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 Swarnalata Devi
Swarnalata Devi - A Symbol of Service & Sacrifice.

Swarnalata Devi holds a pride of place among women freedom fighters in India. She played significant roles in each and every movement arranged by Mahatma Gandhi. She was a poetess of considerable merit as well. She was an acme of humanity whose life was a saga of service and sacrifice.

Swarnalata Devi was born on 15th January, 1910 in the middle class intellectual Bengali family of Mr. Lalit Mohan Ghosal, a lover of freedom movement and close associate of Mr. Surendra Nath Banerjee, a leading name in Indian politics. Nationalism was raising its head in Swarnalata since her chiledhood when she was merely a student of eleven years.She read the Vedas and the Upanishads extensively.She had a mind mature enough to understand the price of freedom. She grew restless to break the shakles of slavery from the grip of the Britishers. It was Kumari swarnalata who received Mahatma Gandhi , when he visited calcutta in 1920 along with Kasturba ane Ali Bandhu, on behalf of the women of Bengal. she called Gandhiji " Daddhichi" and explained the term Non co-operation Movement to the audience. She denounced those indians who were supporting the British government for their petty gains. she made a humble but earnest request to all the students to into the main fray and play their constructive and creative roles in the non co-operation movement.

An ardent follower of swami Vivekanand, Swarnalataji travelled the lenght and breadth of the country to awaken the people and make them realise the value of Independce. She had been closely associated with the pioneering leaders of the freedom movement such as Motilal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malviya, Subhas chandra Bose Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Sampoornanand, Sri Shiva Prasad Gupta, Sri V.V.Giri and many more others. She beleived tha the real freedom could be achieved through the path shown by Gandhiji. She felt in the Charkha the power and pulse of sudarshan chakra of Lord Krishna. To her, political freedom was incomplete without economic liberty. She gave a call to boycott the foreign goods and adopt country-made things in day-to-day life. She was against the purda system and it was her belief that no social breakthrough could be possible without the active participation of the women.

Swarnalata was married to Shri Amarnath Chatterjee, the son of Shri Kumudnath Chatterjee ( Retired Professor of sanskrit, Cuttack) at Benares in 1930. As a result her political and social activities shifted from Bengal to Benares when leaders like Dr. Sampoornanand, Mr. Prakashji and Dr. abdul Karim were arrested in conneftion with the Civil dis-obedience Movement in 1930. Swarnalata Devi was also arrested within two hours and put into the prison. After coming out of the jail whe continued to work for the uplift of the weaker section of the society. some important educational institutions for girls were established at Benares by her sincere endeavour. She was a terrific orator and her words used to be charged with spontaneous emotions to move the audience so much so that once several women gladly donaterd their ornaments in the freedom funds at her request. She considered Hindi as the most powerful language for spreading the message of freedom to each a d every Indian, literate or illiterate. She learnt Hindi by dint of her hard work for which she had to go to Awadh.

The British Government was so upset by the political activities of Swarnalata Devi that a Warrant for her arrest was issued against her name. She knew it well that her mission would be hampered if she were put into the prison . so, she reached Shahajanpur from Benares and from Shahajanpur to chhapra along with her husband, two sons and a daughter. Swarnalataji could not imagine life without work. In the beginniung shw was an unknown figure at Chhapra ( Bihar ) but she became very popular soon. Henceforth Chhapra remained the central place for active social, political and cultural activities.

Swarnalata Devi was a source of inspiration for millions in our country. Her dynamic and dignified personalitgy had all the makings of a cultured figure. She was miles away from any lust for power, post or money. She left this earth for heavenly abode on August 27, 1973. The people of Chhapra love and respect Swarnalataji so immensely that her death anniversary is celebrated to recall her service and sacrifice every year with a great zeal. It is significant to note that Swarnalata Devi was first and foremost a poetesss and then anything else. Peotry was her life since her childhood. Many of her poems remain unpublished for want of money but it is a matter of pleasure that one collection of her poems was brought out under the title AHWAHAN ( The Call ) in 1921 by Herald Printing Press, Bahubazzar, Calcutta. She is more often than not compared to Sarojini Naidu for her sacrifice and love for poetry. It is not for nothing that Dr. Harivansh Ray Bachchan, an eminent Hindi poet, appreciated her poetic merit in these words : " The best poems of Swarnalataji should be published in a book form and an effort be made to reach them to the maximum people." Dr. Shyam Nandan Kishore, a prominent scholar in Hindi literature, too, believes that Swarnalata Devi has special significance as poetess.

Swarnalata Devi was a lady of multi-dimensional personality. Her life was a life of constant renunciation and incessant sacrifice. She was great in her life but after death she became greater. Here we must quote Dr. Kedar Nath Labh, a famous literary figure of Chhapra, who expressed his respects in the following lines :

" Words are but poor medium for thy praise
Yet eager to welcome with folded hands."

Courtesy : Dr. Saryug Yadav ( Published in the Hindustan Times on 26-01-2001) More in Hindi