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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Indian literature

Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages.

The earliest works of Indian literature were orally transmitted. Sanskrit literature begins with the Rig Veda a collection of sacred hymns dating to the period 1500–1200 BCE. The Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata appeared towards the end of the first millennium BCE. Classical Sanskrit literature flourished in the first few centuries of the first millennium CE, as did the Tamil Sangam literature, and the Pāli Canon.

In the medieval period, literature in Kannada and Telugu appeared in the 9th and 11th centuries respectively.[1] Later, literature in Marathi, Bengali, various dialects of Hindi, Persian and Urdu began to appear as well. Early in the 20th century, Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore became India's first Nobel laureate. In contemporary Indian literature, there are two major literary awards; these are the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship and the Jnanpith Award. Seven Jnanpith awards each have been awarded in Hindi and Kannada, followed by five in Bengali, four in Malayalam and three in Gujarati, Marathi and Urdu.[2][3]


Indian literature in archaic Indian languages

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Vedic literature

Examples of early works written in Vedic Sanskrit include the holy Hindu texts, such as the core Vedas. Other examples include the Sulba Sutras, which are some of the earliest texts on geometry.

Epic Sanskrit literature

Ved Vyasa's Mahabharata and Valmiki's Ramayana, written in Epic Sanskrit, are regarded as the greatest Indian epics.

Classical Sanskrit literature

The famous poet and playwright Kālidāsa wrote two epics: Raghuvamsha (Dynasty of Raghu) and Kumarasambhava (Birth of Kumar Kartikeya); they were written in Classical Sanskrit rather than Epic Sanskrit. Other examples of works written in Classical Sanskrit include the Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi which standardized the grammar and phonetics of Classical Sanskrit. The Laws of Manu is an important text in Hinduism. Kālidāsa is often considered to be the greatest playwright in Sanskrit literature, and one of the greatest poets in Sanskrit literature, whose Recognition of Shakuntala and Meghaduuta are the most famous Sanskrit plays. He occupies the same position in Sanskrit literature that Shakespeare occupies in English literature. Some other famous plays were Mricchakatika by Shudraka, Svapna Vasavadattam by Bhasa, and Ratnavali by Sri Harsha. Later poetic works include Geeta Govinda by Jayadeva. Some other famous works are Chanakya's Arthashastra and Vatsyayana's Kamasutra.

Prakrit literature

The most notable Prakrit languages were Ardhamagadhi, Pali and Sauraseni Prakrit. Many of Ashvaghosha's plays were written in Shauraseni Prakrit. Another major work in Sauraseni was Karpuramanjari. Kalidasa, Harsha and Haal used Maharashtrian Prakrit in some of their plays and poetry. Many Shwetambar Jain works are also written in the Maharashtri Prakrit. Many plays (like those of Ashvaghosha) and Jain works were written in the Ardha Magadhi Prakrit. Canto 13 of the Bhaṭṭikāvya (Bhatti's Poem)[4] is written in what is called "like the vernacular" bhāṣāsama, that is, it can be read in two languages simultaneously: Prakrit and Sanskrit[5].

Dyczkowski (1988: p. 26) holds that Hāla's Prakrit poem the Gāthāsaptaśati (third to fifth century CE) is one of the first extant literary references to a Kapalika:

One of the earliest references to a Kāpālika is found in Hāla's Prakrit poem, the Gāthāsaptaśati (third to fifth century A.D.) in a verse in which the poet describes a young female Kāpālikā who besmears herself with ashes from the funeral pyre of her lover. Varāhamihira (c500-575) refer more than once to the Kāpālikas thus clearly establishing their existence in the sixth century. Indeed, from this time onwards references to Kāpālika ascetics become fairly commonplace in Sanskrit...".[6]

Pali literature

The Pali Canon is mostly of Indian origin. Later Pali literature however was mostly produced outside of the mainland Indian subcontinent, particularly in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

Pali literature includes Buddhist philosophical works, poetry and some grammatical works. Major works in Pali are Jataka tales, Dhammapada, Atthakatha, and Mahavamsa. Some of the major Pali grammarians were Kaccayana, Moggallana and Vararuci (who wrote Prakrit Prakash).

Indian literature in common Indian languages

Assamese literature

The Charyapadas are often cited as the earliest example of Assamese literature. The Charyapadas are Buddhist songs composed in 8th-12th century. These writings bear similarities to Oriya and Bengali languages as well. The phonological and morphological traits of these songs bear very strong resemblance to Assamese some of which are extant.

