Biography of Munshi Premchand

Dhanpat Rai Srivastava was born on July 31, 1880 in Lamahi, near the city of Varanasi in India. His father was a post-office clerk. His mother died after a long illness when he was just eight years old. His father remarried a woman with whom he did not have a good relationship.

Dhanpat Rai began studying at a madrasa, or educational institution, near Lamahi, when he was seven years old. There he learned Urdu and Persian. His father died when he was sixteen and he assumed responsibility for the family.

From a young age, Dhanpat Rai was an avid reader. As a teenager, he took a job as a bookseller and learned English at a missionary school. After his father's death, Rai tried to go to college but was not able to obtain a scholarship and assumed a series of jobs as a teacher and tutor. He entered an arranged marriage at the age of fifteen, but the couple was unhappy and they eventually separated. Dhanpat Rai eventually remarried Shivarani Devi, a child widow, which was considered a rebellious act at the time.

Rai began publishing his first short works in 1907 under the pseudonym Nawab Rai. By the mid-1910s the author used the pen name Premchand and had become a prominent writer in Urdu. He began writing in Hindi in 1914. Premchand was a patriot who supported the Indian movement for independence from British colonial rule. Many of his works contain patriotic themes as well as critiques of social issues. For this reason, the ruling government banned some of Premchand's writings.

By 1921, Premchand received a promotion to Deputy Inspector of Schools. But after attending a meeting in which Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement, asked people to quit their government jobs in protest, Premchand did so, even though he suffered from illness and had to support his pregnant wife and their two children. In 1936 Premchand was elected as the first President of the Progressive Writers' Association in Lucknow. He died shortly thereafter in Varanasi, suffering from chronic sickness and financial troubles.

Study Guides on Works by Munshi Premchand