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Rise of the Novel in India

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Rise of the Novel in India - Lesson Summary

Historically, Indian stories in prose had been written in Sanskrit like Kadambari by Banabhatta and Panchatantra. Urdu and Persian also had a tradition of prose adventure stories known as dastan but none of these texts were like the modern novel.

The growth of the reading public, print and vernaculars proved favourable for the growth of the novel in India in the 19 th century.

The earliest novels were written in Marathi and Bengali. Yamuna Paryatan, by Baba Padmanji was one of the first Marathi novels about the miserable life of widows. The first novel in Bengali Karuna O Phulmonir Bibaran was written by Hannah Mullens in 1852. 

In northern India, famous Hindi writer Bhartendu Harishchandra motivated many poets and writers in his circle to translate and recreate novels from other languages. The first Hindi novel was Pariksha Guru written by Srinivas Das. A best seller in Hindi novels came around with Devaki Nandan Khatri’s fantasy saga Chandrakanta which popularised the use of Hindi and the Devanagri script.

PremChand took the Hindi novel to new heights weaving interesting stories in lucid Hindi around the lives of ordinary people. Sewasadan, Rangbhoomi and Godan are some of his famous novels. In southern India, writers like Chandu Menon and Kandukuri Viresinlingam tried to translate English novels into regional Indian languages.

In 1889, Induleka the first Malayalam novel by Chandu Menon was published. Viresalingam wrote a Telugu novel called Rajasekhara Karitamu. In Bengal the novels were based on historical events or the inner world of domestic life. The Indian novel brought together people from different backgrounds and infused a sense of shared community in them.


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