Hindi literature

Hindi literature, is broadly divided into four prominent forms or styles, being Bhakti (devotional - Kabir, Raskhan); Shringar (beauty - Keshav, Bihari); Veer-Gatha (extolling brave warriors); and Adhunik (modern).

Regions and dialects

Hindi language, the official language of India, according to the Constitution of India, (Article 343) , and is spoken in Indian states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh,Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Thus, Hindi literature contains literature in all Hindi languages, including its dialects like: Brij Bhasha, Bundeli, Awadhi, Kannauji, Marwari, Maithili, Magahi, Bhojpuri and Bihari languages and Khariboli (Modern Standard Hindi) in Devnagari script, the dialect which is one of India's official languages .


Adi kaal or Veer Gatha kaal (आदिकाल या वीरगाथा काल)(before 1400 AD)

In ancient period of Hindi or Adi Kaal (before 1400 A.D.), Hindi literature was developed in the states of Kannauj, Delhi, Ajmer, streching up to central India, modern Madhya Pradesh .

Delhi was ruled by Prithviraj Chauhan (1168-1192 CE), that is when his court poet, Chand Bardai, wrote an eulogy to him, titled Prithviraj Raso, which was considered one of the first works in the History of Hindi Literature.

Kannauj's last Rathore ruler was Jayachand, who gave more patronage to Sanskrit (which was no longer the common man's language). His court poet was Harsha (whose major poetic work was Naishdhiya Charitra). Mahoba's royal poet Jagnayak (or Jagnik) and Ajmer's Nalha were other literary figures in this period. However, after Prithviraj Chauhan's defeat, most literary works belonging to this period were destroyed in Muhammad Ghori's campaign. Very few scriptures, manuscripts from this period are available and their genuineness is also doubted.

Some Siddha and Nathpanthi poets' works belonging to this period are also found, but their genuineness is again, doubted. Siddhas belonged to Vajrayana, a later Buddhist cult. Many argue that the language of Siddha poetry is not earlier Hindi, but Magadhi Prakrit. Nathpanthis were yogis who practised Hatha yoga. Some Jain and Rasau (heroic poets) poetry works are also available from this period.

In Deccan region in South India, Dakkhini or Hindavi was used. It flourished under the Delhi Sultanate and later under the Nizams of Hyderabad. It was written in the Persian script. Nevertheless, the Hindavi literature can be considered as proto-Hindi literature. Many Deccani experts like Sheikh Ashraf, Mulla Vajahi used the word Hindavi to describe this dialect. Others like Roustami, Nishati etc preferred to call it Deccani. Shah Buharnuddin Janam Bijapuri used to call it Hindi. The first Deccani author was Khwaja Bandanawaz Gesudaraz Muhammad Hasan. He wrote three prose works - Mirazul Aashkini, Hidayatnama and Risala Sehwara. His grandson Abdulla Hussaini wrote Nishatul Ishq. The first Deccani poet was Nizami.

In later part of this period and early Bhakti Kala, many saint-poets like Ramanand and Gorakhnath became famous. Earliest form of Hindi can also be seen in some of Vidyapati's Maithili works.

Bhakti Kaal (भक्तिकाल)

The medieval Hindi literature is marked by the influence of Bhakti movement and composition of long, epic poems.

Avadhi and Brij Bhasha were the dialects in which literature was developed. The main works in Avadhi are Malik Muhammad Jayasi's Padmavat and Tulsidas's Ramacharitamanas. The major works in Braj dialect are Tulsidas's Vinaya Patrika and Surdas's Sur Sagar. Sadhukaddi was also a language commonly used, especially by Kabir in his poetry and dohas.

The Bhakti period also marked great theoretical development in poetry forms chiefly from a mixture of older forms of poetry in Sanskrit School and the Persian School. These included Verse Patterns like Doha (two-liners), Sortha, Chaupaya (four-liners) etc. This was also the age when Poetry was characterized under the various Rasas. Unlike the Adi Kaal (also called the VirGatha Kaal) which was characterized by an overdose of Poetry in the Vir Rasa (Heroic Poetry), the Bhakti Yug marked a much more diverse and vibrant form of poetry which spanned the whole gamut of rasas from Shringara rasa (Beauty), Vatsalya Rasa (Love), Vir Rasa (Heroism), Prema Rasa (Romance) etc.

Bhakti poetry had two schools - the Nirguna school (the believers of a formless God or an abstract name) and the Saguna school (the believers of a God with attributes and worshippers of Vishnu's incarnations). Kabir and Guru Nanak belong to the Nirguna school, and their philosophy was greatly influenced by the Advaita Vedanta philosophy of Adi Sankaracharya. They believed in the concept of Nirgun Nirakaar Bramh or the Shapeless Formless One. The Saguna school was represented by mainly Vaishnava poets like Surdas, Tulsidas and others and was a logical extension of the Dvaita and Vishishta Advaita Philosophy propounded by the likes of Madhavacharya etc. This school was chiefly Vaishnava in orientation as in seen in the main compositions like Ramacharitamanas, Sur Saravali, Sur Sagar extoling Rama and Krishna.

