- Most of literature is religious: vedas,Epics,Jain and buddhist literature etc.
- Secular works: Most famous is Indica by Megasthenes (300 b.c.).Though original text of this work is lost,extensive quotations from it are seen in works of later authors.
- Lack of works with historical authenticity due to mixing of myths with history
Vedas and related literature
- four:rig,yajur,sama and atharva
- Rig veda : Oldest,1028 hymns.Indra is the chief god portrayed.
- Brahmanas contain detailed explanation of Vedic literature and aranyakas are an appendix to them
- Upanishads:Philosophical.eg:Mundaka,brihadaranyaka,chandogya etc
- “satyameva jayate” our national motto is from mundaka upanishad
The epics and post vedic literature:
- The epics : Mahabharata and ramayana
- The puranas : brahma,vishnu,agni,padma etc
- Addition to these texts may have taken place even during gupta age.eg:vayu purana,matsya purana etc refer to the gupta kings
- Smritis:Most famous being Manu Smriti.
Other works in sanskrit
- Kautilya’s arthashastra,Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra,Plays written by Bhasa.
- Panini’s ashtadhyayi & patanjali’s mahabhashya both on sanskrit grammar
- Buddhist texts in sanskrit:Mahavastu (collection of stories of hinayana school),Lalitavistara(of Mahayana school) and asvaghosha’s buddhacarita (period:1CE)
- Science based :susrutha samhita(on surgery) and charaka samhita (ayurveda)
Earliest buddhist literature were in Pali
- The tripitakas:vinaya pitaka(has rules of daily life),sutta pitaka(deals with morality) and abhidhamma pitaka (philosophy and metaphysics).
- Milinda-Panha:conversation between Indo greek king Menander and buddhist philosopher Nagasena
- Jataka tales:Concern the previous births of bodhisattva
- Works of Nagarjuna:most important being ‘Mulamadhyamakakarika’
Written mainly in prakrit
- Angas,Upangas, Prakirnas etc are jain works
- Bhadrabahu(Contemporary of chandragupta maurya) wrote kalpasutra, a biography of jain tirthankaras and Parisista parva was written by Hemachandra.
Literature during and after gupta age (approx 500C.E. to 1000 C.E.)
- Due to patronage received from the elite, creative works increased.Purpose of literature turned into entertainment also.More science based works too.
- Urban life and its features were often depicted in the plays.
Kalidasa and his works
(Period:not clear probably 5th century AD)
- Dramas:Abhijnanasakuntalam,malavikagnimitram and vikramorvasiyam
- Epic poems:Raghuvamsa and kumarasambhava
- Other major works:Meghasandesam (lyric) Ritusamhara(earliest work,poem)
- Among the nine gems of court vikramaditya.
Considered indian equivalent of shakespeare.His literature has simplicity,emotions and marks the pinnacle of ancient indian literature.
Other important works
- Plays: Visakhadatta’s Mudrarakshasa,shudraka’s Mrichcha-katika (means toy cart) Harsha vardhana’s
Priyadarsika, Ratnavali, and the Nagananda.
- Poetry:Harisenas poetry about samudragupta, sisupalavadha by magha,kiratarjuniya by bharavi
- Science/rules:Natyasastra by Bharata,Varahamihira’s Brihat samhita and aryabhatiya by aryabhata,ashtanga hridaya by vagbhata
- Harsha charita and Kadambari by Banabhatta
- Panchatantra by vishnu sharma.
- Oldest dravidian language.
- Sangams were assemblies poets,bards and writers(mainly 100-300 C.E).They were patronised by kings and produced sangam literature.Of the three sangams most of literature received is from the third at madurai.Compiling of sangam works took place probably around 600 C.E.
- Sangam literature classified into:agam(related to love and sexuality) and puram (related to ethics,valour etc).Also classified on the basis of landscapes mullai (forests),Kurinji (mountains) marutham (agri-land) etc
- Major works in tamil:Tolkappiyam(earliest tamil;work on grammar),Thirukural or kural by thiruvalluvar,silapathikaram (an epic story of woman named Kannagi) by ilango adigal.
