Indian Language & Literature

Sanskrit Literature

  • Sanskrit is the most ancient language of our country. It is one of the twenty-two languages listed in the Indian Constitution.
  • Literature in Sanskrit is vast, beginning with the most ancient thought embodied in the Rig Veda, the oldest literary heritage of mankind, and the Zend Avesta.
  • The Buddhist Sanskrit literature includes the rich literature of the Mahayana school and the Hinayana school also.
  • Most important work of Hinayana school is Mahavastu which is a storehouse of stories.
  • Lalitavistara is the most sacred Mahayana text which supplied literary material for Buddhacarita of Ashvaghosa.
  • Kalhana’s Rajatarangini gives a detailed account of the kings of Kashmir whereas with Jonaraja we share the glory of Prithviraj. Dharmasutras were compiled between 500 and 200 BC. These lay down duties for different varnas as well as for the kings and their officials. They prescribed the rules according to which property had to be held, sold and inherited. They also prescribe punishments for persons guilty of assault, murder and adultery.
  • Manusmriti tells us about the role of people in society, their code of conduct and relationship with each other.
  • Works of Kalidasa:
    • Poems by Kalidas: Meghaduta, Ritusambara, Kumar Sambhavam, Raghuvamsa. Malvikagnimitram,
    • Plays by Kalidasa: Abhijan Shakuntalam, Vikramorvashi, Malvikagnimitram.
  • Sanskrit Theatre: Mrichhakatika by Shudraka; Swapna Vasavadattam by Bhasa; Ratnavali by Sri Harsha; Mudra Rakhsas and Dev Chandra Gupta by Vishakhadatta.

Telugu Literature

  • Vijayanagar period was golden age of Telugu literature. Nachana Somanatha, a court poet of Bukka I, produced a poetical work titled Uttaraharivamsam.
  • Krishnadevaraya, greatest Vijayanagar emperor, was a poet of great merit. His work Amukta Malyada is regarded as an excellent prabandha in Telugu literature.
  • Eight Telugu literary luminaries, popularly known as ashtadiggajas adorned his court. Among them, Allasani Peddana, author of Manucharitram, was the greatest. He was known as Andhra kavitapitamaha.
  • The other seven poets of the group were Nandi Timmana, the author of Parijathapaharanam, Madayagari Mallana, Dhurjati, Ayyalaraju Ramabhadra Kavi, Pingali Surana, Ramaraja Bhushana and Tenali Ramakrishna.
  • Ramakrishna was the author of Panduranga Mahatmayam which was considered one of the greatest poetical works of Telugu literature.

Kannada Literature

  • Kannada developed fully after 10th century AD.
  • Earliest known literary work in Kannada is Kavirajamarg written by Rashtrakuta King, Nripatunga Amoghavarsha I.
  • Pampa, known as the father of Kannada, wrote his great poetic works Adi Purana and Vïkramarjiva Vijaya in the tenth century AD. Pampa lived in the court of Chalukya Arikesari.
  • Ponna and Ranna were two other poets who lived during the reign of Rashtrakuta Krishna III. Ponna wrote an epic named Shanti Purana and Ranna wrote Ajitanatha Purano. Together Pampa, Ponna and Ranna earned the title ratnatraya (the three gems).
  • Kannada literature flourished between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries under the patronage of the Vijayanagara kings.

Malayalam Literature

  • Malayalam emerged around 11th century AD. By 15th century Malayalam was recognized as an independent language.
  • Bhasa Kautilya, a commentary on Arthashastra and Kokasandisan are two great works.

Tamil/Sangam Literature

  • Tamil as a written language was known since beginning of the Christian era.
  • Poets, bards and writers, authors came from various parts of South India to Madurai. Such assemblies were called “Sangamas,” and the literature produced in these assemblies was called “Sangama literature.”
  • Contributions of Tamil saints like Thiruvalluvar who wrote ‘Kural’ which has been translated into many languages are noteworthy.
  • Sangama literature is a collection of long and short poems composed by various poets in praise of numerous heroes and heroines. They are secular in nature and of a very high quality. Three such Sangama were held.
  • There are about 30,000 lines of poetry, which are arranged in eight anthologies called Ettuttokoi. There are two main groups – Patinenkil Kanakku (eighteen lower collections) and Pattupattu (ten songs).
  • Besides Sangama texts, there was a text called Tolkkappiyam, which deals with grammar and poetry.
  • In addition, we have twin epics of Silappadikaaram and Manimekalai. These two were composed around sixth century AD. The first is considered as the brightest gem of Tamil literature and deals with a love story. A grain merchant of Madurai wrote the second epic.

Persian Literature

  • Arabic and Persian were introduced in India with the coming of the Turks and the Mongols.
  • Persian remained the court language for many centuries.
  • Mughal rulers were great patrons of leaning and literature.
  • Babar wrote his tuzuk (autobiography) in Turkish language, but his grandson Akbar got it translated into Persian.
  • Akbar patronized many scholars. He got Mahabharata translated into Persian.
  • Jahangir’s autobiography (Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri) is in Persian and is a unique piece of literature

Urdu Literature

  • Urdu emerged as an independent language towards the end of the 14th century AD.
  • Urdu as a language was born out of the interaction between Hindi and Persian. It was further given an impetus by its use in Bahamani states of Ahmednagar, Golkonda, Bijapur and Berar. Here it was even called dakshini or daccani (southern).
  • Earliest Urdu poet is supposed to be Khusrau. He started writing as a poet during reign of Sultan Balban and was a follower of Nizam ud-din Auliya. Among important works composed by him are Laila Majnun & Ayina-I-Sikandari dedicated to Alau-din-Khilji.
  • Among other well-known poets are Ghalib, Zauq, and Iqbal.
  • Iqbal’s Urdu poetry is available in a book called Bang-i -dara. His Sarejahan se achcha Hindostan hamara is sung and played at national celebrations in India.
  • Urdu has given us a new form of poem that is called a nazm.

Hindu Language

  • Hindi evolved during the Apabhramsa stage between the 7th and 8th centuries AD and the 14th Century.
  • Characterized as Veergatha Kala i.e., age of heroic poetry or Adi Kala (early period). It was patronized by the Rajput rulers as its glorified chivalry and poetry.
  • Most famous figures from this period were Kabir and Tulsidas. Surdas wrote his Sur Sagar in which he talks of Krishna as an infant and young child.
  • It is only with beginning of nineteenth century that Hindi prose came into its own.
  • Bharatendu Harishchandra was one of the earliest to produce dramas in Hindi.

English Literature

  • Baptist Mission Press was established in Serampore near Calcutta in 1800.
  • William Carey (Missionary), who wrote a grammar of Bengali and published an English-Bengali dictionary and wrote books on dialogues and stories.

Classical Languages

Article 343 gave Hindi the status of official language of the Union. For Sanskrit, there is a special status mentioned in article 351, whereby Sanskrit was given a position of the primary source language for many languages including Hindi.

Criteria for Classical Languages in India

The government of India currently follows the following criteria to determine the eligibility of language to be considered for classification as “classical language”:

  • High antiquity of its early texts/ recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years.
  • A body of ancient literature/ texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers.
  • The literary tradition should be original and not borrowed from another speech community.
  • The classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.

Classical Language Status

The following six languages are included in the list of Classical Languages:

  • Tamil (since 2004)
  • Sanskrit (since 2005)
  • Telugu (since 2008)
  • Kannada (Since 2008)
  • Malayalam (since 2013)
  • Odia (since 2014)
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