What can Munshi Premchand tell us about India’s obsession with cows?

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: July 31, 2018

India has been gripped by violence as mob lynchings over suspected cow slaughter continue unabated. What can his last finished novel ‘Godan,’ (The Gift of a Cow,) that was published in 1936, tell us about contemporary India?


Premchand
 
Dhanpat Rai Srivastava, later known as Munshi Premchand was an author, translator, playwright and social commentator. When Munshi Premchand’s birth anniversary on July 31 starts drawing near, many recount the great injustice that the writer had to endure. Often compared to Charles Dickens for his astute observation of his environment, Munshi Premchand had an unparalleled hand on the nerve of the masses. He acquired the title ‘Emperor among Novelists’ but died penniless.
 
He had big dreams for a modern India where inter-caste marriage was not frowned upon and religion didn’t blind humanity. India has been gripped by violence as mob lynchings over suspected cow slaughter continue unabated. What can his last finished novel ‘Godan,’ (The Gift of a Cow,) that was published in 1936, tell us about contemporary India?
 
Godan is a tragic story of a simple and God-fearing man Hori Mahato who longs to have a cow of his own. The cow is a status symbol for the residents of this village where exploitation of the poor is the only religion. His ensuing debt for borrowing a cow, paying bribes to the police to protect his brother who poisoned his cow, the loss of his oxen that were taken by the cow-lender as repayment, his family being outcast for favouring humanity over caste hierarchies and more are some plots of this novel.
 
Read the spectacular work here and see if today’s India is really all that different from the country that was nearing the end of the British colonialism.