is generally acknowledged as one of the oldest in the world. India has 22 officially recognized languages
, and a huge variety of literature has been produced in these languages over the years.
In Indian literature, oral is important, as well as the worship of the tinamou. Hindu literary traditions dominate a large part of Indian culture. Apart from the Vedas which are a sacred form of knowledge, there are other works such as the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, treatises such as Vaastu Shastra in architecture and town planning, and Arthashastra in political science. Devotional Hindu drama, poetry and songs span the subcontinent. Among the best known are the works of Kalidasa (writer of the famed Sanskrit play Recognition of Shakuntala) and Tulsidas (who wrote an epic Hindi poem based on the Ramayana, called Raamcharitmaanas). Additionally Buddhist literature once accounted for a huge portion of Indian literature, with texts ranging from philosophical discourses to biography, but is now largely preserved only in foreign languages such as Chinese. Tamil poetry of the Sangam poetry which dates back to 1st century BCE is well renowned. In Kannada, the extinct Prabhrita and Chudamani ("Crest Jewel"), both dating to the 7th century or earlier are noteworthy. Muslim literary traditions also dominate a large part of Indian culture.
In the medieval period, during which time India was mostly under Muslim rule, Indian Muslim literature flourished, most notably in the Persian and Urdu poetry. Among contemporary Indian literature Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore became India's first Nobel laureate. So far India's highest literary honor, the Jnanpith awards, has been conferred seven times upon Kannada writers, which is the highest for any language in India.
Indian literature in archaic Indian languages
Examples of early works written in Vedic Sanskrit
include the holy Hindu texts, such as the core Vedas
and the Upanishads
. Other examples include the Sulba Sutras
, which are some of the earliest texts on geometry
Epic Sanskrit literature
, 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 Pānini
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
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
, and Ratnavali
by Sri Harsha. Later poetic works include Geeta Govinda
. Some other famous works are Chanakya
The most notable Prakrit
language was Pali
. Many of Ashvaghosha
's plays were written in Shauraseni Prakrit. Another major work in Shauraseni was Karpuramanjari
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
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
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 "Prahrada 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,Mahim Bora, Arupa Patangia Kalita,Purobi Bormudoi, Arun Sharma, Anuradha Sharma Pujari, Atulananda Deva Goswami, etc.
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 songs 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.
literature started as religious and philosophical poetry in medieval periods in dialects like Avadhi
. The most famous figures from this period are Kabir
. In modern times, the Khadi
dialect became more prominent and a variety of literature was produced in 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.
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. 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. 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.
literature began with saint-poets like Dnyaneshwar
, and Eknath
. Modern Marathi literature was marked by a theme of social reform. Well-known figures from this phase include Mahatma Jyotiba Phule
, and others. Prominent modern literary figures include Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar
, P.L. Deshpande
, Vijay Tendulkar
and Vishnu Vaman Shirvadakar
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.
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.
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
authors during the medieval period and Muslim
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, the third largest language 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 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.
Annamaya, Gurajada Appa Rao, Kandukuri, Sri Sri, Devulapalli, Jashuva, Unnava Laxminarayana (Malapalli), Bucchi Babu, Tripuraneni Gopichand and many more had a profound impact on Telugu literature.
Among other traditions, Urdu poetry is a fine example of linguistic and cultural synthesis. Arab
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
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 the early 19th century, 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
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
, VS Naipaul
, Amitav Ghosh
, Rohinton Mistry
, Vikram Chandra
, Mukul Kesavan
, Raj Kamal Jha
, Vikas Swarup
, Khushwant Singh
, Shashi Tharoor
, Nayantara Sehgal
, Anita Desai
, Kiran Desai
, Ashok Banker
, Shashi Deshpande
, 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.
VS Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai have won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, with Salman Rushdie going on to win the Booker of Bookers.
VS Naipaul has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.