Munshi Premchand Essay
Munshi Premchand (July 31, 1880 – October 8, 1936) was an Indian writer famous for his modern Hindustani literature. He is one of the most celebrated writers of the Indian subcontinent, and is regarded as one of the foremost Hindustani writers of the early twentieth century.  Born Dhanpat Rai Srivastav, he began writing under the pen name “Nawab Rai”, but subsequently switched to “Premchand”, while he is also known as “Munshi Premchand”, Munshi being an honorary prefix. A novel writer, story writer and dramatist, he has been referred to as the “Upanyas Samrat” (“Emperor among Novelists”) by some Hindi writers.
His works include more than a dozen novels, around 250 short stories, several essays and translations of a number of foreign literary works into Hindi. Biography Premchand was born on 31 July 1880 in Lamhi, a village located near Varanasi (Benares). His ancestors came from a large family, which owned six bighas of land.  His grandfather Gur Sahai Lal was a patwari (village accountant), and his father Ajaib Lal was a post office clerk. His mother was Anand Devi of Karauni village, who could have been the inspiration for the character Anandi in his Bade Ghar Ki Beti. 4]
Premchand was the fourth child of Ajaib Lal and Anandi; the first two were girls who died as infants, and the third one was a girl named Suggi.  His parents named him Dhanpat Rai (“the master of wealth”), while his uncle, Mahabir, a rich landowner, nicknamed him “Nawab” (“Prince”). “Nawab Rai” was the firstpen name chosen by Premchand.  Adoption of the name Premchand In 1909, Premchand was transferred to Mahoba, and later posted to Hamirpur as the Sub-deputy Inspector of Schools.  Around this time, Soz-e-Watan was noticed by the British Government officials, who banned it as a seditious work.
The British collector of the Hamirpur District ordered a raid on Premchand’s house, where around five hundred copies of Soz-e-Watan were burnt. Subsequently, Dhanpat Rai had to change his pseudonym from “Nawab Rai” to “Premchand”. In 1914, Premchand started writing in Hindi (Hindi and Urdu are considered different registers of a single language Hindustani, with Hindi drawing much of its vocabulary from Sanskrit and Urdu being more influenced by Persian). By this time, he was already reputed as a fiction writer in Urdu. 7] His first Hindi story Saut was published in the magazine Saraswati in December 1915, and his first short story collection Sapta Saroj was published in June 1917.
Last days After leaving Bombay, Premchand wanted to settle in Allahabad, where his sons Sripat Rai and Amrit Rai were studying. He also planned to publish Hans from there. However, owing to his financial situation and ill-health, he had to hand over Hans to the Indian Literary Counsel and move to Benares.  Premchand was elected as the first President of the Progressive Writers’ Association in Lucknow, in 1936. 1] He died on 8 October 1936, after several days of sickness. Godaan (The Gift of a Cow, 1936), Premchand’s last completed work, is generally accepted as his best novel, and is considered as one of the finest Hindi novels.  The protagonist, Hori, a poor peasant, desperately longs for a cow, a symbol of wealth and prestige in rural India. According to Schulz, “Godan is a well-structured and well-balanced novel which amply fulfills the literary requirements postulated by the Western literary standards. 
Unlike other contemporary renowned authors such as Rabindranath Tagore, Premchand was not appreciated much outside India. Siegfried Schulz believes that the reason for this was absence of good translations of his work. Also, unlike Tagore and Iqbal, Premchand never travelled outside India, studied abroad or mingled with the renowned foreign literary figures.  In 1936, Premchand also published Kafan (“Shroud”), in which a poor man collects money for the funeral rites of his dead wife, but spends it on food and drink. Premchand’s last published story was Cricket Match, which appeared in Zamana in 1937, after his death.
