Indian Literature Through the Decades: The 1950s!

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Team P3 curates a list of post-Independence Indian literature that includes books from the decade of 1950s for your TBR.

India is a vast conglomeration of cultures, histories, stories, and dialects, and trying to define that is a task easier said than done. We continue to try looking at post-independence literature through its decades with this article. We’ve already looked at the most influential Indian books published in the 1940s and in this one, we’ll continue that by looking at the books that came out in the 1950s.

We are documenting Indian literature since its Independence through its decades. Read book recommendations from the 1940s.

While we’ve tried to be as comprehensive and objective here as possible, it’s feasible that we might have missed out on some. If so, please comment below and we’ll consider adding it to our compilation. With all that being said, let’s look at Indian literature through the 1950s.

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List of recommended books from Post-Independence Indian literature

ਪਿੰਜਰ (Pinjar)

Title: ਪਿੰਜਰ (Pinjar)

Author: Amrita Pritam

Publisher: Shilalekh Books

Price: 42

Pages: 88


First on our list of Post-Independence literature is Pinjar. This book tells the story of Puro, a young Hindu woman abducted by a Muslim man, Rashid. Pritam pens two complex characters, bound by their circumstances, helpless and yet resilient in their own unique ways. The novel is a touching exploration of the trauma and violence of Partition, as well as the resilience of the human spirit.

Pritam’s writing isn’t just mere documentation of events; it’s a culmination of relationships, identity, and the pursuit of freedom. At its core, it’s a multi-layered story that captures the many facets of human nature – love, hatred, compassion, and the yearning for self-discovery. 

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Autobiography of An Unknown Indian

Title: Autobiography of An Unknown Indian

Author: Nirad Chaudhuri

Publisher: Jaico Publishing House

Price: 409

Pages: 580


Second on our list of Post-Independence literature is the Autobiography of an unknown Indian by Nirad. C. Chaudhuri.

Chaudhuri’s writing, with a touch of sarcasm, paints a picture of the times he lived through. This literary gem, an early example of Indian literature in English, is a portrayal of India during the twilight days of British rule. Chaudhuri grew up in an educated Bengali household, and his worldview was strongly influenced by the Western world. This book, more than a mere memoir, is an embodiment of the crossroads of cultures that shaped his perceptions.

The book was praised in the West, but it was met with criticism in India. This chasm between Western praise and Indian criticism highlights the complex interplay of perspectives that often define literary reception. The Autobiography of An Unknown Indian became a symbol of the duality that can dwell within a single narrative, a mirror reflecting how divergent interpretations can shape the legacy of a work of art.

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A History and Culture of the Indian People

Title: A History and Culture of the Indian People

Author: RC Mazumdar

Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

Price: 827

Pages: 572


Mazumdar’s magnum opus has been written with scholarly rigor and a discerning eye as he chronicles India’s story from its earliest chapters to the many events that have woven its cultural fabric. Written through 11 volumes. this is not another recounting of dates and dynasties but a combination of stories that bring the past alive.

The Post-Independence book paints dynamic pictures of ancient empires, philosophical quests, artistic expressions, and societal transformations. It is a history of the ideas and ideals that have given shape to India’s identity. You are invited to witness the interplay of civilizations, the crossroads of ideas, and the evolution of customs that sculpted the Indian ethos.

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मैला आँचल (Maila Aanchal)

Title: मैला आँचल (Maila Aanchal)

Author: Phanishwar Nath Renu

Publisher: Rajkamal Prakashan

Price: 288

Pages: 353


Maila Aanchal is a Post-Independence novel about a young doctor who dedicates his career to a disadvantaged village. Through his eyes, we look at the complexities of rural life, with its hardships, deprivation, ignorance, and superstitions. The doctor witnesses the agonies of a marginalized populace trapped in the vicious cycle of exploitation.

The characters in this Post-Independence novel are not mere literary constructs; they are a collage of human experiences, their stories mirroring the diversity of the people they represent. Maila Aanchal is a classic work of Hindi literature. It is a masterpiece that captures the heartbeat of rural India, a brilliant portrayal of struggles, triumphs, and the human spirit’s strength.

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ഉമ്മാച്ചു (Ummachu)

Title: ഉമ്മാച്ചു (Ummachu)

Author: Uroob

Publisher: DC Books

Price: 188

Pages: 200


Considered to be one of the finest works of Malayalam literature Post-Independence, Ummachu is a novel about the complex relationships between love, loss, and redemption. The story begins with Ummachu’s unrequited love for Mayan, her childhood companion. However, she is forced to marry Beeran, a wealthy man who doesn’t love her. Mayan’s impulsive actions lead him to flee the village, and he returns years later to a land where old wounds still bleed.

Abdu’s forbidden love for Chinnammu reflects the tug-of-war between tradition and personal desires. The story builds to a crescendo around Abdu’s political aspirations, reflecting the eternal dance between ideology and identity. The novel is a window into the intricate interplay of relationships, desires, and consequences that define existence. 

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The Wonder That Was India

Title: The Wonder That Was India

Author: Arthur Llewelyn Basham

Publisher: Picador India

Price: 473

Pages: 716


The Wonder That Was India is a comprehensive and scholarly look at India’s Post-Independence history and culture which is a must-read for anyone looking to understand this complex country. The book begins with the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, then traces the evolution of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. 

