My rating: 5/5
Gunahon ka Devta is the most popular work of Dharmvir Bharti. And it’s easy to see why it is so popular. It’s a love story. And one of the epic one, the shine of whose brilliance isn’t going to go for ages in Hindi Literature to come.
It’s the story of a boy and a girl, who grew up together since early childhood, and share a bond of trust, friendship, and pure and innocent love. The boy is a simple, hardworking and an honest person, who has intellectual ambitions. However he is ideal to a fault, adhering to a (pseudo)intellectual conception of love which rejects any physical fulfilment of that love as the negation of its spiritual loftiness.
The blind devotion of Sudha submits to Chander’s aggressively spiritual ideal of love, and they are separated. From this point onwards the real test of Chander’s spiritual ideal begins as he meets Pammi, the mature and materialistic girl, experiences the power of physical intimacy and it’s ability to distort the ethical and moral fabric, and suffer on account of his unfulfilled love for Sudha. Chander’s Dostoyevskian journey into the endless recesses of his mind’s darker sides, Sudha’s sacrificing herself on the altar of marriage, everything comes to a feverish climax when Sudha dies in childbirth. Too late, he realizes the defeat of his lofty spiritual ideal.
The book’s immense popularity, especially among the young generation of that era is entirely deserved. The subject matter is perennial favorite, the prose magical. The first half of the novel, which goes in more or less a positive vein, is exhilarating and refreshingly lyrical. It’s almost a perfect love story between the innocent, bubbly, full-of-life Sudha and simple, intellectual, honest, and serious-to-a-fault Chander. The story takes on a serious turn at about halfway with Chander’s creating an inevitable, irrevocable turning point in the lives of both of them.
The intensity of the book after that is too much to take. The psychological torture that Chander goes through, and makes you go through, compares to Raskolnikov or a Nietzsche. The downward spiral towards madness continues till the end when the death finally catches up with one of them, and hits Chander the hardest. Sudha dies in childbirth, her last hysterical moments a searing pain.
With this final thunder, the storm of Chander’s mind finally dies, leaving a charred landscape behind, and a life to keep living on.
Gunahon ka Devta and Suraj ka Saatvan Ghoda are two of Dharmvir Bharti’s most famous and acclaimed words. While Suraj ka Saatvan Ghoda, an experimental work, is favored by critics(not undeservedly so), Gunahon ka Devta is certainly the toast of the masses. And you won’t doubt it for a single minute after you read it. One of my all-time favorite works.