Sunil Gangopadhyay
Sunil Gangopadhyay image
Gangopadhyay in 2010
Born(1934-09-07)7 September 1934
Madaripur, Bengal Presidency, British India
(now in Bangladesh)
Died23 October 2012(2012-10-23) (aged 78)
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Pen nameNil Lohit, Sanatan Pathak, and Nil Upadhyay[1]
  • Poet
  • novelist
  • short story writer
  • historian
  • journalist
Alma materUniversity of Calcutta
Literary movementKrittibas
Confessional poetry
Notable works
Notable awardsAnanda Puraskar (1972, 1989)
Sahitya Akademi Award (1985)
Swati Bandopadhyay
(m. 1967)
ChildrenSouvik Gangopadhyay (b. 1967)[2]
Sunil Gangopadhyay signature in Bengali

Sunil Gangopadhyay or Sunil Ganguly (7 September 1934 – 23 October 2012)[1] was an Indian poet, novelist, short story writer, historian, and critic in the Bengali language.[3][4] He was one of the foremost poets experimenting with new forms, themes, rhythms, and words in Bengali poetry in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1953, along with Deepak Majumder and Ananda Bagchi, he founded the Bengali poetry magazine, Krittibas.[3] He is regarded as one of the most prolific and popular writers in Bengali since Rabindranath Tagore.[5][6][7]

He is best known for his novels Atmaprakash (1964), Aranyer Din Ratri, Sei Somoy, Pratham Alo (1996), and Purba Paschim; travelogues Payer Tolay Sorshe (Vol. 1 and 2); the poetry collections Eka ebong Koekjon (1958), Ami Ki Rokom Vabe Beche Achi (1966), and Hathat Nirar Janya.[8] Sunil Gangopadhyay introduced the fictional character Kakababu, writing 36 novels in the series that became influential in Bengali children's literature. In 1985, he received the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award for his historical fiction Those Days (Sei Somoy).[9][10]

His prose style, conversational and colloquial, simple and lucid yet deeply penetrating with often a thin layer of dry humor, has by now created a niche of its own which have influenced many later writers, not only in Bengal but elsewhere too.[11] Sunil, according to Shankha Ghosh, "used to narrate the story using contemporary language, which often allows readers to find aspects of themselves they may have not seen, perhaps did not want to see. In doing so, Sunil skillfully turned his personal confession into a shared experience for a wide readership."[12] Sitanshu Yashaschandra observed that in his works "the personal is never sacrificed in favor of the 'regional,' nor is 'Bengaliness' ever given up to aspire for any larger status. He is a writer of international stature, simply because he is a writer, such a good writer."[13]

Early life

He was born in Madaripur into a Bengali Hindu family in what is now Bangladesh. At an early age, he moved to Kolkata from his ancestral town, which became part of East Pakistan after the 1947 Partition of India. He studied at the Surendranath College, Dum Dum Motijheel College, City College, Kolkata – all affiliated with the University of Calcutta. Thereafter, he obtained his master's degree in Bengali from the University of Calcutta in 1954.[2]

He married Swati Banerjee on 26 February 1967. Their only son, Souvik, who stays in Boston, was born on 20 November 1967.[2]

Literary career


Main article: Krittibas (magazine)

Sunil in the Krittibas stall in Nandan

Gangopadhyay was the founder editor of Krittibas, a seminal poetry magazine started publishing from 1953, that became a platform for a new generation of poets experimenting with many new forms in poetic themes, rhythms, and words.[1][14]

Other works

Later, he started writing for various publications of the Ananda Bazar group, a major publishing house in Kolkata and has been continuing it for many years.[1] He became a friend of the beat poet Allen Ginsberg while he was travelling in India. Ginsberg mentioned Gangopadhyay most notedly in his poem "September on Jessore Road." Gangopadhyay in return mentioned Ginsberg in some of his prose work. After serving five years as the Vice President, he was elected the President of the Sahitya Akademi on 20 February 2008[15]

Sunil, along with Tarun Sanyal, Jyotirmoy Datta and Satrajit Dutta had volunteered to be defence witnesses in the famous trial of Hungry generation movement poet Malay Roy Choudhury.[16]


Gangopadhyay in 2006

Author of well over 200 books,[1] Sunil was a prolific writer who has excelled in different genres but declares poetry to be his "first love".[14] His Nikhilesh and Neera series of poems (some of which have been translated as For You, Neera and Murmur in the Woods) have been extremely popular.

As in poetry, Sunil was known for his unique style in prose. His second novel was "Atmaprakash" and it was also the first writing from a newcomer in literature published in the prestigious magazine – Desh (1965).[17] It was critically acclaimed but some controversy arose for its aggressive and 'obscene' style. Sunil said that he was afraid of this novel and went away from Calcutta for a few days.[citation needed] Satyajit Ray thought to make a film on it but it wasn't possible for reasons. The central character of Atmaprakash is a young man of core-calcutta'- Sunil, who leads a bohemian life-style. The novel had inspiration from "On the road" by Jack Kerouac, the beat generation writer. His historical fiction Sei Somoy (translated into English by Aruna Chakravorty as Those Days) received the Indian Sahitya Akademi award in 1985. Sei Somoy continues to be a best seller more than two decades after its first publication.[citation needed] The same is true for Prothom Alo (also translated recently by Aruna Chakravorty as First Light), another best selling historical fiction and Poorba-Pashchim, a raw depiction of the partition and its aftermath seen through the eyes of three generations of Bengalis in West Bengal, Bangladesh and elsewhere. He is also the winner of the Bankim Puraskar (1982), and the Ananda Puraskar (twice, in 1972 and 1989).

