Dhanpat Rai Shrivastava - (31st July 1880 - 8th October 1936), better known by his pen name Munshi Premchandwas 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 Hindi writers of the early twentieth century. His novels include Godaan, Karmabhoomi, Gaban, Mansarovar, Idgah. He published his first collection of five short stories in 1907 in a book called Soz-e Watan.
He began writing under the pen name "Nawab Rai", but subsequently switched to "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 writers. His works include more than a dozen novels, around 300 short stories, several essays and translations of a number of foreign literary works into Hindi.
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 Indian freedom movement.
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. Several of his early works, such as A Little Trick and A Moral Victory, satirised the Indians who cooperated with the British Government. He did not specifically mention the British in some of his stories, because of 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-co-operation 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 liberalisation of the peasantry and the working class, and was opposed to the rapid industrialisation, which he felt would hurt the interests of the peasants and lead to oppression of the workers. This can be seen in works like Rangabhumi (1924).
Premchand's influence on Indian literature cannot be overstated. As the late scholar David Rubin wrote in The World of Premchand (Oxford, 2001), "To Premchand belongs the distinction of creating the genre of the serious short story—and the serious novel as well—in both Hindi and Urdu. Virtually single-handed he lifted fiction in these languages from a quagmire of aimless romantic chronicles to a high level of realistic narrative comparable to European fiction of the time; and in both languages, he has, in addition, remained an unsurpassed master."
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 realism was the way for Hindi literature, as opposed to the "feminine quality", tenderness and emotion of the contemporary Bengali literature.
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