Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in the city of Dacca in East Bengal (modern day Bangladesh). After the partition of India she moved to West Bengal in India. She attended the Vishvabharati University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore, in Santiniketan and completed a B.A. (Hons) in English, and then an M.A. in English at Calcutta University. After finishing her M.A. in English, she began working as a teacher and journalist.
Her first book, The Queen of Jhansi, was published in 1956. In the last forty years, Devi has published twenty collections of short stories and close to a hundred novels, primarily in her native language of Bengali. She has also been a regular contributor to several literary magazines such as Bortika, a journal dedicated to the cause of oppressed communities within India. In 1984, she retired as an English lecturer at a Calcutta university to concentrate on her writing.
She has been awarded several literary prizes including the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1979 for her novel Aranyer Adhikar; the Padma Shri award in 1986; the Jnanpith Award, which is India’s highest literary award, in 1996 from the Bharatiya Jnanpith; the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and the Creative Communication Arts in 1997; the Honoris Causa from the Indira Gandhi National Open University in 1999 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2006 which is the second highest civilian award from the Government of India.
She currently lives and works in Kolkata, India.