Aruna Asaf Ali

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 11, 2023, 8:18

Aruna Asaf Ali is one of India's most prominent female freedom fighters. She was a revolutionary Civil Rights Leader who rose to prominence during the Quit India Movement in 1942. Aruna Asaf Ali is regarded as the “Grand Old Lady of Indian Independence” for her participation in the liberation movement.

For her fearless participation in the independence movement, Aruna Asaf Ali was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1992, and the Bharat Ratna in 1997 (posthumously). In this article, we have shared more information about her life and achievements.

About Aruna Asaf Ali

Aruna Asaf Ali was the first mayor of Delhi after India’s independence. She was an active freedom fighter during the independence movement and is known for her participation in the Salt Satyagraha, the Quit India Movement, etc. Aruna Asaf Ali was imprisoned for her participation in the movement in 1932 but she continued protesting.

She has received several awards for her efforts as a political activist, including the Padma Vibhushan and the Bharat Ratna. Find out more about Aruna Asaf Ali and her life from the overview shared below.


Aruna Asaf Ali


Political Activist, Publisher, Educator

Known for

Her participation in the Indian independence movement


16 July 1909


29 July 1996


Bharat Ratna (1997), Padma Vibhushan (1992), International Lenin Peace Prize (1964)

Known as

Heroine of Quit India Movement

Aruna Asaf Ali: Early Life

Born to Upendranath Ganguly and Ambalika Devi, Aruna Asaf Ali was a Bengali-Brahmin who was educated in a convent school in Lahore. Here, we have shared more details about Aruna Asaf Ali’s early life, her family and her education.


  • Aruna Asaf Ali was born into a Bengali Brahmin family on 16 July 1909 in Kalka, British India (now Haryana, India).
  • Her father's name was Upendranath Ganguly and her mother's name was Ambalika Devi.
  • Aruna Asaf Ali’s father belonged to the Barisal district of Eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh) and lived in the United Province.
  • Her mother was the daughter of a renowned Brahmo leader Trailokyanath Sanyal who wrote many Brahmo hymns.


  • Aruna Asaf Ali studied at Sacred Heart Convent (Lahore) and All Saints' College (Nainital).
  • After graduation, she joined the Gokhale Memorial School (Calcutta) as a teacher.
  • In Allahabad, she met and soon fell in love with Asaf Ali, a Congress party leader.
  • Being antagonized by her parents due to their different religions and the huge age gap, Aruna Asaf Ali married in 1928.

Aruna Asaf Ali's Role in India’s Freedom Struggle

Aruna Asaf Ali was an active freedom fighter, best known for her participation in the Quit India Movement and the Salt Satyagraha. Even in imprisonment, she continued to fight for justice and protested the ill-treatment of her fellow inmates at the jail. Here are some more details about Aruna Asaf Ali’s role in the freedom movement.

Early Independence Association

  • After her marriage, she joined the Indian National Congress and strode in public caravans of the Salt Satyagraha.
  • Aruna Asaf Ali was detained on the pretext of being a vagabond.
  • As a result, she was not extricated even after the Gandhi-Irwin Pact in 1931 which called for all political prisoners to be released.
  • Her release was achieved after a public outcry.
  • Aruna Asaf Ali was imprisoned at the Tihar Jail in 1932 when she went on a hunger strike to protest the negligent conduct of political prisoners.
  • Although her efforts improved circumstances in the Tihar Jail, she was transferred to Ambala and placed in solitary confinement.

Aruna Asaf Ali’s Rise to Eminence During the Quit India Movement

  • On 9 August, the Congress flag was hoisted at the Gowalia Tank Maidan by youthful Aruna Asaf Ali, who supervised the rest of the Quit India resolution session at Bombay.
  • For her bravery in the face of danger, Aruna Asaf Ali was labelled the Heroine of the 1942 campaign. In subsequent years, she has anointed the Grand Old Lady of Indian Independence.
  • In 1942, a warrant for Aruna Asaf Ali’s arrest was issued, but she escaped underground to avoid being captured and began an undercover movement.
  • Meanwhile, she co-edited Inquilab, the Congress Party's monthly magazine, with Ram Manohar Lohia.
  • Aruna Asaf Ali was called the Heroine of the Quit India Movement for her fearless efforts.

Aruna Asaf Ali’s Post-Independence Involvement

  • In 1948, Aruna Asaf Ali joined the Socialist Party after becoming disillusioned with the Congress Party's progress on socialism.
  • Regardless, she left the party with Edatata Narayanan and went to Moscow with Rajani Palme Dutt.
  • In the early 1950s, they both joined the Communist Party of India.
  • In 1954, Aruna Asaf Ali aided the formation of the National Federation of Indian Women, the CPI's women's arm but quit it in 1956 after Nikita Khrushchev disowned Stalin.
  • In 1958, Aruna Asaf Ali was designated the first Mayor of Delhi.
  • In the same year, she and Narayanan founded a publishing house and produced a daily newspaper- Patriot, and a weekly - Link.

Aruna Asaf Ali: Awards and Recognition

Aruna Asaf Ali was honoured with several prizes during her lifetime. Here is a list of some of the most prestigious awards that she was bestowed with for her service to the nation:

  • International Lenin Peace Prize in 1964.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1991.
  • Aruna Asaf Ali received the Padma Vibhushan in 1992 (during her lifetime)
  • Bharat Ratna in 1997 (posthumously).
  • Aruna Asaf Ali died on 29 July 1996 in New Delhi. A stamp honouring her was released in 1998.

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FAQs on Aruna Asaf Ali

Q1. Who was Aruna Asaf Ali?

Aruna Asaf Ali was a freedom fighter most recognized for her involvement in the Quit India Movement. She also took part in several nonviolent agitations during the Salt Satyagraha. After India’s independence, she was made Delhi’s first mayor.

Q2. What is Aruna Asaf Ali known for?

Aruna Asaf Ali is known for her political activism, especially during the Indian independence movement. She participated in the Salt Satyagraha and the Quit India Movement. Even during imprisonment, Aruna Asaf Ali protested the ill-treatment of jail inmates.

Q3. Why was Aruna Asaf Ali known as the Heroine of the Quit India Movement?

Aruna Asaf Ali was known as the Heroine of the Quit India Movement because of her massive contribution to the movement. She hoisted the Congress flag on 9 August 1942 at the Gowalia Tank Maidan during the Quit India Movement.

Q4. What awards did Aruna Asaf Ali receive?

Aruna Asaf Ali received many awards for her efforts and participation in the Indian independence movement. Here are some of her awards:

  • Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1991.
  • International Lenin Peace Prize in 1964.
  • Padma Vibhushan in her lifetime in 1992.
  • Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1997.

Q5. Why was Aruna Asaf Ali known as the “Grand Old Lady of Indian Independence”

Aruna Asaf Ali worked with many other freedom fighters to liberate India from British rule. For her contribution and her tireless efforts, Aruna Asaf Ali is regarded as the “Grand Old Lady of Indian Independence”. She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan and the Bharat Ratna for her service.