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இந்தப் பக்கத்தை தமிழில் வாசிக்க: அம்பை

Ambai Iyal Award 2021

Ambai (1944), considered by critics as the foremost Tamil feminist writer, has written a number of short stories and research articles. She is a feminist activist, social commentator and a professor. She writes research essays under her birth name C.S. Lakshmi.

Birth, Adolescence

Ambai was born in 1944 as C.S. Lakshmi in Coimbatore and grew up in Bangalore. She received her bachelor’s degree from Madras Christian College and holds a master’s degree in History.


Personal Life

She holds a PhD (American Studies) from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. She started working as a school teacher and a college lecturer in Tamil Nadu after her education.

In 1976, she married Vishnu Mathur, a documentary filmmaker. They have two adopted children.

Literary Life

Ambai talks about choosing the pen name Ambai in an article in the 2013 Diwali special edition of the magazine Amudhasurabi, "I do not want my pen name to be Lakshmi because all the babies born on a Friday are named Lakshmi. In Devan's novel Parvatiyin Sangalpam, Parvati, a woman abandoned by her husband, decides to use the name Ambai when she begins to write and so I decided to use the same name".

Ambai's first work was Nandimalai Charalilae (1960), a detective adventure novel for kids, published in the children's magazine Kannan. She wrote few short stories for Ananda Vikatan later. Ambai's second novel Andhi Malai won the second prize in the Kalaimagal novel competition. The stories and the novel, Ambai says, are based on the idea that an ideal woman is one who is a helpmate to a man. In 1967, her short story Siragugul Muriyum (Wings Will Be Broken) was published in the magazine Kanaiyazhi. This she considers to be her first short story.

Although most of Ambai's short stories are from women's perspective, they are not didactic in tone. She points out how tradition and culture have oppressed women both directly and indirectly over time. The social and ideological domination on the lives of women are the subject of her works. There is also the influence of Marxist ideology in her early stories. She has recently written a few detective stories.


Ambai has written articles for various journals and news magazines such as The Hindu, The Economic and Political Weekly and The Times of India under the name C.S. Lakshmi.

Social Activism

She is one of the founders and organizers of SPARROW (Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women), an organization that documents the oral data and history of women.

Literary Significance

"Ambai's short stories can be considered the first expression of a woman's rage in Tamil. She talks about the feminine world where one shoulders the sufferings of the world as her own. Although her works are nuanced, containing artistic beauty, she rationalizes experiences which negatively impacts the emotionality of her storytelling" says writer Sundara Ramaswamy about Ambai.

Critic Mankuthirai says that Ambai's short stories can be divided into two categories: one where she looks at the social setup as a common woman and the other where she interferes with these issues as an outsider.

Jeyamohan adds Veetin Moolaiyil Oru Samaiyalarai, Amma Oru Kolai Seithal and Karrupu Kudhirai Chathukkam to his list of best short stories in Tamil. Critic S. Ramakrishnan adds Amma Oru Kolai Seithal and Kaattil Oru Maan to his list of 100 best short stories in Tamil.

Voices advocating women's education and women's liberation have existed since the dawn of modern literature in Tamil since V.M. Kothainayaki Ammal. Among them R. Chudamani is the most important. Ambai considers R. Chudamani as her literary ideal and companion (Manathukkiniyaval, Ambai). However, Ambai was the first to speak about women's emancipation with an understanding of feminist principles and a global historical approach in Tamil literature. She also worked as a feminist activist. Despite criticisms that the feminist perspective in her works predominates the artistic aspect of it, Ambai is considered an important literary figure in Tamil as her works evoke a profound dialogue and intellectual debates.


  • Thangaraj Enge- Dialogues
  • Mudhal Athiyayam- Direction


  • Canada Tamil Literary Garden- Iyal Award (2008)
  • Sivappu Kazhuthudan Oru Pacchai Paravai- Sahitya Akademi Award (2021)
  • Tata Lifetime Achivement Award 2023


Ambai Complete Collection


  • Anthimaalai (1966)

Collection of Short Stories

  • Siragugal Muriyum (1976)
  • Veetin Moolaiyil Oru Samaiyalarai (1988)
  • Kaattil Oru Maan (2000)
  • Chakkara Naarkali (Wheelchair)
  • Sanjaari (Traveller)
  • Thanni Adika (Getting Wasted)
  • Vatrum Eriyin Meenkal (2007) (Fishes In A Shriveling Lake)
  • Sivappu Kazhuthudan Oru Pacchai Paravai (Sahitya Akademi Award)
  • Oru Karuppu Silanthiyudan Or Iravu

Children's Novels

  • Nanthimalai Charalile


  • Payanpatadha Padhaigal (Oral history recordings of women in painting,classical dance, and drama)
  • Solladha Kathaigal [Untold Stories](Oral history recordings of women who participated in the Independence movement and the Dalit writers)
  • Sellamal - Ninaivu Kuripugal (1993)

Research Books

  • Udalenum Veli - Pennum Mozhiyum Velipaadum
  • The Face Behind the Mask: Women in Tamil literature (1984)
  • Seven Seas & Seven Mountains series: (2 volumes)
  • Volume 1: The Singer and the Song – Conversations with Women Musicians
  • Volume 2: Mirrors and Gestures – Conversations with Women Dancers (ed.)
  • The Unhurried City – Writings on Chennai.

Translated Works

  • A Purple Sea (1992)
  • In the Forest, A Deer (2006)- Translated by Lakshmi Holmström
  • Fish in a Dwindling Lake (Lakshmi Holmström)
  • A Night with A Black Spider Stories (Aniruddhan Vasudevan)
  • A Meeting on the Andheri Overbridge.


  • Siberia Paniyil Nadana Kaalaniyudan - Sandra Kalniete
  • Amaithiyin Narumanam - Irom Sharmila


✅Finalised Page