After the Charyapadas, the period may again be split into (a) Pre-Vaishnavite and (b) Vaishnative sub-periods. The earliest known Assamese writer is Hema Saraswati, who wrote a small poem "Prahlada Charita". In the time of the King Indranarayana (1350–1365) of Kamatapur the two poets Harihara Vipra and Kaviratna Saraswati composed Asvamedha Parva and Jayadratha Vadha respectively. Another poet named Rudra Kandali translated Drona Parva into Assamese. But the most well-known poet of the Pre-Vaishnavite sub period is Madhav Kandali, who rendered Valmiki's Ramayana into Assamese verse (Kotha Ramayana, 11th century) under the patronage of Mahamanikya, a Kachari king of Jayantapura.

The most famous modern Assamese writers are Indira Goswami, Nirupama Bargohain, Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya, Homen Borgohain, Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Amulya Barua, Nabakanta Barua, Atul Chandra Hazarika, Nalini Bala Devi, Nirmal Prabha Bordoloi, Mahim Bora, Arupa Kalita Patangia, Bhabananda Deka, Purobi Bormudoi, Arun Sharma, Anuradha Sharma Pujari, Atulananda Deva Goswami, etc.

Bengali literature

Rabindranath Tagore, Asia's first Nobel laureate

The first evidence of Bengali literature is known as Charyapada or Charyageeti, which were Buddhist hymns from the 8th century. Charyapada is in the oldest known written form of Bengali. The famous Bengali linguist Harprashad Shastri discovered the palm leaf Charyapada manuscript in the Nepal Royal Court Library in 1907. The most internationally famous Bengali writer is Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for his work "Gitanjali". He wrote the national anthem of India and Bangladesh namely, "Jana Gana Mana" and "Amar Sonar Bangla", respectively. He was the first Asian who won the Nobel Prize. Rabindranath has written enormous amount of Poems, Songs, Essays, Novels, Plays and Short-stories. His songs remain popular and are still widely sung in Bengal.

Another poet, one generation younger is equally popular, valuable, and influential in his country, though virtually unknown in foreign countries: Kazi Nazrul Islam. Other famous Indian Bengali writers were Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, and Michael Madhusudan Dutt. Bengali is the second most commonly spoken language in India (after Hindi). As a result of the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th and 20th centuries, many of India's most famous, and relatively recent, literature, poetry, and songs are in Bengali.

In the history of Bengali literature there has been only one path-breaking literary movement by a group of poets and artists who called themselves Hungryalists

Bhojpuri literature

Hindi literature

Hindi literature started as religious and philosophical poetry in medieval periods in dialects like Avadhi and Brij. The most famous figures from this period are Kabir and Tulsidas. In modern times, the Khadi dialect became more prominent and Sanskrit.

Chandrakanta, written by Devaki Nandan Khatri, is considered to be the first work of prose in Hindi. Munshi Premchand was the most famous Hindi novelist. The chhayavadi poets include Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala', Jaishankar Prasad, Sumitranandan Pant, and Mahadevi Varma. Other renowned poets include Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar', Maithili Sharan Gupt, Agyeya, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, and Dharmveer Bharti.

Gujarati literature

Kannada literature

Kannada writer and Jnanpith Award winner for the year 1994, U. R. Ananthamurthy

The oldest existing record of Kannada poetry in tripadi metre is the Kappe Arabhatta record of 700 CE. Kavirajamarga by King Nripatunga Amoghavarsha I (850 CE) is the earliest existing literary work in Kannada. It is a writing on literary criticism and poetics meant to standardize various written Kannada dialects used in literature in previous centuries. The book makes reference to Kannada works by early writers such as King Durvinita of the sixth century and Ravikirti, the author of the Aihole record of 636 CE. An early extant prose work, the Vaddaradhane by Shivakotiacharya of 900 CE provides an elaborate description of the life of Bhadrabahu of Shravanabelagola. Since the earliest available Kannada work is one on grammar and a guide of sorts to unify existing variants of Kannada grammar and literary styles, it can be safely assumed that literature in Kannada must have started several centuries earlier.[7] The works of the midieval period are based on Jain and Hindu principles. The Vachana Sahitya tradition of the twelfth century is purely native and unique in world literature.[8] It is the sum of contributions by all sections of society. Vachanas were pithy comments on that period's social, religious and economic conditions. More importantly, they held a mirror to the seed of social revolution, which caused a radical re-examination of the ideas of caste, creed and religion. Some of the important writers of Vachana literature include Basavanna, Allama Prabhu and Akka Mahadevi. Kumara Vyasa, who wrote the Karnata Bharata Katamanjari, has arguably been the most famous and most influential Kannada writer of the fifteenth century. The Bhakti movement gave rise to Dasa Sahitya around the fifteenth century which significantly contributed to the evolution of Carnatic music in its present form. This period witnessed great Haridasas like Purandara Dasa who has been aptly called the Pioneer of Carnatic music, Kanaka Dasa, Vyasathirtha and Vijaya Dasa. Modern Kannada in the twentieth century has been influenced by many movements, notably Navodaya, Navya, Navyottara, Dalita and Bandaya. Contemporary Kannada literature has been highly successful in reaching people of all classes in society. Works of Kannada literature have received seven Jnanpith awards, which is the highest number awarded for the literature in any Indian language. It has also received forty-seven Sahitya Academy awards.

