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.
Remembered as one of the greatest authors of Indian literature in English, R. K. Narayan created the iconic character Swami and related his experiences set in the fictional town of Malgudi. The Sahitya Akademi and Padma Vibhushan winner was also the brother of cartoonist R.K. Laxman.
Apart from her bestselling books such as The God of Small Things, Man Booker Prize-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy is also known for her left-wing political activism. Born to a Syrian Christian mother and an Indian Hindu father, Roy had initially studied architecture and worked as a script writer.
Known for his bestselling book Train to Pakistan, Khushwant Singh was a reputed lawyer, politician, and journalist. He was also known for his widely popular column With Malice towards One and All, which was featured in many Indian newspapers. His post-colonial writings mirrored his wit and sarcasm.
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.
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.
Born in London, to an Indian couple, Shashi Tharoor is known for his award-winning books such as the The Great Indian Novel and his over-the-top English vocabulary. Tharoor is also a Congress MP. He made headlines when his wife Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in a luxury hotel.
10 Amitav Ghosh
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.
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.
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.
Mulk Raj Anand was an Indian writer best remembered for his depiction of the people belonging to the backward class in traditional Indian society. Anand, who wrote in English, was one of the first Indian writers to achieve an International readership. In 1968, Mulk Raj Anand was honored with India's third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan.
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.
16 Anita Desai
Educated at IIM Calcutta, Amish Tripathi was initially a banker. He soared to fame with his debut book The Immortals of Meluha, which not just set the tone for his equally successful later books of the Shiva Trilogy but also won him several awards. He later also led London’s Nehru Centre.
18 Sudha Murty
Known for her humility and simplicity, Indian philanthropist and author Sudha Murty had humble beginnings as a TELCO engineer. She is married to Infosys co-founder Narayan Murty and heads the Infosys Foundation. The Padma Shri winner has penned over 200 titles, such as Dollar Bahu, in both Kannada and English.
Best known for his Man Booker Prize-winning debut novel The White Tiger, Indian author Aravind Adiga was born in Chennai but later moved to Sydney. Educated at Columbia University and Oxford, he has also worked for Financial Times and as a South Asia correspondent for Time.
Known as MT to his fans, M. T. Vasudevan Nair is a legendary figure of Malayali literature. He gained popularity with works such as Naalukettu and Asuravithu, which mostly reflected the social and cultural aspects of his home state, Kerala. He is also a National Award-winning screenplay writer.
21 Kiran Desai
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.
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.
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.
Renowned journalist Sagarika Ghose was an Oxford Rhodes scholar before she joined media giants such as The Times of India and CNN-IBN. Apart from being the daughter of Indian civil servant and theater personality Bhaskar Ghose, she is also the wife of popular journalist Rajdeep Sardesai.
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.
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.
Na. Muthukumar was an Indian poet, author, and lyricist who predominantly worked in the Tamil film industry. He is credited with writing several popular film songs and is widely regarded as one of the most successful lyricists of his generation. During his illustrious career, Muthukumar won several prestigious awards, including two National Film Awards for Best Lyrics.
Indian mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik has redefined the genres of Indian folklore, legends and myths by retelling ancient tales through his books. A qualified physician, he later studied comparative mythology and penned bestsellers such as My Gita. His shows, such as Business Sutra and Devlok, have been hits, too.
34 Raja Rao
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.
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.
Padma Shree- and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award-winning Hindi poet and playwright Dharamvir Bharati had penned iconic novels such as Suraj ka Satwan Ghoda and Gunaho Ka Devta. A PhD in Hindi from Allahabad University, he had also been a lecturer and the chief editor of Dharmayug.
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.
Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, better known by his first name, Thakazhi, was a legendary Malayali author known for his iconic short stories and novels such as Kayar. The Jnanpith-winning author mostly focused on the backward classes of society and brought in strong realist elements in his works.
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48 Dom Moraes
Sahitya Akademi Award-winning author Dom Moraes was one of the pioneers of Indian writing in English. Son of Goan journalist Frank Moraes, Dom had begun writing at 12 and had traveled widely with his father. The Oxford alumnus won the Hawthornden Prize for A Beginning. He later co-directed many documentaries.
49 Anita Nair
Bharati Mukherjee was a writer who also taught at the University of California, Berkeley as a professor emerita in the English department. The author of several short story collections and novels, Bharati Mukherjee was honored with many prestigious awards, such as the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1988.