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.
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.
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.
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.
The 16th-century Hindu mystic poet, Mirabai, was a devotee of Lord Krishna. In the North Indian Hindu tradition, she is a celebrated Bhakti saint. While millions of devotional hymns in praise of Lord Krishna are attributed to Mirabai, only a few hundreds are believed to be actually composed by her. Several temples are dedicated to her memory.
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.
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.
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
Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana was an Indian poet who served in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was counted among the Navaratnas, Akbar's nine important ministers. Rahim is best remembered for his couplets and books on astrology.
12 Meena Kumari
Known as Hindi cinema’s “Tragedy Queen,” Meena Kumari is remembered for her stellar performances in films such as Pakeezah and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. The four-time Filmfare-winning actor sank into alcoholism after her separation from her abusive husband, director Kamal Amrohi, and died of liver cirrhosis.
Jnanadeva was an Indian poet, philosopher, saint, and yogi who lived in the 13th century AD. He is credited with authoring Dnyaneshwari, the oldest surviving work in the Marathi language. He is also credited with co-founding the Varkari Bhakti movement tradition of Hinduism. Over the years, Jnanadeva's legacy has inspired several saint-poets, including Tukaram and Eknath.
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.
Kabir was an Indian saint and mystic poet whose works influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement, which in turn played a key role in the formation of Sikhism, the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Kabir is an important figure in both Hinduism and Islam and his legacy continues to live through a religious community known as the Kabir panth.
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.
18 Amir Khusrow
Amir Khusrow was an Indian Sufi poet, scholar, singer, and musician. Often referred to as the father of Urdu literature and the father of qawwali, Khusrow is revered and respected in present-day India as well as Pakistan. He is credited with introducing the ghazal style of song to the Indian subcontinent.
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.
Namdev was an Indian saint and poet best remembered for his devotion to Lord Vitthal of Pandharpur. He is credited with popularizing the Vithoba faith, which first emerged in the 12th century. Along with Ravidas, Kabir, Hardas, and Dadu, Namdev is revered as a guru (teacher) in the Dadupanth tradition of Hinduism.
21 Vikram Seth
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.
Surdas was an Indian poet and singer best remembered for his devotion to Lord Krishna. He is credited with writing the popular book, Sur Sagar. He was blind by birth and was neglected by his family. Surdas was inspired by the teachings of Vallabha Acharya, who he met while going on a pilgrimage to Vrindavan.
While he initially played Ravana in local Ramleela productions of his native state Madhya Pradesh, Indian actor Ashutosh Rana later soared to fame with the series Swabhimaan. The NSD alumnus later won Filmfare awards for his roles in Dushman and Sangharsh. He is married to actor Renuka Shahane.
Born Ratnakara at birth, Valimiki grew up to be a bandit. Eventually realizing his sins, he meditated, while an ant-hill, or Valmika in Sanskrit, grew around him. He later came out of the ant-hill, to pen the Indian epic Ramayana, which narrates the tale of the Hindu god Rama.
Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar, also known as Valluvar, had written some of the finest masterpieces of Tamil literature, such as his collection of couplets, Tirukkural. His towering statue adorns the coast of Kanyakumari, the southern-most tip of India. He is also known as the patron saint of bus drivers in Chennai.
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.
Ravidas was an Indian mystic, social reformer, poet-saint, and spiritual figure. An influential personality, Ravidas taught his followers to disregard social divisions of gender and caste that were prevalent in India at that time. The Ravidassia sect, a religious sect of Vaishnavism, is based on Ravidas' teachings. Ravidas is revered even today as a saint by his followers.
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.
30 Mir Taqi Mir
Mir Taqi Mir was an Indian poet who lived during the 18th century. He is credited with shaping the Urdu language and is remembered as one of the most important poets of the Urdu language. Mir Taqi Mir's life and career inspired the 2016 Pakistani biographical film Mah e Mir, in which Mir is played by Pakistani actor Fahad Mustafa.
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.
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.
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.
Born in Quetta in British India, Suresh Oberoi relocated to Hyderabad after the Partition. A great athlete, he began modeling and then stepped into acting. Mostly a character actor, he won the National Film Award for Mirch Masala. He is also known as the father of actor Vivek Oberoi.
Marathi poet Sant Tukaram was one of the pillars of the Bhakti movement of Maharashtra. It is believed he began writing abhangas, or religious poetry, after being visited by Vitthal, an avatar of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna, in a dream. He is revered by the Varkari sampradaya.
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.
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.
Rishi Agastya, one of the Saptarishi, appears in the Puranas and is said to have authored texts such as the Agastya Gita. Legend has it that the Vindhya range lies flat as Agastya had asked it to lie flat till he got back from the South, and then never returned.
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.
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.
42 Rahat Indori
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.
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.
Ancient Indian poet and playwright Kālidāsa is considered one of the greatest Sanskrit literary figures to have ever lived. His epic Kumarasambhava, his drama Abhijnanashakuntala, and his lyric poem Meghadūta are considered classics. Most of his works are drawn from Hindu epics and scriptures, such as the Vedas.
Basava was an Indian poet, philosopher, social reformer, statesman, and saint who lived in the 12th century AD. He is credited with spreading social awareness through his poems. Although hagiographic texts and traditional legends claim that Basava founded Lingayatism, modern scholars believe that he refined and popularized the already existing religious tradition, which is popular in Karnataka, South India.
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.
47 Kavi Pradeep
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.
Jayadeva was a 12th-century Sanskrit poet believed to have been born in East India. He was the son of Bhojadeva and Ramadevi. Not much is known about his life except that he was a loner poet and a Hindu mendicant. His epic poem Gita Govinda is the best known of his works.
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.
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.