Mahadevi Varma

Indian writer, Hindi poet
Mahadevi Verma
महादेवी वर्मा
Born (1907-03-26)26 March 1907
Farrukhabad, Farrukhabad District, Uttar Pradesh, British India
Died 11 September 1987(1987-09-11) (aged 80)
Prayag,Allahabad ,Uttar Pradesh, India
Occupation Writer, poet, Freedom Fighter, Woman's Activist, Educationist
Nationality Indian
Ethnicity Orthodox Hindu
Citizenship Indian
Education M.A. Sanskrit Allahabad University
Alma mater Allahabad University
Period Early 20th Century
Genre Poetry, literature
Literary movement Chhayavaad
Notable awards 1979: Sahitya Akademi Fellowship
1982: Jnanpith Award
1956: Padma Bhushan
1988: Padma Vibhushan
Spouse Dr Swarup Narayan Varma

Mahadevi Verma(26 March 1907-11 September 1987) was best known as an outstanding Hindi poet, and was a freedom fighter, woman's activist and educationist from India. She is widely regarded as the "modern Meera".[1] She was a major poet of the Chhayavaad generation, a period of romanticism in Modern Hindi poetry ranging from 1914–1938.[2] With the passage of time, her limited but outstanding prose has been recognised as unique in Hindi literature. She was a prominent poet in Hindi Kavi sammelans (Gatherings of poets).

She was the Principal, and then the Vice-Chancellor of Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth, a woman's residential college in Allahabad. She was awarded India's highest literary award, for lifetime achievement, the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 1979, followed by the Jnanpith Award in 1982.[3] She was the recipient of the Padma Bhushan in 1956[4] and the Padma Vibhushan in 1988, India's third and second highest civilian awards respectively.[5]



Mahadevi was born in Farukhabad in a "kayastha" family of lawyers. She was educated at Jabalpur-Madhya Pradesh; her early studies included Sanskrit, Braj and painting. She was the eldest child of Govinda Prasad Verma and Hema Rani and had two brothers, Jagmohan and Manmohan, and a sister, Shyaama. She got married to Dr Swarup Narain Verma in Indore in 1913, which became a source of scandal as she refused to live with him; she even unsuccessfully tried to convince him to remarry.[6] She stayed with her parents while her husband studied in Lucknow to complete his education, during which time, she received her higher education at the Allahabad University and passed her B.A.examination in 1929 and completed her master's degree-M.A. in Sanskrit in 1933.

After the death of her husband in 1966, she moved permanently to Allahabad and lived there until her death.

In 1930 Varma began teaching at schools around Allahabad. She was appointed as the first headmistress of Allahabad (Prayag) Mahila Vidyapeeth in 1933, which was started with a view to imparting cultural and literary education to girls through Hindi medium. Later, she became the chancellor of the institute.

Early lifeEdit

In her childhood biography Mere Bachpan Ke Din (My Childhood Days), Mahadevi Verma has written that at a time when a girl child was considered a burden upon the family, she was very fortunate to be born into a liberal family. Her grandfather had the ambition of making her a scholar; her mother was fluent in Sanskrit and Hindi, and very religious. Mahadevi credits her mother for inspiring her to write poems, and to take an interest in literature.

Mahadevi was originally admitted to a Convent school, but upon protests and an unwilling attitude, she took admission in Crosthwaite Girls College in Allahabad. According to Mahadevi, she learnt the strength of unity in the hostel at Crosthwaite, where students of different religions lived together and the mess was also according to the religious requirement. Mahadevi started to write poems secretly; but upon discovery of her hidden stash of poems by her room-mate and senior Subhadra Kumari Chauhan (known in the school for writing poems), her hidden talent was exposed. Mahadevi and Subhrada now started to write poems together in their free time.

While others used to play outside, me and Subhrada 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 Varma, Mere Bachpan Ke Din

She and Subhrada also used to send poems to publications such as weekly magazines, and managed to get some of their poems published. Both 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.


Mahadevi is considered to be one of the four major poets of the Chhayavaadi school of the Hindi literature, others being Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala', Jaishankar Prasad and Sumitranandan Pant. She was also a noted painter. She drew a number of illustrations for her poetic works like Hindi and Yama. One of her other works is Neelkanth (नीलकंठ) which talks about her experience with a peacock,which is included as a chapter into the syllabus of Central Board of Secondary Education for 7th graders. She has also written Gaura which is based on her real life, in this story she wrote about a beautiful cow. Mahadevi Verma is also known for her childhood memoir, Mere Bachpan Ke Din and Gillu (गिल्लू), which was inducted into the syllabus of India's Central Board of Secondary Education for the 9th grade.

The following are works of Mahadevi Verma's that employ her pets as characters central to that respective work:

  • Neehar (1930)
  • Rashmi (1932)
  • Neeraja (1934)
  • Sandhyageet (1936)
  • Deepshikha (1939)
  • Agnirekha (1990, published after her death)

Compilations from these collections have been published under various titles. Some of them include:

  • Yama (Neehar+ Rashmi+Neeraja+Saandhyageet)
  • Sandhini
  • Neelaambara
  • Aatmika
  • Deepgeet

The additional feature in these collections is a new "Bhoomikas" or introdictory note written in the inimitable style of Mahadevi. She has written many notable stories, such as:

  • Ateet ke Chalchitra
  • Smriti ki Rekhyein
  • Shrinkhala ki Kariyan
  • Gheesa

The late scholar and translator, David Rubin, says of Varma's writing, "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 totally metaphorical ones involving weeping, walking the road, playing the vina, etc."[7] He later admits, "She demands of her readers both great patience and a near-ecstatic absorption."[8]

Awards and honoursEdit

Mahadevi Verma's creative talents and sharp intellect soon earned her a prominent place in the Hindi Literary world. She is considered among the four pillars of the Chaayavad movement. In 1934, she received Sekseriya Puraskar from the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan for her work, Niraja. Her poetry collection (Yama, यामा-1936) received the Jnanpith Award, one of the highest Indian literary awards.

  • She also Honored with "Proud Past Alumni" in the list of 42 members, from "Allahabad University Alumni Association", NCR, Ghaziabad (Greater Noida) Chapter 2007–2008 registered under society act 1860 with registration no. 407/2000.[9][10][11]

The Government of India bestowed her with Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian award. She was the first woman to be awarded the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, in 1979.[12] In 1988, Indian Government bestowed her with Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award.[13]


  1. ^ Mahadevi Verma: Modern Meera
  2. ^ "Mahadevi Varma: The woman who began the era of romanticism in Hindi literature". 
  3. ^ "Jnanpith Laureates Official listings". Jnanpith Website. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. 
  4. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  5. ^ Padma Vibhshan
  6. ^ Rubin, David. The Return of Sarasvati: Four Hindi Poets. Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 150.
  7. ^ Rubin, David. The Return of Sarasvati: Four Hindi Poets. Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 153.
  8. ^ Rubin, David. The Return of Sarasvati: Four Hindi Poets. Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 159.
  9. ^ "She is Proud Past Alumni Allahabad University"[dead link]
  10. ^ " Internet Archive of Proud Past Alumni"
  11. ^ "" Internet Archive of Proud Past Alumni"
  12. ^ Fellowships Sahitya Akademi Official website.
  13. ^ Padma Vibhshan

Further readingEdit

  • Gupta, Indra India's 50 Most Illustrious Women ISBN 81-88086-19-3
  • Schomer, Karine (1998). Mahadevi Verma and the Chhayavad Age of Modern Hindi Poetry, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-564450-6.

External linksEdit