamanak Gadya (1972)
  • Skandha (1956)
  • Himalaya (1973)


Two compilations of children's poems of Mahadevi Verma are

  • Thakurji Bhole Hai[51]
  • Aaj Kharidenge hum Jwala[51]

Critical analysis[edit]

A section of critics is those who believe that the poetry of Mahadevi is very personal. Her agony, anguish, and compassion, are artificial.

Moral critics like Ramchandra Shukla have put a question mark on the truth of her anguish and feelings. He quotes

Concerning this anguish, she has revealed such sensations of heart, which are extraterrestrial. As far as these sensations are concerned and how far the sensations are real, nothing can be said. (English translation)[52]

On the other hand Hazari Prasad Dwivedi consider her poetry to be a collective criterion.[c] Poetic works like Deep from (Nihar), Madhur Madhur Mere Deepak Jal from (Neerja) and Mome Sa Tan Gal Hai, concludes that these poems not only explain Mahadevi's self-centeredness but also to be considered a representative form of general posture and texture of her poems. Satyaprakash Mishra says about her philosophy of metaphysics related to cinematography -

Mahadevi did not only differentiate and distinguish from the earlier poetry of the object craft of Shadowism and Mysticism under rationalism and examples but also showed in what sense it is human. There is a poetry of change of sensation and newness of expression. She did not accuse anyone of sentiment, adoration etc. but only described the nature, character, appearance and uniqueness of Chhayavad. (English translation)[53]

American novelist David Rubin has said the following about her works

What arrests us in Mahadevi's work is the striking originality of the voice and the technical ingenuity which enabled her to create in her series of mostly quite short lyrics throughout her five volumes a consistently evolving representation of total subjectivity measured against the vastness of cosmic nature with nothing, as it were, intervening—no human social relationships, no human activities beyond those metaphorical ones involving weeping, walking the road, playing the Veena, etc.[23]

Prabhakar Shrotriya believes that those who consider her a poetess of anguish and despair do not know how much fire there is in that suffering which exposes the truth of life. He says:

In fact, the centre of Mahadevi's experience and creation is fire, not tears. What is visible is not the ultimate truth, what is invisible is the original or inspiring truth. These tears are not the tears of easy simple anguish, but how much fire goes behind them, the thunderstorm, the electric roar of the cloud, and the rebellion are hidden.
(English translation)[54]

Varma's poetic world indeed comes under the shadow of Chhayavaad (shadows), but to see her poetry completely unconnected to her era, one would be doing injustice to her. Mahadevi was also a conscious writer. During the Bengal famine in 1973, she published a poetry collection and also wrote a poem called "Banga Bhu Shanth Vandana" related to Bengal.[55] Similarly, in response to the invasion of China, she had edited a collection of poems called Himalaya.[56]

Honours and awards[edit]

Besides these, in 1979, the famous Indian filmmaker Mrinal Sen produced a Bengali film on her memoir Woh Chini Bhai[60] titled Neel Akasher Neechey.[61] On 14 September 1991, the Postal Department of the Government of India, issued a doubles stamp of 2 along with Jaishankar Prasad, in her honour.[62]

Literary contributions[edit]

Mahadevi Varma (bottom row third from left) along with Hazari Prasad Dwivedi and others

The emergence of Mahadevi Varma in literature happened at a time when the shape of Khadi Boli was being refined. She introduced Braj bhasha softness to Hindi poetry. She gave us a repository of songs with a heartfelt acceptance of Indian philosophy. In this way, she did important work in the three fields of language, literature and philosophy which later influenced an entire generation. She created a unique rhythm and simplicity in the composition and language of her songs, as well as the natural use of symbols and images that draw a picture in the mind of the reader.[63] Her contribution to the prosperity of Chhayavadi poetry is very important. While Jaishankar Prasad gave naturalization to the Chhayavadi poetry, Suryakant Tripathi Nirala embodied the liberation in it and Sumitranandan Pant brought the art of delicateness, but Varma embodied life to the Chhayavadi poetry. The most prominent feature of her poetry is emotionalism and intensity of feeling. A such lively and tangible manifestation of the subtlest subtle expressions of the heart makes 'Varma' among the best Chhayavadi poets.[64] She is remembered with respect for her speeches in Hindi. Her speeches were full of compassion for the common man and firm in the truth. At the 3rd World Hindi Conference, 1983, Delhi, she was the chief guest of the closing ceremony.[65]

