The Book of the Hunter

Mahasweta Devi

Translated by Mandira Sengupta, Sagaree Sengupta


5.5 x 9 inches, xi + 138pp. 2002

ISBN : 9788170462040

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This charming, expansive novel set in sixteenth-century medieval Bengal draws on the life of the great medieval poet Kabikankan Mukundaram Chakrabarti, whose epic poem Abhayamanga better known as Chandimangal, records the socio-political history of the times. In the section of that epic called Byadhkhanda--the Book of the Hunter--he describes the lives of the hunter tribes, the Shabars, who lived in the forest and its environs. Mahasweta Devi explores the cultural values of the Shabars and how they cope with the slow erosion of their way of life, as more and more forest land gets cleared to make way for settlements. She uses the lives of two couples, the brahman Mukundaram and his wife, and the young Shabars, Phuli and Kalya, to capture the contrasting socio-cultural norms of rural society of the time. Mahasweta Devi acknowledges her debt to Mukundaram, ‘who wrote about men and women, not gods and goddesses. The hunter tribes’ refusal to cultivate and settle down, as described by him, is true of surviving forest tribes today. The villages and rivers mentioned by him still exist. 

Mahasweta Devi is one of India's foremost writers. Her powerful fiction has won her recognition in the form of the Sahitya Akademi (1979), Jnanpith (1996) and Ramon Magsaysay (1996) awards, amongst several other literary honours. She was also awarded the Padmasree in 1986, for her activist work amongst dispossessed tribal communities. 


Mandira Sengupta, is an artist who maintains an active interest in her native Benagli literature. 

Sagaree Sengupta is a translator based in the USA. She translates from Bengali, Urdu and Hindi. She has collaborated on this translation with her mother, Mandira Sengupta, an artist who maintains an active interest in her native Benagli literature. The two of them earlier translated Queen of Jhansi in this series.

Cultural History
Culture Studies
Selected Works Of Mahasweta Devi