A Short Introduction to Munshi Premchand
Munshi Premchand was one of the most prolific and celebrated writers of modern Hindi-Urdu literature. Born as Dhanpat Rai on July 31, 1880, in the small town of Lamhi in present-day Uttar Pradesh, India, he would go on to become a trailblazer in the field of Indian literature. He is remembered today as a master storyteller who used his writing to critique the inequalities and injustices of Indian society.
Premchand was born into a modest family of landlords and received his early education in Urdu and Persian. His father, Ajaib Lal, was a clerk in the local post office and a scholar of Persian and Arabic, who instilled in his son a love for language and literature. At the age of 14, Premchand's mother died, and he was sent to live with his father's cousin in the town of Benares, where he continued his studies.
In 1899, Premchand was married to Shivarani Devi, a young girl from a family of wealthy landowners. The couple had five children, but their marriage was fraught with difficulties, and Shivarani Devi's family never fully accepted Premchand. Despite these challenges, Premchand continued to write and publish, becoming a prolific author of novels, short stories, and essays.
Premchand's early writing was heavily influenced by the Urdu literary tradition, and he wrote under several pseudonyms, including Nawab Rai and Dhanpat Rai Shrivastava. His first collection of short stories, Soz-e-Watan, was published in 1907, and it established him as a rising star in the world of Hindi-Urdu literature. His early works focused on the lives of the poor and marginalized, and they often criticized the oppressive caste system and the British colonial government.
In 1914, Premchand's first novel, titled Devasthan Rahasya (Hindi)/Asrar-e-Ma'abid (Urdu), was published. It was a scathing critique of the Indian religious establishment, and it brought him widespread attention and praise. The novel was followed by several others, including Bazaar-e-Husn, which tackled the issue of prostitution, and Gaban, which focused on the corrupt practices of the Indian middle class.
In 1921, Premchand joined the Indian independence movement and began writing political tracts and essays under his own name. He became an outspoken critic of the British colonial government and a champion of the Indian people. His writing during this period often focused on the struggle for independence and the need for social and economic reform in Indian society.
In 1936, Premchand was appointed as a scriptwriter for All India Radio, and he moved to Bombay (now Mumbai). He continued to write and publish, and he also became involved in the film industry, writing scripts and screenplays for several Hindi-language films.
Premchand died on October 8, 1936, at the age of 56. He left behind a legacy of over 300 short stories, a dozen novels, and numerous essays and articles. His writing continues to be widely read and celebrated in India and around the world.
Munshi Premchand's life and career were characterized by a passion for literature. He used his writing as a tool to critique the inequalities and injustices of Indian society, and his work continues to inspire countless writers today.
If you have any Serbian friends, be sure to share our translation of the short story Shatranj Ke Khilari/The Chess Players: “Igrači šaha” with them: