Indian Literature: Art & Culture for UPSC Exams

UPSC Exam Art & Culture

Indian Literature: Art & Culture for UPSC Exams

Indian Literature

Indian Literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent. The earliest works of Indian Literature were orally transmitted. Sanskrit literature begins with the Rig Veda. The Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabarata appeared towards the end of the the first millennium BCE. Classical Sanskrit literature, Tamil Sangam Literature and Pali Literature flourished in the first few centuries of  the first millennium CE.   Literature in Kannada and Telugu appeared in the 9th and 11th Centuries respectively. Later Literature in Marathi, Bengali,   Hindi, Persian, Urdu began to appear.

Assamese Literature

Though the origin of Assamese language may be traced in the 7th century, its literary tradition started in the 13th century with the advent of the Vaishnava founder in Assam, Shanker Dev (1449-1568)   who composed ' creative drama, epic and songs. The tradition of fiction novel writing was started in the 19th century by Padnath Gohai Barua and Rajnikant Bardolai. Some of the famous novelists of this phase were Dandinath Kalit, Devchandra Ta lukdar,  Beena Barua  who  are  still remembered. In the field of prose, Virendra Bhattacharya (1924 -1997)  bagged the prestigious Gyanpith award. Again in year 2000, Indira Goswami was given the Gyanpith award. The most famous modern Assamese writers are Indira Goswami,   Nirupama Bargohain, Birendra  Kumar  Bhattacharya,  Homen Borgohain, Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Amulya Barua, Atul Chandra Hazarika, Nalini Bala Devi, Sharma Pujari, Roindra Bora etc.

Bengali Literature

During the primary stage of its development, the Bengali literature followed the Nath School of thought and romanticism of Radha Krishna. The tradition of modernity in Indian languages emerged first in Bengali literature because the Britishers first came there and infused English thought with the Bengali. The Benga liliterature got internat ional recognition when Gitanjali of Rabindranath Tagore was awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Other famous Indian Bengali writers were Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra  Chattopa dhyay and  Michael Madhasudan Dutt.


Bodo is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by the Bodo people of North-Eastern India and Nepal. It is a rich language, it has to its credit large number of books on poetry, drama, short story, novel, biography, travelogue, children’s literature and literary criticism. After the inclusion of Bodo language in the Eighth Schedule as a 22nd official language in 2003, noted Bodo literati, Mangal Singh Hajowary was awarded the coveted; Sahitya Akademi Award for his "Jiuni Mwgthang Brsombi Arw Aroj" for year 2005.

Kannada Literature

Kannada is one of the important part of Indian literature and even during the fifth century, it was considered well developed. It is very close to the Sanskrit. A revolutionary change in the Kannada   literature  was   brought  by Basveshwar who contributed a lot in prose writing which was also adopted by Telugu. The  prominent  authors of the cultural Renaissance period were B.M. Shri Kantya, M. Govinda Pandey, K.V. Puttapa and D.R.Bandre.  Putt apa and Ba ndre have been awarded Gyanpith award. Girish Karnad is the famous dramatist of this phase. The fiction Sanskar of U.R,. Anantmurthi has also bagged Gyanpith award. Works of Kannada literature have recieved seven Gyanpith awards which is  the highest number  awarded for  the literature in any Indian Language.


Konkani is very close to Marathi and Hindi. The Portuguese impact may be easily traced in most of the literary work of Konkani. The modern phase in the Konkani started in 19th century   during  which  Shomaya Goyambay, B. Barker, R.B. Pandit and Sar Desai were the chief authors. The prominent Konkani novelist are Reginaldo, Fernandese, M. Sar Desai and B.J.P. Saldhana.

Maithili Literature

Maithili is chiefly  spoken  in  the Mithilanchal region of Bihar. It is the second State language of Bihar. In the 14th century, Jyotishwar enriched the literature in a holistic way. His work Dhurt Sama-gam is very popular in Maithili Vidyapati was another founding father of Maithili. He was the court poet of Mithilanchal under King Shiv Narayan. His poetic works and songs are full of devotion to the God Shiva. He opted the theme of love, beauty and separation for his literary work. He is also very popular in Hindi and Bengali. In the 20th century, Baba Nagarjun, Ramanand Renu etc. contributed in  the field of prose writing. The Graduate Putauh & Kanyadan of Hari Mohan Jha are very popular.

