Who Was Kashibai Kanitkar?
Updated: Feb 11, 2022
Next in our “Asia and the Regency” series, Jane Austen & Co. explores Austen’s ties to India and the Austenian resonances in the writings of nineteenth-century Indian writer Kashibai Kanitkar. Join us on February 11 for Dr. Barnita Bagchi’s lecture, “Jane Austen in India.”
If you’re unfamiliar with Kanitkar, she was one of the first women novelists in modern Marathi literature. Read on to learn more about her life and works.
Kashibai Kanitkar was born in 1861 to a wealthy family in the village of Ashte, in the district of Sangli, India. Kanitkar married at the age of nine, as was the custom of her day, to sixteen-year-old Govind Vasudev Kanitkar.
Though she had no formal education, Kanitkar was educated at home with encouragement from her husband. She quickly mastered Marathi, English, and Sanskrit.
Kanitkar’s writings, in both fiction and nonfiction, promoted women’s emancipation and dealt with a nuanced understanding of contemporary femininity. Kanitkar wrote two novels, Rangrao (1903) and Palkhicha Gonda (1928), Rangrao being particularly popular out of the two. She also wrote an illustrated biography of Dr. Anandibai Joshi, one of the first female Indian doctors of Western medicine, which has become a significant work in Marathi illustrated literature.
In addition to her longer works, Kanitkar wrote collections of parabolic short stories, titled Shevat Tar Goad Zala (1889) and Chandanyatil Gappa (1921). She was published in several magazines, including Manoranjan, Navyug, Vividh Dnyan Vistar, and Vividh Dnyan Vistar, in which she wrote an essay on her memories of close friend and celebrated Indian writer, Hari Narayan Apte. Additionally, in 1927, Kanitkar completed a translation of the philosophic text At the Feet of the Master by Jiddu Krishnamurti from English into Marathi, retitling it Gurupadesh.
Kanitkar passed away in 1948 at the age of eighty-seven.
You can read translations of Kanitkar's works in the book Feminist vision or 'Treason against men'? : Kashibai Kanitkar and the engendering of Marathi literature, translated and edited by Meera Kosambi.