Remembering Munshi Premchand at 140

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Premchand is loved by readers throughout the country

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If we speak in the Indian context, the name that echoes inside the walls of our minds is Dhanpat Rai Shrivastav, popularly known as Munshi Premchand. Few writers have been loved in public and literary circles alike. July 31, 2020 marks his 140th birth anniversary. 

Munshi Premchand was born in 1880 in Lamhi, a village located near Varanasi. He was educated in a madrasa where he learned Persian and Urdu. Premchand had a lonely childhood since his mother died when he was seven and his father was always busy in his official duties. The world of fiction provided him solace and he embraced it with open arms, creating fictions of the highest order.

Tale of Two Languages

Premchand started his writing career in Urdu under the nom de plume ‘Nawab Rai’. His first novel was named Asrar e Ma’abid. Around 1909 his book Soz-e-Watan came under the radar of the British government and five hundred copies of the book were reduced to ashes. Following that he started writing under the pen name, ‘Premchand’. 

However, in 1914 he switched to Hindi as the medium of his writings and his first short story collection Sapta Saroj was published in 1917.

A Gandhian and a Marxist

Premchand was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement and resigned from his government job. The influence of Mahatma Gandhi can be seen in his novel Karmabhoomi.  

Another interesting fact is that Premchand presided over the first All India Progressive Writing Association meeting held in Lucknow in 1936. These were anti-imperialist and left-oriented groups, inspiring people through their writings, advocating social equality while attacking social injustice and backwardness in society.

Unlucky in Bombay

In the year 1934, Premchand reached Bombay to try his luck in the film industry and to end his poverty. He started writing scripts and wrote his first film, Mazdoor. Fate took an interesting turn and Premchand left Bombay in 1935. 


In 1936, Premchand died at the age of 56.

Premchand has been hailed by many critics as the first realist in Urdu and Hindi fiction. His works have the fragrance of the village soil and the sweat of the common man. Premchand’s life was marked by illnesses and tremors of poverty, but he still managed to produce literature of great literary merit. He wrote over three hundred short stories and fourteen novels, many essays and letters, plays and translations. So many years have rolled by but his works are still in print and have inspired the young and the old alike.

Must read works

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Boodhi Kaaki
Poos ki Raat
Panch Parmeshwar
Bade Bhaisahab
Putr Prem


Featured Image Credits: The Statesman

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