Gurdial Singh
Born(1933-01-10)10 January 1933
Died16 August 2016(2016-08-16) (aged 83)
  • Writer
  • novelist
  • Coach
Known forMarhi Da Deeva (1964)

Gurdial Singh Rahi (Gurdi'āl Sigh; 10 January 1933 – 16 August 2016) was an Indian writer and novelist who wrote in Punjabi.[1][2] He started his literary career in 1957 with a short story, "Bhaganwale."[1][2] He became known as a novelist when he published the novel Marhi Da Deeva in 1964.[3] The novel was later adapted into the Punjabi film Marhi Da Deeva in 1989, directed by Surinder Singh. His novel Anhe Ghore Da Daan was also made into a film of the same name in 2011 by director Gurvinder Singh.[4] Singh was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1998[5] and Jnanpith Award in 1999.[6][2]

Life and work

Early life

Gurdial Singh was born on 10 January 1933 in the village of Bhaini Fateh near Jaitu[3] in British Punjab.[2] His father, Jagat Singh, was a carpenter, and his mother, Nihal Kaur, took care of the household.[1] The young Singh began working as a carpenter at the age of 12 to support his family's poor financial conditions.[2][7] By his own admission, Singh worked 16 hours a day when he took on various jobs such as making wheels for bullock carts and metal sheet forming for water tanks. Together, he and his father earned 20 (25¢ US) a day from hard labour.[1]

In childhood, Singh was interested in painting but gradually he applied himself to a formal education. After successfully persuading Singh's father that his son was worthy of more schooling, Madan Mohan Sharma,[2] the headmaster of a middle school that Singh attended in Jaito, encouraged the young boy to stick with his studies, even though his father thought it was futile. Singh completed his Matric examination while he worked in various day time jobs. At the age of 14, he married Balwant Kaur. In 1962, he took the job of school teacher in Nandpur Kotra which paid him 60 (75¢ US) in monthly salary. Meanwhile, Singh continued his own education, went on to receive his B.A. in English and History, and followed that up with a M.A. in 1967.[1]

Literary career

Singh started his literary career in 1957 with a short story, "Bhaganwale", which was published in Panj Darya, a magazine edited by Mohan Singh.[2] His later stories were published in Preetlari, edited by Gurbaksh Singh.[1] His major work, Marhi Da Deeva, established his reputation as a novelist. Singh wrote four different versions of the novel over the course of four years, before he decided to publish the fourth and final one in 1964. The various characters Singh portrayed in the novel were recreations of real-life people woven into a fictitious storyline.[1] It was translated into English by Ajmer Rode as The Last Flicker.[8] The first edition of the translation was published in 1991 by the Sahitya Akademi. A revised edition of The Last Flicker appeared in 2010, published by the National Book Trust.[9]

Singh's other notable works included the novels Anhoe (1966), Addh Chanani Raat (1972),[2] Anhe Ghore Da Daan (1976) and Parsa (1991); collections of short stories, including Saggi Phull (1962), Kutta Te Aadmi (1971), Begana Pind (1985) and Kareer Di Dhingri (1991); and autobiographies Neean Mattiyan (1999) and Dojee Dehi (2000) published in two parts.[1] The novels Addh Chanani Raat and Parsa have been translated into English as Night of the Half Moon (published by Macmillan) and Parsa by the National Book Trust, respectively.[8]

Singh's favourite works included Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Irving Stone's Lust for Life, John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath, Phanishwar Nath Renu's Maila Anchal, Prem Chand's Godaan and Yashpal's Divya.[1]

Awards and honours

Singh received various awards over the course of his life, including the Sahitya Akademi Award in Punjabi in 1975 for the novel Adh Chanani Raat,[2][10] the Soviet Land Nehru Award in 1986,[2] the Bhai Veer Singh Fiction Award in 1992, the Shiromani Sahitkar Award in 1992,[1] the Jnanpith Award in 1999[2] and the Padma Shri in 1998.[5][1] He shared the Jnanpith Award with Hindi language author Nirmal Verma.[6]


