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The South Asian Literary Recordings Project

Bhisham Sahni, 1915-


Image of  Bhisham Sahni, 1915- (photo credit: Gaurav Sharma)

Select page numbers to listen or LCCN to display the bibliographic record.


  1. Pratinidhi kahaniyam.
    Nai Dilli : Rajakamala Prakasana, 1998.
    (LCCN: 89901756, LC has different edition)
    MP3 excerpts: pp. 14-23, pp. 138-156

Bhisham Sahni, born on Aug 08, 1915 at Rawalpindi in present day Pakistan, is a distinguished Hindi fiction writer, playwright, translator, teacher and polyglot. His works reflect his unflinching commitment to India's pluralist ethos and secular foundations. Tamas (Darkness), his magnum opus, translated into English in 1988, gained worldwide acclaim for its sensitive and anguished portrayal of the communal riots and carnage that accompanied India's partition. Tamas is considered one of the most powerful and passionate fictional accounts of the human tragedy that marked the period. He uses literature to expose the divide and rule policy of the British and the rank opportunism of the upper classes of both the Hindu and Muslim communities. He made the point that the real victims of all sectarian violence are the hapless common folk, irrespective of religious or denominational differences. All his works are characterized by a sense of compassion, values of universal humanism and lucid narrative.

Sahni participated in the freedom struggle, joining the Indian National Congress during the Quit India Movement. When communal riots broke out in Rawalpindi in March 1947, he worked with the Relief Committee. Later he joined the Indian People's Theatre Association in Bombay and worked as a performing artist under the guidance of Balraj Sahni, his elder brother. He directed the famous drama Bhoot Gari adapted for the stage by Khwaja Ahmed Abbas. In 1950, he joined Delhi College as a lecturer in English. He lived in Moscow from 1957 to 1963 and worked as a translator from Russian to Hindi with the Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow. In addition to Hindi, Sahni is also proficient in English, Urdu, Sanskrit, Russian, and Punjabi. He has translated twenty-five books from Russian into Hindi, including Tolstoy's Resurrection.

He has written more than a hundred short stories, compiled in several volumes, most notably Bhagya rekha (1953), Pahla patha (1956), Bhatakti rakha (1966), and Nischar (1983). His short stories reveal a fine sense of craft. Those considered among the masterpieces of Hindi literature include Chief ki davat and Amritsar a gaya hai. He has written stories for children that are collected in the volume Gulal ka khel. Sahni has also written three plays Hanusa (1977), Kabira khara bazar mein (1981), and Madhuri (1982). Bhisham Sahni wrote in English the biography of Balraj Sahni, his elder brother and well-known writer-actor under the title Balraj my brother (1981). Bhisham Sahni has received a number of awards, such as the Shiromani Writers Award,1979, the Sahitya Akademi Award for Tamas, 1975 and the Uttar Pradesh Government Award for Tamas, 1975; Madhya Pradesh Kala Sahitya Parishad Award, for his play Hanusa, 1975 the Lotus Award from the Afro-Asian Writers' Association, 1981 and the Soviet Land Nehru Award, 1983.

The Library of Congress has twenty-seven of his works and three on him.

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January 11, 2016
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