Munshi Premchand’s Literature, Religion and Adaptations of Works

The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.

Munshi Premchand’s Literature, Religion and Adaptations of Works

Literature and Religion

Trust is die first step to love.

Munshi Premchand is mainly recognized for his creations that always contained a social message and raised voices against the social evils pertaining to Indian society. His creations brought the era of realism in Indian literature at that time when only fantasy fiction and religious writings were dominating it and act accordingly. The great novelist is ranked among the greatest authors of the 20th century in India.

Thoughts on the problems of literature and religion, particularly the former’s role in countering religious fanaticism and provincialism, were Premchand’s principal preoccupations at this time. He expressed his crystallized views not only to individuals but also to various literary gatherings which were always largely attended. He attended the Hindustani Academy meetings, presided over the Progressive Writers Association’s first conferene, conferred with writers in Delhi, went to Lahore to address the Aryabhasha Sammelan convened by the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Punjab on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, and, of course, attended the Bharatiya Sahitya Parishad’s meetings.

Premchand did not believe in any formal or ceremonial religion. Nor was he ever interested in going to the temple, the mosque, or the church. Not that he considered it bad for the people to have faith in any religion, but he could not accept for himself the limitations imposed by conventional religion.

“My way of living and my culture are, in fact, a blend of the Hindu and the Muslim,” he said. “The impact of Muslim culture on me is actually deeper than that of the Hindu; I learnt Persian and Urdu from a maulvi long before I started reading and writing Hindi.”

Premchand’s belief verged on atheism. “I don’t know how to have faith in God,” he wrote to Jainendra Kumar. “While you are going towards having a belief in Him in fact are becoming a believer—my doubts are making me an atheist.”

It was not necessary, according to Premchand, to have faith in God. “You may believe in Him for giving you solace in time of difficulty, to fill some vacuum in your life, or to excite your hopes. But religion essentially is a projection of one’s own ‘Self.” To make a fetish of religion and to be dogmatic and narrow-minded, was against his grain.

Premchand believed that literature is a powerful medium to educate people and it showed in his writings. In his later life, he continued to write fictions with social purpose and social criticism. Now a revered author and thinker, Munshi Premchand presided over conferences, literature seminars and received huge applause.

Munshi Premchand chaired the first All India Conference of the Indian Progressive Writer’s Association in year 1936. However, in his personal life he was still struggling to make both ends meet. Munshi Premchand also suffered from health problem paticulaly ‘abdominal problems’.

Despite every difficulty and challenges, Premchand did not abandon writing and embarked on completing his last novel Mangalsootra. The novel still remains incomplete as he died in the middle of it on 8th October, 1936.

After his death, his wife Shivrani Devi wrote a book on him, titled Premchand Ghar Mein (Premchand at home).

In the year 2005, Sahitya Academy established the Premchand fellowship in his honour.

Adaptations of Works

I believe that if man and woman cherish the same ideals and think alike, then the marriage can be complementary to each other’s work instead of being a hindrance.

Munshi Premchand authored over 300 short stories, novels and several number of essays, letters and plays. Many of his works have been translated into English and Russian and some have been adopted into films as well. His first novel Godaan is ranked amongst the finest novels of his era and remains so till this day. His other notable novels are Gabon, Kafan, Poos ki Raat and Bade Ghar ki Beti.

Two of Premchand’s best selling novels—Sadgati and Shatranj Ke Khiladi were filmed by Satyajit Ray. Sadgati (Salvation) is a short story revolving around poor Dukhi, who dies of exhaustion while hewing wood for a paltry favour. Shatranj ke Khiladi (The Chess Players) revolved around the decadence of nawabi Lucknow, where the obsession with a game consumes the players, making them oblivious of their responsibilities in the midst of a crisis.

Premchand’s Seva Sadan (first published in 1918) was also made into a film by Satyajit Ray with M.S. Subbulakshmi in the lead role. The novel is set in Varanasi, the holy city of Hindus. Seva Sadan (House of Service) is an institute built for the daughters of courtesans. The lead of the novel is a beautiful, intelligent and talented girl called Suman. She belongs to a high caste. She is married to a much older, tyrannical man.

She realises that a loveless marriage is just like prostitution except that there is only one client. Bholi, a courtesan, lives opposite Suman. Suman realises that Bholi is “outside purdah”, while she is “inside it”. Suman leaves her husband and becomes a successful entertainer of gentlemen. But after a brief period of success, she ends up as a victim of a political drama played out by self-righteous Hindu social reformers and moralists.

A young Delhi based theatre group, the Actor Factor Theatre Company, staged Kafan in 2010 in New Delhi. It is an original stage adaptation of Premchand’s short story. Kafan is a dark comedy. In the play, puppetry is explored to depict the tussle between two classes and the plight of Budhia, who is caught in the crossfire. Bleakness of hope in the story and awfulness of the father-son duo find a delicate balance. At times the situations break into morbid humour. In the end a wine-house becomes the stage for Ghisu (father) and Madhav’s (son) rebellious dance, defying not only the laws of the land but also that of the Gods.

Munshi Premchand's Literature, Religion and Adaptations of Works 1 Munshi Premchand's Literature, Religion and Adaptations of Works 2
Oka Oori Katha (English title: A Story of a village) is a 1977 Telugu film directed by Mrinal Sen. It is based on the story Kafan by Munshi Premchand. It is one of the few Art films made in Telugu language.

A film version of Premchand’s novel, Gabon, was released in 1966. Sunil Dutt, Sadhana Shivdasani, Kanhaiyalal and Leela Mishra acted in the film and the music was scored by musician duo Shankar Jaikishan.


  • 1880 : Born on 31 July in Lamhi, a village near Varanasi (UP)
  • 1895 : First marriage at 15
  • 1897 : Father died and he had to support his family
  • 1899 : Left his village and got a job of teacher
  • 1900 : Became assistant teacher at Government district school in Bahraich
  • 1902 : Became the headmaster of a school at Allahabad
  • 1905 : Shifted to Kanpur as Deputy Sub-Inspector of Schools
  • 1906 : Married to child widow Shivrani Devi
  • 1907 : First story collection ‘Soz-e-Watan’ was published, confiscated by the British government in 1909
  • 1910 : Changed his pen name from ‘Nawab Rai’ to ‘Premchand’
  • 1914 : Became a prominent writer in Urdu and then started writing in Hindi
  • 1916 : Became the Assistant Master at the Normal High School, Gorakhpur
  • 1919 : Published his first major Hindi novel ‘Seva Sadan’
  • 1921 : Resigned from his job as his support to the Indian independence movement
  • 1923 : Moved to Benares (Varanasi) and established a printing press and publishing house called Saraswati Press
  • 1930 : Published a literary-political weekly magazine ‘Hans’
  • 1931 : Became a teacher in the Marwari College, Kanpur
  • 1934 : Went to Bombay, accepted a script writing job for Ajanta Cinetone and wrote the script for the film ‘Mazdoor’
  • 1935 : Moved to Benares and published short story ‘Kafan’ and the novel ‘Godan’ in 1936
  • 1936 : Chaired the first All-India Conference of the Indian Progressive Writer’s Association.
  • 1936 : Died on 8th October due to prolonged sickness
  • 1938 : Last story ‘Cricket Match’ published in Zamana
  • 2005 : Sahitya Academy established the Premchand Fellowships in his honour