English Literature
Indian Literature

Indian Literature

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

The Rich and Diverse World of Indian Literature

Indian literature is a tapestry woven with a multitude of languages and themes, making it a significant aspect of the country's cultural heritage. While names like Rabindranath Tagore and the Mahabharata may be more familiar, there is a lot more to Indian literature that is often overlooked. In this article, we will delve into the world of Ancient and Modern Indian Literature, exploring its historical and political influences and shedding light on lesser-known areas such as women writers and Dalit literature.

A Brief Overview of Indian Literature

Modern Indian literature emerged during the anti-colonial movement against British imperialism in India. As Indian writers embraced Western forms of writing, such as essays, drama, and fiction, they used them to portray unique and diverse perspectives of the Indian experience. The advent of industrialization and urbanization also played a significant role in shaping Indian literature, as writers became more aware of the world around them. Themes of science, rationality, and questioning societal norms became prevalent, with a focus on the gods of man and nature rather than the traditional other-worldly deities.

The Indian Renaissance and its Influence

The Indian Renaissance, which began in the mid-nineteenth century, brought with it a sense of hope for India's independent future and the establishment of a new system in the country. However, this hope was met with disillusionment following the country's independence in 1947, as events such as the Muslim-Hindu riots and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi shook the nation. In response, the Progressive Writer's movement was formed with the goal of ending exploitation and inequality. This period also saw the rise of a new contemplative form of modernism, with themes of society and human life becoming prevalent. Individualism and the influence of existentialist philosophy also shaped Indian literature, while bringing attention to the injustices faced by Indians under British rule.

The Rise of Dalit Writers

One of the significant developments in Indian literature during this time was the emergence of writers from marginalized groups, such as Dalits. The term 'Dalit' refers to the lowest caste in the Indian caste system, also known as 'untouchables.' These writers, inspired by the teachings of their first modern Dalit leader, B. R. Ambedkar, used their writing to challenge the caste system and bring attention to the injustices faced by Dalit people. They also questioned the beliefs of reincarnation and karma in Hinduism, which divides people into four castes based on their past life and family background. As seen in the quote "We have to change even the sun above," Dalit writers highlighted the deep-rooted nature of the caste system and the struggles faced by Dalits in their quest for equality.

A New Perspective: Women Writers in Indian Literature

The 1970s saw the emergence of female writers who brought a unique perspective to Indian literature. Women like Bengali writer Mahashweta Devi and Malayalam writer Sugathakumari focused on celebrating the female experience in Indian society. The rise of feminist movements gave these writers a platform to challenge the male-centric perspective and assert their own writing styles, bringing a refreshing change to Indian literature.

The Influence of English on Indian Literature

Indian English literature has been present since the early nineteenth century and has grown alongside British imperialism in India. These writers depicted the complexities of society and the Indian experience through the lens of the English language, creating a diverse and vibrant literary landscape.

In Conclusion

Indian literature is a vast and multifaceted world, shaped by various historical and political influences, from British imperialism to India's struggle for independence. As we have seen in this article, there is much more to Indian literature than meets the eye, including the voices of Dalit writers and female perspectives. It is a vital part of the country's cultural heritage and continues to evolve and diversify, reflecting the ever-changing society and its struggles.

The Evolution of Indian Literature: A Rich and Diverse Tradition

In the early 19th century, the British Raj made English compulsory in Indian schools, placing a strong emphasis on English literature in education. Prior to this, English was also taught alongside subjects on Christianity in Indian colleges. However, Indian literature has a much longer history, dating back to the first millennium BCE with the emergence of ancient Sanskrit literature, including the Rig Veda, Ramayana, and Mahabharata.

The Root and Impact of Sanskrit Literature

Sanskrit, the foundation of many Indian languages, comes from the Indo-Aryan group. The Vedas, written in Sanskrit, are the root of the Hindu belief system and include the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samveda, and Mahabharata. Two renowned Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, were also written in Sanskrit by Valmiki and Mehrishi Ved Vyas, respectively.

The Enduring Tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata

The timeless stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata continue to captivate readers. The Ramayana tells the story of Rama, who rescues his wife Sita with the assistance of an army of monkeys from the clutches of Ravana. On the other hand, the Mahabharata narrates the tale of two families, Kauravas and Pandavas, as they engage in a fierce battle for the throne of Hastinapura in the Kurukshetra War.

