Godaan “The Gift of a Cow” is a novel by Munshi Premchand.

It was first published in 1936 and was translated into English by Gordon C.Roadermel in 1968. This novel is the last novel of Premchand and is considered as “a Classic in itself”. Godaan is the act of donating a cow in charity as it helps in absolving one of sin, and incurring divine blessings. Premchand’s ‘Godaan’ produces the rustic, simplistic and heart rending lives of the peasants. Far, from exaggeration, ‘Godaan’ is a novel of stark reality. It deals with dreams, despairs and day to day events of Hori, the protagonist of the novel and his family. Through the peasants, Premchand has portrayed the pathetic life of rural arena. Hori is an embodiment of peasant- virtue, simplicity and truth. He leads an inconsistent life with his Dhania, and his three children. Their unstable financial situation always tends to lend them frustration and despair. A tension-free life is not theirs. If they spend a quarter of their lives in starvation, they spend the rest paying unwarranted loans. The money-lenders take full advantage of their poverty and therefore take unreasonable interest from them. Premchand writes:" A loan was an unwelcome guest, once in the house, dug himself into permanent fixture." The money-lenders also exploit the ignorance and gullibility of the peasants. The village-folk in the higher strata of society, who are financially sounder, take advantage of the village-peasants. In the novel, we find, we find how Dulari mounts a small amount of money into a hundred rupees within a small fraction of time. The zamindars are no exception in this regard. They make maximum use of the tenants and extract manual labour from them. Hori, already old, and fatigued from poverty has to do strenuous work in order to make both ends meet. The cow he eventually gets hold of is mercilessly killed by his cruel brother Heera. Their ambitions and dreams are also made apparent by the novelist. While some of them love their soil, the younger generation opts for city life. For them, material prospects hold more water than than sentimental values. Hori therefore does not approve with Gobar to shift to the city. For Gobar, material prospects hold more water than sentimental values. Therefore Hori does not embrace the idea of moving to the city. A typical peasant, his land is everything to him.. He regards the cattle also as a member of the family. Isolated life does not appeal to them and they long to thrive and integrate with the community. This becomes apparent when Hori is willing to pay the fine imposed by the village for admitting Jhunia. Hori does not want to be treated as an outcaste. He tells Dhania that he wants to live with society and not outside society.

The lack of education of the peasants can be considered a major factor in their backwardness. Superstitions are prevalent. We have a humorous account of how news spreads in the village of Dhania's over-powering the inspector. After the incident, people flock around Hori's hut to have a Darshan of Dhania. They undergo all the rites, to protect the newly arrived cow from the evil eye. They cannot fling away their false pride even in the face of dire poverty. Even though, Sona's bridegroom does not demand any dowry, they pay it as it a matter of prestige in society. Again, the caste-system very much exists . We find Heera admonishing Punia for quarrelling with a low caste man. Women are not portrayed as equal to men. We find Damri exclaiming to Hori how his son ran away leaving his wife with another woman. Subsequently, his wife gets married to another man. Damri gets revolted only with the infidelity of women and not men thereby practicing double standards. The husbands ill treat their wives after drinking. Dhania talks of Hori's ill-treatment and quips how it would have been if it were the other way around. Heera also abuses his wife. Though Gobar is affectionate towards his wife in the beginning , gradually their relationship deteriorates. "Early married life throbs with love and desire; like the dawn the span of life is suffused with a roseate glow. The afternoon of life dissolves illusion into its stinging rays, but brings face to face with reality." Some of the scenes will always be memorable. Like, for instance, when Rupa sucks on a raw mango in starvation. The handing over of the child-like Rupa to the elderly man in marriage. The deserting of the aged parents by Jhunia and Gobar, who bore all pains and social stigma for them. The economical system came as a blessing, but Jhenguri Singh makes maximum use of it to manipulate people. The most heart-rending scene is the death of Hori or more precisely his last moments. His being religious and magnanimous, the family does not possess the adequate means even to complete his final rites. The novel thus ends in a tragedy. Premchand’s greatness lies in the fact that he transcends the concepts of vision and conception characterising Balzac, the author of the Peasants, and Tolstoy about whom Lenin wrote as “Tolstoy had a surpassing knowledge of rural Russia, the mode of life of the landlords and the peasants”. Premchand has the same historic significance as that of Dickens for England, Balzac for France & Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky for Russia. Premchand surpasses all of them in his social vision in so far as for him the peasant is not just the victim of the

historical process; he is also beginning to emerge as the agent of reversing history in his favour. The novels of Premchand mirror no doubt the harsh realities of rural peasants in India under colonial and feudal regimes but they do much more, they capture realistically the faint rumblings of peasant class consciousness as they identify the seeds of challenge to the colonial and feudal regimes. The tragedy of Indian Peasant uprooted from the age old village system is captured by Premchand with poignancy, dept and intensity of feeling unequalled by any historical writing, the colonial peasant emerge as a dramatic personae in Premchand’s writings on account of his deep historical insight into the circumstances of colonial India on the one hand and his exceptional gifts of literary imagination on the other. These two qualities – sense of history and literary sensibility – combine to create the immortal but the tragic character of Hori in Premchand’s ‘Godaan’, as the living personification of the colonial peasant. Here is an unforgettable character which combines in his person for the Indian peasant’s tenacious will for survival with his sense of utter hopelessness within the colonial economic order. In order to comprehend the misery of the colonial peasant, it was necessary for a writer like Premchand to transcend the class outlook and the emotions of semi-feudal landed gentry and the colonial middle class. The colonial peasant would not, therefore, secure his emancipation without identifying not the “bad landlord” but the whole colonial and semi-feudal system as the source of his misery;; and he could not become a social capable of challenging this system without outgrowing myths of villagism, paternal landlordism, and narrow peasantism, and without merging with the forces of anti- colonial and antifeudal social, economic, and political transformation outside the village..From Premchand’s example one can see why literary representation by the masters of the craft goes beyond mere delineation of social reality; it develops into a critique of this reality. It is obvious that without a critical attitude to reality, Premchand would have failed to capture the misery of the colonial peasant who was exploited not only through economic and political means but also by means of ‘false consciousnesses’. It is when Premchand turns towards a critique of this false consciousness perpetuated by the upper castes and classes privileged within the colonial and semi feudal social order that his writing reaches a high level of social consciousness as in ‘Godaan.’ It should be noteworthy that even though Premchand was very responsive to Gandhian perspectives, his literary sensibilities as reflected in his perception of

