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The Novel in South India

Novels began appearing in south Indian languages during the period of colonial rule. Quite a few early novels came out of attempts to translate English novels into Indian languages.

Novels in Malayalam :-
O. Chandu Menon, translated an English novel called Henrietta Temple written by Benjamin Disraeli into Malayalam. The Indian readers did not relish the translated novel as they were not able to identify with the characters.

So, O. Chandu Menon, wrote Indulekha, which was published in 1889. It was the first modern novel in Malayalam.

Novels in Telugu :-
Kandukuri Viresalingam (1848-1919) translated Oliver Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield into Telugu. His translation was not successful. So he wrote an original Telugu novel called Rajasekhara Caritamu in 1878.

Novels in Hindi :-
Bharatendu Harishchandra, was the pioneer of modern Hindi literature. He was encouraged by poets and writers to recreate and translate novels from other languages.

Srinivas Das’s novel, Pariksha-Guru was published in 1882.The novel cautioned young men of well-to-do families against the dangerous influences of bad company and consequent loose morals.


  • This novel reflects the inner and outer world of the newly emerging middle classes.
  • The characters in the novel find it difficult to adapt to the colonised society.
  • They are keen on preserving their own cultural identity.
  • The world of colonial modernity seems to be frightening and irresistible to the characters.
  • The novel tries to teach the reader the ‘right way’ to live.
  • It advises ‘sensible men’ to be worldly-wise and practical, to remain rooted in the values of their own tradition and culture.
  • The novel advocates people to live with dignity and honour.
  • The young are urged to cultivate the ‘healthy habit’ of reading the newspapers.
  • The novel keeps stressing the fact that traditional values should not be sacrificed.

The writings of Devaki Nandan Khatri created a novel-reading public in Hindi. His best-seller, Chandrakanta was a romantic novel with dazzling elements of fantasy. Though this novel was written purely for the ‘pleasure of reading’, it gives some interesting insights into the fears and desires of its reading public.

The Hindi novel achieved excellence through the writing of Premchand. He began writing in Urdu and then started writing in Hindi. His style of writing followed the traditional art of story telling.

Premchand’s Sewasadan

  • This novel was published in 1916,
  • It lifted the Hindi novel from the realm of fantasy, moralising and simple entertainment to a serious reflection on the lives of ordinary people and social issues.
  • Sewasadan
  • deals mainly with the poor condition of women in society.
    • Issues like child marriage and dowry are woven into the story of the novel.
    • It talks about the ways in which the Indian upper classes used whatever little opportunities they got from colonial authorities to govern themselves.

    Premchand’s Sevasadan



    Novels in Bengali :-
    The early Bengali novels lived in two worlds.

  • Novels based on historical events.
  • Novels based on domestic life in contemporary settings.
  • Domestic novels dealt with the social problems and romantic relationships between men and women.

    Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay was a famous Bengali novelist. His novels had ingenious twists and turns of the plot. There was suspense and the language was relished. The prose style of his novels became a new object of enjoyment. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s first novel was Durgeshnandi.

    Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay


    Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (1876-1938) was another popular novelist of Bengal. He had a powerful way of story-telling in simple language.



    Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay

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