Chandrakiran Sonrexa

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Chandrakiran Sonrexa
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Born(1920-10-19)October 19, 1920
Spouse(s)Shri Kanti Chandra Sonrexa

Chandrakiran Sonrexa[1][2][3][4] (October 19, 1920 - May 18, 2009) (Saunareksā, Candrakiraṇa[1][2][3][4]) was one of the foremost and well known writers of Hindi literature. Her creative writings in Hindi[2][5], spanning a period of 75 years have been published and translated all over the globe in Russian language[6], Hungarian language[7], Czechoslovakian and English besides almost all Indian languages. She worked as a Script writer and Editor at All India Radio, Lucknow for over two decades (1957 - 79). In 2001 she was chosen as the best woman Hindi Short Story Writer of the 20th century by Hindi Academy (Delhi) and was presented the award by Sheila Dikshit, List of chief ministers of Delhi.

Chandrakiran’s father was a storekeeper in the military which was a transferable job. He was posted at Naushera in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) in 1920 where Chandrakiran, his last child, was born. The date or “Tithi according to the Hindu calendar was Saptami of Durga Navaratri in the month of ‘Aashwin’ (October). By the time she was one and a half year old her father was transferred to Meerut in U.P. (United Province then and Uttar Pradesh now). At first the family rented a house in Rajman Bazar. But in 1923 shifted to Sadar Kabaadi Bazar which was a timber market. Their house was near Bholanath Temple.


Chandrakiran’s first school was Sadar Kanya Pathshala where she was admitted in class one in July 1926. She studied up to class 4th in this school and received a double promotion twice. Thus she cleared four classes in two years. For class 5th she joined Sadar mission school, which was run by Christian missionaries.

She was a very bright student who though always the youngest in class, was exceptionally good at all subjects especially Mathematics, Hindi, Geography. The only subject she could not cope with was drawing. A favorite of all the teachers, Chandrakiran often had to face the jealousy and bullying of her older classmates.

Influence of the Indian freedom movement

In the year 1931, when Mahatma Gandhi's non-cooperation movement was spreading all over the country she too started to wear Khadi (hand-spun cotton cloth). At the tender age of eleven she longed to participate in the sit-ins to protest at shops selling foreign liquor or clothes, and wanted to join the congress party. She was ready to court arrest even; of course she was not allowed to do any of these by her loving father, who doted on her.

Exposure to Literature

A voracious reader, Chandrakiran devoured any printed matter she could lay her hands on - Hindi/Urdu stories, novels, poems, magazines - besides her text books. She finished ‘Ramcharitmanas’, Kabir’s 'Sakhi-Sabad Ramaini' and ‘Sukh-Sagar’ even though she couldn’t fully understand them. She read ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin’ in translation in a serialized form in an Urdu magazine. She finished entire works of renowned Hindi writers like Premchand, Kaushik and Sudarshan. Magazines like ‘Madhuri, Saraswati Chand’ etc, were borrowed from the neighbors. Even books which her elder sister prohibited her from reading – Devdas of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay or ‘Hatimtaai' - were read on the sly. Because of the speed with which she finished reading entire volumes, and was a chatter box as well, her brother Kanhaiya Lal called her ‘Peshawar Mail’.

First Published Work

She wrote her first story titled ‘Achhoot’ (the untouchable) about the tough life of a village boy of low-caste (who later became an officer, having been educated and converted to Christianity by a priest), at the age of 11 only. It was sent for publication in the magazine ‘Vijay’ from Calcutta with a note to the editor to print it if found worthy otherwise to be thrown in the trash bin, but not to be sent back. It was signed by her without any address of the writer. But perhaps the editor found the city’s name from the stamp of the envelope, hence it carried her name as ‘Kumari Chandrakiran’, Meerut. Her family and neighbors guessed that it was she, since her name was a rare one. She had expected a reprimand but received praise instead. And her writing career started.

Parents' Demise

She was admitted in Class 8th in Raghunath Girl’s High School by her father, despite her eldest brother’s opposition. But fate willed otherwise. Her mother, who was a diabetic, fell seriously ill. Since there was no other female in the house to carry the household chores or look offer her mother, her studies came to an abrupt end. On October 10, 1933, when Chandrakiran was 9 days short of her 13th birthday, her mother left this world. Post her demise, she confined herself to the four walls of her home, pursuing whatever studies she could, while running the household. In April 1936 she lost her father too.

