Amrita Pritam was born on August 31, 1919, into a Sikh family in Gujranwala, Punjab, (today in Pakistan) as the only child of a schoolteacher and a poet. The leading 20th-century poet of the Punjabi language produced over 100 books of poetry, fiction, biographies, essays, a collection of Punjabi folk songs and an autobiography that were translated into several Indian and foreign languages.
In 1947, when the former British India was partitioned into the independent states of India and Pakistan, she moved to New Delhi, where she began to write in Hindi as opposed to Punjabi, her mother tongue.
Pritam often wrote on the condition of Indian women and her writings reflected their neglect and suppression in Indian society. She was awarded the Jnanpith, India’s highest literary award, in 1981 for ‘Kagaj te Canvas’ (Paper and Canvas).
On the occasion of her 101the birth anniversary, here are some unknown facts about Amrita Pritam:
- Amrita Pritam was born as Amrit Kaur in Gujranwala, Punjab (present-day Pakistan). Her father, Kartar Singh Hitkar, was a poet and scholar.
- In 1956, Amrita Pritam became the first woman to win the Sahitya Akademi Award for her long poem, ‘Sunehade’.
- In 1981, she won the Bharatiya Jnanpith for the novel ‘Kagaz Te Canvas’ (The Paper and the Canvas).
- In 1969, she was conferred with the Padma Shri and in 2004 the Padma Vibhushan.
- She was also awarded the highest honour conferred by the Sahitya Akademi – ‘Immortals of Literature’ in 2005.
- In 1986, Amrita Pritam was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Noted lyricist Gulzar released an audio album, ‘Amrita recited by Gulzar’ in the year 2007.
- Her work, drenched in her longing for love, is soaked in the pain of loss that marked her journey throughout life, connecting the loss of love in Sahir Ludhianvi and chronicling the loss of life and self-respect in Partition.
- She died on October 31, 2005, at the age of 86, after a long illness. She is survived by her daughter Kundala and son Navraj and her grandson Aman.