A Living Portrait of India

Poet, novelist and writer of short stories in Hindi as well as Urdu, Premchand was born on 31 July 1880 in the village Lamahi near Benares. Premchand is a pseudonym;he was actually called Navab or Dhanpat. His father was a poorly-paid postal employee and he lost his mother when only eight. He was married at the early age of fifteen but that marriage did not work out and he later married a second time. This time the marriage was stable. Shivrani Devi, a balavidhava or child widow, bore him several children, and supported him in all his struggles.

After matriculation in 1898, Premchand took up school-teaching in 1899, and with breaks in time and  shifts from place to place, teaching remained his profession. Among his works are the novels Prema (Hindi, 1907, translated from Urdu Ham Khurma o Ham Sawab),  Vardaan(Hindi, Jalwa-e-Isar in Urdu), Sevadadan (Hindi, Bazar-e-Hisn in Urdu), Remashrama (Hindi,Gosha-e-Afiyat in Urdu), Pratijnan, Nirmala, Gaban, Rangabhumi, Kayakalpa, Karmabhumi, Godaan and the unfinished Magalsutra.  He wrote several memorable short stories like `Kafan',  many of them brought together in collections, for example Soz-e-vatan. Premchand wrote on social issues like child widowhood, prostitution, exploitation of the peasant by the landlord and on the freedom movement taking place all around him.His solutions were idealistic, but his great contribution lies in posing the question  at that point in time, and through the medium of novels and short stories which had till then been restricted to romance. Premchand used literature for the importance purpose of arousing public awareness about national and social issues.

As Amrit Rai, a biographer has put it, Premchand " created the genre of the serious novel and the serious short story in two languages, Hindi and Urdu." His magnum opus is considered to be Godaan (now published in English as The Gift of a Cow in UNESCO's Asian Literature Series). Premchand chaired the first all-India conference of the Indian Progressive Writers' Association in April 1936 at Lucknow. The continual struggle that he had had to make for a living had however worn him down, and Premchand succumbed to his gastric ulcer, dropsy and cirrhosis of the liver on  8 October 1936.


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