Raag Darbari (novel)

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For the raga, see Darbari Kanada.
Raag Darbari
Author Sri Lal Sukla
Translator Gillian Wright
Country India
Language Hindi
Publisher Penguin Books Ltd (Translation)
Publication date
Media type Print
ISBN 81-267-0478-0 (First edition)

Raag Darbari is a 1968 Hindi novel written by Sri Lal Sukla, an author known for his social and political satire.[1][2] He was awarded the Sahitya Academy Award, the highest Indian literary award, in 1969 for this novel.[3]

The novel highlights the failing values present in post-Independence Indian society. It exposes the helplessness of intellectuals in the face of a strong and corrupt nexus between criminals, businessmen, police and politicians.[4][5]

The novel is narrated from the point of view of Ranganath, a research student in history, who comes to live with his uncle, Vaidyaji, in a village named Shivpal Ganj in Uttar Pradesh for a few months. He learns how his uncle uses all the village institutions—the village school, the village panchayat (a local elected body), the local government offices for his political purpose. The conduct of his uncle and the petty village politicians is in stark contrast to the ideals that Ranganath has learnt to aspire to during his university education.

The villagers take pride in calling themselves 'gunjahe', originating from 'ganj' of 'Shivpal ganj'.

The novel maintains it humorous tone throughout as the author highlights social issues prevalent in India post Indian independence.


The village has several characters, most notable of who is Vaidyaji – the big daddy of the village. He is assisted by his sons Badri Pehelwaan (or in English, Badri the Wrestler) and Ruppan. A few more notable characters are the teachers at the village school, and the principal (whose characteristic trait is to burst into Awadhi, his native tongue, whenever he is very angry or excited) The story does not have a fixed plot as such – it is merely a series of anecdotes. It also does not have any hero or protagonist. Vaidyaji’s nephew, named Ranganath, visits his native village after completing his M. A. His health has been failing, and the doctors have advised a visit to his native village for him to gather his strength. It is funny how Vaidyaji (which means “healer”) heals the young boy’s mind in more ways than one. After his masters, Ranganath, who is a big believer in high ideals and “poetic justice”, comes face to face with the hypocrisy and the meanness of the village gang. The very first incident highlights his innocence and blind faith. In order to travel to his uncle’s place, Ranganath boards a bus. The driver is a rash fellow, who drives carelessly without regard for the pedestrians. After witnessing him nearly run over a few cows and sleeping shepherds, the young man is finally elated when a few police officials pull the bus over (from the car stepped out three peon – like – officials and one official – like – peon). From a distance, Ranganath watches them question the driver. Actually, they are trying to extort money out of him, but to mister high ideals it seems as if the driver is being punished by god for his foul deeds (as you shall sow, so shalt thou reap). There are several such incidents, one after the other, that shatter Ranganath high ideals and faith in Justice. He is a mere spectator – unable to make a mark or stand up for himself.


Following is a list of some of the important characters in the book:

Vaidyaji: He is the mastermind behind all village politics. Very articulate in framing his sentences and choosing his words, Vaidyaji is also officially the manager of the local college.

Ruppan Babu: The younger son of Vaidyaji and the leader of college students Ruppan Babu has remained in the 10th grade the past many years, in the same college in which his father is manager.Ruppan Babu is actively involved in all village politics and is well respected in the village community due to his illustrious parentage. Towards the end of the novel a gradual change can be observed in his behaviour which can be attributed due to influence of Ranganath.

Badri Pehelwan: Elder brother of Ruppan babu. Badri keeps himself away from his fathers involvements and keeps himself busy in his body building exercises and taking care of his 'paalak baalak'(a term widely used for blind followers of a person - protege in refined English)

Ranganath: An MA in History, Ranganath is the nephew to Vaidyaji. He has come to Shivpalganj on a vacation for about 5–6 months. It appears that the author wants to give the view of the pathetic condition in the villages through the eyes of an educated person.

Chote Pehelwan: one of the 'paalak baalaks' of Badri pehelwaan, Chote is an active participant in village politics and is a frequent participant in the meetings summoned by Vaidyaji.

Principal Sahib: As the name denotes, Principal Sahib is the principal of the college. His relations with other members of the staff in college, forms an important part of the plot.

Khanna Master: One of the teachers in the college, he is up in arms against Principal sahab.

Jognath: the local goon, almost always drunk; speaks a unique language by inserting an "F" in between every 2 syllables.

Sanichar: His real name is Mangaldas but people call him Sanichar. He is a servant to Vaidyaji.He was later made the puppet pradhaan (leader) of village with the use of political tactics by Vaidyaji.

Langad: He is a representative of the hapless common man who has to bend in front of the corrupt government system even to get small things done.

Adaptation and performance[edit]

Based on Girish Rastogi's[6] adaptation of Raag Darbari, Bahroop Arts Group[7] staged 'Ranganath Ki Waapsi', directed by Rajesh Singh, a noted alumnus of National School of Drama, New Delhi, India on 18 November 2009 at Alliance Française de New Delhi.[8]


  1. ^ Upendra Nath Sharma (23 September 2012). "'Raag Darbari': The chronicle of power and politics retold". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  2. ^ University of Delhi (2005). Indian Literature: An Introduction. Pearson Education India. pp. 194–. ISBN 978-81-317-0520-9. 
  3. ^ "Sahitya Akademi Awards listings". Sahitya Akademi, Official website. 
  4. ^ "Tribute: Shrilal Shukla's work shocked India, left it naked". Rediff.com. November 3, 2011. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  5. ^ Gillian Wright (Nov 1, 2011). "'A Wealth Of Experiences'". Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  6. ^ Girish Rastogi
  7. ^ staging Ranganath Ki Waapsi
  8. ^ Alliance Française de NEW DELHI