- Manimegalai, Civaka Cintamani, Valayapathi,Kundalakesi and silapathikaram are the 5 epics of tamil literature
N.B:Due to lack of authentic sources exact time period of most of ancient works is disputed.So dates mentioned may vary considerably depending on the source you choose to trust.
- Rise of Hindi,Urdu and regional languages.This was partly due to the influence of bhakti tradition.The rapid growth of Bhakti movement lead to creation of large volume of literature in languages other than sanskrit and Gradual loss of importance of sanskrit
- Better importance to recording of history than in the past through works like Rajatarangini,Ain-e-Akbari and baburnama
Early works in sanskrit
- Kalhana’s Rajatarangini:One of the first works on history in india with authenticity.History of kashmiri kings from ancient times.
- Katha sarita sagara by somadeva(stories),Gita govinda by jayadeva(Poem)
- Siddhanta siromani by bhaskaracharya deals with mathematics.’Lilavati’ is part of this book.
Persian and Urdu
- Arabic and Persian were introduced in India with the coming of the Turks and the Mongols
- Urdu emerged as an independent language towards the end of the 4th century AD:born out of the interaction between Hindi and Persian.
- Amir khusrau: He produced a volume of literature including poetry. His works include Laila Majnun, Ayina-I-Sikandari,Hasht bahisht etc
- Mirza Ghalib (1797-1869) enriched Urdu with his ghazals compositions
- Persian being court language was patronised.Akbar got Mahabharata translated into Persian.Faizi of his
court was a major poet in Persian.
Works on Sultanate and mughal rulers (language Persian mostly)
|Tabaqat-e-Nasiri||Minhaj Siraj||Mainly on Ghurids and some info on early sultanate|
|Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi||Zia-ud-din Barani||Period of Balban to the first six years of Firuz Shah
|Kitab ur Rehla||Ibn battuta||history of Muhammad Tughluq|
|Tarikh-i-Mubarak Shahi.||Yahya bin Ahmad||A detailed account of reign of Mubarak Shah of sayyid dynasty|
|Tuzk-e Babri/Babur nama||Babur||First written in turkic translated to persian during
|Humayun Nama||Gulbadan begum|
|Akbarnama and Ain-e- Akbari||Abul Fazl(1551-
|One of the best works of the period|
- Extended patronage by Vijayanagara rulers.
- Amukta malyada by Krishnadevaraya and manucharitam by allasani pedanna (known as Andrapitamaha)
- Tenali ramakrishna,known for his jokes produced a great poetical work called pandu ranga mahatmyam.
- Language Developed fully after 10th century A.D.
- Kavirajamarga written by rashtrakuta king ‘Nrupatunga’ Amoghavarsha I is the earliest available kannada literary work(850 C.E)
- Pampa, Ponna and Ranna are called 3 gems of kannada literature.
- Contributions were made by Basava and Akka mahadevi , both leaders of veerashaiva bhakti movement
,through their vachanas,a type of poetry.
- Under Hoysalas(approx 1200C.E) major names were:
o Harishvara: wrote girija kalyana,Raghavanka:wrote Harischandra kavya
o Rudrabhatta:wrote jagannatha vijaya
o On Grammar:Kesirja’s Shabdamani Darpana
- Vijayanagara period and later :
o Translations of Epics: Kumaravyasa’s Bharatha, Kumara valmiki’s torave ramayana and
Lakshmisha’s Jaïmini Bharata (1550)
o Sarvajna,known as peoples poet wrote his tripadis.
- Different dialects of hindi include Braj Bhasha,Avadhi , Bhojpuri, Magadhi etc
- Prithviraj Raso by chand bardai(1149-1200) is the first major book in hindi
- Bhakti movement had strong influence on hindi language in the later period
- In Avadhi:
o Padmavat by Malik Muhammad Jayasi(The famous allaudin khilji-chittor-rani padmini story)
o Ramcharitmanas by Tulsi das(based on Valmiki’s Ramayana but does not mention exile of sitha after return to ayodhya)
- In Braj bhasha:
o Sur Sagar by Sur Das
o Vinaya Patrika by Tulasidas
- Kabir who belonged to Nirguna school(belief in formless god) used sadhu khadi(a mixture of dialects along with persian and urdu words)in his dohas and poetry.
- Nandadasa was another Bhakti poet.Kavi bhushan (1613-1712) a supporter of shivaji.
