Amrita Pritam (August 31, 1919 October 31, 2005)

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Amrita Pritam (August 31, 1919 October 31, 2005) was an Indian writer. She is considered the first prominent woman Punjabi poet, novelist, and essayist. When the former British India was partitioned into the independent states of India and Pakistan, she migrated to India in 1947.

Formative Years:
Amrita Pritam was born in 1919 in Gujranwala, Punjab, now in Pakistan, the only child of a school teacher and a poet. Her father was a pracharak -- a preacher of the Sikh faith. Amrita's mother died when she was eleven. Soon after, she and her father moved to Lahore. Confronting adult responsibilities, she began to write at an early age. Her first collection was published when she was only sixteen years old, the year she married Pritam Singh, an editor to whom she was engaged in early childhood.

Some one million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs died from communal violence that followed the partition of India in 1947. Amrita Pritam moved to New Delhi, where she began to write in Hindi instead of Punjabi, her mother tongue. Her anguish was expressed in her poem, "Aaj Aakhaan Waris Shah Noo", addressed to the Sufi poet Waris Shah, author of the tragic saga of Heer and Ranjah, the Punjabi national epic:
Utth dard-mandaan dey dardiyaa tak apna Punjab
Beyley laashaan vichhiyaan
Teh lahoo da bharya Chenab

(Sharer of stricken hearts,
Look at your Punjab,
Corpses are strewn in the field
Blood flows in the Chenab.)

Amrita Pritam worked until 1961 for All India Radio. After her divorce in 1960, her work became more clearly feminist. Many of her stories and poems drew on the unhappy experience of her marriage. A number of her works have been translated into English, French, Japanese and other languages from Punjabi and Urdu, including her autobiographical works Black Rose and Revenue Stamp (Raseedi Tikkat in Punjabi).

The first of Amrita Pritam's books to be filmed was Daaku (Dacoit, 1976), directed by Basu Bhattacharya. Her novel Pinjar (The Skeleton, 1970) was made into an award winning Hindi movie by Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, because of its humanism: "Amritaji has portrayed the suffering of people of both the countries." Pinjar was shot in a border region of Rajasthan and in Punjab.

The first woman recipient of the Sahitya Akademi ward in 1956 for Sunehe (Messages), Amrita Pritam received the Bhartiya Jnanpith, India's highest literary award, in 1982 for Kagaj te Canvas (Paper and Canvas). She received the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award, as well. She received D Litt degrees, honoris causa, from Delhi, Jabalpur and Vishva Bharti Universities.

Amrita Pritam lived the last forty years of her life with the renowned artist, Imroz. She died on 31st October 2005 at the age of 86, after a long illness, survived by her daughter, Kundala; her son, Navraj; and her grandson, Aman.

Her story cannot be completed without the name of Sahir.
  • Sahitya Akademi Award (1956)
  • Padmashri (1969)
  • Delhi University confers its D. Litt. (1973)
  • Jabalpur Uniersity confers its D. Litt. (1973)
  • International Vaptsarove Award by the Republic of Bulgaria (1979)
  • Bharatiya Jnanpith (1981)
  • Vishwa Bharati, Shantiniketan, confers its D. Litt.(1987)
  • Degree of Officer dens/order des arts et des letters by the French Government (1987)

  • Pinjar
  • Doctor Dev
  • Kore Kagaz, Unchas Din
  • Sagar aur Seepian
  • Rang ka Patta
  • Dilli ki Galiyan
  • Terahwan Suraj
  • Yaatri
  • Rasidi Ticket
  • Shadows of Words
Short stories
  • Kahaniyan jo Kahaniyan Nahi
  • Kahaniyon ke Angan mein
  • Chuni Huyee Kavitayen
Literary Journal
  • Nagmani

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