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GAURA PANT, ‘SHIVANI’ (1923-2003)

Gaura Pant, who wrote in Hindi under the name ‘Shivani’ was a popular author of the 1960s and 1970s and a pioneer in writing women-centric fiction. She was born Gaura Pande in the princely state of Rajkot, Gujarat where her father was a teacher in the court, on October 17. Her parents were Brahmins from Almora in Kumaon. Her mother was among the first students of the Lucknow Mahila Vidyalaya and became a Sanskrit scholar. Later her father took up a post at Rampur, before the family moved to Orchha where he held an important position.

In 1935 when she was twelve, her first story was published. She and her brother and sister were sent to Shantiniketan to study at Visva Bharati. There she added Bengali to her repertoire of Sanskrit, Urdu, Gujarati, Hindi and English; she even wrote a book in Bengali about her experiences called Amader Shantiniketan. Rabindranath Tagore himself visited their Almora home a number of times. Shivani graduated from Visva Bharati in 1943, and decided to take up writing seriously. In 1951 her first adult short story was published in Dharmayug under the name ‘Shivani’ and her pseudonym began to be known among the reading public. She soon began to write novels regularly, creating an oeuvre of about forty works, many of them set in her native Kumaon. She also wrote non-fiction, producing two travelogues and a book called Apradhini, a collection of interviews of women serving life sentences. She married Shuk Deo Pant, a teacher and civil servant, and two of her daughters, Mrinal Pande and Ira Pande, went on to become writers themselves.

Shivani’s most popular novels such as Chaudah Phere and Krishnakali were serialised in Dharmayug and Saptahik Hindustani. Her novel Kariye Chima was filmed, while others such as Surangma, Rativilaap, Mera Beta, and Teesra Beta were serialized for television. Towards the end of her life, Shivani took to autobiographical writings, first sighted in her book, ‘Shivani ki Sresth Kahaniyan’, followed by her two-part memoir, ‘Smriti Kalash’. She was awarded the Padma Shri for her contribution to Hindi literature in 1982. Ira Pande wrote a memoir of her mother in English titled Diddi: My Mother’s Voice.
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