Other regional languages
commentaries on Ramayana and
|Earliest marathi works
Greatest Bhakti poet
He was guru of Shivaji
|Gujarati||Narsih Mehto (1414-
|Vaishnava poetry||The hymn “Vyshnava jan to” is his work|
|translation of valmiki ramayanam.
Vaishnava bhakti saints
They were 10or12
About 60 in number
|Malayalam (evolved by 14th century.)||Ezhuthachan
Cherusseri ( 1375 –
Mahabharatham Njanappana Krishnagadha
|Father of malayalam language
Hymns in Bhakti tradition
|Oriya||Saraladasa(15th cent)||Translated mahabharata||First works of oriya|
(1670 – 1720)
Baidehisha Bilasa Labanyabati
New Era of oriya
MODERN INDIAN LITERATURE
- Gradual change from court literature to other areas of creativity.
- Influenced by thoughts of nationalism,rationalism,western education etc
- New form of literatures like Novels began to spread.Printing helped.
- Underwent revival and reform as part of bengal renaissance towards end 19th century
- Among the first writers of modern bengali is Michael Madhusudan Dutt whose greatest work is
‘Meghnad Badh Kabya’
Bankim chandra chattopadhyaya(1838-94)
- Wrote many novels.First was Durgesh nandini(1865) Anand math (1882) is famous for vande mataram.
- Considered among the first of nationalist literature movement
- A anti-muslim or pro-hindu bias seen in his works has often been debated.
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay
- Congress member and known for nationalist literature
- Wrote on the plight of women and questioned the values of middle class
- Works:Parineeta,Devdas(both adapted as films),Pather Dabi(A novel that idolized violent revolution) etc
- Tarashankar Bandopadhyay who wrote dhatri devata, ganadevata and panchagram depicted village life and its disintegration in his works
- Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay whose work pather panchali and aparajito became the basis of apu trilogy by satyajit ray
- Kazi Nazrul Islam-national poet of Bangladesh wrote ghazals.
- J.C.bose laid the foundations of science fiction in bengali.
- son of Debendranath Tagore, a leader of Brahmo Samaj
- The nobel prize winning work Gitanjali had introduction by W.B Yeats.
- Satyajit Ray’s films Teen Kanya, Charulata,Ghare Baire are based on tagore’s works
- Amar sonar bangla,national anthem of bangladesh was written in response against partition of bengal in 1905
Tagore list of works
|· Manasi (1890) [The Ideal One]
· Sonar Tari (1894) [The Golden Boat],
· Gitanjali (1910) [Song Offerings]
· Gitimalya (1914) [Wreath of Songs]
· Balaka (1916) [The Flight of Cranes]
|· Raja (1910) [The King of the Dark Chamber]
· Dakghar (1912) [The Post Office]
· Achalayatan (1912) [The Immovable]
· Muktadhara (1922) [The Waterfall]
· Raktakarabi (1926) [Red Oleanders]
|· Gora (1910)
· Ghare-Baire (1916) [The Home and the World]
· Yogayog (1929) [Crosscurrents]
N.B:Since its impossible to include all works of tagore am listing only the ones mentioned in
nobelprize.org -the official website for nobel prize
On his works:(points taken from Amartya sen’s essay on Tagore)
- Tagore was an immensely versatile poet;
- he was also a great short story writer, novelist, playwright, essayist, and composer of songs, as well as a
- His essays, ranged over literature, politics, culture, social change, religious beliefs, philosophical analysis, international relations etc
- His outlook was persistently non-sectarian, and his writings show the influence of different parts of the
Indian cultural background as well as of the rest of the world.
- His works,even when influenced by spirituality and ancient texts is rooted in humanity.
Gandhi :“Tagore greatly admired Gandhi but he had many disagreements with him on a variety of subjects, including nationalism, patriotism, the importance of cultural exchange, the role of rationality and of science, and the nature of economic and social development. These differences,I shall argue,have a clear and consistent pattern, with Tagore pressing for more room for reasoning,and for a less traditionalist view,a greater interest in the rest of the world,and more respect for science and for objectivity generally” Modern Hindi literature
Hindi language stated its modern phase in 18th century.Noteworthy people are:
- Father of modern hindi literature.
- Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of India gives Bharatendu Harishchandra awards to encourage original and creative writing in Hindi on Mass Communication.
- Tried to depict India’s poverty, sufferings, cruel exploitation & to deliver patriotic messages through his writings.
Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi
- Dwivedi Yug(1893-1918)of hindi literature is named after him.
- Poetry dedicated to nationalism and reforms were a feature of this phase.
- Maithili sharan gupt was another important writer of the same period.
Munshi Premchand (1880-1936)
- Towering giant in hindi fiction and nationalist literature.
- 3 novels : Karmabhumi, Rangbhumi and Godaan are extremely nationalistic and also has veiled criticism of politics of the period
- Godaan is one of the greatest novels of hindi and shows the exploitation of poor
- Other major works,Novel:Sevasadan,Nirmala,kayakalp.Short stories: Pareeksha, Balidan,shatranj ke khiladi(made to film by ray)
- Part of modern hindi poetry,this phase is marked by increase in romantic content of poems.
- Jaishankar Prasad, Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Mahadevi Varma and Sumitranandan Pant, are the four major Chhayavadi poets.
- Prasad’s Kamayani(1935),Nirala’s Anamika (1923) Pant’s Vina (1927) etc are major works of the movement.
- Mahadevi Varma highlighted the plight of women in our society in her classical work Shrinkhala ki kadiyaan.She is the first major Feminist writer in hindi.
Nakenwad movement is another major movement in hindi literature pioneered by Pandit Nalin Vilochan Sharma Indian English literature
- Only about 150 years old.
- considerable contribution from writers of indian origin and indians abroad in the post independence period
Early writers in english in india include
R.C.Dutt:Translated indian epics into english and wrote The economic history of india
Sarojini Naidu:One among first to write poems in english.Works include The indian weavers,The feather of the dawn,In the bazaars of hyderabad etc
Aurobindo ghosh Translated many indian scriptures into english including Gita.He also wrote extensively on philosophy.
The three giants of early indian english literature are Mulk raj anand,R.K.Narayan and Raja Rao
Mulk Raj anand (1905-2004)
Famous for his work “The untouchable”(1935).It has an introduction by E.M.Forster
The untouchable is story of Bakha-a manual scavenger.
other novels:Coolie(1936),Across the black waters (1939),The Sword and the Sickle (1942)
Most of his works are based in a fictional town named malgudi.
Major works :Swami and his friends,The english teacher,The guide(won sahitya academy award),The world of Nagaraj,The mahabharata,The ramayana etc.
Raja Rao (1908-2006)
Works deeply influenced by hinduism.
Won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature 1988
Works:Kanthapura (1938),The Serpent and the Rope (1960,sahitya academy award),The Chessmaster and His Moves (1988),The Policeman and the Rose (1978),The Great Indian Way: A Life of Mahatma Gandhi, biography (1998) etc
Others(list of works are non exhaustive)
|Salman Rushdie||· Novel
· childrens books
The enchantress of florence(2008) Haroun and sea of stories
|Kamala surayya||· Poetry
|The sirens(Asian poetry prize)
The alphabet of lust
|Nirad.C.Chaudhuri||· non fiction||The autobiography of an unknown indian
The continent circe (1965)(Duff cooper
Scholar extraordinary(1974,on max muller,sahitya academy award)
|Vikram seth||· Novel||The golden gate (1986) A suitable boy (1994)|
|Ruskin Bond||· Novel||A Flight of Pigeons
The India I love
The Blue Umbrella
|Khushwant singh||· Novel
|Train to pakistan (1956)
Truth love and a little malice
|Amitav ghosh||· Novel||The circle of reason(1986) The sea of poppies(2008)|
Booker Prize winners
|Arundhati Roy||The god of small things||1997|
|Kiran Desai||The inheritance of loss||2006|
|Aravind Adiga||The white tiger||2008|
N.B:1)Salman rushdie(1981,Midnights children) was born in India but is a citizen of U.K.