Singh suffered from a heart attack earlier in 2016 after which he was partially paralysed. On 13 August 2016 he fell unconscious at his home in Jaitu and was admitted into a private hospital at Bathinda where he was kept on ventilator support. He died on 16 August 2016, when he was taken off life support systems, after it was determined that Singh had shown no signs of recovery.[4] He is survived by his wife, Balwant Kaur, a son and two daughters.[11]


Singh has published various novels, short story collections, plays, children's literature and also an autobiography in two parts.[1]

Literary works of Gurdial Singh
Year Title Genre Notes
1960 Bakalam Khud Children's literature
1962 Saggi Phull Short stories
1963 Tuk Kho Laye Kawan Children's literature
1964 Chan Da Boota Short stories
1964 Marhi Da Deeva Novel English translation: The Last Flicker
Adapted as film Marhi Da Deeva (1989)
1966 Upra Ghar Short stories
1966 Anhoe Novel Adapted as the television show Anhoyee by DD Punjabi.[12]
1967 Rete Di Ikk Mutthi Novel
1968 Kuwela Novel
1971 Kutta Te Aadmi Short stories
1971 Likhtam Baba Khema Children's literature
1972 Adh Chanini Raat Novel English translation: Night of the Half-Moon (1996)
1974 Aathan Uggan Novel
1976 Anhe Ghore Da Daan Novel Adapted as film Anhe Ghore Da Daan (2011)
1982 Pauh Phutale Ton Pehlan Novel
1982 Masti Bota Short stories
1982 Farida, Ratin Wadian Play
1982 Vidayagi De Pichhon Play
1982 Nikki Moti Gal Play
1984 Rukhe Misse Bande Short stories
1985 Begana Pindh Short stories
1988 Chonvian Kahanian Short stories
1988 Baba Khema Children's literature
1989 Gappian Da Pio Children's literature
1990 Pakka Tikana Short stories
1990 Mahabharat Children's literature
1991 Kareer Di Dhingri Short stories
1992 Meri Pratinidhi Rachna Short stories
1993 Tin Kadam Dharti Children's literature
1993 Khate Mithe Lok Children's literature
1999 Parsa Novel English translation: Parsa (1999)
1999 Neean Mattiyan Autobiography Part 1
2000 Dojee Dehi Autobiography Part 2

Sapno Ke - Se Din was one of his works, talking about his childhood days and is included in CBSE class 10 Hindi course B.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Life's own voice". Chandigarh. The Tribune. 18 March 2000. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "लेखक परिचय" (PDF). संचयन भाग 2 (in Hindi). NCERT. p. 45. ISBN 81-7450-665-9.
  3. ^ a b Singh, Gurdial (2005). Marhi Da Deeva. Unistar books Pvt. Ltd.
  4. ^ a b "Much-feted Punjabi writer Gurdial Singh passes away at 83". Hindustan Times. 16 August 2016. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Nirmal Verma, Gurdial Singh jointly get Jnanpith Award". The Hindu. New Delhi. Press Trust of India. 11 March 2000. Archived from the original on 3 February 2018. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  7. ^ Bajinder Pal Singh (2000). "From a carpenter to a writer, Singh has come a long way". The Indian Express.
  8. ^ a b Nayar, Rana (16 April 2000). "In recognition of his characters". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 August 2016.[dead link]
  9. ^ Kaur, Kulveer. "Punjabi-English Literary Translation: Challenges and Possibilities" (PDF). Translation Today. 17 (1).
  10. ^ "Akademi Awards (1955-2015) - Punjabi". Sahitya Akademi. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  11. ^ Dutt, Nirupama; Singh, Navrajdeep (16 August 2016). "Gurdial Singh (1924-2016): Man who gave Punjabi fiction its first Dalit hero". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Anhoyee Part 1". DD Punjabi. Retrieved 24 January 2021.