Nirmala novel cover
|Original title||Nirmala (निर्मला)|
|Translator||Alok Rai and David Rubin|
|Cover artist||Orient Paperbacks (Alok Rai) and Oxford India Paperbacks (David Rubin)|
|ISBN||9780195658262 (translated version by Oxford India)|
Nirmala (Hindi: निर्मला (virtuous or pure) or The Second Wife [A]) is a Hindi fiction novel written in Hindi and Urdu writer Munshi Premchand. The melodramatic novel is centered on Nirmala, a young girl who was forced to marry a widower of her father's age. The plot unfolds to reveal her husband’s suspicion of a relationship between her and his eldest son, a suspicion that leads to the son’s death.
A poignant novel first published in 1927, Nirmala's reformist agenda is transparent in its theme which deals with the question of dowry, and consequently mismatched marriages and related issues. The story uses fiction to highlight an era of much needed social reform in 1920s Indian society. Nirmala was serialized in 1928 in Chand, a women’s magazine in which the novel’s feminist character was represented. Nirmala is somewhat like Godaan (published in 1936) in that it deals with the exploitation of the village poor, and was translated by multiple scholarly translators. It was first translated in 1988 as The Second Wife by David Rubin, and in 1999 as Nirmala by Alok Rai, Premchand's grandson.
Udayabhanu Lal, a lawyer by profession, arranged to marry off his 15-years-old daughter Nirmala to Bhuvanmohan Sinha, son of Bhalchadra Sinha. Lal was later murdered by his rival Mathayi, who was once tried in court by Lal and sentenced to jail. The death of Lal caused Bhuvanmohan and Bhalchadra to withdraw from the arranged marriage since there was no longer a large dowry as anticipated prior to Lal's death. Financial hardship forced Nirmala's mother, Kalyani, to marry her off to Totaram, a lawyer 20 years her senior. Totaram tried his best to seduce his beautiful young wife but to no avail. She had no feelings for him other than respect and a sense of duty, which fell short of the love he expected to receive from his wife.
Totaram had 3 sons from his first marriage. His eldest son Mansaram was only a year older than Nirmala. It wasn't long before Totaram grew suspicious of Nirmala and her relationship with his son Mansaram. Jealousy and suspicion caused him to send Mansaram away to live in a hostel, a decision they all soon came to regret. Mansaram's health soon deteriorated in the hostel environment. It was Bhuvanmohan who treated Mansaram at the hospital. When Bhuvanmohan learned about Nirmala, he arranged for his brother to marry Nirmala's sister, Krishna, as penance. Bhuvanmohan was haunted by his thoughts of Nirmala and her distress. Mansaram eventually died of tuberculosis. Totaram was heartbroken and guilt ridden over his role in his son's death. It wasn't long thereafter when his second son Jiyaram absconded with Nirmala's jewels and fled from Totaram's house. He later committed suicide. Totaram's third son Siyaram also fled, having been lured away by a false saint. Depressed over the loss of his sons, Totaram set off on a mission to find his only living son, Siyaram.
Meanwhile, Bhuvanmohan was back in Nirmala's life as the husband of her friend, Sudha. He tried to seduce Nirmala, but his wife learned of it and criticized him harshly. Bhuvanmohan became emotionally distressed, and out of sorrow and his love for her, he committed suicide. Depressed by the sad turn of events and her own failing health, Nirmala gave her daughter Asha to Rukhmini, Totaram's widowed sister, and died. A much older Totaram returned home to discover Nirmala had died.
- Nirmala, the protagonist; a 15-year-old girl, married off to Totaram who is 20 years her senior.
- (Munshi) Totaram, Nirmala's husband, a lawyer of 35.
- Mansaram, Totaram's eldest son from his first wife; his father suspects him of having a relationship with Nirmala, and forces him out of the house to live in a hostel where he eventually dies.
- Jiyaram, Totaram's second son from his first wife; he blames his father for the death of his older brother and flees from home after absconding with Nirmala's jewelry. He eventually commits suicide.
- Siyaram, Totaram's third son from his first wife; he is lured away from his father's house by a false saint.
- Bhuvanmohan Sinha, former fiance of Nirmala. After the death of Nirmala's father, he learns there won't be a dowry and withdraws from the marriage.
- Sudha is Bhuvanmohan's wife and the companion of Nirmala. It is through her, Bhuvan comes to know about Nirmala; that it is the same girl whom he has earlier left off. Her criticism sends him into commit suicide.
- Udayabhanu Lal is Nirmala's father.
- Kalyani, Nirmala's mother, who was forced by circumstances to marry Nirmala to Totaram.
- Bhalchandra Sinha is the father of Bhuvanmohan Sinha.
- Pandit Motaram, a man of wisdom, as a priest.
- Rukhmini, Totaram's widowed sister.
- Bhungi, maid in Totaram's house.
- Asha, Totaram's daughter from his second wife Nirmala.
- rangili bai, balchandra sinha wife.
- krishna, nirmala's sister.
Set against a background of pre-independent India, Nirmala depicts a realistic and picturesque portrait of the 1920s, the language and milieu of the era. It characterizes the evils of the dowry system, and in doing so reflects the author's desire to bring about social reform and raise the status of women in society. The author's words illustrate his country's poor, and paints a picture of rural India consisting largely of a static society, the clashes of castes, its poverty and exploitation, and the rich character of its people. The novel covers a time span of about six years during which time Nirmala transitions from student to wife and thereafter, a mother. It was an era when self-respect and public image were of fundamental importance in the society. Eating meals was observed with an extreme ritualistic importance. In traditional homes, women did not eat with the men, and waited for them to finish before they were permitted to eat. There was also a fear of hospitals [and also of blood transfusion] which explains the hesitation of the character Totaram and his guilt over sending his son to a hospital. The generations that have passed since the novel was first written have seen dramatic changes in "attitude, sensibility and aspiration." Nirmala is a reflection of a time in Indian society when a young girl's "greatest sin was to require a husband who would accept her without a dowry." 