Kashmiri literature

Malayalam literature

Even up to 500 years since the start of the Malayalam calendar which commenced in 825 AD, Malayalam literature remained in preliminary stage. During this time, Malayalam literature consisted mainly of various genres of songs. Ramacharitham written by Cheeramakavi is a collection of poems written at the end of preliminary stage in Malayalam literaure's evolution, and is the oldest Malayalam book available. Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan (17th century) is considered as the Father of the Malayalam language, because of his influence on the acceptance of the Malayalam alphabet and his extremely popular poetic works like Adhyathmaramayanam. Several noted works were written during the 19th century, but it was in the 20th century the Malayalam literary movement came to prominence. Malayalam literature flourished under various genres and today it is a fully developed part of Indian literature.

Manipuri literature

Manipuri literature is the literature written in the Manipuri Language (Meeteilon), including literature composed in Manipuri Language by writers from Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Myanmar and Bangladesh .The history of Manipuri literature trace back to thousands of years with flourish of its civilization. The survival of Manipuri literature after passing through the massive devastation, the terror event of history, by burning of Meetei Scriptures, which is known as Puya Meithaba, was a miracle. The resilience that Meeteis could acquire in the event of devastation proved her ability to survive in history. Most of the early literary works found in Manipuri Literature were in Poetry and Prose . Some of the books were written with combination of both the Prose and

Marathi literature

Marathi literature began with saint-poets like Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram, Ramdas, and Eknath. Modern Marathi literature was marked by a theme of social reform. Well-known figures from this phase include Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Lokhitwadi, and others. Prominent modern literary figures include Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar, P.L. Deshpande, Vijay Tendulkar, Indira Sant and Vishnu Vaman Shirvadakar (Kavi Kusumagraj). din mor

Nepali literature

Oriya literature

Oriya has a rich literary heritage dating back to the thirteenth century. Sarala Dasa who lived in the fourteenth century is known as the Vyasa of Orissa. He translated the Mahabharata into Oriya. In fact the language was initially standardised through a process of translation of classical Sanskrit texts like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Srimad Bhagabatam. Jagannatha Das translated the Srimad Bhagabatam into Oriya and his translation standardized the written form of the language. Oriya has had a strong tradition of poetry, especially that of devotional poetry. Some other eminent ancient Oriya Poets include Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja and Kabi Surya Bala Dev Ratha.

In nineteenth century, Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843–1918), Gouri Shankar Ray, Gopal Chandra Praharaj, Pandit Nilmani Vidyaratna, Kabibar Radhanath Ray were prominent figure in prose and poetry writinga of Oriya Literature. In twentieth century Godabarish Mohapatra, Kalindi Charana Panigrahi, Kanhu Charan Mohanty (1906–1994), Gopinath Mohanty, Sachchidananda Routray, Surendra Mohanty, Manoj Das, Kishori Charan Das, Sitakanta Mohapatra, Ramakanta Rath, Binapani Mohanty, Jagadish Mohanty, Sarojini Sahoo, Rajendra Kishore Panda, Padmaj Pal, Ramchandra Behera, Pratibha Satpathy are few names who made the Oriya Literature and Oriya language worthy.

Punjabi literature

The history of Punjabi literature starts with advent of Aryan in Punjab. Punjab provided them the perfect environment in which to compose the ancient texts. The Rig-Veda is first example in which references are made to the rivers, flora and fauna of Punjab. The Punjabi literary tradition is generally conceived to commence with Fariduddin Ganjshakar (1173–1266).[2]. Farid's mostly spiritual and devotional verse were compiled after his death in the Adi Granth.

The Janamsakhis, stories on the life and legend of Guru Nanak (1469–1539), are early examples of Punjabi prose literature. Nanak himself composed Punjabi verse incorporating vocabulary from Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, and other Indic languages as characteristic of the Gurbani tradition. Sufi poetry developed under Shah Hussain (1538–1599), Sultan Bahu (1628–1691), Shah Sharaf (1640–1724), Ali Haider (1690–1785), and Bulleh Shah (1680–1757). In contrast to Persian poets who had preferred the ghazal for poetic expression, Punjabi Sufi poets tended to compose in the Kafi.[3].

