Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 7, 1990 p. 31.

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A.S. Kaisi


The emergence of the novel in Hindi1 in the second half of the nineteenth century was preceded by some instructional works of prose fiction written as textbooks under the vernacular education scheme on the subject of female education. In Urdu, Nazir Ahmad (1836-1912) wrote Mirat al-'arus (The bride's mirror) (1869) on female education for Muslim women, whose phenomenal success was to make it a model for imitation for much of the writing on the subject in other languages of the subcontinent2 including Hindi. The indebtedness of Hindi fiction writing on female education to Mirat al-'arus has not been acknowledged, much less investigated The works of Hindi fiction which are actually based on Mirat al^arus have been presented by Hindi scholars as the originals, even as the first Hindi novel Two prominent works of Hindi fiction on female education often discussed in this context and asserted to be the first Hindi novel are Devram jetham ki kaham (1870) by Gaundatt3 and Bhagyavati (1877; first published in 1887) by Sraddharam Phillaun 4 The former was clearly modeled on Mirat al^arus, the latter inspired by it. Accordingly, this paper attempts to examine the degree of indebtedness of these works of Hindi fiction to Mirat al-'arus and to underline their distinguishing characteristics which were to pave the way for the Hindi novel to appear.

^The first novel in Hindi is generally considered to be Panksaguru [Experience is the only teacher] (1882) by Snmvasdas (1850-1887). See R.S. McGregor, Hindi literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ed. J. Gonda, Vol VIII, Fasc 2, Wiesbaden, 1974, p 99 The novel narrates the extravagant life-styles of a nch Hindu banker and trader. The peers of such nch Hindu bankers and traders in the Muslim community were the Nawabs whose extravagant life-style was admirably documented by Ratannath Sarshar (1846-1902) in FasSna-e Azad (1880; first published serially in AwadH Axbar, from December 1878 to December 1879). Panksaguru has been reprinted with an introduction by Ramdaras Misra, Rishab Charan Jain & Sons, Delhi, 1974

2Annema^e Schimmel, Classical Urdu literature from the beginning to Iqbal, ed ] Gonda, Vol VIII, Fasc 3, Wiesbaden, 1975, pp 232-233

^opalray is its strongest adherent He first put forward the idea in his work Hindi katha sahitya aur uske uikas par pathako ki ruci ka prabhav, Patna, 1965, pp. 212-216 A year later he repnnted the story with his preface under the htle Hindi ka pahia upanyas Devram jetham ki kaham, Patna, 1966

^ijaysankar Mall in his preface to the paperback edition of Bhagyavati, Banaras, 1960, introduced it as the first Hindi novel His view is shared by Visvambhar 'Manav', Unnism satabdi ke upanyaskar, Allahabad, 1970, pp. 33-39; Tnbuvansinh, Hindi upanyas aur yatharthvad, 4th ed., Banaras, 1965, p. 174, fn 1, Dhanra) Mandhane, Hindi ke manovaijnamk upanyas, Kanpur, 1971, pp 107-108, et al

Annual of Urdu Studies, #7 31

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