Apart from the original creations, she was also a creative translator with works like her translation ' Saptaparna ' (1980). With the help of her cultural consciousness, she has presented 39 selected important pieces of Hindi poetry in her work by establishing the identity of Vedas, Ramayana, Theragatha and the works of Ashwaghosh, Kalidas, Bhavabhuti and Jayadeva. In the beginning, in the 61-page ' Apna Baat ', she gives thorough research with this invaluable heritage of Indian wisdom and literature, which enriches the overall thinking and fine writing of Hindi, not just limited female writing.[66]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Varma 1985, p. 38-40.
  2. ^ Ranu, Anjali. "Mahadevi Verma: Modern Meera". Literary India. Archived from the original on 21 March 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2020. Archived from the original Archived 21 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine on 21 September 2007
  3. ^ Mishra, Satya Prakash. "महादेवी का सर्जन: प्रतिरोध और करुणा" (in Hindi). Tadbhav.com. Archived from the original on 22 September 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2020. Archived from the original Archived 22 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine on 22 September 2007
  4. ^ a b Varma, Mahadevi. Deepshikha (in Hindi). Varanasi: Lokbharti Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-8031-119-2.
  5. ^ Varmā, Mahādevī; Pāṇḍeya, Gaṅgāprasāda (2012). महादेवी के स्रेष्ठ गीत (in Hindi) (2nd ed.). Kitābaghara. ISBN 9788170161868.
  6. ^ a b c Jha, Fiza (11 September 2019). "Poet Mahadevi Verma and her undiscovered feminist legacy". ThePrint.
  7. ^ Teotia, Bimlesh. "साहित्य विचार - गद्यकार महादेवी वर्मा". Taptilok Publication. Archived from the original on 17 May 2006. Retrieved 7 December 2020. Archived from the original Archived 17 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine on 17 May 2006
  8. ^ Vasistha, R.K. (2002). Uttar Pradesh (Monthly Magazine) Issue 7. Lucknow, India: Information and Public Relations Department, U.P. Page 24.
  9. ^ Taneja, Richa (27 April 2018). "Mahadevi Varma Is Today's Google Doodle: Know All About The Celebrated Hindi Poet". NDTV.com.
  10. ^ a b Singh 2007, p. 39-40.
  11. ^ Mahadevi Verma. Cambria Press. ISBN 978-1-62196-880-1.
  12. ^ Schomer, Karine (1983). Mahadevi Verma and the chhayavad age of modern Hindi poetry. ISBN 978-0-520-04255-1.
  13. ^ Kīkuci, Tomoko (2009). Mahādevī Verma kī viśvadr̥shṭi (in Hindi). Kitabghar Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-88121-95-3.
  14. ^ Anantharam, Anita (30 January 2012). Bodies That Remember: Women's Indigenous Knowledge and Cosmopolitanism in South Asian Poetry. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-5059-1.
  15. ^ Menon, Visalakshi (2003). Indian Women and Nationalism, the U.P. Story. Har-Anand Publications. ISBN 978-81-241-0939-7.
  16. ^ Schomer, Karine (1983). Mahadevi Verma and the Chhayavad Age of Modern Hindi Poetry. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520042551.
  17. ^ "जो रेखाएँ कह न सकेंगी- महादेवी वर्मा". www.abhivyakti-hindi.org (in Hindi). Abhivyakti. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  18. ^ Pandeya 2020, p. 10.
  19. ^ Anantharam 2010, p. 4-8.
