Born On: August 31, 1919
Born In: Gujranwala, British India
Died On: 31st October, 2005
Career: Novelist, poet, essayist
Amrita Pritam is considered to be one of the most well-known female writers. A versatile talent who penned poems, novels, short stories, essays, and autobiographies, she is best remembered for her elegy on the partition of Punjab. Many describe Amrita Pritam as the goddess of defiance, a rebel and a revolutionary who lived her life with utmost intensity. She had an admirable influence on Punjabi literature. Often a household name in Punjab, she was one of the most eminent of poets and fiction writers. In spite of her poor health, she remained active till the end, working as the editor of a Punjabi magazine. Though she migrated to Delhi after independence, she lived and still lives in the hearts of people in both India and Pakistan. In her six decade literary career, she became the first woman to be honoured with a Sahitya Academy Award. Her autobiography is quite a hit and has been translated into many Indian languages.
Amrita Pritam was born in Gujranwala in Punjab (now in Pakistan) on 31st August, 1919. She was the only child to Kartar Singh Hitkari who was a school teacher and a scholar. Her father was also a Sikh preacher and the editor of a literary journal. After her mother's death in 1930, when she was eleven, Amrita and her father moved to Lahore where she lived until her migration to Delhi in 1947. The early demise of her mother left her in a state of isolation and saw her handling many adult-like responsibilities at a very young age. This led her to writing poetry as a young girl. She started her literary career as a romantic poet. Her leanings towards romance can be seen in 'Amrit Lehren' (Immortal Waves) in 1936. When she was sixteen, Amrita married Pritam Singh, an editor to whom she was engaged to when she was a child.
}Though Amrita Pritam started her career as a romantic poet, her career took an important turn as she was influenced by feminist movements. She played an active role in the 'Progressive Writers Movement', the influence of which could be seen in her works. Her work, 'Lok Peeth' (People's Anguish) openly critisises the war torn economy after the Bengal famine of 1943. After independence, she was part of Guru Radha Kishan's initiative to put together first Janta library in Delhi which was inaugurated by Aruna Asaf Ali and Balraj Sahni.
In 1947, following the partition of India, Amrita migrated to Delhi. While she was traveling from Dehradun to Delhi, she penned her anguish over the partition on a piece of paper which was later immortalized into a poem. The poem 'Ajj akhaan Waris Shah nu' (I ask Waris Shah Today) portrays the horrors that occurred during the partition of India. Till 1961, Amrita Pritam worked at the All India Radio in Delhi. In 1960, her marriage with Pritam Singh found itself on the rocks. This change in her life made her a feminist of sorts. Many of her stories and poems portrayed the unhappy experiences of her married life. Her works including her autobiographies have been translated into English, French, Danish and Japanese from Urdu and Punjabi.
Many of her stories were made into films. Her novel 'Pinjaar' (The Skeleton, 1970) which was made into a film, was an award winning movie. She was also the editor of a Punjabi monthly literary magazine called 'Nagmani' which she ran along with Imroz, the man who was her partner at the time of her death. She started writing the introductions for several books of Osho, one of them being 'Ek Omkar Satnam'. She produced works on spiritual themes and dreams like 'Kaal Chethna' (Time Consciousness') and 'Agyat ka Nimantran' (Call of the Unknown'). Amrita published autobiographies such as 'Black Rose' ('Kala Gulab' in Punjabi, 1968), 'Revenue Stamp' ('Raseedi Tikkat' in Punjabi, 1976) and 'Aksharon ka Saayee' ('Shadows of Words'). 'Sunehray' ('Golden'), can be considered her magnum opus. It fetched Amrita the Sahitya academy award in 1956. 'Kagaz te Canvas' ('Paper and Canvas'), yet another masterpiece of her, helped her qualify for the Jnanapit Award in 1982.
Contributions To Literature
In a literary career which lasted for over six decades, Amrita Pritam authored one hundred books which included poems, essays, novels and autobiographies, thus enriching the Punjabi language.
'Doctor Dev', 'Kore Kagaz, Unchas Din', 'Sagar aur Seepian', 'Rang ka Patta', 'Dilli ki Galiyan', 'Terahwan Suraj', 'Yaatri', 'Jilavatan' (1968).
'Kala Gulab', 1968, 'Rasidi Ticket' (1976), 'Aksharon ka Saayee' (2004).
'Kahaniyan Jo Kahaniyan Nahi', 'Kahaniyon ke Angan mein', 'Stench of Kerosene'
'Amrit Lehran' (Immortal Waves) (1936), 'Jiunda Jiwan' (The Exuberant Life) (1939), '
'Trel Dhote Phul' (1942), 'O Gitan Valia' (1942), 'Badlam De Laali' (1943), 'Sanjh de
laali' (1943), 'Lok Peera' (The People's Anguish) (1944), 'Pathar Geetey' (The Pebbles)
(1946), 'Punjabi Di Aawaaz' (1952), 'Sunehray' (Messages) (1955), 'Ashoka Cheti'
(1957, 'Kasturi' (1957), 'Nagmani' (1964), 'Ik Si Anita' (1964), 'Chak Nambar Chatti'
(1964),'Uninja Din (49 Days)' (1979), 'Kagaz Te Kanvas' (1981), and 'Chuni Huyee
Amrita Pritam, after a long drawn illness, breathed her last in New Delhi on 31st October, 2005.
In 2007, noted lyricist Gulzar released an audio album titled 'Amrita recited by Gulzar'
which includes poems of Amrita Pritam recited by him.
Awards and Accolades