11 Books from the 1940s: Indian Literature Through the Decades

Indian History Books
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Team P3 curates a list of Indian History Books that take you through Indian literature through the decades, focusing on the 1940s.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Indian literature is limitless, almost impossible to contain or define in particular constraints. The sheer number of languages, historical contexts, genres, and innovations that Indian literature contains within itself is immense. With this article, we begin a series that attempts to look at some of the most influential Indian History Books since the decade this country obtained its independence.

We have curated a list of Indian History Books to take you through Indian literature through the decades focusing on the 1940s.

Although we’ve already given plenty of disclaimers on how it’s practically impossible to collect all of the Indian History Books into one place, we’ll regardless try to be as comprehensive and as objective as possible.

Should we unintentionally omit any of the Indian History Books of merit, we invite your insights in the comments, and we’ll consider them for our compilations. All that aside, let’s look at the Indian History Books for our first installment of Indian literature through the decades: The 1940s!

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Recommended Indian History Books from the 1940s for your TBR List

रश्मिरथी (Rashmirathi)

Title: रश्मिरथी (Rashmirathi)

Author: Ramdhari Singh Dinkar

Publisher: Lokbharti Prakashan Pvt Ltd

Price: 155

Pages: 191


Topping our list of Indian History Books is Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s magnum opus, Rashmirathi, takes us to the epic realm of the Mahabharata, wherein the morally complex figure of Karna takes center stage.

Born to Kunti before her marriage and raised by a charioteer, Karna’s ascent from humble origins to one of history’s greatest warriors unfolds. Yet, his loyalty to the Kauravas, archrivals of the Pandavas, entraps him in a collision with destiny.

Dinkar’s portrayal of Karna goes beyond the mere cataloging of heroic deeds; it’s a voyage into his humanity, dilemmas, and choices. Karna’s ethical conflicts are brought to life profoundly—the struggle between loyalty to his upbringing and his princely birthright.

The brilliance of Dinkar lies in painting Karna’s multifaceted character vividly—neither entirely hero nor villain, but a reflection of the minute things that define human nature.

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 ٹیڑھی لکیر (Tedhi Lakeer)

Title: ٹیڑھی لکیر (Tedhi Lakeer)

Author: Ismat Chughtai

Publisher: Rajkamal Prakashan

Price: 303

Pages: 368


Second on our list of Indian History Books is Ismat Chughtai’s distinctive voice, adept at capturing the subtleties of female sexuality, makes Tedhi Lakeer a masterpiece that continues to stay relevant. We follow Shaman, a member of an emotionally distant family, growing up starved of affection, embracing her perceived unlovability.

Chughtai charts out Shaman’s journey from an stubborn child to a tentative student leader, an idealistic school principal, and a discontented wife of an Irish Army Captain, their clashing nationalist beliefs fueling discord.

Chughtai brilliantly intermingles Shaman’s personal struggles with India’s fight for independence, illustrating the vital connection between the individual and society. The novel also serves as a portrayal of societal evolution, for it is a canvas mirroring life, love, and social transformation.

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Man-Eaters Of Kumaon

Title: Man-Eaters Of Kumaon

Author: Jim Corbett

Publisher: Oxford

Price: 226

Pages: 228


On our list of Indian History Books the third book is Jim Corbett’s Man-Eaters of Kumaon recounts tales of tracking and confronting man-eating tigers in the Indian Himalayas during the early 20th century. Amidst the adventure and suspense, Corbett’s respect for nature and his understanding of animal behavior are apparent. His descriptions capture the tigers’ power, beauty, and cunning, bringing out the fear and awe they inspire in us.

This work remains a classic, underscoring the delicate balance between humans and nature. Corbett’s prose is timeless, as it presents a message of coexistence and respect for the natural world.

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पावनखिंड (Pavankhind)

Title: पावनखिंड (Pavankhind)

Author: Ranjeet Desai

Publisher: Mehta Publishing House

Price: 158

Pages: 168


Set against the backdrop of Mughal-ruled Maharashtra, Pavankhind shows Shivaji Maharaj’s undying spirit in his quest to free his people from foreign oppression and establish an independent Maratha empire. Desai’s novel displays the challenges and internal conflicts into Shivaji’s journey, fleshing out his unwavering determination and faith through his words.

The novel is a testament to the lasting legacy of Shivaji, depicting his resilience in the face of adversity. It is also an ode to courage, hope, and the dream of a free India.

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The Discovery of India

Title: The Discovery of India

Author: Jawaharlal Nehru

Publisher: Penguin India

Price: 480

Pages: 656


The Discovery of India is a sweeping historical and philosophical journey through the heart of India. It is a book that seeks to understand the essence of India’s spirit and ethos, from the dawn of civilization to the present day.

Nehru brings his unique perspective to bear on India’s history, culture, and philosophy. He writes with a deep understanding of the Indian people and their rich heritage. This is not a dry or academic book. It is a work of literature that is both informative and inspiring. Nehru’s writing is lyrical, and he brings India to life in all its complexity and beauty.

He writes about India’s ancient traditions, its glorious art and architecture, and its vibrant culture. At the same time, he also writes about India’s challenges, such as poverty, inequality, and religious conflict.
The Discovery of India is a book that is both timely and timeless. It is a book that can help us to understand India’s past, present, and future. It is a book that can inspire us to dream of a better India, a country that is free, just, and prosperous.

