Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian polymath who contributed greatly to the fields of literature, art, and philosophy. Referred to as the Bard of Bengal, Tagore is credited with reshaping Bengali literature and music. The first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore is also credited with composing the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.
Sarojini Naidu was an Indian poet and political activist. An important figure in the Indian Independence Movement, she was a proponent of anti-imperialistic ideas, women's rights, and civil rights. Her illustrious career as a poet earned her the nickname Nightingale of India. After India became independent, she became the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.
Savitribai Phule was a revolutionary social reformer who dedicated her life to educate girls and bring about gender equality in the face of resistance from the conservative Indian society. Phule, who was illiterate till her marriage, went on to become a teacher, a feat considered first by an Indian woman. With her husband, she established schools for girls in Maharashtra.
Sri Aurobindo was an Indian philosopher, poet, yogi, teacher, and nationalist. He was one of the most influential leaders of the Indian independence movement before becoming a spiritual reformer, focusing on spiritual evolution and human progress. He is credited with founding the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, which continues to serve spiritual aspirants from all over the world.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was an Indian social reformer and educator. He is best remembered for his efforts to modernize and simplify Bengali prose for which he is widely regarded as the father of Bengali prose. As a social reformer, Vidyasagar played a crucial role in enacting the Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act, which legalized the remarriage of Hindu widows in India.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.
Mirza Ghalib was an Indian poet whose works give a detailed description of the beginning of British rule and the subsequent events in India. A respected poet, who wrote in Urdu and Persian languages, Ghalib remains popular among the Hindustani diaspora across the world. Several films and TV shows have been made in his honor.
Iconic Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay is best known for his works such as Devdas, Srikanta, and Parineeta, many of which have been made into films. Born into a poverty-stricken family, he found solace in literature and began writing in his teens. He was a prominent figure of the Bengali Renaissance.
Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay was an Indian poet, novelist, and journalist. He is credited with composing India's national song, Vande Mataram, which personifies India as a mother goddess. The song played a major role in inspiring revolutionaries during India's struggle for independence. Dubbed Emperor of Literature, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote 14 novels alongside several poems.
An Indian lawyer and anti-colonial nationalist, Mahatma Gandhi was a major figure in India’s fight for independence from British rule. He is renowned for his employment of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience methods. Despite his popularity, he had numerous detractors as well and was assassinated in 1948. He is widely considered the Father of the Nation in India.
Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi, also known as Ala-Hazrat, was a renowned Islamic scholar and an Urdu poet. Born in Bareilly, British India, he belonged to a family of Rohilla Pushtuns who had migrated from Qandahar. He wrote about various subjects such as philosophy, science, and astronomy.
Jaishankar Prasad was an Indian poet and an important figure in modern Hindi theatre and Hindi literature. Along with Mahadevi Verma, Sumitranandan Pant, and Suryakant Tripathi, Prasad is counted among the Four Pillars of Romanticism in Hindi literature.
Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay was a Bengali writer born in British India. His autobiographical novel, Pather Panchali (The Song of the Road), is considered his magnum opus. As a young man, he worked in many odd jobs before becoming a writer. Many of his novels were adapted into films. In 1951, he was posthumously awarded the Rabindra Puraskar.
Maithili Sharan Gupt was a Hindi poet considered one of the most important modern poets in the language. He was a pioneer of Khari Boli (plain dialect) poetry. Most of his works were on patriotic themes, and he was widely quoted during India’s independence struggle. Indian nationalist Mahatma Gandhi gave Gupt the title of Rashtra Kavi.
Bharatendu Harishchandra was a 19th-century Hindi writer and poet who is regarded as the father of Hindi literature as well as Hindi theater. He authored numerous dramas, travel accounts, and life sketches. He mainly wrote about the issues faced by Indians, such as poverty, exploitation, and class struggles. A nationalist, he urged Indians to prioritize Indian-made products.
Bipin Chandra Pal was an Indian nationalist, social reformer, writer, orator, and freedom fighter. Along with Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal was part of the famous Lal Bal Pal triumvirate. Pal played a key role in the establishment of the Swadeshi movement. He also worked for popular publications and promoted his brand of nationalism.
Michael Madhusudan Dutt was an Indian poet, dramatist, and writer who predominantly wrote in the Bengali language. A pioneer of Bengali drama, Dutt is widely considered the most skilled poet in the history of Bengali literature. His life and career inspired the 1950 drama film Michael Madhusudhan, in which Dutt was played by Indian actor Utpal Dutt.
Rahul Sankrityayan was an Indian freedom fighter and writer. A polyglot, Sankrityayan loved traveling and helped develop travelogue writing as a literary form in India. Dubbed the father of Indian travelogue, Rahul Sankrityayan wrote several travelogues having spent 45 years on travels away from home. In 1963, he was honored with India's third-highest civilian honor, the Padma Bhushan.
