Author: Mannu Bhandari
Publisher: Radhakrishna Prakashan
Publishing Date: 1979
Cost: Rs. 185 (Paperback), Rs. 146.26 (Kindle edition), Rs. 394 (Hardcover)
The story of the Mahabhoj novel surrounds a village named Saroha. Saroha village is located in the western part of U.P, where elections are going to be held for one seat of the Legislative Assembly. The story begins with the incident of Bisser aka Bisu's death. Dozens of people were brutally murdered in the fire incident in Harijan Basti of Saroha village. Bisu had evidence of the murder, which he wanted to hand over to the competent authorities in Delhi and bring justice to the people of the township. But political conspiracy attempts to crush this resistance by putting Bisu in jail.
After Bisu's death, his partner Bindeshwari alias Binda keeps this resistance alive. Binda is also caught in the cycle of politics and crime and put behind the bars.
The central concern of the novel is how caste equations have become an essential part of Indian local politics.
‘Mahabhoj’ puts forward the aspect of current politics and the fate of common people's destiny. This book was written in 1979, but is still relevant. There are several translations of this important novel in many foreign and this book has been celebrated hundreds of times in dozens of other languages.
Mannu’s novel opens with a powerful, riveting sentence: "Vultures pecked at the abandoned corpse of Bisesar."
Mannu Bhandari breaks the notion that women either write about family or live in the world of their emotions. Mahabhoj is a political novel of rebellion. She fearlessly asks: Where is the place of ordinary people in democracy? The leaders of politics and bureaucracy have fooled the general public for generation with their false words and hopes.
The story revolves around ‘Saroha’- its predatory politicians, and its submissive people. The fascinating thing about such characterisation is anyone can relate to these people irrespective of their age and where they come from because these kind of people do exist in every part of India desperate for justice. Where Bhandari makes her mark is in her portrayal of the character ‘Da Sahib’, the reigning chief minister of the state who puts up his trusted servant Lakhan for the election. Da Sahib is the most interesting participant in this so called feast.
The author says in her preface that "when one's house is on fire, confining oneself to one's inner world and giving expression to only that appears irrelevant, ridiculous and to some extent indecent."
Discrimination and torturous behaviour against backward and underprivileged castes and its resistance triggers the narrative. In the novel, Bhandari has made sarcastic remarks on the characters of the ruling class, the opposition party of the government, the media and the bureaucratic class struggling with morality and conflict. This book packs every kind of dish, mingles it together and thus a ‘Grand feast’ is presented.
About the Author:
Mannu Bhandari (Born: 3rd April, 1931) is a well-known Hindi author. She was born in the village of Bhanpura, Madhya Pradesh. Mannu's childhood name was Mahendra Kumari. She chose the name ‘Mannu’ to be her pen-name. She was educated up to MA and was a teacher at Miranda House in Delhi for years. Mannu Bhandari, who gained popularity with the serial Aapra Bunty, published in Dharmayuga. She inherited the passion of writing from her father Sukh Sampatrai was also a well-known writer.
'Your Bunty' and 'Mahabhoj' are her famous novel works. Other novels are 'Ek inch Muskan' (with Rajendra Yadav) and 'Swami'. All these novels are also available in a book titled 'Complete Novels'. Her contribution to the world of fiction dates to the 60s. She has written in and experimented with varieties of genres of literature like short stories, political novel, literature for children, drama, screen play and dialogues for films etc. Mannu Bhandari has also been chaired the directorship of Premchand Srujanpith in Vikram University, Ujjian.
In 2008 Mannu Bhandari was given the prestigious Vyas Sanmaan for her autobiography ‘Ek Kahani Yeh Bhi’ which is instituted by the KK Birala Foundation and given every year for outstanding literary work in Hindi.