Nirmala was one of Premchand's most popular novels of its time in India, a time of oppression for women in Indian society that drew increasing attention from writers and poets. Prior to being published in its entirety, Nirmala was serialised in the magazine Chand over the course of a year, beginning in November 1925. It was during the time when Premchand first embarked on writing fiction based on contemporary social issues. Unlike his other works, Nirmala has a darker tone and ending, and its characters are less idealised. It was translated into English for the first time in 1988.
Francesca Orsini called it a prime example of Premchand’s combination of social realism and drama. Gulzar believed the novel was a little outstretched, and had a tendency to repeat many emotions, but also had its diversions and contradictions. He further explained that Premchand specialised in subjects that revolved around a young girl under 18 years old who suddenly becomes a woman after marrying a man who is much older.
Many films based on the story's theme were also produced, such as Tehreer Munshi Premchand Ki directed by Gulzar and shown in Doordarshan. Nirmala's role was played by the Marathi actress Amruta Subhash who received many accolades.
- Though "Nirmala" means "virtuous" or "pure", David Rubin, the first translator, titled it as The Second Wife.
- "Shodhganga" (PDF). Retrieved May 4, 2014.
- "ISBN". Retrieved October 3, 2014.
- Tribune India. "Tribuneindia". पेशे से एक वकील उदयभनू लाल ने अपनी 15 साल की बेटी निर्मला से भालचंद्र सिन्हा के बेटे भुवनमोहन सिन्हा से शादी करने की व्यवस्था की। लाल बाद में उनके प्रतिद्वंद्वी मथायी ने हत्या कर दी थी, जिन्हें एक बार लाल द्वारा अदालत में पेश किया गया था और जेल की सजा सुनाई गई थी। लाल की मौत ने भुवनमोहन और भालचद्र को व्यवस्था की शादी से पीछे हटने का मौका दिया क्योंकि लाल की मौत से पहले कोई बड़ी दहेज नहीं थी। वित्तीय कठिनाई ने निर्मला की मां, कल्याणी को अपनी पत्नी से 20 साल के वरिष्ठ वकील तोताराम से शादी करने के लिए मजबूर किया। तोताराम ने अपनी खूबसूरत युवा पत्नी को लुभाने के लिए अपनी पूरी कोशिश की, लेकिन इसका कोई फायदा नहीं हुआ। उनके सम्मान और सम्मान की भावना के अलावा उनके लिए कोई भावना नहीं थी, जो अपनी पत्नी से मिलने वाले प्रेम की कमी से कम हो गया। तोताराम के पहले विवाह से 3 पुत्र थे। उनका सबसे बड़ा बेटा मंसराम निर्मल से सिर्फ एक साल का था। यह लंबे समय तक नहीं था, इससे पहले तोताराम ने निर्मला के बारे में संदेह किया और उनके बेटे मंसराम के साथ उनका रिश्ता ईर्ष्या और संदेह ने उसे एक छात्रावास में रहने के लिए मंसराम को भेजने के लिए प्रेरित किया, एक निर्णय जो जल्द ही अफसोस करने आया। मंसराम का स्वास्थ्य जल्द ही हॉस्टल पर्यावरण में बिगड़ गया। यह भुवनमोहन था जो अस्पताल में मंसाराम का इलाज करता था। जब भुवोंमोहन ने निर्मला के बारे में सीखा, तो उन्होंने अपने भाई के लिए विनम्र की बहन कृष्ण से विवाह के लिए व्यवस्था की। भूषणमोहन को निर्मला के विचारों और उनके संकट से परेशान किया गया था। मंसराम अंततः तपेदिक के कारण मृत्यु हो गया।  तुताराम दिल टूट गया था और उनके बेटे की मौत में उनकी भूमिका पर अपराध बढ़ गया था। उसके बाद यह तब तक नहीं था जब उसके दूसरे बेटे जिआराम ने निर्मला के गहने से फरार किया और तुताराम के घर से भाग गया। बाद में उन्होंने आत्महत्या कर ली तुताराम के तीसरे बेटे सियाराम भी फंसे हुए थे, एक झूठे संत ने उन्हें झुकाया था। अपने बेटों के नुकसान पर डूबे हुए, तोताराम अपने ही जीवित पुत्र सियाराम को खोजने के लिए एक मिशन पर उतर गए इस बीच, भुवोंमोहन निर्मल के जीवन में वापस अपने दोस्त, सुधा के पति के रूप में थे। उन्होंने निर्मला के साथ छेड़ने की कोशिश की, लेकिन उनकी पत्नी ने इसके बारे में सीखा और उनकी कठोर आलोचना की। भुवोंमोहन भावनात्मक रूप से व्यथित हो गए, और दुःख और उनके लिए उनके प्यार से, उन्होंने आत्महत्या की।  घटनाओं के दुखद दौर से निराश हुए और अपनी असफल स्वास्थ्य के कारण, निर्मला ने अपनी बेटी आशा को रुखमीन से दे दी, तुताराम की विधवा बहन और मृत्यु हो गई। एक बहुत पुराना तुताराम ने घर लौट आया और निर्मला की मृत्यु हो गई।. Retrieved November 24, 2014. line feed character in
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