Smt. Sarala Devi

Born :- 19-Aug-1904
Died :- 04-Oct-1986
Place of Birth :- Narilo, Balikuda, Jagatsinghpur

Sarala Devi was born in Narilo village under Balikuda in Jagatsinghpur under the undivided Cuttack district. Her father’s name was Basudev Kanungo and mother’s name was Padmavati Devi. After her birth, she spent her childhood under the tutelage of Hemant Kumari and Balamukunda. Sarala Devi was the granddaughter of the famous Nandkishore Das who then worked as superintendent of the princely states.

At that time, Sarala Devi passed the matriculation examination with appreciable marks but was denied higher education by the family head. So Hemant Kumari hired a Christian teacher and arranged for her study of English and Bengali. Her Sharp memory helped her make great strides in education.

Sarala Devi, from her childhood days, fought against the evil practices prevalent in the society. Following the declaration of Odisha as a separate state in 1936, the Congress fielded candidates for the state Assembly under the rule of provincial autonomy. She was the first woman legislator in the Odisha Legislative Assembly. She introduced Bills to amend the Child Marriage Act and abolish the Poili Act and got them passed without much opposition. She also raised her voice in the Assembly against various social evils, which, she believed, hindered progress. She served as Speaker of the state Assembly for one day. She was the first and the foremost woman to try to adopt Odia as the official language.

For long ten years from 1922 to 1952, Sarala Devi was secretary and vice-president respectively of the Utkal Sahitya Samaj, the oldest literary institution of the state. She was the first female director of the Cooperative Bank.

Sarala Devi was fascinated by literature since early age. A monthly magazine called ‘Paricharika’, published between 1325 and 1324, contains a number of write-ups contributed by her. They include – ‘Dhairyashali Samrajni – Shaivya’ (The Patient Empress – Saivya), ‘Kalpita Mrutyu’ (Death as Contemplated) and ‘Pratikshya’ (The Wait). Her writings were also published in the manually scripted ‘Alaka’ magazine published by the Alaka ashram as also in prominent magazines like Sahakar, Nav Bharat and many others. Realising the need to raise awareness, she wrote short books on public education, women's legal rights and so on. She set up a publishing house named Hindustan Granthabali and was its secretary. She edited a magazine titled Sabita in 1935 in which she gave her opinions on contemporary issues.  In 1935, Hindustan Sahitya Mandir published two essay books by Sarala Devi under the titles ‘Bharatiya Mahila Prasanga’ (About Indian Women) and ‘Nari Jagat’ (The Women’s World). Some other books and novels such as ‘Ray Ramananda’, ‘Sarala Mahabharatare Nari Charitra’ (Women Characters in Sarala Mahabharata) and ‘Basanti’ were her great contributions to Odia literature.

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