The book also forays into the Aryan invasion theory, a topic that has sparked scholarly debates for decades. The book is brimming with information for readers hungry for knowledge and a deeper connection to India’s multifaceted heritage. 

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Nectar in a Sieve

Title: Nectar in a Sieve

Author: Kamala Markandaya

Publisher: Penguin India

Price: 192

Pages: 200


Nectar in a Sieve is a Post-Independence classic that follows Rukmani, a young woman who marries a tenant farmer named Nathan. Their innocent love story faces many challenges, including poverty, debt, and natural disasters. The novel is a heart-wrenching tale with a complete range of human emotions, from joy to sorrow, love to loss. Markandaya’s exquisite prose creates a vivid portrait of a world both distant and familiar.

Set in India during the British Raj, the novel depicts the complexities of life for those who live close to the land. Rukmani and Nathan are constantly at the mercy of forces beyond their control, but they never give up hope. This is a story of the human spirit and the power of love to overcome adversity.

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Train to Pakistan

Title: Train to Pakistan

Author: Khushwant Singh

Publisher: Penguin

Price: 186

Pages: 192


Train to Pakistan is a Post-Independence story about the partition of India that’s both timeless and relevant in modern times. The novel is set in the village of Mano Majra, where Sikh and Muslim communities live in peace and harmony. However, when the partition is announced, the village is torn apart by violence and hatred. The novel is a fusion of perspectives, from the practical Hukum Chand to the compassionate Iqbal. 

Each character is a mirror reflecting the multifaceted emotions that swirled during the partition. Through their eyes, you are granted a glimpse into the inner turmoil of a society grappling with its own identity. It is a story that needs to be read by everyone, especially in today’s world, where intolerance and hatred are on the rise.

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The Room on the Roof

Title: The Room on the Roof

Author: Ruskin Bond

Publisher: Puffin

Price: 151

Pages: 208


This is a coming-of-age semi-biographical Post-Independence novel about a teenager named Rusty who lives with his strict guardian in Dehradun. Rusty longs for freedom and independence, but his situation prevents him from achieving his dreams. He finds comfort in his friendship with a group of local boys and in the titular room on the roof, which becomes a harbor for his dreams.

Ruskin Bond’s prose is simple yet picturesque, painting the sights, sounds, and sensations of Dehradun for you. The Himalayan landscape is not just a setting; it is a character that shapes Rusty’s growth and understanding of the world around him. Bond captures the spirit of youthful rebellion, blending it with Rusty’s experiences. Bond’s story asks you to step into Rusty’s shoes, to feel the joys and sorrows of his journey as if they were your own.

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An Introduction to the Study of Indian History

Title: An Introduction to the Study of Indian History

Author: DD Kosambi

Publisher: Sangam Books Ltd

Price: 4995

Pages: 415


A groundbreaking work of historical scholarship, this offers a fresh perspective on the development of Indian society. Kosambi’s approach to analyzing the fundamental issues of Indian history is informed by his deep knowledge of mathematics, statistics, ancient Sanskrit texts, and numismatics. This fusion of disciplines gives him (and you, the reader) a holistic understanding of Indian history that is not limited to traditional narratives.

Kosambi’s historical materialist approach, aligned with Marxism, helps highlight the socioeconomic dynamics that shaped India’s evolution. He emphasizes the role of peasants and marginalized voices, often overlooked in conventional records. An Introduction to the Study of Indian History is a must-read for anyone interested in Indian history or the development of historical thought. It is a work that will continue to be relevant for generations to come.

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The Guide

Title: The Guide

Author: RK Narayan

Publisher: Indian Thought Publications

Price: 99

Pages: 145


The Guide is a story about Raju, a carefree young man who goes on to become a revered spiritual guide. Set in an Indian town, the story is fleshed out in dynamic detail thanks to Narayan’s gorgeous prose that brings out the essence of the place. The setting is not just a backdrop, but almost a character in its own right that affects those who come in contact with it.

The book contains themes of love, faith, and the human need for guidance and is a story that has been enjoyed by readers for generations. Narayan’s observations on humanity, society, and culture are interspersed throughout, enriching your reading experience. 

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Aag Ka Darya

Title: Aag Ka Darya

Author: Qurratulain Hyder

Publisher: Insha Publications

Price: 650

Pages: 592


Aag Ka Darya is a masterpiece of a novel on the interconnectedness of cultures, ideologies, and destinies. Set in India, the story observes the lives of multiple characters across different epochs. Hyder’s prose is lyrical she gorgeously brings together the stories of her characters to create a panoramic view of human history.

The novel’s title, which translates to “River of Fire,” is emblematic of the narrative’s intensity and scope. The novel flows like a river, traversing time and space, from ancient times to the partition of India and beyond. Hyder’s characters are not mere individuals; they are vessels through which you can view the complexities of identity, love, loss, and the inevitable passage of time. Through Aag Ka Darya, Hyder contemplates the cyclical nature of history, where civilizations rise and fall, ideologies clash, and cultures merge. She grapples with questions of identity, diaspora, and the intricacies of nationhood, inviting you to reflect on your place within the larger fabric of humanity.

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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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