When we talk about Hindi literature, the discussion can never be complete without the mention of Munshi Premchand. Today is the renowned poet’s 138th birthday.
A prolific writer, Premchand’s words resonate across generations and even today, he stands as as one of most influential literary figures of the country. His work includes more than a dozen novels, about 250 short stories, essays and also Hindi translations of a number of foreign literary works.
At a time when the world is constantly discussing women’s rights, issues and the idea of freedom, Premchand’s writings are more than relevant. Sure, things have improved since Premchand’s times when women weren’t allowed to have a say and experience the freedom that they do today. However, even in those times, his female characters were brave enough. Let’s take a look at some strong female characters from Premchand’s inspiring work.
1. Gangi from ‘Thakur Ka Kaun’
Gangi is one of the most famous characters of Premchand’s works. A dalit woman, Gangi needs a cure for her severely ill husband. In the quest to save her husband, she walks to a wealthy man’s well to fetch water despite not being allowed in that area. She refuses to succumb to societal norms. At the end of the story, the readers are left with the impression that Gangi is full of courage. She, very bravely, took up a task in the dark, despite all the danger.
2. Suman from ‘Sevasadan’
The story focuses on the trials and trauma of a woman in every context. Ridiculed by her own people, Suman chooses a profession which leads to defamation. Despite everything the society throws at her, she stands by her choices. Sevasadan was ahead of its time and portrayed some really hard-hitting truths. Premchand, through Suman’s character journey, highlighted the hypocrisy of the powerful.
3. Dhania from ‘Godan’
Dhania, wife of the central character Hori, is a woman immersed in miseries. Despite the tribulations, she refuses to bow down and comes across as a strong character. She supports women who were ridiculed by their own, and fights against injustices. The character is bold in terms of determination and goes beyond her husband’s wishes when she takes up the fight against injustice in society. She makes him see the truth and the reality of facts. Unlike Hori, Dhania is not lost in complications. She stands by what she thinks is correct and her dharma, rather than the traditional principles of the community. She emerges as a powerful woman who, irrespective of caste or creed, helps those in need.
4. Anandi from ‘Bade Ghar Ki Beti’
Anandi’s portrayal, as the daughter of a wealthy family and then as the daughter-in-law of a poor family, carries numerous shades. Anandi, having been accustomed to a rich lifestyle, finds it difficult to adjust after marriage. There are certain episodes where she is at the receiving end of a huge fight with her in-laws. Anandi’s strong mindset and refusal to bow down also leads to cracks in the family. The story also focuses on the joint family system and patriarchy. Anandi, however, faces the situation and comes to wise conclusions at various points in the story.
5. Nirmala from ‘Nirmala’
Nirmala did not fight the injustices of patriarchy loud and clear in the story. Despite this, she is remembered as a central character whenever Premchand’s work is discussed. The story is crucial because it revolves in the periphery of patriarchy and evils of dowry system. Premchand, through Nirmala’s journey, voices his desire to bring about social reform and raise the status of women in society. Nirmala, despite being married to a man her father’s age, never succumbs to misery. Her strong transition from being a student to wife and then, a mother is worth a reflection. Her constant conflict with identity and her understanding of situations at various phases gives her the strength to continue.
Premchand’s works let everyone analyse dimensions of each character. Decades after his demise, he still lives on in the minds and hearts of millions. His work especially touched the common man, women and the underprivileged. His writings, especially in this age and time, need an even closer look now that the world is distraught with a huge patch of social problems.
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