22 D. R. Bendre
D. R. Bendre was an Indian poet and writer. Regarded as the 20th century's greatest Kannada lyric poet, Bendre is also considered one of the greatest Kannada-language poets of all time. Bendre was honored with India's highest literary award, the Jnanpith Award, in 1973. He was also honored with the Sahitya Akademi and Padma Shri for his contribution to literature.
Ramaswamy Krishnamurthy, better known by his pseudonym Kalki, is remembered for his immense contribution to Tamil literature, which included his short stories, novels, and novellas. His social novel Alai Osai won him a Sahitya Akademi award. He also used the pseudonym Karnatakam to write as a film and music critic.
Swami Sivananda was an Indian yoga guru and spiritual teacher. Sivananda was working as a physician before embracing monasticism. He is credited with founding a spiritual organization called the Divine Life Society (DLS) which currently has branches around the world. His disciple Vishnudevananda popularized a spiritual yoga system which is named after Swami Sivananda.
Vallathol Narayana Menon was an Indian poet who predominantly wrote in the Malayalam language. A nationalist poet, Menon played an important role during the Indian freedom movement by writing poems that evoked a sense of nationalism. The founder of Kerala Kalamandalam, Menon is also credited with reinvigorating Kathakali, one of the most popular Indian classical dances.
27 Sukumar Ray
Sukumar Ray was a 19th-century Bengali writer and poet born in British India. He is most remembered for his writings for children. He was born into a prominent family as the son of a famous writer, painter, and instrumentalist. Sukumar Ray worked during the pinnacle of the Bengal Renaissance and was close friends with Rabindranath Tagore.
Known as the Revolutionary Poet, Kanagasabai Subburathnam, or Bharathidasan, was a significant figure of Tamil literature. With his writings, he supported the Dravidian movement. The Sahitya Akademi Award winner also penned the state song of Pondicherry, Tamil Thai Valthu, and wrote gems such as the Golden Parrot-winning play Amaithi-Oomai.
Henry Louis Vivian Derozio was an Anglo-Indian poet who became the assistant headmaster of Hindu College, Kolkata. He was born to a Christian Indo-Portuguese father and an English mother in British India. A brilliant young man, he was a radical thinker of his time, and his activities kindled the intellectual revolution in Bengal. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 22.
Bhai Vir Singh was an Indian poet, scholar, and theologian. He was a prominent figure of the Sikh revival movement and made significant contributions to the renewal of Punjabi literary tradition. The son of a physician, he received both traditional indigenous training as well as modern English education. He was one of the founders of the Punjab & Sind Bank.
Born in British India, K. M. Panikkar was educated at Oxford. Apart from teaching at the University of Calcutta and the Aligarh Muslim University, he also worked with Hindustan Times as a journalist. A diplomat in his later life, he had also been an ambassador to China, France, and Egypt.
Jurist and political leader Sayyid Amir Ali supported British rule in India rather than what he thought would be a Hindu-dominated rule in independent India. A Calcutta High Court judge, he was behind the formation of India’s first mosque and also established the National Mohammedan Association. He also penned English interpretations of Islam.
Gurazada Apparao was a noted Indian playwright, poet, dramatist, and writer. He is remembered for the significant contribution he made to Telugu theater. His play Kanyasulkam (1892) is widely considered the greatest play in the Telugu language. Born in British India, he was a nationalist who composed the Telugu patriotic song "Desamunu Preminchumanna.”
Surendranath Dasgupta was an Indian scholar, teacher, and writer. An influential scholar, Dasgupta is best remembered for his book A History of Indian Philosophy, which is among his most-read works. He also served as a professor in popular institutions like Chittagong College and Presidency College.
Anglican cleric Frederic Farrar is best remembered for the tales of school life that he had penned in the novel Eric, or, Little by Little. As a philologist, he applied Charles Darwin’s theory to the evolution of languages. He had even been a pallbearer at Darwin’s funeral.
39 Mah Laqa Bai
Born to a courtesan mother in Aurangabad, as Chanda Bibi, Mah Laqa Bai mastered Deccani Kathak. She grew up to be a refined woman, skilled in everything from martial arts to poetry. Remembered for her fine ghazals and Urdu poetry, she was also the courtesan of the Nizam of Hyderabad.
Known for his mastery over English, Indian orator V. S. Srinivasa Sastri was also a noted independence activist, politician and writer. A close follower of Gopal Krishna Gokhale and a friend of Mahatma Karamchand Gandhi, he took part in various international delegations and was seen as too sympathetic to British rule in India by many nationalistic leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru.
Dinshah Fardunji Mulla, or Dinshaw Mulla, initially co-founded the law firm Mulla & Mulla, which later merged with an English firm. An author of numerous law textbooks and a professor of law, he was later knighted for his achievements. He was also a member of the Privy Council.
42 I. C. Chacko
Adela Florence Nicolson was a 19th-century English poet. She initially wrote under the pseudonym Laurence Hope but eventually gained fame as Violet Nicolson. She spent many years in India owing to her father’s job and was influenced by the works of Indian poets and the Sufi poets of Persia. She died of suicide at the age of 39.