Amrita Pritam: Celebrating 100 Years of the Fierce Fearless Poetess

Amrita Pritam is one of the most famous literary icons of India. We celebrate 100 years of her poetry and prose with this homage.

In this era we see many strong women fighting for their rights, raising their voices and excelling in their fields. But if I take you 100 years back, can you imagine how women were back then? Someone who has lived that era would certainly be aware of the iconic name- Amrita Pritam.

Celebrating her 100th Birth anniversary here is all that you should know about the poetess.

Young Amrita Kaur was born in Gujranwala, Punjab in (undivided British India), now Pakistan. Born to a father who was a school teacher and a small-time poet, she was brought up in a pious environment where she inherited Sikh learning from her father. At an early age of 11, her mother Raj Bibi passed away. She had an isolated teenage without her mother. But soon after her demise, she indulged herself into writing.

Living through history, she was quite vocal about her fearless thoughts. It might be speaking her heart through the romantic poetry or verses which showed the condition of the failing economy in the era of 1940s. In the year 1944, she gave her first social poetry under the title ‘Lok Peed’, in which she criticized the economy being depleted by the Second World War and the disastrous Bengal famine of 1943.

amrita pritam

Later, she also wrote immortal pieces like Aj aakhaan Waris Shah nu, when she witnessed the Partition of her own nation. Understanding the pain and anguish of the people who lived through that phase she penned their feelings in words that are remembered even 73 years later. Not only her poems but her novel Pinjar is one of the most memorable pieces that she has penned. Creating a character named Puro, she showed how there was violence against women and loss of humanity in the dark phase of partition.

People often raised their fingers at her unconventional love life, but she always did what her heart agreed to. Married at a young age of 16, she suffered through an unhappy marriage for a long time. Being in that marriage she fell for a fellow poet named Sahir Ludhanvi. Already married yet attracted to Sahir, she often scribbled his names on the empty sheets.

Finally, Amrita parted ways with her husband in 1960 when her love for Sahir was at the peak. Not getting back the love she expected, she soon found peace with Imroz who was there till her last breath. Renowned artiste Imroz designed the book covers and made her the subject of several paintings. They didn’t get married but he was a father to her children and stayed with her in Delhi. The profoundness of their relationship can be read through her book named Amrita – Imroz by Uma Trilok.

amrita pritam

Amrita Pritam penned a total of 28 novels, 18 anthologies (prose), 16 miscellaneous volumes of prose, and five short stories. She has been honored with many national and international awards in her career. She was the first female to receive the Punjab Rattan Award. Also, she was the first woman to Sahitya Akademi Award’ for one of her poems titled ‘Sunehade’. Other than these she has also been honored with Bhartiya Jnanpith Award which is the highest literary award. In 2004, she was bestowed with Sahitya Akademi Fellowship,’ the highest literary award given by the academy. Amrita Pritam also received India’s fourth-highest civilian award – Padma Shri – for her contribution towards arts and literature. In 2004, she was honored with Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second-highest civilian award.

Talking about her international achievements the Republic of Bulgaria honored her with the ‘International Vaptsarov Award,’ named after a Bulgarian poet and revolutionary. The French Government recognized her works in 1987, when she received ‘Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.’

Though she left us on October 31, 2005, still her poetry and her fierceness is still what we look up to today. She seems to be with us through her immortal writings which continue to inspire us.

Prakriti Malhotra


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