social realities often rises above and goes beyond the ideological limits of Gandhism. In ‘Godaan’, Premchand’s heightened literary sensibility is able to shake off the constraints of the Gandhian social outlook and to capture all the major contradictions of the village reality. Premchand’s perception in Godaan encompasses not merely the anti-colonial contradiction (the village v/s the town conflict) but more fundamentally the anti-feudal contradiction (the peasant v/s the landlord –money lender –trader conflict on one hand and the peasant vs/ the priest, the blood sucking government officials, the exacting Biradri and the oppressive and divisive cast hierarchy conflict on the other). In Godaan the focus is simultaneously on the human agents of colonial and feudal oppression as well as on their victims in the vast country side. In depicting and evaluating the role of landed gentry Premchand like Gandhi is inclined to treat them as the victims of colonialism themselves than as exclusive landlords of the countryside and principle agents of exploitation. Both, Gandhi and Premchand focuses on the fact that the colonial rulers have corrupted the native aristocracy, who have reduced the native ruling class to a position of impotence and created vast hiatus and tension between landed elite and the peasant masses. This interpretation is articulated by Rai Saheb in Godaan. “People imagine that we, zamindars are in great comfort. But he who has neither pride nor respect is doomed…He who licks the boots of masters above him and oppresses the masses below him has lost all manhood… Parasitism has crippled us. We are only adept in the art of flattering our British masters and terrorizing our subjects…This Zamindari has become a noose round our neck,(Godaan pg 15) Premchand perceives the dominant feature of the social reality in terms of cleavage between the parasitic and aggressive town dwellers on the one hand and the passive and toiling rural masses on the other. This acute self pity of the colonial peasant is presented in much bolder strokes in Premchand’s Godaan. Its immortal character, Hori , personifying the hopelessness of the colonial peasant, expresses this sentiment of self pity in ringing words as follows:“Who says you and I both are humans. Where is our humanness? He alone is human who has wealth, power and skills. We are like bullocks that have been born only to be yoked to the plough and to slave for others.” (pg 22) Premchand makes no ideological compromises in portrayal of realities; he gives up the attempt to provide a way out of the peasant problem within the

given system through the change of heart of the propertied and power wielding classes. The focus shifts here from the enlightened landlord to the peasant awakening to a higher level of consciousness. Godaan is a story of Hori, a peasant cultivating five bighas of land and perennially oscillating between kisan and majoor status on account of unbearable burdens of rent, interest, taxes and Begar. Hori’s only ambition is to possess a small plot of land and a cow and he makes all the compromises necessary to realize his small peasant utopia. But his Utopia remains unrealised ; nay it is shattered by the brute forces of a colonial system and a class society. Premchand is no longer satisfied with the focus on the enemy outside the village – the absentee landlord, the trader, the lawyer and the government official invading the village like locusts from time to time. In Godaan, Premchand puts in the centre of the picture the enemy inside- The Gram Panchayat, the Biradri and the priests operating on behalf of the rich peasants, the village moneylender and the village based Karindaas of the landlord. Premchand puts in the centre of the stage the peasant’s own fatalism, his submissiveness and his proneness to compromise and to make peace with his oppressors. Godaan epitomise the tragic finale of the path of compromise and submission as depicted in the last outburst of Hori, the hero of Godaan, in the following words:“ Hori could not utter even a single word .He felt as if he was sinking deep in the bottomless pit of unbearable humiliation. Today after fighting tenaciously for thirty years of life, he felt totally defeated crushed. He felt he had been made to stand on the gate of the town and whoever passed that way spat on his face. He felt as if he was screaming aloud saying: “Brothers! Have pity on me. I did not care for the scorching sun of Jeth, nor for the heavy showers of Magh. If you pierce this body – you will find it injured beyond repair and crushed and debilitated. Ask it whether it has a moment’s rest.’ On the top of it then this humiliation. Oh you are still alive, O coward, O wretched being”! Hori’s faith which having become deep had rendered him blind and blunted his sensibilities for all these years, had been shattered today and destroyed forever” (Godaan pg 295) The death of Hori symbolises the total collapse of the peasant utopia and of the path of submissiveness and compromise. The ousting of Hori’s family from the peasant way of life and the exit of his son Gobar, to the town for livelihood are also symbolic of the inherent vulnerability of the small producers, of the ultimate triumph of the cash nexus over the old society, the death of the peasant

of the old type is symbolic of the death of the old society which could be reformed from within.. Thus to conclude, the penetrating and moving insight into the deep and insoluble crisis of the small peasant within the colonial framework which Premchand offers in Godaan, cannot be found in elegant treatise of economists but in the novels of writers of the stature like Premchand.

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