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Nineteenth-century prose

Chandrakāntā by Devaki Nandan Khatri (selection from the novel) Urdu
Premsāgar by Lallulal (selection)
Literary criticism by Bhartendu Harishchandra, “Hindī bhāshā” and “Urdū kā syāpā”

Twentieth-century prose

“Sadgati” by Premchand
“Dudh kā dām” by Premchand Urdu
“Urdū, Hindī, aur Hindūstānī” by Premchand Urdu
“Malbe kā mālik” by Mohan Rakesh
“Tanāv” by Rajendra Yadav
“Dillī mẽ ek maut” by Kamleshwar
“Paccīs caukā deṛh sau” by Omprakash Valmiki
Apne-apne pinjare by Mohandas Naimishray Urdu
“Lājwantī” by Rajinder Singh Bedi Urdu


Two Braj Bhasha poets:
  • Kabir Urdu
  • Rahim Urdu
Selections from Braj works: The Chayavad movement, with
  • Selection from the critical essay “Kalpnā ke kānan kī rānī” in Chāyāvād by Namwar Singh
  • “Vishva chavi” by Sumitranand Pant
  • Nīrajā by Mahadevi Varma (selection)
Old Avadhi texts: selections from
  • the Rāmcaritmānas of Tulsīdās
  • the Madhumālatī of Manjhan

Glossaries of Hindi Texts

The texts on this site were taught starting in Autumn 2007 as part of "Readings in Hindi Literature I & II" (MDES W4610 and W4611) at Columbia University. The minimum prerequisite for taking these courses is two years of Hindi-Urdu, but many advanced students also join the seminar. Thus, the texts on offer here are pitched at a range of levels. The courses were conceived and taught by Allison Busch, Associate Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies. The original material for this website was prepared by Arthur Dudney in 2008. Additional materials continue to be added. A combined Hindi-Urdu course taught in Autumn 2009 generated units available both in Devanagari and Nastaliq script, an effort coordinated by Nabila Pirani and Zahra Sabri. (The availability of Nastaliq is marked here by the symbol Description: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/01glossaries/busch/urdu.png). The Old Avadhi glossary page was prepared by Andrew Ollett in 2011. The 'Selections from Braj works' section was prepared by Justin Ben-Hain in 2013.

Students in the courses used a wiki (defined here) to prepare glossaries for the texts collaboratively. Students were assigned pages of the reading to prepare by identifying unfamiliar words, looking up the definitions and entering what they came up with into a wiki, which was typically to be finished two days before the class session in which the text would be read. Students were encouraged to note words or expressions they could not understand or find in a dictionary. As other students viewed the wiki, they could offer corrections and fill in some of the blanks. The instructor would endeavor to do a definitive round of corrections the night before the class session as well as, where appropriate, marking key terms that would appear on quizzes. We believe this approach balances the needs of students and the instructor by providing the benefits of a glossary for uncommonly taught texts in a creative, collaborative manner. Students gain experience typing in the target language and are expected to contribute actively to the wiki, which makes them more attentive to spelling, grammar, and idiomatic usages. At the same time the instructor does not have to take on the heavy burden of preparing all of the glossaries herself. By sharing the labor among all the students in the class, each student would only have to look up all of the unfamiliar words on a page or two each week. Students were thus able to concentrate on the meaning of the texts rather than, as a teacher of mine once said, “mindlessly thumbing the lexicon.” At Columbia, support for wiki-related projects is provided by the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL), and we are grateful to CCNMTL's Michael Cennamo for his help.

Although the entries were corrected by the students themselves with some oversight by Professor Busch, it is possible that inaccuracies will have remained. All materials are provided as is—more or less in the form in which they were originally created by students. As with all wikis, comments and corrections are welcome (these may be sent to Professor Busch at ab2544@columbia[dot]edu). We are placing these materials in the public domain in the hope that they will be useful to both students and teachers. However, we request that any materials used will be credited to this site. We encourage others to contribute to the “glossary fair” housed at this site.

The dictionary consulted by most of the students was the Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary, edited by R.S. McGregor. It is the best all-purpose Hindi-English dictionary available, and can be purchased at one of the major online booksellers for about $30. Other indispensible resources include the Hindi Shabdsagar and Platt's Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi and English, both of which are available online for free through the Digital South Asia Library at the University of Chicago. For further practice with Hindi readings, the student is advised to consider Christopher Shackle and Rupert Snell's Hindi and Urdu Since 1800: A Common Reader (whose full text is now available online) and Usha Jain and Karine Schomer's Intermediate Hindi Reader, some of which is suitable for advanced students despite its title. The Hindi-Urdu Flagship website at the University of Texas is another wonderful resource that includes classical materials.

-Arthur Dudney


Nineteenth-century prose

Chandrakāntā by Devaki Nandan Khatri (selection from the novel)
Premsāgar by Lallulal (selection)
Literary criticism by Bhartendu Harishchandra, "Hindī bhāshā" and "Urdū kā syāpā"

Twentieth-century prose

"Sadgati" by Premchand
"Dudh kā dām" by PremchandUrdu
"Urdū, Hindī, aur Hindūstānī" by PremchandUrdu
"Malbe kā mālik" by Mohan Rakesh
"Tanāv" by Rajendra Yadav
"Dillī mẽ ek maut" by Kamleshwar
"Paccīs caukā deṛh sau" by Omprakash Valmiki
Apne-apne pinjare by Mohandas Naimishray (selection)Urdu
"Lājwantī" by Rajinder Singh BediUrdu


Two Braj Bhasha poets: Selections from Braj works: The Chayavad movement, with Old Avadhi texts: selections from

Using this Site

All the texts on the site are conveniently available from a "quick menu" at the top of every page. Click it to access any text or to go back to the homepage.

