Munshi Premchand | The Upanyas Samrat of Hindi Literature

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His Life: The Shining Beacon of Indian Literature

  • Year 1880 – Born in Lamahi, Benares.
  • Year 1903 – His first novel Asrar e Ma’abid was published.
  • Year 1906 – Married Shivrani Devi.
  • Year 1914 – Began writing in Hindi.
  • Year 1936 – Godaan was published.
  • Year 1936 – Left the mortal world.

“BEAUTY DOESN’T NEED ORNAMENTS. SOFTNESS CAN’T BEAR THE WEIGHT OF ORNAMENTS.”

Munshi Premchand was a foremost Indian writer of Hindi and Urdu literature. He is cited amongst the best writers of early 20th century India. His magnum opus ‘Godaan’ is still considered as the masterpiece of Hindi literature. He jotted down the realistic prevalent issues of that era like zamindari, debt, poverty, etc., in his novels. He has worked on more than a dozen novels, ~ 250 short stories, several essays, and many foreign works translated in Hindi.

Personal Life

Born as Dhanpat Rai Srivastava to Munshi Ajaib Rai, a clerk in the post office and Anandi Devi. He was born on July 31, 1880 in Lamahi, Benares. His mother died when he was merely eight. His father married again and received posting in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. His father was constantly occupied with work and Premchand didn’t get enough love or affection from his stepmother. Lonely and unloved Premchand found an escape in fiction. He started selling books for a bookseller in a shop. He soon got obsessed with books and became a voracious reader.

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He received his early education at a madrasa in Lalpur under a Maulvi. There he learnt Urdu and Persian. He completed his matriculation in 1898 and B.A. with English, Persian and History in 1919. He got married at the age of 15, but the marriage ended soon due to various hardships. He married again with a child widow named Shivrani Devi in 1906.

Journey of Hindi Literature

He authored his first work in Gorakhpur, but it went unpublished and is now lost. After the death of his father, Premchand started giving tuition to the child of a lawyer to earn his livelihood. He earned a meager salary of five rupees a month. He was living in destitution that time and lived the same way all of his life. In 1899, he took up a teacher’s job at a missionary school in Chunar while tutoring a student for extra income. He wrote his first novel named Asrar e Ma’abid (The Mystery of God’s Abode) under the pseudonym Nawab Rai.

He authored all of his literary works under this pseudonym and around 1909 adopted the pseudonym Premchand. His novel was published from October 1903 to February 1905 in an Urdu weekly named Awaz-e-Khalk. He then moved to Kanpur and started working there. He penned down his second short novel Hamkhurma-o-Hamsavab in 1907 under the pseudonym Babu Nawab Rai Banarsi. In the same year his other works Kishna, Roothi Rani and Soz-e-Watan were published. In 1914, he began writing in Hindi and his first Hindi story Saut was published next year.

Premchand is the first Hindi author whose writings prominently featured realism. He has written over 250 short stories, a dozen novels, many essays, plays and translation of foreign literatures. Few has been captured and mentioned below in table:

Novel’s Name Publisher Year Description
Devasthan Rahasya Awaz-e-Khalk (serial form) 1903 (8 October) -1905 (February) English translation of the title: “The Mystery of God’s Abode”
Prema Hamkhurma-o-Ham Sawab 1907
Kishna Medical Hall Press, Benares 1907 Now lost; satirises women’s fondness for jewellery
Roothi Rani Zamana (serial form) 1907 (April–August)
Seva Sadan Calcutta Pustak Agency (Hindi) 1919 (Hindi)
Rangbhoomi Darul Ishaat 1924
Nirmala Idaara-e-Furoogh-Urdu 1925 English title: The second wife.
Kaayakalp Lajpat Rai & Sons, Lahore (Urdu) 1926 (Hindi),
Gaban Saraswati Press, Benares; Lajpatrai & Sons, Urdu Bazaar 1931
Karmabhoomi Maktaba Jamia, Delhi 1932
Godaan Saraswati Press 1936 Themed around the socio economic deprivation as well as the exploitation of the village poor.
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Source: Wikipedia

Short stories Publisher Year Description
Duniya ka Sabse Anmol Ratan Zamana 1907 About the drop of the blood necessary for the nation’s independence
Bade Bhai Sahab Zamana 1910 (December) A story of two brothers, their conflict, resolution and understanding
Saut Sarasvati(Vol. 16, Part 2, No. 6, 353–359) 1915 (December) The title means “co-wife”.
Panch Parameshvar Sarasvati 1916 (June) The story narrates how they reunite as friends.
Ishwariya Nyaya Sarasvati 1917 (July) The title means “The Divine Law”
Maa Sarasvati 1921 (November) The title means “Mother”
Meri Pahli Rachna Sarasvati 1930 (May)
Manovratti Sarasvati 1932 (May)
Balidan Sarasvati 1918 (May) The title means “Sacrifice”.
Boodhi Kaki(The Old Aunt) Hans 1921 An old woman craves for love from her family.
Idgah Chand 1933 (August) Story of a poor boy in India lives with his grandmother
Nashaa Chand 1934 (February) The story explores class disparity and aspirations in the friendship of two boys
Gupt Dhan
Namak Ka Daroga 1925 (May) An idealist becomes a police officer, and faces problems while performing his duties.
Poos ki raat Madhuri 1930 (May) The title means “A night of the Poos month (Winter)”.
Vidhwans The title means “Catastrophe”.
Kazaki A story of love, adore and friendship between a little boy and kazaki, man.

Source: Wikipedia

He left his job as the Deputy Inspectors of Schools in 1921 on a nationwide call by Gandhiji for the Non-Cooperation Movement. He came back to Benares to focus on his career as a novelist. He started his printing press and publishing house named Saraswati Press. His work was also adopted by many directors of Indian cinema and movies has been produced on several novels/essay/plays etc.

Later Life

Premchand visited Mumbai in 1934 to try his hand in the film industry. He worked there for a while, but soon returned to Benares after facing failure. In 1936, he was appointed the President of the Progressive Writers’ Association. His last completed work was a story named Kafan (published in1936) and his magnum opus Godaan (published in 1936). After a long illness, he left the mortal world on October 8, 1936.

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