Manipuri Literature

The history of Manipuri Literature trace back to  thousand of years with florish of its civilization. Manipuri is a language of Tibeto- Burmen family and particularly spoke in some estern states . The  literature  is  greatly influenced by the folk literary tradition. Most of the early literary works found in Manipuri literature were in poetry and prose. Some of the books were written with  combination of both the  prose and poetry. Hija Harao is an epic of ornamental style. Ram - No Gaya is the another popular work based on the death of  Ram.

Marathi Literature

The first phase is the Yadav period (1189 -1320) which was basically a period of poetry writing; Viveksindhu of Nathpanthi Mukundraj was the greatest work of this period. Bhavarth Ramayan was composed by Eknath. During the period of Marathas (1600-1700), Christian Missionary  of Goa contributed a lot. Father Cofens wrote Krist Puran. During this period Tukaram and Guru Ram Das emerged. During the Peshwa period (1700-1800), new literary trends were   established, Krishna Dayanarv and Sridhar were the chief poets of this period. In 1840, the first  Marathi  daily Digdarshan was started  which  was later on, followed by Darpan. During this modern phase, Nibandhamala of Chiplunker, biographical work of N.C. Kelker and several novels of Hari Narayan Amte and V.S. Khandekar published which became very popular. Vijay Tendul akar  is  known  for  his  dramas , Sakharam Bainder and Ghasi Ram Kotwal.

Malayalam Literature

The primary Malayalam literary tradition consists of three streams of thought in its composition. The first is the Pach Malayam stream, which consists of folk song and folk story. The  second is the Tamil stream, during which the Ramayana like composition were composed and third is the Sanskritic stream, during which refined literary compositions were composed. In the 15 th century,  Krishna gatha  was composed by Cherushasheri Nambudri. In the 16th century Ezhuthachan compos ed Adhyatma Ramayana Killipattu, Sree Maha Bharatam Killipattu and Bhagavatham Killipattu. The poetic works Ramnattam of Kottarakara Thampuran, Bakvadham,  Nivat hakavaju Kalkeya vadam, Kirmeerava dham, Kalyanas owgandhikam of Kottayathu Thampuran, Nalacharitam of Unnayi variyar etc. also become popular. Several noted works were written during the 19th century, but it was in the 20th century the Malayalam literary movement came to prominence. Malayalam literature flourished under various genres and today it is a fully developed part of Indian literature.

Nepali Literature

Nepali is the language of Indo-European family and it follows Devanagri script. It is also very close to Hindi, Maithili and Bengali. In the 18th century, Nepalese literature came in light with the publication of the works of Subnand Das, Shalai Ballav Aryan and Udayanand. Sanskrit- works were generally translated into Nepali. Krishna Charitha, first epic in Nepali, was composed by Vasant Sharma. In the 20th century, Mitrasen, Moti Ram Bhatt, Lekhnath and Balkrishna Sharma contributed a lot in the field of prose writing. Some popular novelist are Pratiman Lama, Rudraraj Pandey, Shiv Kumar Rai, Subhas Ghising etc. Balkrishna Sharma and Aryali are the popular dramatist.

Oriya Literature

Oriya has a rich literary heritage dating back to the 13th century. Sarala Dasa who lived in th  14th century is known as the Vyasa of Orissa. He translated the Mahabharta into Oriya. Oriya basically originated from the Magadhi dialect and it is very close to the Assamese. Sharla Das, Balram Das, Jagrmath Das, Yashwant Das etc. contributed, a lot to this devotional and cultic tradition. Fakir Mohan Senapati is considered as the modern  and popular  architect of Oriya literature. He is known for his novel Galp- Salp and Chhamana Aatha Guntha. The epic Mahayatra of Radhanath Rath is widely popular. In 1993, Sitakant Mahapatra was awarded Gyanpith award. Manoj Das, Ramakanta Rath,Jagadish Mohanty, Sarojini Sahoo, Pratibha Satpathy, Padmaj Pal, Binapani Mohanty are few names who made the Oriya literature and Oriya language work.