  20. ^ Verma, Mahādevī (1973). Smr̥ti citra (in Hindi). Rājakamala Prakāśana. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Mahadevi Verma: The woman who began the era of romanticism in Hindi literature". India Today. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Mahadevi Verma Is Today's Google Doodle: Know All About The Celebrated Hindi Poet". NDTV.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  23. ^ a b c d David, Rubin (1998). The Return of Sarasvati: Four Hindi Poets. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-566349-5.
  24. ^ "Mahadevi Verma, renowned Indian poet, honoured with Google doodle". The Indian Express. 27 April 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  25. ^ Nagar, Shivchandra (1953). Mahadevi: Vichar aur Vyaktitva (in Hindi). Allahabad: Kitab Mahal. p. 92.
  26. ^ Anantharam 2010.
  27. ^ Ruth, Vanita (2021). My Family by Mahadevi Verma. Gurugram: Penguin Random House. pp. xiii–xiv.
  28. ^ a b Varmā, Mahādevī (1962). Nīhāra (in Hindi). Sāhitya Bhavana.
  29. ^ वर्मा, महादेवी (1962). रश्मि (in Hindi). Sāhitya Bhavana.
  30. ^ a b Varmā, Mahādevī (1966). Nīrajā (in Hindi). Bhāratī Bhaṇḍāra.
  31. ^ a b Verma, Mahadevi (January 2011). Sandhya Geet (in Hindi). Lokbharti Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-8031-120-8.
  32. ^ Verma, Mahadevi (September 2008). Yama (in Hindi). Lokbharti Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-8031-306-6.
  33. ^ a b "Books by Mahadevi Verma". goodreads.com. Goodreads. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  34. ^ "Mahadevi Verma". www.sawnet.org. South Asian Women Writers (SAWnet). Archived from the original on 26 February 2005. Retrieved 7 December 2020.Archived from the on 28 September 2007
  35. ^ Mahadevi Varma and the Bhagavad age of modern Hindi poetry. University of California. 2011. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-520-04255-1.
  36. ^ Varma, Mahadevi (May 1933) Sudha (Monthly Magazine). Lucknow.
  37. ^ Singh, U. (2015). "The Politics of Mass Mobilisation: Eastern Uttar Pradesh, c. 1920-1940". Social Scientist. 43 (5/6): 93–114. JSTOR 24642349.
  38. ^ Tree, Kafal (26 May 2019). "महादेवी वर्मा और कुमाऊँ के रामगढ़ में उनकी मीरा कुटीर". Kafal Tree. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  39. ^ Bisht, Virendra (14 September 2017). "चार धाम यात्रा पर आयीं महादेवी वर्मा को जब भा गया रामगढ़". News18 India.
  40. ^ "हिमालय की गोद में रहकर रचनाएं गढ़ सकेंगे साहित्यकार". Amar Ujala (in Hindi). 26 March 2016.
  41. ^ Varma, Mahadevi; Agrawal, Chandra (1992). "The Art of Living". Chicago Review. 38 (1/2): 98–102. doi:10.2307/25305567. JSTOR 25305567.
  42. ^ Sohoni, Neera Kuckreja. "Forging a Feminist Path". IndiaTogether.org. Archived from the original on 19 October 2002. Retrieved 7 December 2020. Archived from the original Archived 19 October 2002 at the Wayback Machine on 19 October 2002
  43. ^ a b Varma 1994.
  44. ^ Kelapure, Pratibha. "WOMPO (Women Poetry Listserv) - Mahadevi Verma". www.usm.maine.edu. University of Southern Marine. Archived from the original on 16 March 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2020. Archived from the original Archived 19 October 2002 at the Wayback Machine on 16 March 2007
  45. ^ Anantharam 2010, p. 20.
  46. ^ "30 Years After Her Death, Hindi Poet Mahadevi Varma Served Tax Notice". NDTV.com.
