Munshi Premchand is an Indian writer. He was famously known for writing in modern Hindustani literature. His original name was Dhanpat Rai Srivastava. He began writing under the pen name “Premchand”, Munshi being an honorary prefix.
Premchand was born in Lamhi, a village near Varanasi. Premchand was born to Devi Prasad and Asaram. His father was an assistant in the post office but died four years before the birth of Premchand. Devi Prasad died when he was five years old and his mother soon married again to Bhagwan Das and had two daughters.
Premchand’s education began in the village school with Hindi as the medium of instruction, but he could not study due to extreme poverty.
About Munshi Premchand
In 1884, Premchand married Karam Dei. He was a young man of twenty-five and was also an assistant in the post office where he had also served his father. They called their first child Kaifi, after the famous Urdu poet Sheikh Saadi. The birth of their son came as a strain on their meager income and Premchand had to give up his job for some time.
Premchand retired from the post office in 1892 and joined as a clerk in the municipality at Varanasi. He was also appointed teacher of Hindi in the Anglo-Vernacular School of the town. Premchand’s interest in writing grew with his job and he started writing short stories for periodicals, journals, and newspapers.
Life of Premchand
Munshi Premchand was born on 31st July 1880 in Lamhi, a small village near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Premchand was born to Devi Prasad and Asaram. His father was an assistant in the post office and died four years before his birth.
Devi Prasad died when he was five years old and his mother soon married again to Bhagwan Das and had two daughters. Premchand’s education began in the village school with Hindi as the medium of instruction, but he could not study due to extreme poverty.
Bhagwan Das and his second wife were extremely generous and took great pains to educate Premchand and his younger brother Ashutosh. He admits that he was very lucky from childhood that way. Premchand’s early periodicals pieces are written in simple, easy, simple language. But later in his career, Premchand started writing in a modern language for the modern times.
His personal life
On 13th November 1894, Munshi Premchand married Karam Dei of Varanasi. They had a daughter Kaifi born on 17th August 1896. Premchand’s wife died in 1902 and he remarried one and a half years later in 1904 to Firdausi Bai of Calcutta. They had a daughter, who died at an early age, in 1906.
Stay at Kanpur
At the end of 1906, Munshi Premchand came back to Kanpur and worked as a clerk in the municipal office. He was also appointed teacher of Hindi in the Anglo Vernacular School of the town. Premchand’s interest in writing grew with his job and he started writing short stories for periodicals, journals, and newspapers.
Premchand was prompted to write short stories because he wanted to bring out the life of the common man and present it in front of the audience. He also wanted readers to think about the kind of problems that a common man can face in his life.
His literary works include, ‘Sevak’, 1921, ‘Kampany ki Katha’ 1922, and ‘Rangbhoomi’ which was published in 1923.
Adoption of the name Premchand
The year 1921 was a very important year for Munshi Premchand. It was in the same year that he adopted the name “Premchand”. The name “Premchand” on his birth certificate had been changed to “Dhanpat Rai Srivastava”.
The title which pleased him most and which he adopted as a pen-name as mentioned in his First-class Hindi translation of Ramayana Samagra, was ‘Kamrangi’.
In about 1913, Premchand came to Gorakhpur and remained there till 1922. He was introduced to Mahatma Gandhi by Jawaharlal Nehru. Premchand’s first two short stories were published in the magazine, “Janmabhoomi” in 1914 and 1915. Premchand started giving Hindi lessons at the Sadar Bazaar Sanskrit College in 1916, which he continued till 1921. There he met and became close with the principal of the college, Mateenuddin Ahmad.
Premchand became interested in politics and social reform during his stay in England, influenced by several important intellectuals. In 1922, Premchand began a Hindi monthly entitled ‘Chanda’ but unfortunately, it could not continue for long. Premchand was also involved with the nationalist struggle against British Rule in India. He took part in Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921.
Back to Benares
In 1922, Munshi Premchand came back to Varanasi and started working at the Benares Hindu University. In 1934, he published his Hindi translation of the Ramayana called “Ramcharitmanas”.He received the title of ‘Rastriya Kavi’ in 1930. This happened as a result of his novel “Rangbhoomi”. Premchand was also very active on social fronts such as anti-untouchability and abolition of child marriage.
Premchand has written on different topics and for different occasions. He has written about social reformers, independence, freedom, various aspects of the Indian culture and society, etc. Premchand passed away on 8th October 1936 after suffering from appendicitis. The most well-known works of Premchand are Godan (1936) and Gaban (1950), which were translated into several languages. He was awarded the Soviet Land Nehru Prize for his book ‘Rihaee’ in 1937.
After the death of Premchand in 1936, due to his wish, his family had to shift to Bombay.
Among Premchand’s writings which have been made into successful films are, ‘Zindaginama’, “Bazaar-e-Husn” and ‘Ghaban’. Very soon after the death of Premchand in 1936, the Hindi film industry took up two of his short stories ‘Karmawali’ and ‘Lekhay Kala’.
The play Colonel Narijan
Munshi Premchand did not have any success in his own lifetime. But his work caught the attention of Sajjad Zaheer and he was ask to write a play base on Premchand’s novel ‘Colonel Narijan’. The play was stage for the first time in Delhi in 1940. This movie received a great deal of critical acclaim, becoming very popular; especially because it dealt with the life of a common man.
Style and influences
By the time he was in the fifth decade of his life, Premchand had become a famous Hindi writer with several of his short stories getting publish in numerous Hindi journals and newspapers. Munshi Premchand has written more than two hundred short stories and novels, both in Hindi and Marathi. His works have been translate into many languages.
Premchand’s style is simple, as he writes for the common man. He presents Indian culture in a modern way without any prejudice or bias towards religion or other cultures. Premchand is consider a neo-realist as well as a spokesman for the common man.
His other works are Seva Sadan, Parvasi Andolan, and Gaban in the year 1950. He has also translated many books from English to Hindi including The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar (translated into Marathi), and Macbeth (translated into Marathi).
Awards and honor
Munshi Premchand was award the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 1954. He was also award the highest state award first time in India – Uttar Pradesh Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1965. He has been conferr with many titles like Yadgar-e-Insha (1941), Kavi Samrat (1943), Parikhyat Pravhansu Vivek Ratna (1945), and Sarbani Prahlad Ratna (1946).