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Munshi Premchand: Indian writer famous for his modern Hindi-Urdu literature

Dhanpat Rai Shrivastava, better known by his pen name Munshi Premchand, was an Indian writer famous for his modern Hindi-Urdu literature. He is one of the most celebrated writers of the Indian subcontinent and is regarded as one of the foremost Hindi writers of the early twentieth century. He began writing under the pen name “Nawab Rai”, but subsequently switched to “Premchand”. Munshi being an honorary prefix. A novel writer, story writer, and dramatist, he has been referred to as the “Upanyas Samrat” (“Emperor among Novelists”) by writers. His works include more than a dozen novels, around 250 short stories, several essays and translations of a number of foreign literary works into Hindi.

In 1909, Premchand was transferred to Mahoba and later posted to Hamirpur as the Sub-deputy Inspector of Schools. Around this time, Soz-e-Watan was noticed by the British Government officials, who banned it as a seditious work. The British collector of the Hamirpur District ordered a raid on Premchand’s house, where around five hundred copies of Soz-e-Watan were burnt. After this, Munshi Daya Narain Nigam, the editor of the Urdu magazine Zamana, who had published Dhanpat Rai’s first story “Duniya Ka Anmol Ratan” advised the pseudonym “Premchand”. Dhanpat Rai stopped using the name “Nawab Rai” and became Premchand.

In 1914, Munshi Premchand started writing in Hindi (Hindi and Urdu are considered different registers of a single language Hindustani, with Hindi drawing much of its vocabulary from Sanskrit and Urdu being more influenced by Persian). By this time, he was already reputed as a fiction writer in Urdu. Sumit Sarkar notes that the switch was prompted by the difficulty of finding publishers in Urdu. His first Hindi story Saut was published in the magazine Saraswati in December 1915, and his first short story collection Sapta Saroj was published in June 1917.

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