Body of Writing

Creative World

Chandrakiran Sonrexa has not written fiction. She has carved out slices of life from the lower and middle class strata of North India. It is life lived, experienced and endured by innumerable people - men, women, children, and recreated by her sensitive genius. It is not a life seen through rose-tinted glasses; it is not a life ensconced in luxuries. Neither is it one throbbing with sensual thrills, nor does it pulsate with the sophisticated beats of elite sensibilities.

It is life in the raw, bare to the soul. Her writing partakes the deprivations of the dispossessed of the society. It mourns the miseries of the downtrodden, the suffering of the hapless creatures groaning under the crushing weight of the cruel discrimination of class and caste, of religion and convention.

The sharpness with which Chandrakiran's eye penetrates the multiple layers of societal hypocrisy is amazing. Effortlessly her gaze explores the complex world of Indian middle class of the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, straddled with its traditions and customs, holding on to its values both true and false. Pinning its hopes and dreams on an upward mobility, trying to break out of the confines of rotten conventions that chained it down.

Craft & Style

Chandrakiran wields the pen like a surgeon's scalpel cutting open the flesh only to bring healing and health.

When she enters the grim, dark, twilight regions of the poor and downtrodden, the untouchables of our society, she internalizes their pain and suffering. It is never her voice we hear, it is always their silent shrieks that resonate in our inner most being. This is the beauty of her brush-strokes, the power of her pen which remain invisible, unobtrusive throughout. No stylistic flourishes, no ornamental bling of contrived turn of phrases. Her style, if we can call it one, consists of the language of life- spontaneous, unpremeditated, utterly natural. Its facile fluency carries us unguarded into the deepest realms of human experience within her chosen milieu.

Indeed, like Jane Austen, she etched in depth the realities of life on her very own "inch of ivory". Never stepping out of her chosen segment of society, hence never a false note in her literary symphony. The readers may not have a firsthand experience of this world, this society but the authenticity of her delineations make them live and breathe in it. The characters populating this world are imbued with every nuance of human emotions. 'Aqueela', a story penned by Chandrakiran when she was only 19 yrs, stuns us with the profundity of understanding the protagonist Aqueela. Torn between the yearning for her child on the one hand, and the guilt and shame of having failed her husband, and unbearable gratefulness for his unconditional love on the other hand - Aqueela's dilemma comes so palpably alive that it leaves the reader numb. Such living breathing characters jostle for our attention everywhere in Chandrakiran's literary cosmos.

Contribution to society

Her literary contribution is a vast body of writing which comprises hundreds of stories, several novels, poems, radio plays, children's books and dramas, etc. It can be safely said that her world of creative fiction is as, if not more, real as life itself. Many social problems which became political issues in the course of time were highlighted by this visionary writer long ago. Her autobiography 'Pinjre ki Maina' , which w​on high acclaim, records the trials and tribulations with which her life was replete. Yet her passion, her dedication, her unyielding devotion to her muse kept the flame aglow.

Her literary brilliance shines through her stories which depict the social mores of the times. She wrote about the prevalent Purdah system in her story "Mard"; farcical modernism of high society in "Birthday[6]" and "Kiraye ki Maa"; a prostitutes daughter seeking legitimacy in genteel society in "Aur Sapna Toot Gaya" and a hard look on the ill effects of communalism after partition in "Chote Kameen, Bade Kameen", "Ye Darinde" and "Dard". Notably Chandrakiran Sonrexa wrote the world’s first story on family planning written in 1939 "Grahasti ka Sukh".

Chandrakiran Sonrexa empowered Indian womanhood with a vision and sense of moral liberty; unfettered freedom of an uninhibited mind and graceful personality. Some of her stories gave expression to the hardships faced by lower middle class Muslim women because of Purdah system and Polygamy. Many stories talked about the ill effects of a fractured society caused by the prevalent Caste system in India. The central theme of much of her writing was education of the girl child. She highlighted the importance of Family planning in India 1939, when nobody was talking about it. Doordarshan asked her to write a teleplay on terrorism in Punjab, titled "Gumrah" which aired in 1989-90. She was a torch bearer of the progressive, liberal, forward-looking India that believes in taking everyone along into a glorious future.

During her long literary career spanning from 1931, when patriarchal thinking heavily restricted women, till her death in 2009, when India has become an emerging global power and actively negotiates its traditional values with globalization, she chronicled the life and struggles of Indian middle class women.