The Influence of Classical Sanskrit Literature

Classical Sanskrit literature includes acclaimed works such as the Raghuvamsha and Meghdoota by Kalidasa, Shakuntala by Chanakya, Kamasutra by Vatsyayayana, and Ashtadhyayi by Panini. These literary masterpieces continue to inspire writers and readers alike.

The Impact of Pali Literature

Pali literature encompasses a wide range of philosophical works by Buddhist scholars, including the Jaatak Kathayein, Mahavamsa, Atthhakatha, and Dhammapada. These texts provide insights into the Buddhist belief system and influence Indian literature.

During the medieval era, Indian literature saw an influx of new ideas and styles, with renowned poets such as Sant Kabir and Tulsidas gaining popularity. Alongside the development of Sanskrit literature, other languages like Bengali, Manipuri, Malayalam, Kannada, Assamese, Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, Urdu, Rajasthani, and Telugu also contributed to the rich and diverse literary tradition of India.

A Glimpse of Indian Literature in Different Languages

Bengali literature flourished under the works of renowned poets such as Rabindranath Tagore, whose poems predominantly focused on mysticism, spirituality, and nature. He is also the composer of India's national anthem, "Jana Gana Mana." Other notable Bengali writers include Sunil Gangopadhyay and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee.

Gujarati literature is greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, popularly known as the father of the nation. Other notable names in this field include Umashakar Joshi, Pannalal Patel, and Shamal Bhatt.

The literature of Kerala, also known as Malayalam literature, boasts a diverse range of songs and poetic compositions, including the Adhyathmaramayanam by the father of the Malayalam language.

The literature of Manipur holds a rich history, with talented writers and poets from Manipur, Tripura, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Assam. Despite facing destruction in the past, Manipuri literature continues to thrive and gain recognition.

Marathi literature has a strong focus on social reformation and features works by writers such as Vijay Tendulkar, Ramdas, and Mukteshwar, who translated the Mahabharata into Marathi.

Rajasthani literature has evolved over time, with medieval literature highlighting poetry written in honor of the Maharajas and Rajas of that era. Today, writers like Suryamal Misran contribute to the vibrant and diverse literary landscape of Rajasthan.

Vemana, a beloved Telugu poet, rose to fame for his relatable poems that resonated with the common man.

A Diverse Tapestry of Influences in Indian Literature

Indian literature has been shaped by a variety of cultural, social, and religious influences for over 2000 years. Notable writers of this rich literary tradition include Ravuri Bharadwaj and C. Narayana Reddy.

Exploring Tamil Literature

Tamil literature emerged during the 19th century, with a strong focus on social, religious, and political themes. Influenced by diverse sources such as Muslim, European, Saivite, and Vaishnavite writers, Tamil writers have made significant contributions to Indian literature.

Understanding Urdu Literature

Urdu, also known as the "Kohinoor Language," is renowned as one of the most elegant and grand Indian languages. Its poetry has captivated people all over the world, with renowned poets like Mirza Ghalib, Iqbal, and Faiz leaving a lasting impact on Urdu literature.

The Fascinating World of Indian Literature

The world of Indian literature is vast and diverse, encompassing a wide range of perspectives and themes.

Key Concepts in Indian Literature

Religion plays a significant role in Indian literature, with Hinduism being the dominant religion. Central concepts such as Heaven (Mukti) and Reincarnation are explored in various texts, including the Vedas, which emphasize the importance of charity (Dana) in attaining heaven.

Moral values and fulfilling one's duties and promises to God and others are also highly emphasized in Indian literature. This is beautifully portrayed in epics and sacred texts such as the Ramayana, where Lord Ram's obedience to his father and commitment to being a just king are celebrated.

The concept of reincarnation, which suggests that our actions in this life determine our next birth, is another prominent theme in Indian literature. The Ramayana, for example, depicts Lord Ram as the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu.

The Role of Poetry and Verses in Ancient Indian Literature

In ancient India, poetry was the most popular form of writing, with works like the Mahabharata consisting of over 100,000 verses and the Ramayana containing over 24,000 verses. The Mantras, sacred texts written in poetic form, are also a significant part of Indian literature and are often recited during religious rituals.