Punjabi Sufi poetry also influenced other Punjabi literary traditions particularly the Punjabi Qissa, a genre of romantic tragedy which also derived inspiration from Indic, Persian and Qur'anic sources. The Qissa of Heer Ranjha by Waris Shah (1706–1798) is among the most popular of Punjabi qisse. Other popular stories include Sohni Mahiwal by Fazal Shah, Mirza Sahiba by Hafiz Barkhudar (1658–1707), Sassi Punnun by Hashim Shah (1735?-1843?), and Qissa Puran Bhagat by Qadaryar (1802–1892).

The Victorian novel, Elizabethan drama, free verse and Modernism entered Punjabi literature through the introduction of British education during colonial rule. The setting up of a Christian mission at Ludhiana in 1835 (where a printing press was installed for using Gurmukhi fonts, and which also issued the first Punjabi grammar in 1838), the publication of a Punjabi dictionary by Reverend J. Newton in 1854 and the ripple-down effect of the strengthening and modernizing the education system under the patronage of the Singh Sabha Movement in 1860s, were some of the developments that made it possible for ‘modernism’ to emerge in Punjabi literary culture. It needs to be pointed out here that ‘modernism’ is being used here as an umbrella term to cover a whole range of developments in the Punjabi literary culture, starting with the break from tradition or the past to a commitment to progressive ideology, from the experimental nature of the avant-garde to the newness of the forward-looking.

Rajasthani literature

Sanskrit literature

Sindhi literature

Tamil literature

Tamil literature has a rich and long literary tradition spanning more than 2000 years. Tolkaappiyam has been credited as the oldest work in Tamil available today. The history of Tamil literature follows the history of Tamil Nadu, closely following the social and political trends of various periods. The secular nature of the early Sangam poetry gave way to works of religious and didactic nature during the Middle Ages. Tirukkural is a fine example of such work on human behaviour and political morals. A wave of religious revival helped generate a great volume of literary output by Saivite and Vaishnavite authors. Jain and Buddhist authors during the medieval period and Muslim and European authors later also contributed to the growth of Tamil literature.

A revival of Tamil literature took place from the late nineteenth century when works of religious and philosophical nature were written in a style that made it easier for the common people to enjoy. Nationalist poets began to utilise the power of poetry in influencing the masses. Short stories and novels began to appear. The popularity of Tamil Cinema has also provided opportunities for modern Tamil poets to emerge.

Telugu literature

Telugu, the third largest language (after Hindi & Bengali) spoken in India, is rich in literary traditions. The earliest written literature dates back to the seventh century. The epic literary tradition started with Nannayya who is acclaimed as Telugu's Aadikavi meaning the first poet. He belongs to the tenth or eleventh century.

Vemana who lived in the fourteenth century (a prince called Pedakomati. Vemaa Reddy) wrote in the language of the common man. He wrote poems in a simple style. He questioned the prevailing pseudo values and conventions and religious practices in his poems. His philosophy made him a unique poet of the masses.

Viswanadha Satyanarayana (Veyipadagalu), a doyen of conventional yet creative literature, was the first to receive the Jnanpith Award for Telugu followed by C. Narayana Reddy.

Srirangam Srinivasarao or Sri Sri was a popular modern poet and lyricist. Srisri took the "Telugu literary band wagon that travelled in roads of kings and queens in to that of muddy roads of common man".

Literary Movements: Old Era: Telugu literature has been enriched by many literary movements like Veera Shaiva movement which gave birth sto dwipada kavitvam (couplets). Bhakti movement which gave us immortal compilations by Annamayya, Kshetrayya and Tyagaraja and kancharla Gopanna (Ramadasu). The renaissance movement heralded by Vemana stand for the old Telugu literary movements.

New era: Romantic Movemnet (led by Krishnasashtri, Rayaprolu, Vedula), Progressive Writers Movement, Digambara Kavitvam (Nagnamuni, Cherabanda Raju, Jwalamukhi, Nikhileswar, Bhairavayya and Mahaswapna Revolutionary Writers' Movement, Streevada Kavitvam and Dalita Kavitvam all flourished in Telugu Literature and in fact, Telugu Literature has been the standard bearer of Indian Literature in these respects.