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হাঁসুলী বাঁকের উপকথা (Hansuli Banker Upakatha)

Title: হাঁসুলী বাঁকের উপকথা (Hansuli Banker Upakatha)

Author: Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay

Publisher: Karuna Publishers

Price: 224

Pages: 250


In the midst of a raging war and the winds of independence stirring, the village of Hansuli Turn is at a crossroads. The Kahars, an untouchable “criminal tribe” who inhabit the village, are torn between tradition and progress. The tension arises from the interpretation of a haunting sound that reverberates through the village. 

Is it the foreboding signal of gods departing, or can a more rational explanation be found? Bandyopadhyay uses this tension to reflect on the broader ideological divide that grips the villagers.

At the center of this narrative is Bonwari, the headman of the Kahar community. He clings to the ethics of a bygone era, his philosophy rooted in tradition. But the inexorable march of time and the disruptive forces of war and change are testing his beliefs. 

As the village wrestles with its identity and destiny, a generational clash emerges, symbolized by the rebel Karali and his cohort. Karali becomes the torchbearer for the younger generation, challenging the established order and envisioning a different path for his people. He’s determined to fight for his people’s rights, and he will not give up until they have achieved equality and justice.

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All About H Hatterr

Title: All About H Hatterr

Author: GV Desani

Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Price: 360

Pages: 320


All About H. Hatterr is a wild and whimsical novel that follows the exploits of H. Hatterr, a half-caste man who is searching for enlightenment. Hatterr’s journey takes him to seven Oriental cities, where he encounters seven sages, each of whom teaches him a different aspect of life.

Desani’s novel is a feast for the senses, with its descriptions of exotic locales and its playful use of language. Hatterr is a contradictory character, and his interactions with the sages are often hilarious and intriguing. The novel is a celebration of diversity and a reminder that there is no one right way to live.

At its core, All About H. Hatterr asks the question of what it means to be human. Hatterr is a product of two cultures, and he struggles to find his place in the world. It is a funny and ultimately moving story about the search for meaning in life.

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சிவகாமியின் சபதம் (Sivagamiyin Sabatham)

Title: சிவகாமியின் சபதம் (Sivagamiyin Sabatham)

Author: Kalki

Publisher: Giri Trading Agency Private Limited

Price: 439

Pages: 1136


Sivagamiyin Sabatham is a historical novel set in ancient India that tells the story of Mahendravarman I, the Pallava emperor, and his son Narasimhavarman. The novel is awash in vivid descriptions of the bygone era, from the bustling cities to the majestic temples.

It’s not without its action and adventure. There are epic battles and political machinations that keep the reader on the edge of their seat. But Sivagamiyin Sabatham is more than just a story of war and intrigue. It is also a story of valor, sacrifice, loyalty, and the quest for justice. 

Sivagamiyin Sabatham is a classic of Tamil literature that is still relevant today. It is a story of courage, determination, and the power of love.

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The Constitution of India

Title: The Constitution of India

Author: BR Ambedkar

Publisher: BookFactory

Price: 1000

Pages: 272


The Constitution of India is a living document that embodies the hopes and dreams of a nation. It is a testament to the genius of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and our founding fathers, who were able to synthesize the best of India’s past and present to create a blueprint for a just and equitable society.

The Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all citizens, regardless of caste, creed, or gender. It also establishes a system of checks and balances to ensure that no one branch of government becomes too powerful.

The Constitution of India is more than just a legal document. It is a source of inspiration for activists, scholars, and citizens alike. It is a reminder that we can create a better future for ourselves and our children if we are willing to work together for justice and equality.

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गुनाहों का देवता (Gunahon Ka Devta)

Title: गुनाहों का देवता (Gunahon Ka Devta)

Author: Dharamveer Bharti

Publisher: Bharatiya Jnanpith

Price: 164

Pages: 200


Gunahon Ka Devta is a moving novel that tells the story of Chandar and Sudha, two young people in Allahabad who fall in love in the aftermath of India’s Partition. Chandar is an orphaned researcher from a lower caste, while Sudha is the daughter of a wealthy businessman. Their love for each other is forbidden by society, but they are determined to be together.

Bharti’s novel is a powerful exploration of the themes of love, duty, and sacrifice. Chandar and Sudha’s love is both a sanctuary and a battleground. They must fight against the societal expectations that would tear them apart. At the same time, they must also confront their own inner demons, such as Chandar’s fear of rejection and Sudha’s guilt about her family’s disapproval.

The novel is also a meditation on the nature of modernity and tradition. Chandar and Sudha are caught between two worlds. They are drawn to the modern world, with its promise of freedom and equality. But they are also bound by the traditions of their society, which dictate that they should marry within their caste.

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ইছামতী (Ichhamati)

Title: ইছামতী (Ichhamati)

Author: Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay

Publisher: Mitra & Ghosh Publishers

Price: 241

Pages: 220


Ichhamati is a novel that takes you on a journey down the river of life. Set against the backdrop of Bengal’s lush landscapes, it unfolds with the languid gaze of a river-farer, who unveils the intricate web of life that flourishes along the banks of the Ichhamati. 

But Ichhamati is more than just a celebration of nature. The river is also a metaphor for the flow of time, carrying within it the stories of generations past, present, and future. The river’s journey becomes a reflection of life’s transient nature, where the ephemeral encounters the eternal.

Bandyopadhyay’s narrative invites readers to ponder the continuum of existence and the interconnectedness of all living beings. It is a reminder that we are all part of something larger than ourselves and that our lives are inextricably linked to the natural world.

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Amritesh Mukherjee

Amritesh Mukherjee

Amritesh doesn't know what to do with his life, so he writes. He also doesn't know what to write, so he reads. Gift him a book if you chance upon him and he'll love you forever.

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