Famed Bengali poet and novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay has died at the age of 78.

Gangopadhyay passed away early on Tuesday morning (23Oct12) in the Indian city of Calcutta after suffering a heart attack.

One of India's most popular contemporary authors, Gangopadhyay wrote more than 200 books and was awarded several prestigious honours, including the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Hindu Literary Prize.

He wrote novels, short stories, travelogues and children's fiction, but always said poetry was his "first love". He was also the founding editor of Krittibas, an experimental and influential poetry magazine.

India's President Pranab Mukherjee paid tribute to the novelist, saying, "One of Bengal's brightest literary stars has been extinguished. This loss will be extremely difficult to overcome. Sunil Gangopadhyay was one of the greatest Bengali intellectuals."