One of Premchand’s most successful Hindi novels, Sevasadan is a bold statement on the political and religious debates about marriage, sexuality, and prostitution, at a time when Indian Women were being held up as standard-bearers of a nation in chains.
Premchand depicts the hypocrisy of the so-called pillars of society, who can sacrifice their orthodox principles behind closed doors, yet do not shirk from mouthing moral platitudes in public. He portrays the reality of the interest groups which cut across the newly emerging Hindu-Muslim divide, but also conceives of an ideal community that gives new direction to the life of a fallen woman and allows her to lead a meaningful existence. The stream of idealism that runs through Premchand’s works has often been criticized by scholars, but it is the counterpart of a relentless psychological and social realism, which has remained unmatched to this day.
A hugely popular novel, Sevasadan went through several editions after its first publication in 1918. It was made into a film in 1938 with M S Subbulakshmi in the lead role. It is not only a gripping novel but also a sensitive and perceptive document on the lives of young urban men and women at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The general reader interested in literature, literature in translation, and social history will find this volume invaluable.
Savasadan is the story of Suman, a young woman brought up in luxury, who finds herself locked in an unhappy marriage to an older man living in straitened circumstances Socially neglected and forlorn, she finds instant fame as a courtesan. But this is an era when a rising class of urban intellectuals and social reformers is organizing to remove from the heart of the holy city of Banaras the last remnants of a feudal culture-the courtesans. Suman is dogged by debates between the hedonists, reformers, and religious conservatives, and the solutions they offer threaten to destroy her life and that of those around her.