The Importance of Dharma in Indian Literature

Dharma, which refers to righteousness, holds great significance in Hinduism and plays a crucial role in shaping one's life. Indian literature often portrays the consequences of leading a moral life and the importance of following Dharma. The caste system, as outlined in the Vedas, is also a prevalent theme in Indian literature.

The Legendary Works of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana

The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are two of the most well-known texts in Indian literature. These epics revolve around the lives of extended families, providing valuable insights into the social and cultural norms of ancient India.

The Impact of Performing Arts in Indian Literature

The four Vedas are not just religious and philosophical texts but also highlight the significance of performing arts like dance and theatre. These art forms are now closely associated with Indian literature and play a significant role in Indian dramas.

Examples of Remarkable Indian Literature

Panchatantra (200 BCE)

The Panchatantra, written in Kashmir around 200 BCE, is a collection of stories that impart moral lessons. It is divided into five books, each with a framework structure and shorter stories within. These fables spread to other countries, including Egypt, Greece, and Persia, influencing literary works such as "Aladdin and His Magic Lamp" and "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves."

Little Indian Boy (1899)

"Little Indian Boy," originally written and illustrated by Helen Bannerman, was a beloved children's book until its racial undertones were brought to light. The story follows a South Indian boy named Sambo, who uses his wit to outsmart four tigers and recover his colorful clothes and belongings with his mother's help, Black Mumbo.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy: A Debut Novel About the Power of Little Things

Published in 1997, The God of Small Things is a notable example of Indian literature. Author Arundhati Roy spent four years crafting this novel about fraternal twins and the profound impact that seemingly insignificant events can have on people's lives. Set in Kerala in 1969, it won the Booker Prize in 1997.

Key Takeaways of Indian Literature

Modern Indian literature emerged during the anti-colonial movement against British imperialism in India. The Indian Renaissance in the mid-nineteenth century brought a sense of hope for India's independence, which became a prominent theme in Indian literature. Another important theme was the creation of a new social and political system in India.

Dalit writers, inspired by the teachings of their first modern Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar, used their writing to challenge the caste system and bring attention to the injustices faced by Dalit people.

The Controversy Surrounding Reincarnation in the Hindu Caste System

The belief of reincarnation within the Hindu caste system has long been a point of contention and discussion. While some embrace and follow this belief, others have questioned its validity and impact on society.

The Empowerment of Women Writers in India's Feminist Movement

The emergence of feminist movements in India has given women writers a platform to challenge the male perspective and establish their own unique writing styles. This has led to a diverse and thought-provoking body of literature that reflects the experiences and perspectives of Indian women.

Uncovering the Ancient Indian Literary Tradition

Dating back to the first millennium BCE, ancient Indian literature is a rich and diverse collection of texts, including the Rig Veda, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata, all written in the Sanskrit language. These texts cover a wide range of topics, including religion, philosophy, family epics, devotion, erotica, folklore, poetry, and drama.

Exploring the World of Indian Literature

India's literary tradition extends beyond ancient texts and includes notable works in the English language as well. Some of the most celebrated writers include Rabindranath Tagore with his collection of poems "Gitanjali" (1910) and Arjun Dangle with his thought-provoking novel "No Entry for the New Sun" (1992).

The Diversity of Indian Literature in English

Indian literature in English is a unique genre that represents the diverse perspectives and experiences of Indian writers. It covers a wide range of topics and themes, providing a glimpse into the rich culture and heritage of India.

The Impact of English on Indian Literature

While Indian literature in English has gained recognition and acclaim, some argue that the dominance of the English language has had a detrimental effect on Indian literature. The pressure to speak and write in English has created a linguistic hierarchy that can limit opportunities for those who are not fluent in the language.

Exploring the Themes of Indian Literature

Indian literature is known for its diverse range of themes, including religion, morality, obedience, integrity, poetic form, family dynamics, and traditional art forms such as dance and theater.

The Influential Legacy of Bharatendu Harishchandra

Bharatendu Harishchandra is widely regarded as the "Father" of modern Indian literature and theater. His writings, poems, and plays have played a significant role in shaping the literary landscape of India, earning him a prominent place in the country's literary history.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime