To what extent do Premchand s nationalist stories can be said to express Gandhi s ideas?

I am now almost convinced of the Bolshevik principles 1, I am not a Gandhian 2, I am a communist 3, Neither am I a Hindu nor a Muslim
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all these are Premchand s assertion that were

found in his writings along the time. They do nothing but to depict the perfect image of the epochal consciousness. His masterpieces are nevertheless the testimonies of the historical events that included the rise and fall of certain ideologies in political, economical and religious contexts. In the Social Scientist in October 1976, K.P. Singh argues that there has been a failure in trying to establish a clear picture of Premchand s works, but that he is, in all his splendour, the most influential, authentic and powerful writer of the Indian nationalist movement5. It is because of this the quest of answering this essay s question is a great challenge. Taking a closer look at the essay question there is a certain ambiguity that arises in regards to the basic purpose of the essay. Does it concern ideas and conceptions specifically gained by Premchand on the basis of (direct) influence from Gandhi, or it is a matter of similarities between the ideas of Premchand and those of Gandhi? Considering its ambivalent prospect I will structures my essay in three parts as following: in the first part I will consider the background of Premchand s nationalist ideology, in the second part I will focus on spotting the new Gandhian ideas in Premchand s works, and in the third part I will emphasize their divergence point. Firstly, I believe that the debate regarding the direct influence of Gandhi thought on Premchand it is one of the most arduous in what concerns this essay. Although there have been many historians that firmly asserted that Gandhi was the main contributor to the nationalist ideas in the writings of Premchand, I believe this statement is rather precipitated. It is worthwhile to mention from the very incipit the great influence that Tolstoy had on both Gandhi and Premchand.
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Shiv Kumar Misra, Premchand our contemporary, Kay Kay Printers I ndia, 1986, p. 133; Shiv Kumar Misra, Premchand our contemporary, p. 120; 3 Shiv Kumar Misra, Premchand our contemporary, p. 121; 4 K. P. Singh, Premchand and Gandhism, Social Scientist, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Aug., 1980), p. 50; 5 Sara Rai, Realism as a Creative Process: Features of Munshi Premchand's Ideology, Social Scientist, Vol. 7, No. 12 (J ul., 1979), p. 32;
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1979). Western education. No..Gandhi declared himself in 1910 Tolstoy s devoted follower 6. truth. Although it is easily noticeable that many of the nationalist ideas have been seeded in Premchand s mind long before Gandhi.. Amrit Raya stated in Premchand: A life everything that Gandhi said was entirely in accord with Premchand s own views. a book that left an abiding impression on him . Tolstoy and Gandhi Russian Review. and 'unequal' marriage 11 . Hind Swaraj and other writings. it struck him now with freshness and with a new force 12 . Sara Rai. Similarly. Premchand s son talked about the 23 stories that Premchand adapted after some of Tolstoy. 1982. p. 132. which talked about a future revolutionised society where the government would be governed by the proletariat 10 and he also was an active member of the Arya Samaj. 1997. Realism as a Creative Process: Features of Munshi Premchand's Ideology. Author (full name). Premchand our contemporary. Social Scientist. p. Vol. 36 9 Shiv Kumar Misra. 35. 130. condemnation of the industrial culture. of the Non-cooperation Movement and of movement of Swadeshi. overwhelmed with a specific book 7 The Kingdom of God Is Within You . 12 (J ul. Vol. 11 Sara Rai. p. Xxxvi. [Special Issue: Leo Tolstoy] (Apr. 7. it would be insufficient and misguided to stick to this point of view. but he also illustrates themes such as dowry system. K. but also by redirecting his view towards some concepts. which included the ideals of love. 2. Gandhi had a great impact on Premchand. compassion. under the name Prem Prabhakar8. 9. In addition to the influence of Tolstoy writings. in 1919 Premchand subscribed to the Bolshevist ideas. 35 12 Amrit Raya. 155 8 . p. Gandhi. New Delhi : People's Pub. and while there was nothing in it that was really new. a story that mainly talks about female prostitution. Cambridge University Press. p. bribery. it is from these works where he got acquainted with ideas about human values. but rather illustrating a Hindu nationalism. 19. not only by motivating him in the nationalist struggle. p. austerity. In 1908 he published a collection of 5 patriotic stories.. non-violence. p. glorification of the rural life. 1960). No. House. 7 M. etc. In 1914. Premchand: A life. 6 Janko Lavrin. Realism as a Creative Process: Features of Munshi Premchand's Ideology. purification of soul. Premchand writes Sevasadan or Bazare Husn. Soz-e-Vata. 10 Sara Rai. Realism as a Creative Process: Features of Munshi Premchand's Ideology.

when Bhagat went to Choudhuri house. Another story where Premchand presents the change of heart in its entire resonance is in The Competitors (1920). and ideals characters are said to be giving away land to the exploited in a cooperative farming movement. especially underlined in the moment when Veerbal beats Ibrahim to death. he develops the idea of the change of heart of both the oppressed and the oppressors. a passionate woman in the quest of independence. In 1930.Secondly. In both of the stories Premchand involves the masses into movement and in both of them he shares a great sense of empathy with the oppressed. Also. the idea of non-violence is overwhelming. 132 . in his stories people began to be involved in a peaceful and non -violent satyagraha against their oppressors. in the year of the Dandi March. Premchand our contemporary. Both Mitthanbai and the wife of Gyan Babu(The Procession and A Special Experience) have a crucial role in the stories. but out of these Samar Yatra remains unrivalled in presenting itself a fictional statement of Gandhi s 13 Shiv Kumar Misra. Premchand wrote some stories such as The Procession and A Special Experience (1930) where the influence of Gandhi s thoughts is more than obvious. as I mentioned in the introduction I will focus on finding in Premchand s nationalist stories the elements that stem from the Gandhian thought. Premchand emphasizes the change of heart of Veerbal and of Gyan Babu. that sacrifices her entire life for the nationalist ideal. Mridula. The problem of women in the society is becoming a worrying one. Also in Jail Premchand presents to the reader an impressive character.13 In the following period. In The Procession. p. After their first encounter on the 8th of February 1921 in Gorakhapur. I believe that the influence that Gandhi exercises over Premchand can be summarized within 5 characteristics: he was encouraged to further base his stories on the miseries of the people. in both of them. Premchand wrote another series of stories. just as Gandhi did in Hind Swaraj. as their nationalist ideals are the axis around which the stories evolve. and so in these stories the author casts a special importance on their role in the fight for freedom. some of his stories characters are prototypes of Gandhiji.

portrayal of an actual situation and the idealization of satyagraha 14 . 51. Singh. It is during this period that Premchand writes the novel Godan. 4 (1982). I will now focus on the differences of thought between Gandhi and Premchand that emerge in his writings. p. Another aspect where their thoughts diverge is the one regarding the struggle between the classes. The beauty of the story lies in its combination of the realistic. and moving. Premchand and Gandhism. Vol. for Premchand religion was secondary and he thought in a rather materialistic way15. 606 -607. One major aspect where their thoughts diverge is the one of religion and. Premchand and Indian Nationalism. pp. Premchand is intrigued in this regards by the lack of any kind of movements of the peasants and the poor. 50. when Gandhi s satyagraha fails to achieve its purpose that Premchand realizes the idealistic perspectives of Gandhi s reforms and starts to redirect himself towards socialism. . In this context it is worthwhile mentioning that in stories such as The Procession Premchand builds his main characters after a Muslim which can be said to represent Gandhi s prototype. it extended itself to the ardent problem of the conflict between the Muslims and the Hindus. p. in 1934. Singh. While Gandhi was a declared supporter of religion asserting that politics and religion are absolutely inseparable. Premchand was in a complete disagreement with him. P. K. No. 16. P. Modern Asian Studies. Starting from this point. Premchand and Gandhism. Unlike Gandhi that promotes serenity within the society and that encouraged the poor to respond with truth and love to the insults and oppressions. Premchand affirms later that there cannot be national equality without economical equality. his final and most impressive masterpiece where he brings out the institutional realities and the oppression that the 14 15 16 Sudhir Chandra. K. Thirdly.analysis of India s slavery and his philosophy. He criticizes Gandhi by saying that he was a religious man and bore the imprint of a particular religion 16 and that this definitely created a certain discomfort for person of other beliefs. In terms of national unity and equality.

consequently. Gandhi and conceptions of nationalist movement. No. 1982. Singh. Premchand our contemporary. I shall say that in some of his nationalist stories Premchand accurately reflects the idealist Gandhian thought. outlining with extraordinary authenticity the Indian people s fight for independence. 2. Kay Kay Printers India. observe that the period of idealistic realism that Premchand passed through lasted from 1921 until 1934. Just to summarize. [Special Issue: Leo Tolstoy] (Apr. Social Scientist. 4.ruling classes have perpetuated over centuries in rural India 17 . illustrating his image in some of his heroic characters. We can. Hind Swaraj and other writings. 9. Premchand: A life. nevertheless. K. Janko Lavrin. New Delhi : People's Pub. Bibliography: 1. and then he also absorbed some of his nationalist ideas. P. 1 (Aug. He was first of all charmed by Gandhi s brilliant personality and his practical swaraj. a historian of the masses. besides one of the most influential writer in Urdu and Hindi at that time. Amrit Raya. Just as Premchand said the literature of a people is the correct picture of the age which produces it 18. Realism as a Creative Process: Features of Munshi Premchand's Ideology. 1997. Vol. Tolstoy and Gandhi Russian Review. Premchand our contemporary. Starting with 1921 and until 1934. Author (full name). 2. 40. Cambridge University Press. Shiv Kumar Misra. 1986. .. 1960). I also believe that he was. No. p. In conclusion. House. I am optimistic that in the previous paragraphs I managed to realistically depict the extent to which can Premchand s nationalist stories be said to express Gandhi s ideas. 17 18 Sara Rai. 5. K. 4. 3. 1980). M. p. Gandhi. Shiv Kumar Misra. I would say that Premchand s nationalist ideology is the result of a long process of assimilations of ideas from Tolstoy. 19. Premchand and Gandhism. Gorki.. Gandhi s national ideals were the corner stone of his literary works from that period. Vol. In terms of Gandhian influence.

1985). How Equal?: Women in Premchand's Writings.6. Orr. Realism as a Creative Process: Features of Munshi Premchand's Ideology. Vol. 1981). No. 32. Gandhi on Women. pp. 7. 50 (Dec. Asian Folklore Studies. Inge C. Vol. 36. Rai. 11. 1691-1702. 1986). 16. 8. Vol. No. Geetanjali Pandey. 13. The Procession (1930). Economic and Political Weekly. 1 (1977) 9. No. Coursepack. The Competitors (1920). 2183-2187. 10. Premchand. Vol. Jail. 20. 7. A Special Experience (1930). 669-675. 21. 12 (Jul. 1979). 40 (Oct. . Sudhir Chandra. pp. Social Scientist. No.. Premchand: A Historiographic View.Premchand's Use of Folklore in His Short Stories. Economic and Political Weekly. No. Madhu Kishwar. Vol. 11. Economic and Political Weekly. p. 15 (Apr. 5. pp.

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