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Munshi Premchand was an Indian writer famous for his modern Hindustani literature.
Born July 31, 1880 Died October 8, 1936.Achievements Premchand brought realism to Hindi literature. Premchand wrote on the realistic issues of the day communalism, corruption, zamindari, debt, poverty, colonialism etc. He avoided the use of highly Sanskritized Hindi and instead used the dialect of the common people.Premchand popularly known as Munshi Premchand was one of the greatest literary figures of modern Hindi literature. His stories vividly portrayed the social scenario of those times.Premchands real name was Dhanpat Rai Srivastava. He was born on July 31, 1880 in Lamahi near Varanasi where his father Munshi Azaayab Lal was a clerk in the post office. Premchand lost his mother when he was just seven years old. His father married again. Premchand was very close to his elder sister. His early education was in a madarasa under a Maulavi, where he learnt Urdu. When he was studying in the ninth class he was married, much against his wishes. He was only fifteen years old at that time.
Premchand lost his father when he was sixteen years old. Premchand was left responsible for his stepmother and stepsiblings. He earned five rupees a month tutoring a lawyers child. Premchand passed his matriculation exam with great effort and took up a teaching position, with a monthly salary of eighteen rupees. While working, he studied privately and passed his Intermediate and B. A. examinations. Later, Premchand worked as the deputy sub inspector of schools in what was then the United Provinces.In 1910, he was hauled up by the District Magistrate in Jamirpur for his anthology of short stories Soz e Watan (Dirge of the Nation), which was labelled seditious. His book Soz e Watan was banned by the then British government, which burnt all of the copies. Initially Premchand wrote in Urdu under the name of Nawabrai. However, when his novel Soz e Watan was confiscated by the British, he started writing under the pseudonym Premchand.
Before Premchand, Hindi literature consisted mainly of fantasy or religious works. Premchand brought realism to Hindi literature. He wrote over 300 stories, a dozen novels and two plays. The stories have been compiled and published as Maansarovar. His famous creations are Panch Parameshvar, Idgah, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Poos Ki Raat, Bade Ghar Ki Beti, Kafan, Udhar Ki Ghadi, Namak Ka Daroga, Gaban, Godaan, and Nirmala.Premchand was a great social reformer; he married a child widow named Shivarani Devi. She wrote a book on him, Premchand Gharmein after his death. In 1921 he answered Gandhijis call and resigned from his job. He worked to generate patriotism and nationalistic sentiments in the general populace. When the editor of the journal Maryaada was jailed in the freedom movement, Premchand worked for a time as the editor of that journal. Afterward, he worked as the principal in a school in the Kashi Vidyapeeth.The main characteristic of Premchands writings is his interesting storytelling and use of simple language. His novels describe the problems of rural and urban India. He avoided the use of highly Sanskritized Hindi and instead used the dialect of the common people. Premchand wrote on the realistic issues of the day communalism, corruption, zamindari, debt, poverty, colonialism etc.Premchands writings have been translated not only into all Indian languages, but also Russian, Chinese, and many other foreign languages. He died on October 8, 1936.
2. Munshi Premchand
Premchand was born on 31 July 1880 in a village near Varanasi in India to Munshi Ajaib Lal, a clerk in the post office. His parents died when he was still very young. His mother died when he was no more than seven and his father passed away when Premchand was fifteen or sixteen, and still a student. After loosing his parents, Premchand became responsible for his step mother and his siblings born from her. Premchand was married to a girl in an arranged child marriage as then was the custom but the marriage proved to be painful for him and he left her in 1899. After that Premchand married a child widow Shivrani Devi in 1906.
After leaving his village in 1899, Premchand took up a job of a schoolmaster at a mission school in Chunar, another remote area. The salary was minimal and he was the only earning member in the family. With that negligible amount he had to support his wife, step mother, his siblings and himself. The condition became even worse when he was fired from the job and had to return to his village. After some efforts, he succeeded in getting a job of assistant master at a government school in Varanasi. He was transferred to a town near Allahabad, where he became the headmaster of a school in year 1902. After two years, he was sent to Kanpur as the deputy sub inspector of schools.
3. Early Career
It was in Allahabad, where he first started writing seriously. Premchand started his literary career as a freelancer in Urdu and wrote several short stories in the language. His first novella, Asrar e Maoabid was first published in Awaz e Khalq, an Urdu Weekly. Soon after, he became associated with an Urdu magazine Zamana, where he wrote columns on national and international events. He also wrote a collection of short stories in Urdu which became known as Soz e Vatan. It was then that his career as a writer began to take shape and he became a reputed part of the literary world of Kanpur.
