Author: Munshi Premchand
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Publishing Date: 1936 (Originally published), 1 January 2002 (Re-published)
Godaan is considered to be one of the greatest Hindi novels of modern Indian literature. Economic and social conflict in a north Indian village are brilliantly captured in the story of Hori, a poor farmer and his family’s struggle for survival and self-respect. Hori does everything he can to fulfil his life’s desire: to own a cow. Like many Hindus of his time, he believes that making the gift of a cow to a Brahman before he dies will help him achieve salvation. This is a story which represents the peasant society of India.
An engaging introduction to India before Independence, Godaan at once presents what meets more than the eye. It is an account of emotional stories of humans and insightful colonial history.
Godaan was the last complete novel of Premchand . It revolves around the socio-economic deprivation as well as the exploitation of poor people in the village. The story is set in Oudh (now Uttar Pradesh), in the area around Lucknow. The novel follows the stories of many characters, but the central one is Hori Ram, who lives with his family in the small village of Belari.
The title Godaan refers to ‘the gift of a cow’ made by a pious Hindu to a brahmin at the time of death. The story begins with Hori’s desire to buy a cow and ends with his unfulfilled aspiration, and in between so many characters, plots and angles were introduced. It has been elucidated that how the unshaken and rigid beliefs of a man can destroy the potential growth of a human being. Every human being lives life as per his/her conditioned mind, largely governed by his upbringing and circumstances. The customised belief system are ingrained in a child’s innocent mind that never leave their marks. They continue to torture him in youth, and acquire a stubborn place until it’s too late to change anything.
There are numerous themes that this book covers: Exploitation of the lower class, Caste discrimination, Industrialisation and the problems caused by that, Exploitation of women, and the interpersonal relationships among the characters. But mainly, the author introduces the difference between thoughts and action, exhibiting how easily a person’s ideals can be transformed with the change in his circumstances/status/position.
The book is written in Avadhi dialect, with many parts in local slang words. That is actually the reason that gives the novel a very raw, realistic and a rustic feeling. Munshi Premchand has seasoned Godaan with love, romance, comedy and tragedy in equal parts.
- Godaan was made into a Hindi film in 1963, starring Raaj Kumar, Kamini Kaushal, Mehmood and Shashikala.
- In 2004, Godaan was made into a 27-episode TV series ‘Tehreer Munshi Premchand Ki’ starring Pankaj Kapoor and Surekha Sikri, directed by Gulzar and produced by Doordarshan.
About the Author:
Munshi Premchand (31 July 1880 – 8 October 1936), one of the foremost Hindustani writers of the early twentieth century was born as Dhanpat Rai Shrivastava. He began writing under the pen name ‘Nawab Rai’, but subsequently switched to ‘Premchand’. Later on he was better known as "Munshi Premchand". A novel writer, story writer and dramatist, Premchand has been referred to as the ‘Upanyas Samrat’ ("Emperor among Novelists") by some Hindi 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. Several of his early works, such as ‘A little trick’ and ‘A moral victory’ satirised the Indians who cooperated with the British colonial government.
In the 1920s, he was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's non-cooperation movement and the accompanying struggle for social reform. During this period, his works dealt with the social issues such as poverty, zamindari exploitation (Premashram, 1922), dowry system (Nirmala, 1925), educational reform and political oppression (Karmabhumi, 1931).
In his last days, he focused on village life as a stage for complex drama, as seen in his most famous work ‘Godaan’ as well as the short-story collection ‘Kafan’ (1936). Premchand believed that social realism was the way for Hindi literature, as opposed to the feminine quality, tenderness and emotion of the contemporary Bengali literature.