Kashmiri   Literature

The Kashmiri languages and literature is greatly influenced by the Persian and Sanskrit. The first literary works  in Kashmiri is Tantrasar of Abhinav Gupta whi ch was composed dur ing the 11th century. The modern phase in Kashmiri literature started when a large number of Urdu poets began to start writing in Kashmiri. Prominent among them  are  Mahjur,  Akhatar  Moinuddin, Mohammad Amin Kamil and Agha Shahid Ali. Rehman Rahi got the 2004, Gyanpith award.

Gujarati Literature

Gujarati Literature’s history may be traced to the 10 00 AD. Si nce then li tera ture has flourished till date. During the 13th century and its primary stage of development, Gujarati literature followed the romanticism in their work. Padam, Rajshekhar and Jaishekhar composed romantic prose in Gujarati. Modernism in Gujarati is visible in the fiction, Koran Chela of Narmod Shanker. In 1985, Pannalal Patel was honoured with Gyanpith award. Well known laureats of Gujarai literature are Hemachandracharya, Narsinh Mehta, Mirabai, Akho, Premanand Bhatt, Dayram, Narmad, Umashankar Joshi, Pannalal Patel etc.

Punjabi Literature

The history of Punjabi Literature starts with advent of Aryan in Punjab. The Punjab literary tradition is generally conceived to commence with Fariduddin Ganjshakar. His mostly spiritual and devotional verse were complied after his death in the Adi Granth. The Janamsakhis, stories on the life and legend of Guru Nanak are early examples of Punjabi prose literature. Sufi poetry developed under Shah Hussain, Sultan Babu, Shah Sharaf, Ali Haider and Bulleh Shah. The Victorian novel, Elizabethan drama, free verse and Modernism enter ed Punjabi Literature through the introduction of Brit ish education during colonial rule.

Tamil Literature

It is the language of Dravida family, the origin, of which may be traced around 500 B.C. It is very ancient as well as modern. At the primary stage Tolkapiyam, a grammar was published. This period (500 B.C.-200 B.C.) is known as the  Sangam period. Tirukural of Tiruvallure is still very popular. As  far as devotional  literary  work  is concerned, the Ramayana of Kamban got wide popularity. Manimekhale and Shilappadikaram are the other prominent epics. The trends of modernisation, patriotism and consciousness in Tamil literature started with the works of Subrahamanyam Bharthi. He inspired thousands of youths through his literary works. The other prominent novelists are Rajan Ayyar, Madhavaiya, Pudumaipitan, K.P. Rajgopalan and Kalki Krishnamurti. The chief architect of prose   composition are Jayakantan,Neela Padamnabhan, Sunderamswami, Indira Parthsarthi etc.

Telugu Literature

The origin of this language is traced to the llth century. The period between 11th to 15th century  is  consi dered  as  the  period  of translation. In the 16th century. The poet, Srinath who composed Shreengar Naishadham was widely acclaimed.Gona Ganna Reddy is considered as the Tulsidas of Telugu. His Rangnath Ramayana became very popular. Patana, Tikkanna and Gauranna were the other religious poets. The period of 16th and 17th centuries is considered as the golden age in the Telugu literature. 19th century is  considered as the  period of Renaissance in Telugu literature.

Santhali Literature

Santhali language is classified under the Munda sub-group of the Austric family. The Santhali speaking population is spread across Jharkhand, West bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Assam, Tripura, and even Nepal, Bangladesh, Tibet and Burma. After a long struggle, the Santhali language was incorporated into the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution or. 22 December, 2003. It is believed that the Santhali literature has its beginning in the 14th century. The first ever book in Santhali literature was published in 1852. It was written by Reverend J. Phillips, titled " An Introduction to the Santhali language". The first real work by a Santhali writer was a translation of R. Corstairs 'Harma's Village' by  R.P.K. Rapaj and was titled 'Harmawah Ato'. The first collection of poems that was printed was that of Paul Jujhar Soren titled 'Baha Dalwak'. Pt .  Ra ghunat h  Mur mu,  N ar a yan  Sor en (Toresutam), Aditya Mitra (Santhali), Babulal Murmu (Adivasi) are some of the prominent Santhali literary figures. Writers like Doman Sahu 'Samir', Basudev Besra and Bhagwat Murmu gave valuable contributions to this literature. Recently, Jadumani Besra became the first Santhali writer to be awarded the prestigious Sahitya  Akademi Puraskar.

