Classic Author Focus: Amrita Pritam

Amrita Pritam

With over 100 books of poetry, fiction, biography, and essays, Amrita Pritam is beloved on both sides of the India-Pakistan border. She is considered the first major woman Punjabi poet and wrote in both Punjabi and Hindi.

Born in the Punjab to a father who was schoolteacher and a preacher of the Sikh faith and a mother who was a poet, she began writing at an early age, publishing her first poetry at the age of sixteen. Her mother died when she was eleven, at which time she and her father moved to Lahore, now part of Pakistan. Her early work was romantic, but she soon became engaged in the Progressive Writer’s Movement and then began to write politically and perform social work.

When India was partitioned, she moved across the border to India. It was at that time that she wrote her most famous poem, “Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu” (I Ask Waris Shah Today), about the horrors of partition. After a divorce in 1960, she became a feminist and based much of her work on her unhappy marriage.

Pritam received many awards from several different countries, including India’s most prestigious literary award, the Bhartiya Jnanpith Award, and for some of them was the first female recipient. She has had some of her works made into films, and a film is currently being made about her life.

Dates: 1919-2005

Most popular work: “Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu,” Dharti Sagar te Sippiyan, Pinjar, Sunehade, Kagaz Te Kanvas

Other work: Black Rose, Rang ka Patta, Jiunda Jiwan, and many other volumes of poetry, novels, autobiography, and short stories

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