Published Works


Year Title Description Length (Pages) Publisher ISBN Cover Image
1962, 2008 Chandan Chandni[8] 275 Mitra Prakashan,

Samanantar Prakashan

1972, 2008 Vanchita[9] 120 Lokchetna Prakashan,

Samantar Prakashan

2003, 2008 Kahin Se Kahin Nahin[10] 216 Muhim Prakashan,

Adiba Books

2003 Aur Diya Jalta Raha 127 Muhim Prakashan 81-8164-004-7

Collection of Short Stories

Year Title Description Length (Pages) Publisher ISBN Cover Image
1946 AadamKhor[11] 184 Saraswati Press
1962 Birthday Translated in Russian as "Den' Rozhdennii︠a︡[6]" 76 Moskva Izd 67056666 (LCCN)
1990 Jawan Mitti[12] 264 Prathibha Pratishthan
2002 Jaggo Tai National Book Trust 978-81-237-4120-8
2007 A Class Ka Qaidi[13] 183 Literacy House 81-88435-27-9
2007 Doosra Bachcha[14] 174 Itihas Shodh Sansthan 81-8073-064-5
2007 Saudamini 176 Sharda Prakashan 81-85023-39-5
2007 Vey Bhediye[15] 181 Parag Prakashan 81-7468-045-4


2007 Hirni 174 Sharda Prakashan 81-8070-052-6
2008 Meri Priaya Kahaniyaan[16] 350 Purvodaya Prakshan 81-7037-086-8
2011 Ferfiassag[7] Collection of 15 stories in Hungarian
2011 Nasamajh[17] DJ Publications 978-93-80786-14-8
2011 Aadha Kamra[18] Eastend Publications 978-93-80807-09-6
2011 Khuda Ki Den 93-80784-12-0
2011 Udhar Ka Sukh[19] Nalanda Prakashan 81-8073-069-7

Children Drama/Stories (2008)

Year Title Description Length (Pages) Publisher ISBN Cover Image
Pashu Pakshi Sammelan Drama Collection
2008 Jinhone Itihaas Racha Bharat Ke Veero ki Kahaniyan Akshay Prakshan 81-8077-023-0
2008 Shishe Ke Mahal Novel Antara Prakashan 81-8079-036-3
2007 Bhondu Aur Golu Story National Book Trust 978-81-237-5112-2
2008 Damyanti Novel Akshay Prakshan 81-8077-021-4


Year Title Description Length (Pages) Publisher ISBN Cover Image
2008 Peedhiyon Ke Pul Collection of Street Plays 128 Antara Prakashan 81-8079-035-5
2008 Pinjrey Ki Maina Autobiography 416 Purvodaya Prakashan 81-7037-085-X

International Publications

In 1962, sponsored by Academician E.P. Chelishave, her collection of best stories was published in Russian language as "Den' Rozhdennii︠a︡[6]" the title story being "Birthday".

Her Story on Family Planning "Grihasthi Ka Sukh" written in the fifties was selected among 10 best stories of Asia and Africa by the government of Czechoslovakia and published in a collection named "Rodini Stati". It was translated by Professor Odolen Smekel (Later Czech Ambassador to India).

A collection of 19 Hindi stories[20] has been translated into English at the University of Oxford under the guidance of Head of the Department at the Faculty of Oriental Studies (Dr Imre Bangha).

Her stories have been in the prescribed text in various universities all over the world for example University of London, University of Oxford in the UK, University of California, Berkeley.

Publications in Indian Magazines and Indian Languages

Her poems have been published in Kadambini, Naya Gyanodaya etc.

A very large number of stories have been translated in several Indian languages like Bengali magazines Basumati, Prabasi, and Mahila Mangal, Punjabi magazines Preetalahiri, Tamil magazine Kalki, Urdu magazines Saqi and Ajkal.

Research Projects

Several Doctorates have been awarded for research projects on her works.

