Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (Bengali: বেগম
রোকেয়া সাখাওয়াত হোসেন; 9
December 1880 – 9 December 1932), commonly known as Begum Rokeya,
was a Bengali writer, thinker, educationist, social activist, advocate
of women's rights, and widely regarded as the pioneer of women's
education in the
Indian subcontinent during the time of the British
She wrote novels, poems, short stories, science fiction, satires,
treatises, and essays. In her writings, she advocated that both men
and women should be treated equally as rational beings, and the lack
of education is the main reason of women's lagging behind. Her major
works include Abarodhbasini, a spirited attack on the extreme forms of
purdah that endangered women's lives and thoughts; Sultana's Dream, a
science fiction novella set in a place called Ladyland in nisah, a
world ruled by women; Padmarag ("Essence of the Lotus", 1924), another
feminist utopian novel; Matichur, collection of essays in two
Rokeya suggested that education of women is the foremost requisite of
women's liberation; hence she established the first school aimed
primarily at Bengali Muslim girls in Kolkata. Rokeya is said to have
gone from house to house persuading the parents to send their girls to
her school in nisah. Until her death, she ran the school despite
facing hostile criticism and various social obstacles.
In 1916, she founded the Muslim Women’s Association, an organization
that fought for women’s education and employment. In 1926,
Rokeya presided over the Bengal Women’s Education Conference
convened in Kolkata, the first significant attempt to bring women
together in support of women’s education rights. She was engaged
in debates and conferences regarding the advancement of women until
her death on 9 December 1932, shortly after presiding over a session
during the Indian Women’s Conference.
Rokeya Day on 9 December every year to commemorate
her works and legacy. On that day,
Bangladesh government also
Begum Rokeya Padak on individual women for their exceptional
achievement. In 2004, Rokeya was placed at number 6 in BBC's poll
of the Greatest Bengali Of All Time.
5 External links
Begum Rokeya in Pairabondh, Mithapukur, Rangpur
Rokeya Khatun was born in 1880 in the village of Pairabondh,
Mithapukur, Rangpur, present Bangladesh, in what was then the British
Indian Empire. Her father, Jahiruddin Muhammad Abu Ali Haidar Saber,
was a highly educated and successful zamindar (landlord) who married
four times; his marriage to Rahatunnessa resulted in the birth of
Rokeya, who had two sisters and three brothers, one of whom died in
childhood. Rokeya's eldest brother Ibrahim Saber, and her immediate
elder sister Karimunnesa Khanam Chaudhurani, both had great influence
on her life. Karimunnesa wanted to study Bengali, the language of the
majority in Bengal. The family disliked this because many upper class
Muslims of the time preferred to use
Arabic and Persian as the media
of education, instead of their native language, Bengali. Ibrahim
taught English and Bengali to Rokeya and Karimunnesa; both sisters
Karimunnesa married at the age of fourteen, later earning a reputation
as a poet. Both of her sons, Nawab Abdul Karim Gaznawi and Nawab Abdul
Halim Gaznawi, became famous in the political arena and occupied
ministerial portfolios under British authorities.
Rokeya married at the age of eighteen in 1898. Her Urdu-speaking
husband, Khan Bahadur Sakhawat Hussain, was the deputy magistrate of
Bhagalpur, which is now a district under the Indian state of Bihar. He
married earlier also. Sakhawat was then 38 years old before his
marriage with Rokeya. Sakhawat did his B.A.G. from
England and was a
member of Royal Agricultural Society of England. He married Rokeya
after the death of his first wife. As he was gentle, liberal-minded
and had much interest in female education he encouraged Rokeya to
continue her brother's work by encouraging her to keep learning
Bengali and English. He also encouraged her to write, and on his
advice she adopted Bengali as the principal language for her literary
works because it was the language of the masses. She launched her
literary career in 1902 with a Bengali essay entitled Pipasa (Thirst).
She also published the books Matichur (1905) and Sultana's Dream
(1908) during her husband's lifetime.
Sultana's Dream was quite influential. She wrote this book
reversing the roles of men and women in which women were the dominant
sex and the men were subordinate. It is regarded as quite a fantastic
satire and was able to garner a decent amount of influence upon its
In 1909, Sakhawat Hussain died. He had encouraged his wife to set
aside money to start a school primarily for Muslim women. Five months
after his death, Rokeya established a high school in her beloved
husband's memory, naming it Sakhawat Memorial Girls' High School.
It started in Bhagalpur, a traditionally Urdu-speaking area, with only
five students. A dispute with her husband's family over property
forced her to move the school in 1911 to Calcutta, a Bengali-speaking
area. It remains one of the city's most popular schools for girls
and is now run by the state government of West Bengal.
Begum Rokeya in
Begum Rokeya Memorial Centre, Pairabondh,
Rokeya also founded the Anjuman-e-Khawateen-e-Islam (Islamic Women's
Association), which was active in holding debates and conferences
regarding the status of women and education. She advocated reform,
particularly for women, and believed that parochialism and excessive
conservatism were principally responsible for the relatively slow
Muslims in British India. As such, she is one of the
first Islamic feminists. She was inspired by the traditional Islamic
learning as enunciated in the Qur'an, and believed that modern Islam
had been distorted or corrupted; Anjuman-e-Khawateen-e-Islam organised
many events for social reforms based on the original teachings of
Islam that, according to her, were lost.