Style and influences Premchand is considered the first Hindi author whose writings prominently featured realism.  His novels describe the problems of the poor and the urban middle-class.  His works depict a rationalistic outlook, which views religious values as something that allows the powerful hypocrites to exploit the weak.  He used literature for the purpose of arousing public awareness about national and social issues and often wrote about topics related to corruption, child widowhood, prostitution, feudal system, poverty, colonialism and on the India’s freedom movement. 39]
Premchand started taking an interest in political affairs while at Kanpur during the late 1900s, and this is reflected in his early works, which have patriotic overtones. His political thoughts were initially influenced by the moderate Indian National Congress leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale, but later, he moved towards the more extremist Bal Gangadhar Tilak.  He considered the Minto-Morley Reforms and the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms as inadequate, and supported greater political freedom. 17] Several of his early works, such as A Little Trick and A Moral Victory, satirized the Indians who cooperated with the British Government. He did not specifically mention the British in his some of his stories, due to strong government censorship, but disguised his opposition in settings from the medieval era and the foreign history.  He was also influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.  In the 1920s, he was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement and the accompanying struggle for social reform.
During this period, his works dealt with the social issues such as poverty, zamindari exploitation (Premashram, 1922), dowry system (Nirmala, 1925), educational reform and political oppression (Karmabhumi, 1931).  Premchand was focused on the economic liberalization of the peasantry and the working class, and was opposed to the rapid industrialization, which he felt would hurt the interests of the peasants and oppression of the workers.  This can be seen in works like Rangabhumi (1924).
In his last days, he focused on village life as a stage for complex drama, as seen in the novel Godan (1936) and the short-story collection Kafan (1936).  Premchand believed that social realismwas the way for Hindi literature, as opposed to the “feminine quality”, tenderness and emotion of the contemporary Bengali literature.  He was given the highest accolade of his time, when he wasreferred to as “Upanyas Samrat”. He wrote novels, short stories,essays and children’s fiction. All that he wrote, has stood the testof time, and nearly seventy after his death, Premchand is still oneof India’s best-read authors.
His novels, in particular Godan,Nirmala and Ghaban; are hugely popular. His short stories, broughttogether under the title Mansarovar enjoy tremendous enthusiasmamongst readers until date. Premchand has been translated in many languages, there are 100s ofPh. D. s awarded on his works every year. There is no University inIndia and abroad, where Hindi literature is taught and Premchand isnot an important part of the syllabus. Premchand wrote in a very direct and simple style, and his wordsmade their own magic. His protagonists were always the people heobserved around him.
His knowledge of the human psychology, and hisappreciation of the ironies of life made him a stellar writer. In keeping with his clean-cut style and lucid manner, readingPremchand is a great pleasure! His prose is precise, his descriptionssuccinct. Premchand lived in an era of great social turmoil for India. Hesaw traditional village independence being destroyed by thecolonisers. He saw how the traditional system of the Indian UndividedFamily was falling apart with the pressures of increasedcentralisation of jobs in urban centres.
He also noted the fallout oflarge-scale urbanisation and the consequent materialistic andacquisitional tendencies it triggered off. His stories and novelfaithfully record and analyse these tendencies through the trials andtribulations of his protagonists. Premchand observed keenly the psychology of a child, brought up inpoverty. In his short story Eidgah, the hero, a small boy from a poorfamily, goes with his relatively well-to-do friends. He has a verysmall amount of money to spare. Instead of blowing it on fun andtoys, he buys a “chimta” for his old grandmother, who used to burnher fingers on the hot iron “tava”.
His novel “Godan” tells the story of a poor man, bound by thesociety, exploited by the privileged class and his soul-destroyingtravails. His protagonists are often exploited, but never unjustthemselves, and retain their humanity. The badi bahuria, in Bade GharKi Bahu, despite longing to eat a halfway decent meal, gives it tothe postman, who is actually the bearer of bad news. When the postmantries to decline, she says that she will eat some bathua saag andmanage. Each novel, each story of Premchand reassures us that humanity isalive and well.
That circumstances may be grim, but there is a godsomewhere, and things are not so bad as they may seem. Premchand seesgoodness in every human being, and hence describes people aptly. Themost mean and vicious character will suffer the occasional qualm ofconscience. And the most naive character is not without heroism. Theprotagonist of Ghaban is out to impress his newly wed wife. His taleof plight is told with understanding and empathy. The reader feels apart of Premchand’s stories. All his fictional characters are real. They are living and breathing. Not just, blank ink on whitepaper.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 November 2016
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