Sanskrit Literature

The origin of Sanskrit language is traced during the 1500 B.C. to 1200 B.C. The Ashthadhayi of Panini, Ramayana of Valmiki, Mahabharata of  Vyas etc. were composed during early times. The  Panchatantra of Vishnu Sharma , Budhacharitra of Ashwaghosh and Bodhimatiakavya of Saundaranand are other famous works of this period. Meghdutam, Kumar sambhav and Raghuva nsham  of Kalidas are still very popular. His famous drama, Abhigyan Shakuntalam got world wide r ecogni t i on.                Ma l vika gni mi tr a    and Vikramorvshiyam are the other famous dramas of Kalidas. Ashwaghosh and Bhasa started the dramatical composition in Sanskrit. Pratiyogandharayan and Pratibhanatkam are very popular dramas of Bhasa. Vishakhadutta, Harsha, Bhavbhuti, Bodhayan and Rajshekhar were the other prominent dramatists. The ancient book on Ayurveda such as Rasraj Mahodadhi, Charakshamhita, Yog Ratnakar etc. were composed in Sanskrit. Algebra of Aryabhatta and "Lilawati" of Bhashkaracharya were also composed in Sanskrit.

Sindhi Literature 

The history of its origin may be traced in a 13th century. Gahu is considered as a very ancient work of Sindhi which follow the t heme  of  Roma nt i cis m.  In  Sindhi,like Sanskrit, the primary poetic composition followed the oral tradition. Pir Saduddin (1290 - 1551)  was the chief  poet  who composed religious and devotional poetry. The famous sufi poet of the Sindhi is BajKajan (1465-1551). From the 17th century, this literature proceeds towards modernism. Rasalo Sandesh of Shah Abdul Latif is a popular work. Some of the other known authors are Sahay, Chairai Sami, Dalpat, Gulmohammad, Imtiaz Aadil Soomro etc. Lal Shahbaz Oalardar was famous for his different works.

Urdu Literature

The literary trends of Urdu may be traced in the 13th century especially in the Muslim courts and administration. The prominent authors of Southern Urdu are Shekh Ganjus IIm, Khawaja Banda Nawaz, Mukini and Ahmad Aziz. Miratul Aashikeen of Banda Nawaz is still recited in a very voracious tone. In 17th century, Mullah Vajhi composed Kutub Mustari and Anayokti Sabras. The trend of Gazal writing was started by Amir Khusro, Vali, Kutub Shah etc. The credit of starting the trend of modernism in Urdu goes to Sir Saiyad Ahmad Khan. Mir Hasan and Mir  Taqi Mir also contributed  a lot. The Gul-i-Nagma of Raghupati Sahay Firak Gorakhpuri got   Gyanpith award. Premchandra, Nazeer Ahamad etc. are the promi nent  prose writers.The  popular dramatist are Banarsi, Talib Hassan and Lakhnavi. In 1990, Aag Ka Dariya of Kuratul- aim Haider got Gyanpith award.

Hindi Literature

According to Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla, the entire history of the Hindi literature may be understood by dividing it into three major phases. The first is called Virgatha or "Aadikal" (1050-1375) during which the composition of court poets became very popular. Some of the  best compositions are Prithiviraj Raso, Parimal Raso, Hamir Raso, Beesaldev Raso etc. Chandbardai, Sridhar and Madhukar were the popular poets. The second phase or period is known as "Bhakti Kal" (1375-1700) during whi ch most  of the literary works  were composed in devotion or respect to God especially Ram and Krishna. Sakhi, Sabad and Rasal of Kabir are still alive. Dadu Raidas, Nanak,  Maluketc. were the prominent authors. Ramcharitramanas, Vinay Patrika, Kavitawali and Hanumanbahu etc. of Tulsidas are popularly known works. The third phase is  known as "Ritikal" (1700-1900). By this time, the Hindi literary tradition became very matured and ornamental literary composition had already made its departure along with romanticism. Ramachandrika of Kesavdas b eca me very  popular.  Bihari, Jaswant , Padmakar etc. were the prominent poets of this time.