This was also the age of tremendous integration between the Hindu and the Islamic elements in the Arts with the advent of many Muslim Bhakti poets like Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana who was a court poet to Mughal emperor Akbar and was a great devotee of Krishna. The Nirgun School of Bhakti Poetry was also tremendously secular in nature and its propounders like Kabir and Guru Nanak had a large number of followers irrespective of caste or religion.

Ritikavya Kaal (रीतिकाल)

In Ritikavya or Ritismagra Kavya period, the erotic element became pre-dominant in the Hindi literature. This era is called Riti (meaning 'procedure') because this was the age when poetry forms and theory developed to the fullest, as in the theoretical aspects and procedures of poetry writing as an Art Form, following traditional forms. But this emphasis on poetry theory greatly reduced the Emotive Aspects of Poetry which was the chief aspect of the Bhakti movement and poetry content gradually started degenerating. The Saguna School of the Bhakti Yug split into two schools (Rama bhakti and Krishna bhakti) somewhere in the interregnum of the Bhakti and the Reeti Eras. The Reeti Era saw most of its work under the Krishna Bhakti banner, but the works had greatly degenerated in philosophical content from the pure forms of total Devotion to the Dualistic Supreme Being, more towards the erotic description of Shringar aspects of Krishna's life, his Leela, his pranks with the Gopis in Braj, the description of the carnal/physical aspects of the beauty of Radha (Krishna's Consort). The poetry of Bihari, and Ghananand Das fit this bill. The most well known book from this age is Bihari Satsai by Bihari which is a collection of Dohas (couplets), about Bhakti (devotion), Neeti (Moral policies) and Shringar (love).

Adhunik Kaal (आधुनिककाल): 1900 onwards

In 1857, the British East India Company established Fort William College at Calcutta. The College President John Gill Christ hired professors to write books in Hindi and Urdu. Some of these books were Prem sagar (or Prem Sagur) by Lallu Lal, Naasiketopaakhyan by Sadal Mishra, Sukhsagar by Sadasukhlal of Delhi and Rani Ketaki ki kahani by Munshi Inshallah Khan.

By this time, Hindustani had become the general public's language. To distinguish themselves from the general masses, the learned Muslims used to write in Urdu (filled with Persian and Arabic vocabulary), while Khadiboli became prominent among educated Hindus. Khadiboli with heavily Sanskritized vocabulary or Sahityik Hindi (Literary Hindi) was popularized by the writings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Bhartendu Harishchandra and others. Bhartendu Harishchandra preferred Awadhi for poetry, but for prose, he deliberately used Khadiboli. Other important writers of this period are Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi, Maithili Sharan Gupt, R N Tripathi and Gopala Sharan Sinha. The rising numbers of newspapers and magazines made Khadiboli popular among the educated people. Chandrakanta, written by Devaki Nandan Khatri, was considered the first authentic work of prose in the Adhunik kaal (modern period). A story of magical characters, kings and kingdoms, it reminds one of The Lord of the Rings series and was successfully manifested into an eponymous TV Serial.

The person who brought realism in the Hindi prose literature was Munshi Premchand, who is considered as the most revered figure in the world of Hindi fiction and progressive movement. Before Premchand, the Hindi literature revolved around fairy or magical tales, entertaining stories and religious themes. Premchand's novels have been translated into many other languages.

Bhartendu Yug (भारतेन्दु युग)

Dwivedi Yuga (द्विवेदी युग)

Chhayavaadi Yuga (छायावाद) - The Golden Era

In 20th century, Hindi literature saw a romantic upsurge. This is known as Chhayavaad (shadowism) and the literary figures belonging to this school are known as Chhayavaadi. Jaishankar Prasad, Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala', Mahadevi Varma and Sumitranandan Pant, are the four major Chhayavaadi poets.

This period of Neo-romanticism, represents the adolescence of Hindi Poetry. It is marked by beauty of expression and flow of intense emotion. The four representative poets of this era represent the best in Hindi Poetry. A unique feature of this period is the emotional (and sometimes active) attachment of poets with national freedon struggle, their effort to understand and imbibe the vast spirit of a magnificent ancient culture and their towering genius which grossly overshadowed all the literary 'talked abouts' of next seven decades.

Other important genres of Adhunik Sahitya (Modernism) are: Prayogvad (Experimentalism) of Ajneya and the Tar Saptak poets, also known as Nayi Kavita (New Poetry) and Nayi Kahani (New Story) of Nirmal Verma and others; followed by Pragativad (Progressivism) of Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh and other authors .

Uttar Adhunik Kaal

Uttar Adhunik is the post-modernist period of Hindi literature, marked by a questioning of early trends that copied the West as well as the excessive ornamentation of the Chhayavaadi movement, and by a return to simple language and natural themes. Jainendra Kumar, Phanishwar Nath Renu and Ajneya (Satchidananda Hiranand Vatsyayan) are the other popular figures of this time. Jainendra Kumar explored the human psyche in novels like Sunita and Tyagapatra. Renu's Maila Aanchal is one of the major works of this period. Ajneya brought experimentalism (Prayogvaad) into the Hindi literature. His most famous novel is Shekhar Ek Jivani (1941).

In this period the voices of the women appeared in feminist writings and also of other long marginalized social groups, have started emerging, exemplied by the Dalit literature, which represents the most fierce and important genres of the contemporary Indian literature.

Prominent Figures of Hindi literature


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