Sunil Gangopadhyay giving autographs to his fans in Kolkata Book Fair 2010

Sunil wrote in many other genres including travelogues, children's fiction, short stories, features, and essays. Among his pen-names are: Nil Lohit, Sanatan Pathak, and Nil Upadhyay.[1]

Though he wrote all types of children's fiction, one character created by him that stands out above the rest, was Kakababu, the crippled adventurist, accompanied by his young adult nephew Santu, and his friend Jojo. Since 1974, Sunil Gangopadhyay wrote over 35 novels of this popular series, most of which appeared in Anandamela magazine.

Adaptations of his literary works


Sunil Gangopadhyay died at 2:05 am on 23 October 2012 at his South Kolkata residence, following a heart attack.[1][20][21] He was suffering from prostate cancer for some time[22] and went to Mumbai for treatment. He returned to Kolkata on the day of Mahalaya.[23] Although he was a communist and an atheist. Controversially, Gangopadhyay's body was cremated following Hindu custom on 25 October at Keoratola crematorium with several dignitaries and numerous fans paying their last tributes. Ganguly was not a Hindu or Muslim but a committed atheist.[24]

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee condoled the death of Gangopadhyay saying–[21]

Gangopadhyay had enriched Bengali literature through his unique style. He was one of the best intellectuals among his contemporaries. The vacuum created by his death cannot be filled

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the former Chief Minister of West Bengal, who was closely associated with the writer since 1964, said that Bengali literature would remain indebted to him.[25]


List of major works





Kakababu series

Main article: Kakababu

Translated books

Awards and honours



See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhyay dies of a heart attack at 78". CNN-IBN. 23 October 2012. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Spouse and children of Gangopadhyay". Sunil Gangopadhyay website. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |url= (help)
  3. ^ a b "শ্রী সুনীল গঙ্গোপাধ্যায়". Anandabazar Patrika. 26 October 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2024.
  4. ^ "Sunil Gangopadhyay". Library of Congress. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  5. ^ Datta, Tanmay (2013). "Sunil Gangopadhyay: A Writer and a Star". Economic and Political Weekly. 48 (35): 23–26. ISSN 0012-9976. JSTOR 23528749.
  6. ^ "Sunil Gangopadhyay".
  7. ^ "The man who "carried the modern consciousness of Bengal" - The Hindu". The Hindu. 23 October 2012.
  8. ^ Mazumdar, Anurag (24 October 2012). "Aranyer Din Ratri to Kakababu: Sunil Gangopadhyay's gifts to Bengal". Firstpost. Archived from the original on 15 September 2020. Retrieved 27 January 2024.
  9. ^ Ruth Vanita; Saleem Kidwai (22 September 2001). Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 336–. ISBN 978-0-312-29324-6. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Sunil Gangopadhyay (1934-2012)". Retrieved 28 January 2024.
  11. ^ Goswami, Bhaskar Jyoti (2012). "Sunil Gangopadhyay: A Tribute". Indian Literature. 56 (6 (272)): 56–60. ISSN 0019-5804. JSTOR 43856623.
  12. ^ Ghosh, Sankha (26 October 2012). "কী রকম ভাবে বেঁচে ছিলেন". Anandabazar Patrika. Retrieved 27 January 2024.
  13. ^ Yashaschandra, Sitanshu; Yashashchandra, Sitanshu (2012). "In Step with Sunil Gangopadhyay, Across Boundaries". Indian Literature. 56 (6 (272)): 69–73. ISSN 0019-5804. JSTOR 43856626.
  14. ^ a b "Bengal's literary chameleon". The Age. 1 November 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  15. ^ "Gangopadhyay elected Sahitya Akademi president". The Hindu. 21 February 2008. Archived from the original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  16. ^ Indian and Foreign Review. Publications Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. 1969. p. 271. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  17. ^ a b c "Sunil Gangopadhyay dies". BD News. Retrieved 26 October 2012.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ Tsui, Clarence (3 October 2013). "Vara: A Blessing: Busan Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
  19. ^ "Yugantar (Old Doordarshan TV Serial)". Free Online India. 4 October 2016. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  20. ^ a b c d "Eminent Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhyay passes away". Bengal Newz. 20 February 2008. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  21. ^ a b "Eminent litterateur Sunil Gangopadhyay passes away at his Kolkata residence". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  22. ^ "Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhyay dies". NDTV. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  23. ^ "Amaratwa ke tachhilya korte chaiten tini". Anandabazar Patrika. 26 October 2012.
  24. ^ "The discovery of utility in death". Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 18 October 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  25. ^ "Sunil Gangopadhyay passes away". The Hindu. 23 October 2012. Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  26. ^ a b "The freedom song". The Times of India. 19 June 2006. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  27. ^ "Taslima Nasreen accuses author Sunil Gangopadhyay of sexual harassment". The Times of India. 4 September 2012. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  28. ^ "Taslima tweets: Sunil molested me". BDNews. Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Translated Books of Sunil Gangopadhyay". Sunil Gangopadhyay's website. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  30. ^ Datta, Sudipta (23 May 2020). "Moving out, moving on: Review of 'Blood' by Sunil Gangopadhyay, trs Debali Mookerjea-Leonard". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Sunil Gangopadhyay awards". Sunil Gangopadhyay website. Archived from the original on 31 August 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  32. ^ a b c "Eminent Litterateur Sunil Gangopadhyay Dead". Outlook India. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2012.