Fiction and Prose literature:

Kadukuri Veeresalingam, is said to be the father of Modern Telugu fiction. Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao laid foundation for the realistic modern Telugu Novel and Short Story, Rachakonda and Kalipatnam carried the flag in to excellency.

Annamaya, Gurajada Appa Rao, Kandukuri, Devulapalli, Jashuva, Unnava Laxminarayana (Malapalli), Bucchi Babu, Tripuraneni Gopichand and many more had a profound impact on Telugu literature.

Urdu literature

Among other traditions, Urdu poetry is a fine example of linguistic and cultural synthesis. Arab and Persian vocabulary based on the Hindi language resulted in a vast and extremely beloved class of ghazal literature, usually written by Muslims in contexts ranging from romance and society to philosophy and devotion to Allah. Urdu soon became the court language of the Mughals and in its higher forms was once called the "Kohinoor" of Indian languages.

Indian literature in foreign languages

Indian Persian literature

During the early Muslim period, Persian became the lingua franca of the subcontinent, used by most of the educated and the government. Although Persian literature from Persia itself was popular, several Indians became major Persian poets, the most notable being Amir Khusro and in more modern times Allama Iqbal. Much of the older Sanskrit literature was also translated into Persian. For a time, it remained the court language of the Mughals, soon to be replaced by Urdu. Persian still held its status, despite the spread of Urdu, well into the early years of the British rule in India. Most British officials had to learn Persian on coming to India and concluded their conversations in Persian. In 1837, however, the British, in an effort to expand their influence, made a government ruling to discontinue the use of Persian and commence the use of English instead. Thus started the decline of Persian as the subcontinent's lingua franca, a position to be taken up by the new language of the British Raj, English. Many modern Indian languages still show signs of heavy Persian influence, most notably Urdu and Hindi.

Indian English literature

In the last century, several Indian writers have distinguished themselves not only in traditional Indian languages but also in English. India's only Nobel laureate in literature was the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote some of his work originally in English, and did some of his own English translations from Bengali. More recent major writers in English who are either Indian or of Indian origin and derive much inspiration from Indian themes are R. K. Narayan, Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Raja Rao, Amitav Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Chandra, Vijay Singh, Mukul Kesavan, Raj Kamal Jha, Vikas Swarup, Khushwant Singh, Shashi Tharoor, Nayantara Sehgal, Anita Desai, Kiran Desai, Ashok Banker, Shashi Deshpande, Anurag Mathur,Jhumpa Lahiri, Kamala Markandaya, Gita Mehta, Manil Suri, Ruskin Bond and Bharati Mukherjee.

In the 1950s, the Writers Workshop collective in Calcutta was founded by the poet and essayist P. Lal to advocate and publish Indian writing in English. The press was the first to publish Pritish Nandy, Sasthi Brata, and others; it continues to this day to provide a forum for English writing in India.

In recent years, English-language writers of Indian origin are being published in the West at an increasing rate.

Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai and Arvind Adiga have won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, with Salman Rushdie going on to win the Booker of Bookers.

External links


See also


  1. ^ "Kannada literature", Encyclopædia Britannica, 2008. Quote: "The earliest literary work is the Kavirajamarga (c. AD 850), a treatise on poetics based on a Sanskrit model."
  2. ^ "Awardees detail for the Jnanpith Award". Official website of Bharatiya Jnanpith. Bharatiya Jnanpith. Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  3. ^ "Kunwar Narayan to be awarded Jnanpith". Times of India. Nov 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  4. ^ Fallon, Oliver. 2009. Bhatti's Poem: The Death of Rávana (Bhaṭṭikāvya). New York: Clay Sanskrit Library[1]. ISBN 978-0-8147-2778-2 | ISBN 0-8147-2778-6 |
  5. ^ Narang, Satya Pal. 2003. An Analysis of the Prākṛta of Bhāśā-sama of the Bhaṭṭi-kāvya (Canto XII). In: Prof. Mahapatra G.N., Vanijyotih: Felicitation Volume, Utkal University, *Bhuvaneshwar.
  6. ^ Dyczkowski, Mark S. G. (1988). The canon of the Śaivāgama and the The Kubjikā Tantras of the western Kaula tradition. SUNY series in Kashmir Śaivism. SUNY Press. ISBN 0887064949, 9780887064944 Source: [2] (accessed: Thursday February 4, 2010)
  7. ^ Jyotsna Kamat. "History of the Kannada Literature-I". Kamat's Potpourri, November 4, 2006. Kamat's Potpourri. Retrieved 2006-11-25. 
  8. ^ "Declare Kannada a classical language". Online webpage of The Hindu. The Hindu. Retrieved 2007-06-29. 

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