V.S.Naipaul and Jhumpa lahiri are prominent writers of indian origin.Naipaul is a nobel and booker winner and jhumpa a pulitzer prize winner(had nomination for 2013 booker)
Its impossible to mention in details modern literature of all regional languages due to the enormous volume of literature produced in the modern age due to the full development of almost all major languages.I am choosing to mention some names from some languages here.
|Assamese||Hemachandra Barua (1835-96) Lakshminath Bezbarua (1864-1938) Bhabananda dutta(1919-59)|
|Kannada||B M Shri(father of modern kannada lit) S.L.Bhyrappa U.R.Ananthamurthy(navya movement)|
3)Vallathol(1-3 called modern triad in mal lit) Chandu menon(first proper novel in Mal) Thakazhi
Vaikom muhammad basheer
|Marathi||Sane Guruji (wrote shyamchi Aai)
Vishnu Skayam Khandekar(wrote Yayati)
|Tamil||Subramanya bharathi Bharathidasan Kannadasan
|Telugu||Veeresalingam pantulu(1848-1919) Gurajada appa rao (1861-1915) Viswanatha satyanarayana(1895-1976) Unnava lakshminarayana|
Jnanpith award along with sahitya akademi fellowship is the most prestigious of indian literary awards.Awarded by a trust founded by Sahu jain family(Times of india group)
G.Sankara kurup (malayalam) was the first winner Ravuri Bharadhwaja(telugu) was the last to be awarded Women winners of jnanpith
|Pratham Pratisruti* Swarnlata
|Known for her strong female characters|
|Kagaj te Canvas*
Sunehe(won sahitya academy award)
Pinjar(made into film)
|First prominent punjabi women poet
First jnanpith for punabi
First woman to win sahitya academy award
|Yama* Deepshika Agnirekha||1 of the 4 chhayavadi greats|
|Akhire Shab Ke Humsafar* Patjhar Ki Awaz||1st woman from urdu to get the award|
|Hajar Churashir Maa* The Queen of Jhansi||Magsaysay award winner
prominent activist for tribal rights,against land acquisition in west bengal
|Chinnavar Srota (The Chenab’s
Datal Hatir Une Khowa Howda (The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker )
Chinnamastar Manuh To (The Man from Chinnamasta)
|Was prominent in assam social scene especially as mediator between GOI and ULFA|
*Won the award for this work
Table of major works by indian leaders
|Jawaharlal Nehru||Discovery of india Glimpses of world history An autobiography|
|Rajendra prasad||India divided|
|Maulana Azad||India Wins Freedom|
|Dr. S. Radhakrishnan||Indian Philosophy
Hindu View of Life
|R Venkataraman||My Presidential Years|
|PV Narasimha Rao||The Insider|
|I.K.Gujral||Matters of Discretion: An Autobiography|
|L. K. Advani||My Country My Life|
|Hamid ansari||Travelling through conflict:essays on west asia|
Ancient Indian Literature:
- Vedas – Are essentially archetypal poetry of high literary value. They are mythical in nature and of symbolic language
- Yajna – means worship of divine, co-ordination and giving (sacrifice)
- Division of contexts of vedas are twofold – ritualistic injunction and discussions on meaning of vedic ritual and all that is related of it
- Purana (that which renews the old) – illustrates and expound truth of the vedas
- No of puranas – 18
Classical Sanskrit Language –
- Kavya – more care on form, such as the style, figure of speech, conceits, descriptions, etc., and the story-theme is pushed to the background
Pali Literature –
- Pali is the archaic Sanskrit – combination of various dialects
- Buddha gave sermons in Pali and the ‘Tripitakas’ were written in Pali language
- Vinaya Pitaka – monastic rules of the Order of Buddhist monks
- Sutta Pitaka – collection of speeches and dialogues of Buddha
- Abhidamma Pitaka – deals with ethics, psychology or theory of knowledge
Dravidian Literature –
- Indian languages speak four different speech families – Austric, Dravidian, Sino-Tibetan and Indo- European
- Austric –
- Dravidian Literature – Telugu, Tamil (oldest), Malayalam, Kannada
- Sino-Tibetan –
- Indo-European – Medieval Literature –
- The powerful trend of medieval indian literature (1000 to 1800CE) is devotional (Bhakti)
- Basavanna, Allam Prabhu are bhakti poets of Kannada language
- Gyaneswar (Dhyaneswar) – first and foremost bhakti poet in Marathi
