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.
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.
Famed Indian lyricist, poet, author, screenwriter, and film director Gulzar has been a major figure in Bollywood for over six decades. He started doing odd jobs as a teenager and eventually entered films, where he made a name for himself as a lyricist and screenwriter. He soon started directing films as well. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards.
Born into a family of Urdu poets from Gwalior, renowned Indian lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar had initially been a screenwriter, along with Salim Khan, for films such as Sholay and Deewaar. The Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan winner has also been a Rajya Sabha MP.
A pioneer of Hindi romantic poetry and the Chhayavaad movement, Harivanshrai Bachchan is best remembered for his book of 135 quatrains, Madhushala. He was the first Indian to earn a PhD in English literature from Cambridge University. He was also the father of legendary Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan.
One of the greatest Kannada literary figures to have ever lived, Jnanpith Award- and Padma Vibhushan-winning author Kuvempu had written the state anthem of Karnataka, Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate. He was also an academic who had served as the Mysore University vice-chancellor and often voiced his concerns on social issues.
The Rebel Poet of Bengal Kazi Nazrul Islam is remembered for his vast body of literary work, including poems and songs written during the British Raj, mostly laced with socio-political overtones. His songs, known as Nazrul Geeti, are the staple for any Bengali household. He is also Bangladesh’s national poet.
Amrita Pritam was an Indian poet, essayist, and novelist who wrote in Hindi and Punjabi languages. She is widely regarded as the first major female Punjabi poet and the leading Punjabi-language poet of the 20th century. In 1956, she was honored with the Sahitya Akademi Award, becoming the first woman to receive the prestigious award.
Kumar Vishwas is a Hindi poet, politician and lecturer. He was an active member of the anti-corruption movement, Indian Against Corruption, and was also one of the founder members of Aam Aadmi Party. Kumar Vishwas is known for his comments on topical issues relating to 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.
Vikram Seth is an Indian poet and novelist. He is credited with increasing the readership of the English language in India. A revered and celebrated writer, Vikram Seth has been honored with several prestigious awards, such as the Sahitya Academy Award, WH Smith Literary Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, Crossword Book Award, Padma Shri, Commonwealth Poetry Prize, and Commonwealth Writers Prize.
Urdu poet Rahat Indori had an illustrious and versatile career as a painter, a Bollywood lyricist, and a professor. A regular at poetry events such as Kavi Sammelan, he was known for his captivating couplets such as Kisi Ke Baap Ka Hindustan Thodi Hai. He died of COVID-19 in 2020.
Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning Indian author Mahasweta Devi is regarded as a gem of the Bengali literary world. She had also been a left-wing social activist, and her works such as Hajar Churashir Maa and Rudali have either tribals or people from the marginalized communities as their protagonists.
Purushottam Laxman Deshpande was an Indian writer, humorist, actor, scriptwriter, musician, composer, and orator. Over the course of his illustrious career, Deshpande won several prestigious awards, such as the Padma Bhushan, Sahitya Akademi Award, Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, and Kalidas Samman. He was also known for his social and philanthropic activities. His life inspired a couple of films and documentaries.
Ramdhari Singh Dinkar was an Indian poet, academic, patriot, and essayist. Regarded as one of the most prominent modern Hindi poets, Dinkar played an important role during the Indian independence movement,; writing poems that sparked nationalism. In 1959, he was honored with the prestigious Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian award. The same year, he also received the Sahitya Akademi Award.
Padma Shri- and Padma Bhushan-winning Indian lyricist, poet, and author Vairamuthu went from being a translator of law books to one of the most significants Tamil literary figures. The song Chinna Chinna Aasai from the film Roja was written by him and won him one of his seven National Awards.
Kannadasan was an Indian poet, lyricist, philosopher, scriptwriter, and philanthropist. Widely regarded as one of the greatest Indian lyricists of all time, Kannadasan wrote about 6000 poems, 5000 film songs, and 232 books. Best known for his work in the Tamil film industry, Kannadasan became the first lyricist to win the National Film Award for Best Lyrics in 1969.
Kamala Suraiyya, also known by her pen-name Madhavikutty and by her married name Kamala Das, was a Malayali poet who is remembered for her liberal treatment of female sexuality in her works. Her writings, such as Summer in Calcutta, form an integral part of Indian literature written in English.
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.
A leading figure of the Chhayavad movement of Hindi literature, Indian author Mahadevi Varma was also a Jnanpith Award and Padma Bhushan winner. A champion of women’s rights, she contributed to the establishment of the Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth for educating girls. She also developed the soft Khadi boli.
Gwangju Prize-winning human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila, also known as the Iron Lady of Manipur, made international headlines with her 16-year hunger strike to urge the Indian government to repeal the AFSPA Act. She later married British citizen Desmond Coutinho and is now a mother to twin daughters.
Shiv Kumar Batalvi was an Indian writer, poet, and playwright who predominantly wrote in the Punjabi language. In 1967, he became the youngest person to receive the Sahitya Akademi Award for his epic verse play Loona, which is regarded as a masterpiece in Punjabi literature. The Shiv Kumar Batalvi Auditorium, which is located in Batala, was constructed in his honor.
Kusumagraj was an Indian poet, novelist, playwright, and short-story writer. He played an important role during the Indian independence movement, writing about freedom and justice and inspiring several people to take part in the freedom movement. Over the course of his career, Kusumagraj won many prestigious awards, including the Jnanapith Award, Sahitya Akademi Award, and Padma Bhushan.
