Basanti Devi
Born(1880-03-23)23 March 1880
Died7 May 1974 (aged 94)
Known forIndependence activist
Political partyIndian National Congress
MovementIndian independence movement
SpouseChittaranjan Das
AwardsPadma Vibhushan (1973)

Basanti Devi (23 March 1880 – 7 May 1974) was an Indian independence activist during the British rule in India. She was the wife of activist Chittaranjan Das. After Das' arrest in 1921 and death in 1925, she took an active part in various political and social movements and continued with social work post-independence. She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1973.[1]

Life and activities

Basanti Devi was born on 23 March 1880 to Swarnamayee Devi and her husband Baradanath Haldar, the diwan of a large zamindary in Assam during the British colonial rule. Basanti studied at the Loreto House, Kolkata, where she met and married Chittaranjan Das at the age of seventeen.[2] The two had three children born between 1898 and 1901.[3]

Following her husband, Basanti Devi took part in various movements like the Civil disobedience movement and the Khilafat Movement and also participated in the Nagpur session of the Indian National Congress in 1920. The following year, she joined Das' sisters Urmila Devi and Sunita Devi to establish the "Nari Karma Mandir", a training center for women activists.[4] In 1920–21, she was instrumental in collecting gold ornaments and 2000 gold coins from Jalpaiguri towards the Tilak Swaraj Fund.[5]

During the non-cooperation movement in 1921, the Indian National Congress called for strikes and a ban on foreign goods. In Kolkata, small groups of five volunteers were employed to sell khadi, hand spun clothes, on the streets of Kolkata. Das, who was the leading figure of the local movement, decided to make his wife Basanti Devi lead one such group. Devi went on the street despite warnings from Subhash Chandra Bose that it would provoke the British to arrest her. Although she was released by midnight, her arrest provided impetus to widespread agitation. Two prisons in Kolkata were filled with revolutionary volunteers and detention camps were hastily constructed to detain more suspects. On 10 December 1921, police arrested Das and Bose.[6]

After Das' arrest, Basanti Devi took charge of his weekly publication Bangalar Katha (The Story of Bengal).[7] She was the president of Bengal Provincial Congress in 1921–22. Presiding over the Bengal Provincial Conference at Chittagong in 1922, she encouraged grassroots agitation. Travelling around India, she supported cultural development of arts in order to oppose colonialism.[3]

As Das was the political mentor of Subhash Chandra Bose, Bose had great regard for Basanti Devi. After Das's death in 1925, Bose is reported to have discussed his personal and political doubts with Devi.[8] Bose's fraternal niece-in-law Krishna Bose characterized Basanti Devi as his "adopted mother" and one of the four important women in his life, the other three being his mother Prabhabati, his sister-in-law Bibhabati (wife of Sarat Chandra Bose) and his wife Emilie Schenkl.[9]

Like her husband, Basanti Devi too was sympathetic towards the revolutionary activists in the Indian independence movement. In 1928, Indian freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai died days after being injured by the police in a baton charge against his peaceful protest march. Following this, Basanti Devi exhorted the Indian youth to avenge Lajpat Rai's death.[10][11]

After India's independence in 1947, Basanti Devi continued with social work.[12] Basanti Devi College, the first women's college in Kolkata to have been funded by the government, was established in 1959 and named after her.[3][13] In 1973, she was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award.[14][15]


  1. ^ "Basanti Devi". Archived from the original on 28 September 2022. Retrieved 28 September 2022.
  2. ^ Ray, Bharati (2002). Early Feminists of Colonial India: Sarala Devi Chaudhurani and Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. Oxford University Press. p. 142. ISBN 9780195656978. Archived from the original on 7 August 2023. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Smith, Bonnie G. (2008). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. Oxford University Press. pp. 42–43. ISBN 9780195148909. Archived from the original on 7 August 2023. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  4. ^ Saxena, K. S. (1999). "Women in Freedom Movement in India". In Tripathi, R. S.; Tiwari, R. P. (eds.). Perspectives on Indian Women. APH Publishing. pp. 136, 140. ISBN 978-81-7648-025-3. Archived from the original on 7 August 2023. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  5. ^ Chatterjee, Srilata (2003). Congress Politics in Bengal 1919–1939. Anthem Press. p. 34. ISBN 9780857287571. Archived from the original on 7 August 2023. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  6. ^ Bose, Sugata (2013). His Majesty's Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India's Struggle against Empire. Penguin UK. ISBN 9788184759327. Archived from the original on 7 August 2023. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  7. ^ Bangla Academy Journal, Volume 21, Issue 2 – Volume 22, Issue 2. Bangla Academy. 1995. p. 23. Archived from the original on 7 August 2023. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  8. ^ Pasricha, Ashu (2008). Encyclopaedia Eminent Thinkers (vol. : 16 The Political Thought Of Subhas Chandra Bose). Concept Publishing Company. pp. 30, 33. ISBN 9788180694967. Archived from the original on 7 August 2023. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  9. ^ Bose, Krishna (2008). An Outsider in Politics. Penguin Books India. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-670-99955-2. Archived from the original on 15 February 2023. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  10. ^ Lal, Chaman (2 November 2012). "Down Bhagat Singh lane". Frontline. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Bhagat Singh's association with Kolkata's Arya Samaj temple continues". The Tribune. 28 September 2018. Archived from the original on 10 August 2019. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  12. ^ Ajita Kaura, Arpana Cour (1976). Directory of Indian Women Today, 1976. India International Publications. p. 361.
  13. ^ "Basanti Devi College – History". Basanti Devi College. Archived from the original on 5 June 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  14. ^ "Padma Awards: Year wise list of recipients (1954–2014)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs (India). 21 May 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  15. ^ Women on the March. Smt. Mukul Banerjee for the Women's Front of All India Congress Committee. 1973.