The tradition of modernity in Hindi started in the late 19th century. In 1826 Udant Martand, a  Hindi weekly was st ar ted.  Bha rt endu Harischandra wrote Premchandrika and Satya Harischandra (drama) which became very popular. Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi started Sarswatipatrika in 1930. In the field of novel writing, Devkinandan Khatri, Srinivas Das and Premchandra contributed a lot. Jayshankar Prasad, Bhagwati Charan  Verma  and Vrindawan Lal Verma are known figures. Mahadevi Verma, Nirala and Prasad were the prominent mystic (Chhayavadi) poets.

English Literature

Rabindranath Tagore was the first Asian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature(1913) . Tagore represents a happy combination of the ancient Indian tradition and the new European consciousness. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his poem entitled Gitanjali. His other known works are Gora, Chare Baire and Galpa Guchchha. Mulka Raj Anand's r eputati on was first established  by his  first  two  novels , Untouchable (1935) ,  which gives an account of "a day in life" of a sweeper, and Coolie (1936), which follows the fortunes of  a peasant boy uprooted from the land. His trilogy, The Village (1939), Across The Black Waters (1940) and The Sword and the Sickle (1942), is an epic account of the gradual growth of the protagonist's revolutionary consciousness. Raja Rao's first novel Kanthapura (1938) is his most straight forward work. It gives an account  of how  her  village' s  revolt against a domineering plant ation owner comes to be influenced  the Gandhian ideal of  non-violence. Rao's  major work The Serpent and the Rope (1960) is regarded by  some Indian critics as the most important Indian novel in English to have appeared to date. Rao has also published the short novels The Cat and Shakespeare (1965) and Comrade Kirillov (1976). Nirad C. Chaudhari is being regarded as the most  controver sial of Indian writers in English. He emerged on the scene with his book The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (1951). When he visited England, he  recorded his experiences in A Passage to  England (1959). In The Continent of Circe (1965) he puts forward the thesis that the Aryan settlers of India became enfeebled by the climate of North India. He has also published To Live or not to Live (1970) and a  second volume of autob iography, Thy  Hand, Great Anarch (1987)R.K. Narayan's early novels include the triology Swami and Friends (1935), The Bachelor of Arts (1937) and The English Teacher (1945). The novels of his middle per i od  r epr es ent his  b es t wor ks ;  t hes e include Mr. Sampath (1949), The Financial Expert (1952), The Guide (1958), The Man- Eater of Malgudi (1961) and The Sweet- Vendor (1967) .  They explore  conflicts between  traditional  Hindu values and western in cursions  into  the society. Narayan's more recent novels include The Painter of Signs(1976) , A Tiger for Malgudi (1983) and Talkative Man (1986). He has also published several volumes of short stories, including An Astrologer's Day (1947) and Lawley Road (1956).

Vikram Seth's first novel, A 'Suitable Boy has made him the most hyped-up first-time novelist in the history of Indian literature. The Golden Gate, a novel in verse had hit the bestsellers' lists in 1986-87. This was followed by three collections of verses : The Humble Administrator's Garden, All You Who Sleep Tonight and Beastly Tales From Here and There.

Salman Rushdie won the 1981 Booker Prize for Midnight's Children (1981). The Shame (1983) approaches politicalevents in Pakistan. He has also published Grimus (1975), a science fiction novel, and The Jaguar Smile (1987), a journal about wartorn Nicargua and of course, the banned book - The Satanic Verses. He was declared the writer of the millennium.

Anita  Desai has written  Fire in  the Mountains (1977). Clear Light of Day (1980) and The Village by the Sea (1982), Cry the Peacock (1963), Bye-Bye Black Bird (1971) and In Custody (1984). Her subtleuno stentatious  prose and her sensitive evocation of the inner lives of her characters make her one of the finest talents at work in the Indian novel.


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