Year Researcher Publisher Title
1992 Dr. Kuntal Kumari Aman Prakshan Srimati Chandrakiran Sonrexa Evam Sharatchandra ke Nari Patra
2014 Santosh Subhashrao Kulkarni Chandrakiran Sonrexsa ke kathasahitya me vyakta stri jivan ke vividh roop

Film made for TV

Gumrah, a Telefilm on Doordarshan on the topic of terrorism in Punjab, India

Honors and Awards

Year Award Description Awarded By
1946 Seksaria Award Awarded for collection of short stories titled "Adamkhor" Akhil Bhartiya Sahitya Sammelan
1987 Saraswat Samman Madhya Pradesh Sahitya Academy
1988 Subhadra Kumari Chauhan Gold Medal UP Sahitya Sammelan
2001 Best Hindi woman writer of the century Hindi Sahitya Academy (Delhi)


Agyeya - Chandrakiran Sonrexa is most notable for her penetrative insights. Her incisive comments on the aspirations, hypocrisy and self-serving middle class touched a nerve with the readers.

Vishnu Prabhakar - The exalted pedestal which Mahadevi Ji occupied in the domain of poetry, Chandrakiran Ji occupied the same position in the realm of short stories.... The kind of true-to-life characterization of the middle class woman as she portrayed in her stories is rarely to be encountered in any other writer's works.

Dr. Ramvilas Sharma - All the ingredients which are required to make a novel be counted among the greatest novels in Hindi, are present in Chandrakiran's novel "Chandan Chandni". All those souls who seem destined to suffocate in dark closed enclosures, will find a ray of light as well.... The voice of the main protagonist, the heroine of the novel "Garima" - the newly-awakened, a female warrior fighting for her own rights even as she is eternally deprived, is nevertheless the voice of the perennially maligned Indian woman.

Amrit Rai - Her realistic and incisive depiction of the inner workings of the lower-middle families, especially the womenfolk, can rarely be seen elsewhere. Her study of the women's natural neglect and insignificance is widely prevalent (in her works). Among the current crop of writers, I place her in the top echelons.

Shivdan Singh Chauhan - Chandrakiran Ji's brilliance manifests itself at its very best whenever she paints a realistic and formidable picture of human condition. Her writings are of the highest quality. I pay homage to her from the bottom of my heart.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran. "Saunareksā, Candrakiraṇa, 1920- LC Linked Data Service: Authorities and Vocabularies | Library of Congress". Library of Congress.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Saunareksā, Candrakiraṇa. "Saunareksā, Candrakiraṇa 1920- [WorldCat Identities]". WorldCat Identities.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran. "Virtual International Authority File". Virtual International Authority File.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran. "Candrakiraṇa Saunareksā". Wikidata.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran. "Chandrakiran Sonrexa". Bhartiya Sahitya Sangrah.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Saunareksā, Candrakiraṇa (1962). Denʹ rozhdenii︠a︡ [Birthday] (in Russian). Moskva Izd. LCCN 67056666.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Saunareksā, Candra Kirana; Bangha, Imre (2010). Férfiasság : Indiai elbeszélések női szemmel [Manliness: Indian Short Stories through a Woman’s Eye] (in Hungarian). Csíkszereda : Pallas-Akadémia,. ISBN 9789736653018. OCLC 895364296.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  8. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (1962). Chandan Chandni. Mitra Prakashan. ISBN 81-86306-49-8. OCLC 19892092.
  9. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (2008). Vanchita. ISBN 9788186306482. OCLC 239253479.
  10. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (2008). Kahin Se Kahin Nahin. Adiba Books. ISBN 9788189592066. OCLC 432588663.
  11. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (1944). Aadamkhor. Sarasvati Pustak Mandir. OCLC 40555146.
  12. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (1990). Jawan Mitti. Pratibha Pratishthana. OCLC 24216709.
  13. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (2007). A Class Ka Qaidi. Literacy House. ISBN 8188435279. OCLC 190842926.
  14. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (2007). Doosra Bachcha. Itihas Shodh Sansthan. ISBN 8180710645. OCLC 227064401.
  15. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (2007). Ve Bhediye. Parag Prakashan. ISBN 8174680454. OCLC 182969213.
  16. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (2008). Meri Priya Kahaniyan. Purvodaya Publication. ISBN 8170370868. OCLC 232392813.
  17. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (2011). Nasamajh. D J Publications. ISBN 9789380786148. OCLC 759083043.
  18. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (2011). Aadha Kamra. Eastend Publication. ISBN 9380807090. OCLC 759083039.
  19. Sonrexa, Chandra Kiran (2011). Udhara Ka Sukha. Nalanda Prakashan. ISBN 8180730697. OCLC 757173765.

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