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

Life and activities

Basanti Devi was born on 23 March 1880 to Baradanath Haldar, a diwan (financial minister) in Assam state under the colonial rule of British. She studied at the Loreto House, Kolkata and married Chittaranjan Das at the age of seventeen.[1] The two had three children born between 1898 and 1901.[2]

Following her husband, Basanti Devi took part in various movements like the Civil disobedience movement, Khilafat Movement and also the Nagpur session of Indian National Congress in 1920. In 1921, along with Das' sisters Urmila Devi and Sunita Devi, she established the "Nari Karma Mandir", a training center for women activists.[3] In 1920–21, she was instrumental in collecting gold ornaments and 2000 gold coins from Jalpaiguri towards the Tilak Swaraj Fund.[4] During the Non-cooperation movement in 1921, the Indian National Congress called for strikes and ban on foreign goods. In Kolkata, small groups of 5 volunteers were employed to sell khadi, the hand spun clothes, on streets. Das, who was the leading figure of this movement in Kolkata decided to make his wife Basanti Devi lead one such group. Devi went on streets despite Subhash Chandra Bose opposing it and this provoked British to arrest her. Although she was released by midnight, arrest of Basanti Devi proved to be a major impetus and caused wide spread agitation. Two prisons of Kolkata were filled with such volunteers and detention camps were established to occupy more. On 10 December 1921 British arrested Das and Bose. This was Bose's first of the eleven arrests by British.[5]

After Das' arrest, Basanti Devi became in charge of his weekly publication Bangalar Katha (The story of Bengal).[6] She was the president of Bengal Provincial Congress in 1921-22. Through her speech at the April 1922 Chittagong conference, she encouraged grassroot agitation. Travelling around India, she supported cultural development of arts in order to oppose colonialism.[2]

As Das was political mentor of Subhash Chandra Bose, he had familial relations with Devi. Upon Das's death in 1925, Bose is noted to discuss his personal and political doubts with Devi.[7] Bose considered her as his "adopted mother" and she is noted to be amongst the four prominent women in Bose's life; other three being his mother Prabhabati, his sister-in-law Bibhabati (wife of Sarat Chandra Bose) and his wife/companion Emilie Schenkl.[8]

Post India's independence in 1947, Basanti Devi continued with social work.[9] Basanti Devi College, the first women's college in Kolkata to have been funded by Government was established in 1959 and named after her.[2][10] She was presented with the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of the Republic of India in 1973.[11]


  1. ^ Ray, Bharati (2002). Early Feminists of Colonial India: Sarala Devi Chaudhurani and Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. Oxford University Press. p. 142. ISBN 9780195656978. 
  2. ^ a b c Smith, Bonnie G. (2008). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. Oxford University Press. pp. 42–43. ISBN 9780195148909. 
  3. ^ R. S. Tripathi, R. P. Tiwari (1999). Perspectives on Indian Women. APH Publishing. pp. 136, 140. ISBN 9788176480253. 
  4. ^ Chatterjee, Srilata (2003). Congress Politics in Bengal 1919–1939. Anthem Press. p. 34. ISBN 9780857287571. 
  5. ^ Bose, Sugata (2013). His Majesty's Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire. Penguin UK. ISBN 9788184759327. 
  6. ^ Bangla Academy Journal, Volume 21, Issue 2 – Volume 22, Issue 2. Bangla Academy. 1995. p. 23. 
  7. ^ Pasricha, Ashu (2008). Encyclopaedia Eminent Thinkers (vol. : 16 The Political Thought Of Subhas Chandra Bose). Concept Publishing Company. pp. 30, 33. ISBN 9788180694967. 
  8. ^ Basu, Krishna (2008). An Outsider in Politics. Penguin Books India. p. 55. ISBN 9780670999552. 
  9. ^ Ajita Kaura, Arpana Cour. Directory of Indian Women Today, 1976. India International Publications. p. 361. 
  10. ^ "Basanti Devi College – History". Basanti Devi College. Retrieved 12 January 2016. 
  11. ^ "Padma Awards: Year wise list of recipients (1954–2014)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs (India). 21 May 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2015.