By Indian Authors Fiction

Rag Darbari by Shrilal Shukla – Book review


Rag Darbari Book Cover Rag Darbari
Shrilal Shukla
Rajkamal Prakashan
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Rag Darbari is a Hindi novel written by Shrilal Shukla. It depicts the social and political challenges one encountered in the villages of those times. The protagonist, Rangnath, of the book is an idealistic, educated and urban youth, who has a very monolithic view of how the Indian villages were in late sixties and early seventies. He is a history scholar who goes on a holiday to his uncle's village to escape the urban life for a while. His uncle, Vaidyaji is the manager of the local college and is the silent law of the land whose writ runs through the whole village. Most of his loyal men occupy important positions in the village like the sarpanch and police in charge of the local station.

The novel depicts the degradation of moral values post independence in the village life and is laced with great wit and dark humour. Rangnath's notion of an ideal village is shattered by seeing politics and petty corruption dominating the day-to-day life in the village. The book in one way is a mirror image of the rural life during those times. Rag Darbari was published by Rajkamal Prakashan in 2008 and is available in paperback.

Key Features:
Shrilal Shukla won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1970 for this book. It was adapted for a TV series on Doordarshan starring veteran actor Om Puri. It was also adapted in a stage play Ranganath Ki Wapsi by Rajesh Singh, NSD alumni. Rag Darbari has been translated in more than fifteen languages.


Shrilal Shukla is known as one of the prominent Hindi authors. He has been awarded ‘Gyanpith award’ and ‘Padma Bhushan’. The first time I have read Shrilal Shukla’s work is in my school’s Hindi syllabus. It also had mentioned of Raag Darbari, since then I wanted to read this book. Before heading to the review I would like to tell my readers that this book has been translated into 15 languages and has been awarded the ‘Sahitya Akademi Award’.

Plot summary:

This story is set in the village Shivpalganj, Uttar Pradesh; the period is of post-independence. The villager called themselves ‘Ganjha’ referring their village name.

Rangnath, who is M.A. in history, comes to the village to gain some health as he was ill with the disease. He wasn’t able to catch a train as he thought the train will be 2 hours late but it was just 1.5 hours late. After this, he requests a truck driver to leave him at Shivpalganj. In this short journey, he sees the condition of poor and congested roads, the corruption of traffic police.

So he finally reaches Shivpalganj in his uncle, Vaidyji’s house. Vaidyji is a kind of godfather of the village. He is the manager of the Changamal inter college; he is the head of the co-operative organization. In short, the whole village politics is running under his hand.

The college which is running by the government money is merely an earning tool for Vaidyji and the college principal, who has an outrageous habit to speak in his native language Awadhi when he becomes angry.

Another notable character in the book is Ramadheen Bheekhedvi who has entered in the village politics after quitting his opium business.

Vaidyji has two sons, elder one is Badri Pehelwan who is a wrestler and he keeps himself away from his father’s politics. Another son is Ruppan Babu who is young and has failed many times in the 10th standard; he is the head of college student group. In the end of the book, he goes with the drastic change because of Rangnath.

Under the influence of Vaidyji, many illegal things happened in the village like winning the manager post on the point of a gun, embezzlement from the co-operative organization. Principal Sahib, who want to be on his respective designation has fury with Khanna and Malviya, teachers of the college because they are raising voice against principal sahib.

There is also a character, Langad a crippled man who has to suffer a lot to get a small thing done from the government official.

During his 6 months of stay, Rangnath an educated man who has come in hope of great health observe all these politics, infected atmosphere of the village and finds himself out of senses.

Writing style:

This book is long and has divided into various chapters. The events in this book are narrated with great wit and humor which helps to read this book in pace. There are many words in the book which can be understood only by someone who belongs to Uttar Pradesh or knows Awadhi language.

My perception:

This book is outstanding and the way author has served humor, great story-line, character, and message are appreciable. The village shown in this book is an epitome of our country. Though this book is written 49 years ago but all the concepts is still relevant. This book humorously shows the condition and corruption of roads, educational institution, election manipulation, embezzlement, local goons, politics, cleanliness movement, government officers, and offices. I still laugh some of the incidence written in the book.

The main motto of this book is to depict the condition of a place where one person gets the authority above on everything. I don’t know if things are going to change or not but still we should never give up the hope!

This book is a great piece of literature and I am so glad that I read this book. This book is one of lifetime reads, so if you have not read it yet then do add it to your TBR list!

Grab a copy of this book from here, 

Hindi edition           English edition

Until next time, Keep reading 🙂 

Sheetal Maurya

Sheetal Maurya is a full-time blogger. She is a die-hard bookworm and has read more books than she can count. She believes in the art of storytelling and reviews books so that the world can choose the best ones and embark on an adventurous virtual reading journey.

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