Munshi Premchand (1880-1936) was a very well known author of Hindi and Urdu literature.
His real name was Dhanpat Rai Shrivastava. He was born on 31st July 1880, at Lamahi near Varanasi. He lost his parents in childhood and step brother-sisters. He had to face poverty and many hardships.
After Matriculation he took up a teacher’s job and was later promoted to the post of Deputy Inspector of schools. He began writing stories in Urdu under the pen name of Nawabrai. But the British government took severe objection to his collection of stories, Soz-e-Watan, for its patriotic inclination. All the copies of the book were confiscated and burnt. Later he began writing under the name Premchand.
Till then, Hindi literature was only about fantasy and religion. But Premchand began writing about real life subjects, like zamindari, poverty, loan, corruption, politics etc. he had an interesting way of story-telling and his language was very simple. He mainly wrote about lives of middle class and poor people, thus the readers immediately identified with his stories.
Premchand has penned more than 300 short stories, many novels, two plays and also essays and letters. The collection of his stories is published as Maansarovar. His novel ‘Godaan’ (Gift of a Cow) is considered as his best work. Many of his writings have been translated into English. Many of his stories focused on Hindu-Muslim unity. He could be called the ‘Father of Urdu short stories, as he started writing ‘Afsana’.
In 1921 he quit his job following Gandhiji’s call to boycott the government offices, during the non-co operations movement. Then he took up different jobs at printing press or political journals. He also wrote scripts for films. Based on Premchand’s stories, Satyajit Ray made two films, Sadgati and Shatranj ke Khiladi. His novel Sevasadan was also made in to a film, in which M.S. Subbulakshmi played the lead role.
All his life, Premchand had to suffer lack of finances. His first marriage did not work. Then he married Shivrani Devi, who was a child-widow. In those days it was a brave thing to do.
This great writer passed away on 8th October 1936.