The legend of Amrita Pritam lives on through her poems and stories
Amrita Pritam (August 31, 1919 – October 31, 2005) was one of the most prominent writers and poets of the 20th century. In a career spanning 60 years, she wrote around 100 books on poetry, essays, folk songs and her autobiographical works titled Black Rose and Rasidi Ticket (Revenue Stamp).
Born on August 31, 1919, in Gujranwala (now in Pakistan) of Punjab province in undivided India, she migrated to India after the Partition. It is around this time she started writing in Hindi too.
She became a published writer in 1936 when she was barely 17 years old. She joined the Progressive Writers’ Movement to inspire people through her literary works.
She became a published writer in 1936 when she was barely 17 years old. She joined the Progressive Writers’ Movement to inspire people through her literary works. Pritam received Sahitya Akademi award and Padma Vibhushan, among many other accolades for her literary contribution. She was the first woman to receive the Sahitya Akademi award (for Sunehade) and the first Punjabi woman to be felicitated with the Padma Shri Award. In 1982, she received the Bharatiya Jnanpith, one of the most coveted literary awards for Kagaz Te Canvas (The Paper and the Canvas). Pritam also worked for All India Radio and edited the literary journal, Nagmani.
Amrita Pritam is best remembered for her Punjabi poem Ajj aakhaan Waris Shah nu (Ode to Waris Shah), which poignantly captures her anguish over the massacres during the Partition in 1947. One of the moving lines from the poem reads, “Arise, o friend of the afflicted; arise and see the state of Punjab, corpses strewn on fields, and the Chenaab flowing with much blood.”
Pinjar (The Skeleton), written against the backdrop of the Partition, is considered to be one of the best pieces of literature written on the subject, with Puro being a memorable character.
Her marriage to Pritam Singh in 1935 was an unhappy one. She left him in 1960. She and poet Sahir Ludhianvi are said to have been very fond of one another. This chapter of her life has been penned in her autobiography Rasidi Ticket (Revenue Stamp). Amrita, however, spent the last 40 years of her life with writer and artist Imroz. Their life’s story became the subject of a book titled Amrita Imroz: A Love Story. In an interview with Doordarshan about three decades ago, she was asked about the relationship she shared with both Sahir and Imroz, to which she said, “Duniya mein ek hi rishta hota hai - tadap ka, virah ki hichki ka, aur shehnai ka, jo virah ki hichki mein bhi sunayi deti hai - yehi rishta Sahir se bhi tha, Imroz se bhi hai.”
On her 100th birth anniversary, here are some of her most-loved poems and quotes that will move you, yet inspire you.