Written by Agastya Sharma, a grade 8 student (junior editor at I Kid You Not).
“The heart of the earth beats steadily, and the branches make flowers guests to their homes.”
“The paper of age now holds the fingerprint of your love.”
Such beautiful lines as these are tributes to the legacy of Amrita Pritam, one of the Indian subcontinent’s many legendary writers. Amrita Pritam will forever be remembered as one of the greatest poets to ever live in the hearts of many Indians. Her 102nd Birthday was celebrated recently
Who was she?
Amrita Pritam was born on the 31st of August, 1919, in Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab, which is presently in Pakistan. She was an only child to Raj Bibi and Kartar Singh Hitkari, both scholars, and Raj Bibi also teaching in a school.
Amrita’s mother passed away in 1930 when Amrita was eleven. She and her father moved to Lahore after that, until her migration to India after the partition in 1947. She went through a stage of depression and loneliness following the passing of her mother, during which she penned her first series of poems, names Amrit Lehran (Immortal Waves). These poems were published in 1936, also the year she was married to Pritam Singh, when she changed her name to Amrita Pritam. Six more anthologies of poems were published in the consecutive seven years.
The writing years
She joined the Progressive Writers’ Movement (also known as the Akhil Bhartiya Pragatishil Lekhak Sangh), and she then wrote a new collection of poems, Lok Peed (The Anguish of the People). It spoke out about the crumbling economy and the problems of the country in 1944, such as the Bengal Famine which occurred only a year prior.
The Partition of India left roughly a million people across religions, castes, creeds, and backgrounds dead due to the communal violence committed on both sides of the newly formed border. Amrita Pritam, now a 28-year-old Punjabi refugee, fled to New Delhi. Later that year, pregnant with her child, while travelling to Dehradun, she wrote the poem that would immortalize her forever, “Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu”, an ode to Waris Shah, another writer with whom she shared her birthplace. To this date, this poem remains a reminder of the tragedy of the partition.
Amrita Pritam has been honored with multiple awards, such as the Punjab Rattan Award (the first person to ever get it), and the Sahitya Akademi Award (the first female to receive it), etc. She received both the Bhartiya Jnanpith Award, and the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, two of India’s highest literary awards. She is also a recipient of both the Padma Shri and the Padma Vibhushan, two of India’s most prestigious civilian honors.
All in all, Amrita Pritam has led an incredibly eventful life, painted with the colours of tragedy, success, sorrow, and happiness. She passed away 16 years ago, on the 31st of October in 2005. She will always be embedded in the memories of people on either side of the border and will be immortalized in the halls of literature.