Padma Shri and Sahitya Akademi Award-winning Indian author Nabaneeta Dev Sen is revered as one of the greatest figures of Bengali literature. Born to a poet couple, Nabaneeta was christened by Rabindrananth Tagore. She was also an academic and was married to economist Amartya Sen for almost 2 decades.
Jnanpith- and Padma Shri-winning author Amitav Ghosh is best known for his iconic bestselling books such as The Calcutta Chromosome and The Hungry Tide. Initially employed with the Indian Express, he later also wrote for publications such as The New Yorker. He is also a regular at international film festivals.
Majrooh Sultanpuri was an Indian Urdu poet and lyricist. A much-respected figure in India's Hindi language film industry, he wrote Hindustani lyrics for Hindi film soundtracks. He was a towering figure in Indian cinema in the mid-20th-century and a key personality in the Progressive Writers' Movement. He received the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1993.
Sahir Ludhianvi was an Indian poet and film lyricist best remembered for his works written in the Hindi and Urdu languages. He wrote lyrics for a number of memorable Hindi film songs. He was a member of the Progressive Writers’ Movement. Sahir was a staunch secularist, and he did not practise any religion
One of the most significant pillars of the Chhayavaadi movement of Hindi literature, Padma Bhushan-winning poet Sumitranandan Pant most wrote in Sanskrit-influenced Hindi. Born in Kausani, as Gosain Dutt, he later changed his name. Known for his socialist themes, he also penned the Kulgeet of IIT Roorkee.
Srirangam Srinivasa Rao, popularly known as Sri Sri, was an Indian poet and lyricist known for his works in Telugu. Considered a radical poet, he wrote about contemporary issues and introduced free verse into his poetry. He was a member of the Sahitya Akademi and the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including a Nandi Award and a Sahitya Akademi Award.
Irshad Kamil is an Indian lyricist and poet best known for writing lyrics for songs in the Hindi film industry. Renowned for his work in films like Jab We Met, Raanjhanaa, and Aashiqui 2, Kamil is one of the most decorated Hindi lyricists of his generation.
Punjabi folk and Sufi singer Satinder Pal Singh, better known as Satinder Sartaaj, not only boasts of a PhD in Sufi singing but has also created his own musical instrument, the Saaz-e-Sartaj. He also appeared as Maharaja Duleep Singh in the Hollywood film The Black Prince.
Best remembered for her poem Jhansi ki Rani, Indian poet Subhadra Kumari Chauhan had also been part of the Non-Cooperation Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and was jailed twice. Her works were written in the simple Khariboli dialect of Hindi. An Indian Coast Guard ship has been named after her.
Indian polymath and environmentalist K. Shivaram Karanth, who enriched Kannada literature with his novels and plays, was named the "Rabindranath Tagore of Modern India" by Ramachandra Guha. He had quit college to join the Non-Cooperation Movement and later returned his Padma Bhushan to protest against the Emergency of the 1970s.
O. N. V. Kurup was an Indian poet and lyricist who wrote predominantly for the Malayalam film industry. One of the most respected Malayalam writers of his generation, Kurup received several prestigious awards during his lifetime. In 2007, he was honored with India's highest literary award, the Jnanpith Award. In 2011, he received India's second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan.
Indian social reformer and Malayali literary icon Kumaran Asan is known for his revolutionary impact on Malayali poetry. He died when the boat carrying him from Kollam to Alappuzha met with an accident midway. He is remembered for his works such as his iconic narrative poem Duravastha.
Jan Nisar Akhtar was an Indian poet and lyricist best remembered for working with prominent composers like O.P. Nayyar and C. Ramchandra. Also renowned for his Urdu ghazals, Jan Nisar won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 1976 for his work Khak-e-Dil.
Chandrashekhara Kambara is an Indian poet, folklorist, playwright, and film director. Although he is best known for his works in the Kannada language, Kambara's contribution as a playwright has benefitted the Indian theatre in general. Over the years, he has been honored with several prestigious awards, such as the Jnanpith Award, Sahitya Akademi Award, Pampa Award, and Padma Bhushan.
Sugathakumari was an Indian activist and poet who played a major role in Kerala's feminist and environmental movements in the late-1970s. She is credited with founding organizations like Prakrithi Samrakshana Samithi and Abhaya, which work towards protecting nature and safeguarding women and the mentally ill respectively. During her lifetime, she was honored with several prestigious awards like the Padma Shri.
Balamani Amma was a 20th-century Indian poet who wrote in Malayalam. Even though she received no formal education as a child, she learned to read and write from her uncle Nalapat Narayana Menon, an acclaimed writer. She numerous poems and prose works and was a recipient of many awards, including the Padma Bhushan, Saraswati Samman, and Sahitya Akademi Award.
Ramchandra Narayanji Dwivedi, better known as Kavi Pradeep, was a renowned poet-lyricist who had penned scores of nationalistic songs, such as the ever-popular Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo and Aao Bachcho Tumhein Dikhayen. He was a regular at poets’ meets or Kavi Sammelans and had also been named the Rashtrakavi.
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.
Padma Bhushan-winning Malayali poet and G. Sankara Kurup, also known as Mahakavi G, was the recipient of the prestigious Jnanpith Award. An academic who taught Malayalam at Maharaja's College, Ernakulam, he soared to fame with his books such as Odakkuzhal and also served as a Rajya Sabha MP.
C. Narayana Reddy was an Indian writer and poet who predominantly wrote in the Telugu language. A prolific writer, Reddy produced more than 80 literary works including ghazals, lyrical plays, prose-plays, poems, and translations. In 1973, he received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his work Mantalu Manavudu. In 1988, he was honored with the prestigious Jnanpith Award for Viswambhara.