Devdas novel – Bengali book, front cover
|Author||Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay|
|30 June 1917|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
Devdas is a young man from a wealthy Bengali Brahmin family in India in the early 1900s. Paro (Parvati) is a young woman from a middle class Bengali family. The two families lived in a village in Bengal, and Devdas and Paro were childhood friends.
Devdas goes away for a couple of years to live and study in the city of Calcutta (now Kolkata). During vacations, he returns to his village. Suddenly both realise their easy comfortability in each other's innocent comradeship has changed to something different. Devdas realises Parvati is no longer the small girl he knew. Paro looks forward to their childhood love blossoming into their lifelong journey together in marriage. Of course, according to the prevailing social custom, Paro's parents would have to approach Devdas' parents and propose marriage of Paro to Devdas as Paro longed for.
Paro's mother approaches Devdas's mother with a marriage proposal. Although Devdas's mother loved Paro very much she wasn't so keen on forming an alliance with next door neighbours. Also, Parvati's family had a long standing tradition of accepting dowry from the groom's family during a marriage rather than sending dowry with the bride, which was the established custom (and still is, in many parts of India). This alternative custom influenced Devdas's mother's decision of not considering Parvati as Devdas' bride, because she considered Paro's family to be "trading low caste" (becha-kena chotoghor) family, despite the fact that Parvati (like Devdas) was a Brahmin. The "trading" label was applied in context of the marriage custom followed by Paro's family. Devdas's father, who also loved the little Paro, did not want Devdas to get married so early in life and wasn't very keen on the alliance. Paro's father, feeling insulted at the rejection, finds an even richer husband for Paro.
When Paro learns of her planned marriage, she stealthily meets Devdas at night, desperately believing that Devdas will accept her hand in marriage. Devdas had never previously considered Paro that way. He feels surprised at Paro's bravery of visiting him alone at night and also feels pained for her. He decides he will tell his father about marrying Paro. Devdas' father disagrees.
In a confused state, Devdas then flees to Calcutta, and from there, he writes a letter to Paro, saying that they were only friends. Within days, however, he realizes that he should have been bolder. He goes back to his village and tells Paro that he is ready to do anything needed to save their love.
By now, Paro's marriage plans are in an advanced stage, and she declines going back to Devdas and chides him for his cowardice and vacillation. She makes, however, one request to Devdas that he would return to her before he dies. Devdas vows to do so.
Devdas goes back to Calcutta and Paro is married off to the betrothed widower with three children. He is an elderly gentleman, a zamindar. He had found his house and home so empty and lustreless after his wife's death that he had decided to remarry. He spent most of his day in Pujas and looking after the zamindari.
In Calcutta, Devdas' carousing friend, Chunni Lal, introduces him to a courtesan named Chandramukhi. Devdas takes to heavy drinking at Chandramukhi's place, but the courtesan falls in love with him, and looks after him. His health deteriorates because of a combination of excessive drinking and despair - a drawn-out form of suicide. Within him, he frequently compares Paro and Chandramukhi. Somehow he feels betrayed by Paro, never realizing that she was the one who had loved him first, that she had said it out loud first. He doesn't realise this, but Chandramukhi does, and tells him so. When sober he would hate Chandramukhi and loathe her presence. So he would drink, to forget his prejudices. Chandramukhi saw it all, felt it all and suffered silently, but she had seen that real man behind the fallen, aimless Devdas he now was and couldn't help but love him.
Sensing his fast-approaching death, Devdas returns to meet Paro to fulfill his vow. He dies at her doorstep on a dark, cold night. On hearing of the death of Devdas, Paro runs towards the door, but her family members prevent her from stepping out of the door.
The novella powerfully depicts the prevailing societal customs in Bengal in the early 1900s, which are largely responsible for preventing the happy ending of a sincere love story.
Film, TV, and theatrical adaptations
Notable film versions of the novella include:
- In the film Haath Ki Safai, a song in the movie is about the play Devdas with Randhir Kapoor as Devdas and Hema Malini as Chandramukhi.
- Sharma, Sanjukta (June 7, 2008). "Multiple Takes: Devdas’s journey in Indian cinema - from the silent era of the 1920s to the opulent Hindi blockbuster of 2002". Livemint. Retrieved 2009-02-22.
- The Hindu : The immortal lover
- Devdas phenomenon
- Penguin India book review[dead link]
- The Hindu (newspaper) essay on the novel
- Devdas in Bengali Text