All the vocabulary on this site is encoded in Unicode, which is standard for modern web browsers. If you have an extremely old web browser then this site will not work for you. For more information about fonts for South Asian languages, please see the guidelines set out by the Hindi-Urdu Flagship Program at the University of Texas. For viewing Urdu text, we recommend the font Nafees Nastaliq.

To view the original text of the stories in the PDF format, you'll need to download the free Acrobat Reader. Wherever the icon to the left appears, there is a link to a PDF file.

Whenever the icon to the right appears, a text is available in Nastaliq. Urdu

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This site last updated by Justin Ben-Hain on 5 November 2013.

Devaki Nandan Khatri (1861 - 1913) originally wrote his novel Chandrakanta for serial publication. When it was collected into a book, it was the longest piece of modern Hindi prose to date. (However, the selection offered on this site represents only the preface and the first thirty pages of the novel.) Despite its age, it is a breezy and quite funny read and remains a favorite classic in India.

Lallulal (1763 - 1825) was one of the Indian scholars associated with the College of Fort William in early-nineteenth century Calcutta. This text is based on the tenth book of the Bhāgavata purāṇa, which describes Lord Krishna's childhood in the fields around Vrindavan on the banks of the Yamuna River not far from Agra.

Bharatendu Harishchandra (1850 - 1882) lived a short but extremely influential life and is known as “the Father of Modern Hindi Literature.” With his erudition (he had been trained in both Persian and Sanskrit, the two major classical literary traditions in India) and a publishing empire based in Varanasi, he shaped perceptions of Hindi literature by elevating the discourse surrounding it and helping to establish a literary standard.

This is one of the best known stories by Premchand (1880 - 1936) and a classic example of Progressive writers’ concern with the lives of people from oppressed classes. The main character, Dukhi, is from the untouchable Chamar caste, and his meager life is made difficult by social forces he does not understand. The action of the story revolves around his attempt to get the village Brahmin to cast his daughter's wedding horoscope. The ironic title, which is a Hindu theological term literally meaning “the right path,” has often been rendered into English as “Deliverance.

Premchand’s “Dudh kā dām” takes up one of the author’s favorite themes: India’s social ills. Grinding poverty and caste oppression are the lot of Bhūngī and her ironically-named son Maṅgal (“fortunate”) from the bhaṅgī (sweeper) caste. Arguably a proto-Dalit writer, Premchand exposes the injustice of the rigid social hierarchies that relegate Maṅgal to barely human status when he loses his mother and sole protector.

This excerpt from Premchand’s “Urdū, Hindī aur Hindustānī” (1934) evinces the position of a well-meaning nationalist-period writer who saw himself as a champion of the linguistic middle ground of Hindustani. He advocates a national language that would eschew complex words from Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic and be readily accessible to all.

Mohan Rakesh (1925 - 1978) was one of the leading lights of the Nayī Kahānī (or “New Story”) movement in post-Independence Indian literature.

In “Malbe kā mālik,” or “The Owner of the Rubble,” an old man has come from Pakistan to find the place in an India where his late son had lived before Parition. The people of the village hide in their homes presumably because the old man is Muslim and a stranger. The reality is more complicated...

“Tanāv” by Rajendra Yadav (b. 1929) is a highly experimental story, whose narration is at once third person and first person. Mrs. Sinha, an upper middle class wife, tells her own story but refers to herself in the third person. She is clearly mentally ill and her illness is a metaphor for the discomfort of the urban middle class in the years after the euphoria of Indian Independence had worn off.

“A Death in Delhi” is a classic of the Nayī Kahānī (or “New Story”) style of the post-Independence period. Short story writers like Kamleshwar (1932 - 2007) turned their attention from the lives of the rural poor, a subject so beloved by Premchand, to the ennui of the urban middle class. There was a new interest in the psychological lives of characters, as is evident in this story

Post-Independence short-story writing opened the way for Dalits (formerly known as “untouchables” or “Harijans”) to write stories from their perspective. Omprakash Valmiki (b. 1950) is one of the most famous Dalit litterateurs and, in contrast to earlier short story writers, portrays the life of Dalits with an authentically Dalit voice.

Mohan Naimishray’s Apne-apne piñjare (1995) is one of the most influential works of Dalit literature in Hindi and an outstanding instance of the ātmakathā (autobiography) that is the signature genre of Dalit self-expression. It is instructive to contrast Naimishray’s style of narration with that of Premchand (1880-1936), whose voice is that of a nationalist writer who could sympathize with the plight of Dalits but who could not render their suffering in the first person.

“Lājwantī” by Rajinder Singh Bedi explores the plight of abducted women during the violence and upheaval of the subcontinent’s partition in 1947. Sundarlal, an abusive husband whose own wife went missing during the conflict, actively campaigns for the repatriation of abducted women but is taken aback by the unsettling emotional transformations that attend the acceptance of his own wife back into his home. Bedi raises the problem of silence—the inability of survivors and perpetrators of violence to talk about what happened—which is a common theme in partition literature.

A selection of popular dohās (couplets) attributed to Kabir (fl. 1450) and Rahim (c. 1600).

The mid-twentieth century Chayavad movement represents a stark departure from earlier Hindi and Urdu poetic traditions. Its philosophy was that poetry should deal in emotions above all else and that the poet should strive to express those emotions as tenderly as possible. The name “Chayavad” is untranslatable, as the literal meaning, “shadow-espousing,” sounds sinister in English. What is meant by “shadow” in this context is the emotional wake that trails after an event. It is that ripple of emotion and not the event itself that Chayavad poetry aims to capture in verse.