ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Merchant Tales and the Emergence of the Novel in Hindi

Did the literary production that was ushered in, by and in opposition to the colonial presence, signify a rupture with past traditions? Must the emergence of the novel be seen as a radical break with the literary modes preceding it? Highlighting notions of both rupture and continuity, this paper attempts to trace the embeddedness of the Hindi novel in the multilingual Indo-Persianate literary culture that characterised north India, particularly the twin cities of Agra and Delhi, as well as the ruptures and radical changes in social and cultural sensibilities that it sought to both explore and anticipate. It focuses on Shrinivasdas' Pariksha Guru (The Tutelage of Trial, 1882), the first novel of note in Hindi, as it emerged from the merchant milieu of Delhi and its vicinity, juxtaposing it with Banarasidas' Ardhakathanak (Half a Tale, 1641), an early modern merchant life-story set in Jaunpur and Agra. This draws attention to the recurring merchant milieu and the vulnerability of this community in particular to the kinds of social changes entering its world.

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