Rokeya remained busy with the school, the association, and her
writings for the rest of her life. She died of heart problems on 9
December 1932, which was her 52nd birthday. In Bangladesh, 9 December
is celebrated as Rokeya Day.
Rokeya's grave in
Sodepur was rediscovered due to the efforts of the
historian Amalendu De.
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Pipasa ("Thirst", 1902).
Matichur (essays, 1st vol. 1904, 2nd vol. 1922). The second volume of
Matichur includes stories and fairy tales such as Saurajagat (The
Solar System), Delicia Hatya (translation of the Murder of Delicia, by
Mary Corelli), Jnan-phal (The Fruit of Knowledge), Nari-Srishti
(Creation of Women), Nurse Nelly, Mukti-phal (The Fruit of
Padmarag ("Essence of the Lotus", novel, 1924). A feminist utopia.
Abarodhbasini ("The Secluded Women", 1931)
Boligarto (short story).
Narir Adhikar ("The Rights of Women"), an unfinished essay for the
Islamic Women's Association
God Gives, Man Robs, 1927, republished in God gives, man robs and
other writings, Dhaka, Narigrantha Prabartana, 2002
Education Ideals for the Modern Indian Girl, 1931, republished in
Rokeya Rachanabali, Abdul Quadir (editor), Dhaka, Bangla Academy, 2006
Begum Rokeya wrote in a number of genres, short stories, poems,
essays, novels and satirical writings, developing a distinctive
literary style, characterised by creativity, logic and a wry sense of
humour. She started writing in the Nabanoor from about 1903, under the
name of Mrs. R S Hossain. However, there is an opinion that her first
published writing Pipasa appeared in the Nabaprabha in 1902. She wrote
regularly for the Saugat, Mahammadi, Nabaprabha, Mahila, Bharatmahila,
Al-Eslam, Nawroz, Mahe-Nao, Bangiya Musalman Sahitya Patrika, The
Mussalman, Indian Ladies Magazine, etc. Her writings called upon women
to protest against injustices and break the social barriers that
discriminated against them.
Begum Rokeya on the premises of Rokeya Hall, University of
Begum Rokeya is considered as the pioneer feminist of
Bengal. Universities, public buildings and National Award
has been named after her in Bangladesh. The country also observe her
birth and death anniversary. She was an inspiration for many
later generation female authors including Sufia Kamal, and
Begum Rokeya Day, a commemoration of the birth and death anniversary
of Begum Rokeya, observed annual on 9 December in Bangladesh.
Begum Rokeya Padak, a Bangladeshi national honour conferred on
individual women for their exceptional achievement.
Begum Rokeya Memorial Center, an academic and cultural hub in
Begum Rokeya University, a government financed Public State university
in Bangladesh. 
Rokeya Hall, the largest female residential hall of Dhaka University
^ a b c d e Akhter, Shahida (2012). "Hossain, Roquiah Sakhawat". In
Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of
Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of
Bangladesh. Administrator. "Roquia Sakhawat Hussain (Begum
^ "The enduring legacy of Begum Rokeya". The Independent (Bangladesh
newspaper). 9 December 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
^ a b c "
Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain". Sewall-Belmont House Museum.
Sewall-Belmont House & Museum. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
Rokeya Day today". The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 June
^ a b "Begum
Rokeya Day on 9 December". Dhaka Tribune. Archived from
the original on 7 January 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
^ "Listeners name 'greatest Bengali'". 2004-04-14. Retrieved
^ "The Daily Star Web Edition Vol. 4 Num 313".
archive.thedailystar.net. Retrieved 2018-01-11.
^ "The Hindu : International : Mujib, Tagore, Bose among
Bengalis of all time'". www.thehindu.com. Retrieved
^ Anwar S. Dil, Afia Dil. Women's Changing Position in Bangladesh:
Tribute to Begum Rokeya. p. 10-16. ISBN 9842003736.
^ a b Dr. Barnita Bagchi (1 October 2003). "Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain".
^ Banerjee, Pranotosh (27 May 2014). "Remembering Historian Amalendu
De". Janoswartho Barta. Chatterjee, Garga (trans.). Retrieved
^ "Rokeya's wake-up call to women". 9 December 2016. Retrieved 31 July
^ "Rokeya's unrealised Dream". The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 June
^ Rubaiyat, Hossain. "Begum Rokeya : The Pioneer
Bangladesh". The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
^ Arif Billah (23 December 2016). "Remembering Begum Rokeya". The
Daily Star. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
Begum Rokeya University
Begum Rokeya University begins academic activities". The Financial
Express. Dhaka. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011.
Retrieved 15 May 2012.
^ Poet Sufia Kamal’s 18th death anniversary Monday Prothom Alo
Tahmima Anam (28 May 2011). "My hero Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain". The
Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
Rokeya Day today". The Daily Star. 9 December 2010.
Begum Rokeya Memorial Centre -touristplaces.com.bd
Begum Rokeya University
Begum Rokeya University - The Daily Star
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Begum Rokeya
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Begum Rokeya.
Hasan, Md. Mahmudul (2012). Marginalisation of Muslim writers in South
Asian literature: Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain's English works (PDF). South
Asia Research, 32 (3) (Print) 1741-3141 (Online). pp. 179–197.
"Asiatic (see articles on Rokeya in 7.2 (December 2013) issue of the
The Essential Rokeya: Selected Works of Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain.
Leiden, Boston: Brill Publishing. 2013.
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