- Eknath, Tukaram are other poets who cast their spell all over Maharashtra
- Kabir(Hindi), Namdev(Marathi), Guru Nanak(Punjabi) – other famous poets
- Tulsidas, Surdas, Meera bhai belong to same period – 15th to 16th century
Women poets of Bhakti –
- Ghosha, Lopamudra, Viswawara, Gargi, Maitreyi, Apala, Romasha – wrote few texts in vedas –
called as ‘Brahmavadini’ (expounder of veda)
- Medieval Lit. by women –
- Songs of Buddhist Nuns – Mutta, Ubiri, Mettika (Pali Lang)
- Alwar like Andal – gave expression to their love for divine
- Lal ded (Muslim Poetess, Kashmiri) – represented sant tradition of bakti
- They all wrote small lyrics or poems of devotional fervour, metaphysical depth, and with a spirit of dedication and utmost sincerity
- Other Trends –
- Heroic poetry in Punjabi known as – Kissa and Var
- Najabat’s Var – Nadir Shah
- Love ballads – Hir Ranjha – Warris Shah (Muslim poet, Punjabi)
- Amir Khusro – Sufi Poet – exp. with Persian & Hindi (Hindavi) mix. poetry – Urdu
Modern Indian Literature –
- Emergence of Nationalism –
- Bankim Chandra chatterjee – Durgesh Nandini, Anand Math
- Revivalism and reformism were natural corollaries of the newly emerging idea of nationalism
- Tagore made Federalism as important part of his concept of national ideology
- Mod Indian pluralism is multi-lingual, multi-cultural, secular, national-state conc
- Literature of Nationalism, Revivalism, Reformism –
- Rangalal in Bengali, Mirza Ghalib in Urdu and Bharatendu Harishchandra in Hindi expressed themselves as the patriotic voice of that era
- MM Dutt wrote first modern epic in Indian language, and naturalized blank verse in Bengali
- First Tamil Novel(Pratap Mudaliyar Charitam – Samuel Pillai), Telugu(Sri Rangaraja Charitra – Krishnama Chetty), Malayalam(Indulekha – Chandu menon
- Progressive Literature –
- Chhayavad was challenged by a progressive school that came to be known as Pragativad
- Nagarjun was undisputedly the most powerful and noted Hindi poet of the progressive group
- The critical norms of progressive literature were established by the pioneer of this phase in
Punjabi by Sant Singh Sekhon
- The progressive writers’ movement attracted the attention of eminent poets of Urdu, like Josh
Malihabadi and Faiz Ahmad Faiz
- Dalit Literature –
- Dalit movement was started in literature by Marathi, Gujarati and Kannada writes under the leadership of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
- It came into the limelight because of progressive literature moving nearer to the downtrodden
- literature of militant protest against upper caste literature upholding Brahmanical values
- It challenges the tone and context of existing literary canons and decentralises the whole process of a literary movement
- It creates an alternative aesthetics and extends the linguistic and generic possibilities of literature
- The present-day crisis in India is the conflict between expediency and universality, and as a result, a large number of writers are in the process of identifying a pattern of problem-solving within the traditional system, vigorous enough to generate and sustain an indigenous process of modernization, which does not need readymade external solutions, and is in accord with indigenous needs and attitudes
Some famous books:
- Natyashastra – Bharata Muni (2nd century BC – 2nd century AD)
- the date of the work is between the 2nd century B.C.E- 2nd century C.E
- Natyashastra is also known as the fifth veda
- he has evolved this veda by taking words from the Rigveda, music from the Samaveda, gestures from the Yajurveda and emotions from the Atharvaveda
- Sangeeta Ratnakara – SarangaDeva (13th century AD)
- Kamasutra – Vatsayana
- Malavikagnimitram, Vikramorvasiam, Abhigyana Shakuntalam – Kalidasa
- Mricchakatika – Sudraka
- Uttara-Ramacharitam – Bhavabhuti
- Gitagovida – Jayadeva
- Panchatantra – Vishnu Sharma
- Hitopadesha – Narayan Pandit
- Buddhacharita – Aswagosha
- Gathasaptasathi – Hala
- Ramcharitamanas – Tulsidas
- Naurasnama – Ibrahim II
· Advent of Printing Press in India – William Carey – at Serampore, BengalBuy Test Series @