  47. ^ Verma, Mahādevī (1983). Raśmi (in Hindi). Sāhitya Bhavana.
  48. ^ Verma, Mahādevī (1984). Prathama āyāma (in Hindi). Bhāratī Bhaṇḍāra.
  49. ^ Verma, Mahadevi (September 2008). Saptaparna (in Hindi). Lokbharti Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-8031-340-0.
  50. ^ Verma, Mahādevī (1990). Agnirekhā (in Hindi). Rājakamala Prakāśana. ISBN 9788171781249.
  51. ^ a b Manu, Prakash (January 0101). Hindi Bal Sahitya Ka Itihas (in Hindi). Prabhat Prakashan. ISBN 978-93-5266-671-3. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  52. ^ "काव्यखंड (संवत् 1975) प्रकरण 4 नई धारा: तृतीय उत्थान: वर्तमान काव्यधाराएँ" (in Hindi). Hindisamay.com. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  53. ^ Mishra, Satya Prakash. "महादेवी का सर्जन : प्रतिरोध और करुणा" (in Hindi). Tadbhav.com. Archived from the original on 22 September 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2020. Archived from the original Archived 22 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine on 22 September 2007
  54. ^ Kukreti, Hemant (2017). Navjagrankaleen Kaviyon Kee Pahchan (Literary Criticism) (in Hindi). Vāṇī Prakāśana. p. 133. ISBN 978-93-87155-00-8.
  55. ^ Verma, Mahadevi (September 2009). Agnirekha (in Hindi). Rajkamal Prakashan. p. 48. ISBN 978-81-7178-933-7.
  56. ^ Kumar, Kuldeep (6 April 2018). "Rebel with a cause". The Hindu.
  57. ^ a b "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  58. ^ a b Thapliyal, Shreya (11 September 2018). "Poet, writer, educator, feminist — Mahadevi Varma continues to inspire". The Statesman.
  59. ^ Rubin, David. The Return of Sarasvati: Four Hindi Poets. Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 153.
  60. ^ "वह चीनी भाई - महादेवी वर्मा". abhivyakti-hindi.org. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  61. ^ "Mrinal Sen:: Neel Akasher Niche". mrinalsen.org. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  62. ^ "Postage Stamps: Commemorate section". postagestamps.gov.in. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  63. ^ Paliwal, Krishnadatta (2007). आजकल (monthly magazine). CGO Complex, Lodi Road, New Delhi-110 003: Publications Division, Information Bhawan. Page 15
  64. ^ Vanzpe, Prof. Shubhada (2006). Pushpak (Semi-Annual Magazine) Issue-6. Hyderabad, India: Kadambini Club. Page 113.
  65. ^ "समापन समारोह है, तो मन भारी है - तीसरे विश्व हिंदी सम्मेलन". www.vishwahindi.com. Hindi section, MEA, Government of India. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2020. Archived from the original Archived 8 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine on 8 October 2007
  66. ^ Sharma, Rishabhdev. "भारतीय चिंतन परंपरा और 'सप्तपर्णा'". m.sahityakunj.net (in Hindi). Sahitya Kunj. Retrieved 7 December 2020.



  1. ^ The other three pillars of Chhayavad are Jaishankar Prasad, Suryakant Tripathi Nirala and Sumitranandan Pant.
  2. ^ हिंदी के विशाल मन्दिर की वीणापाणी, स्फूर्ति चेतना रचना की प्रतिमा कल्याणी (English translation: Veenapani Another name of Goddess Saraswati in huge temple of Hindi having a stature in conscious creations) - Nirala.
  3. ^ The truth is that Mahadevi's outlook goes from person to person. The world's well-being is rooted in her pain, anguish, compassion and sadism (English translation)- Hazari Prasad Dwivedi

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]