Social Reformer Premchand – A Review



The advent of Modern period in Hindi is considered from the 1900’s. In the beginning modern Hindi literature was centered on the magical and fairy tales, entertaining the readers with imagination. Born as Dhanpat Rai Srivastav, he began his career as a freelance writer under the pen name “Nawab Rai”, but when his work ‘soz-e-watan’, a collection of short stories was seized by the British government and burnt, after this he started writing in Hindi, with the name Mushi Premchand. Premchand usually referred to as the ‘Tolstoy of India’ shaped the Hindi literature into a reality. He conquered the literary genre as a novelist, story writer and as a dramatist, and is titled as the ‘Upanyas Samrat’ (Emperor of Novels) in Hindi Modern literature. He gave a new dimension to the Hindi literary world by depicting reality of the society to the readers. He entered the Hindi literary world in the year 1917 with his novel, ‘Sevasadan’. He has penned 17 novels and more than 300 short stories which portrayed the social issues prevalent in the society during his time. He raised his voice against the feudal system, the zamindari system, poverty, communalism, caste system, and the social and economic conditions prevalent in the society. He even mentioned the discrimination the females faced in the society. He fought against the dowry system, widow marriages and opined that women have to come out and express her feelings against the social evils and discriminations showed on her. He wrote on the life around him and made the readers aware about the social structure around them. He portrayed the common man in his work’s giving them the status of heroes and heroines by depicting the problems faced by them. Thus he presents to us the real India.

The review highlight’s how Premchands works have influenced various genres of Hindi literature about the social issues and the struggle of the poor and how through the characters the change that could be brought in. Premchand’s works also portrayed the women in society who can be classified into traditional, modern women.  The following literature review attempts to demonstrate and support the objective of the study.

In the article “Realism and a Creative Process: Features of Munshi Premchand’s Ideology” by Sara Rai (1979) correctly points out that for an author to depict the contemporary life, the writer has to conceptualize new process and phenomena that has never been portrayed in art. The author rightly points out that Premchand’s literary canvas, comprises almost 6,000 characters from all the classes of people ranging from the poor to the rich comprising the poor peasants to the feudal lords and the entire hierarchy of the Governmental machinery.

In the research article by Rajini Obeyeseker (1986) “Women’s Rights and Roles in Premchand’s Godan- A literary Analysis” presents the social structure and focus on the questions of women’s right and the roles which surfaces throughout in the novel Godan. Premchand has explored the female characters in two concepts as an ideal women and the modern age women. She points out that Premchand has represented the rural traditional women through Dhaniya and other minor characters and how women were expected to play their role in the changing political scenario through Malti who represents New India and symbolizes the changing face of women.  In the research article “How equal? Women in Premchand’s writing by Geetanjali Pandey (1986) captured the abiding and sensitive aspects on the plight of the women. She points out that Premchand upholds the dignity of women. She points out that the writer reiterated his craftsman’s ship on creating the characters that reflected the existing realities and also embodied the possibilities and gave directions for the desired changes.

“Portrayal of Women in Premchands Stories: A Critique” by Charu Gupta (1991) reflects on the issues of women and her position in the society. The reviewer has picked up the women oriented stories of Premchand and has focused on the social evils and the solutions that were sought within the domestic space. She marks that Premchand makes women a focus of enquiry and the subject of the story. They reflect the complexity and irony and also the relationship of the conflicting emotions, values of women. Charu Gupta correctly points out that Premchand’s stories were subjective and reflect the conflicting mentalities prevalent in his time.

From the book review archives titled “The world of Premchand” by Vijaya Ghose (1995) points out that the short stories of Premchand is not only about the poor peasant but also the plight of women who were oppressed by the rich like the farmers. He marks that the women that Premchand represents are multifaceted. They belong to all classes ranging from the poor to the rich, from the illiterate to the literate. He very well presents the mind of the woman, her generosity, loyalty and sacrifice. The reviewer truly points that the writer has perfectly rendered the communal harmony and the child psychology in his stories. Ghose has mentioned that the selected stories of the English translation will linger in the readers mind and bring in the nostalgic era of the values, and the rich Indian culture which has vanished with time.

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