4. Success as a Writer
His literary work in Urdu gained him a reputation of a journalist with social aim, rather than a mere entertainer. Premchand was born in the British India and the Indian Independence movement was at its peak when he started his writing career. His early writings were largely influenced by the nationwide movement in which he often expressed his support to the fight for freedom. In 1910, his collection of Soz e Watan was labeled as rebellious on account of its message which provoked Indians to fight for the nation. An agonized British government confiscated the book and all copies of Soz e Watan were burnt or destroyed. Premchand, who was writing under the name of Nawabrai at that time, began to use Premchand as his pen name. The prolific writer wrote more than 300 stories, novels and a number of plays.
The writer is credited with the introducing realism into the Hindi literature when it only consisted of the fantasy stories, fairy tales and religious work. His creations are compiled and published as Maansarovar. In 1921, Premchand resigned from his job as his support to the Indian independence movement and Gandhios Swadeshi movement. He took up a job in a printing press and became the proprietor of the press. During that time he also worked as the editor of Hindi and Urdu journals to support himself. It was miserable to see that though he had established himself as a great writer and novelist, he failed to earn money and led a life of struggle amid poverty and financial crisis.
5. Writing Style Notable Work
Aside from a novelist and author, Premchand was also a social reformer and a thinker. The remarkable characteristic of his writing was the reality with which he depicted his characters in the novels. Unlike other contemporary writers, he did not write fantasy fictions, or stories based upon a hero. His novels mainly consisted messages on social evils like, dowry, poverty, communalism, colonialism and corruption and Zamindari. He was the first writer of the twentieth century to bring reality in the literature.
Premchand authored over 300 short stories, novels and several number of essays, letters and plays. Many of his works have been translated into English and Russian and some have been adopted into films as well. His first novel Godaan is ranked amongst the finest novels of his era and remains so till this day. His other notable novels are Gaban, Kafan Poos ki Rat, Idgah, and Bade Ghar ki Beti. Other bestselling novels Shatranj Ke Khiladi and SevaSadan were adopted into film by Satyajit Ray.
6. Writing style
The main characteristic of Premchands writings is his interesting story telling and use of simple language. His novels describe the problems of the rural peasant classes. He avoided the use of highly Sanskritized Hindi (as was the common practice among Hindi writers), and also Spanish language.
7. Literary works
Premchand has written about 300 short stories, several novels as well as many essays and letters. He has also written some plays. He also did some translations. Many of Premchands stories have been translated into English and Russian.Godaan (The Gift of a Cow), his last novel, is considered the finest Hindi novel of all times.The hero, Hori, a poor peasant, desperately longs for a cow, a symbol of wealth and prestige in rural India. Hori gets a cow but pays with his life for it. After his death, the village priests demand a cow from his widow to bring his soul to peace.In Kafan (Shroud), a poor man collects money for the funeral rites of his dead wife, but spends it on food and drink.
8. Films based on Premchands work
Satyajit Ray filmed two of Premchands works Sadgati and Shatranj Ke Khiladi. Sadgati (Salvation) is a short story about poor Dukhi, who gets exhausted to death while he hews wood for more or less nothing. Shatranj ke Khiladi (The Chess Players) tells the story of chess players who are so concentrated on a game that they forget their responsibilities in the midst of a crisis.
9. 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 Premchands 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. 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.
In August 1916, Premchand was transferred to Gorakhpur on a promotion. He became the Assistant Master at the Normal High School, Gorakhpur.At Gorakhpur, he developed a friendship with the bookseller Buddhi Lal, who allowed him to borrow novels for reading, in exchange for selling exam cram books at the school. Premchand was an enthusiastic reader of classics in other languages, and translated several of these works in Hindi. By 1919, Premchand had published four novellas, of about a hundred pages each. In 1919, Premchands first major novel Seva Sadan was published in Hindi. The novel was originally written in Urdu under the title Bazaar e Husn, but was published in Hindi first by a Calcutta based publisher, who offered Premchand INR 450 for his work. The Urdu Publisher of Lahore published the novel later in 1924, paying Premchand INR 250. The novel tells the story of an unhappy housewife, who first becomes a courtesan, and then manages an orphanage for the young daughters of the courtesans. It was well received by the critics, and helped Premchand gain wider recognition.In 1919, Premchand obtained a BA degree from Allahabad. By 1921, he had been promoted to Deputy Inspectors of Schools. On 8 February 1921, he attended a meeting in Gorakhpur, where Mahatma Gandhi asked people to resign from government jobs as part of the non cooperation movement. Premchand, although physically unwell and with two kids and a pregnant wife to support, thought about it for 5 days and decided, with the consent of his wife, to resign from his government job.
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