5 Prominent Bengali Authors from the Pre-Tagore Era

- February 11, 2022


By Srinidhi Murthy

The Modern Bengali Literature Era (i.e. post-1800), gave birth to numerous classic novels, biographies, religious texts and various poetic genres. Here is the list of some authors from Bengal, who will always be remembered for pioneering this golden period of Bengali literature.

Rassundari Devi (1809-1899)
Illustration: Narendra Pardhi

Rassundari Devi was the first Bengali author to write an autobiography. Her book, titled Aamar Jiban (My Life), was published in two parts, the first part in 1876 and the second, in 1906. Born in 1809, Rassundari Devi was raised by her widowed mother. As a child, she learnt the Bengali alphabets by repeating what was taught in the boys’ school that was held in her house. At the young age of 12, Rassundari Devi became a child bride. She learnt to read by herself post-marriage, due to her desire to read Chaitanya Bhagavatha. Rassundari Devi was the first woman in Bengali literature to write about topics such as her hardships as a child bride, the difficulties she endured to gain literacy and the experiences of her pregnancy and childbirth. She wrote about her experiences in a time when speaking about these issues was considered taboo for women. Her life is an inspirational tale of a woman who fought against all odds to fulfil her desire for literacy.

Peary Chand Mitra (1814-1883)
Illustration: Narendra Pardhi

Born in Calcutta in 1814, Peary Chand Mitra is known for his contribution to the development of Bangla literature and Journalism in Bengal. His most noted novel, Alaler Gharer Dulal (The Spoilt Child) was published in 1857, under the pseudonym Tek Chand Thakur. This was one of the earliest Bengali novels and Mitra wrote it in colloquial language i.e. cholitobhasa, instead of using a formal literary style. His simple prose style was later also used by notable writers like Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. This colloquial form and style later came to be known as the Alali language. At a young age, Mitra learnt Persian and he started to learn English only when he joined Hindu College in 1827. He was a regular contributor to Bengali weekly newspapers such as Hindu Patriot, Calcutta Review, Bengal......

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