Indian Literature 1

Indian literature, collective name for the literature of the Indian subcontinent, which has been developed in more than three millennia and in numerous languages ​​(Indian languages), ranging from the inscriptions of the pre-Aryan Harappa culture to the contemporary literature of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Ancient and Middle Indian Literature

Vedic, Prakrit, Pali and Sanskrit literature

According to politicsezine, the starting point of Indian literature are the holy writings of Brahmanism, the Veda, from which since 1500 BC. The main currents of ancient and middle Indian literature (epic and classical literature) developed. It was followed by the Brahmanas(1000–500) and the Upanishads (since 800 BC) as the earliest evidence of (religious) Sanskrit literature. The Middle Indian dialects, which are summarized under the term Prakrit (popular language), are descendants of Vedic. They were used especially by the Buddhists and Jainas. What have been preserved are, among others. the Tipitaka canon of Buddha written in Pali and the discourses of Jaina Mahavira handed down in Ardhamagadhi. In contrast to this, the Brahmin schools, which created the heroic epics “Mahabharata” (including the Bhagavadgita) and “Ramayana” with poets from the warrior nobility, cultivated Sanskrit, which has been around since the 1st century BC. In the whole of India as a standard language. The simple mythological poems of the Puranas (probably 4th – 9th centuries), which were mostly formed around Hindu deities, were, like the religious and didactic tantras (sometimes called agamas), also accessible to the majority of the population and served as a source for the poets of the following years. so z. B. the “Bhagavatapurana” (around 800 AD) to the followers of Vishnu (the Bhagavata).

Indian literature

Important works of Indian literature (selection)

Vedic / Sanskrit

  • Veda (from 1500 BC, holy scriptures of Brahmanism)
  • »Mahabharata« (400/300 BC, epic)
  • “Ramayana” (around 400 BC to 200 AD, epic)
  • Kalidasa: »Shakuntala« (around 400 AD, drama)


  • Bankimcandra Chatterjee: »Anandamath« (1882, novel)
  • Rabindranath Tagore: »Gora« (1910, novel)
  • Badal Sarkar: “And Indrajit” (1969, drama)


  • Arundhati Roy: “The God of Little Things” (1996, novel)


  • Premacanda: “Godan or the offering” (1936, novel)
  • Ajneya: »Islands in the Stream« (1952, novel)
  • Mohan Rakesh: “Nothing Half and Nothing Whole” (1969, drama)
  • Nirmal Verma: “In a State of Emergency ” (2000, novel)


  • Basava: »Vacanas« (12th century, poetic religious texts)
  • Girish Raghunath Karnad: »Tughlaq« (1971, drama)
  • Udipi R. Anantha Murthy: “Samskara or what to do with the corpse of the heretic that is in our way and blocks life” (1994, novel)


  • Ottupulakkal Velukutty Vijayan: “The Legends of Khasak” (1969, novel)


  • Tukaram: Abhangas and Kirtans (1st half of the 17th century, spiritual songs)
  • Vyankatesh Madgulkar: »The village was called Bangarvadi« (1955, novel)
  • Dilip Chitre: »Bombay Quartet« (1989, short stories)


  • Kalindi Charan Panigrahi: “A house undivided” (1931, novel)
  • Sitakant Mahapatra: ” Cockfight ” (collection of poems, 1963–90)


  • Amrita Pritam: “The skeleton” (1950, novel)


  • Nammalvar: “Hymns for the drowning” (late 9th century, poems)
  • Ashokamitran: »Water« (1973, novel)


  • Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa: “The Courtesan of Lucknow” (1899, novel)

With the Gupta dynasty (around 320 to the end of the 5th century), the classical age of Indian literature, characterized by art poetry (Kavya), began, which reached its climax with the work of Kalidasa, who distinguished himself as an epic poet, poet and playwright. One of the oldest surviving art poems is the biography of the Buddha (“Buddhacarita”) of Ashvaghosha (around 100 AD), one of the most popular Jayadeva’s religious and erotic Krishna poems Gitagovinda, which contributed to the spread of the Krishna belief since the 12th century.

Art poetry and drama were the subject of a strict theory recorded in textbooks. Since the “doctrine of stage art” (Natyashastra) ascribed to the Bharata, the aesthetic sensation (rasa) has been a central concern of poetics and has stood alongside the essence and the ornaments (alamkara) of poetry, v. a. at the center of theoretical interest since the 9th century. Authorities included: Dandin (around 700), whose art novel “Dashakumaracarita” (German among other things as “The Ten Princes”) is a major work in Sanskrit literature, Anandavardhana (9th century) and Ruyyaka (12th Century). In addition to the literary works, v. a. the encyclopaedias on the most important principles of Hinduism, which emerged from older short teaching texts, are significant. These include Legal textbooks such as the “Manusmriti” attributed to the legendary Manu , textbooks on religious law (Dharmashastra), state textbooks (Arthashastra) and a treatise on the art of love (Kamasutra).

Indian narrative literature had a particularly fruitful effect on world literature. B. the fairy tales and Schwänke (originally mostly in Prakrit) and the fables (in Sanskrit). Translated early on were among other things. Kalila and Dimna from the collection of fables Pancatantra and the parrot book.

Dravidian literature

The first of the Dravidian literary languages ​​(Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu) to emerge independently of Sanskrit was Tamil, which alone could also fall back on a courtly tradition and whose grammar and poetics (the »Tolkappiyam«) probably existed as early as 100 BC. BC and AD 150. The standardization of language and literature probably came from the legendary “poet academies ” (sangam literature). In the period that followed, art epics (including the Hindu epic »Shilappatikaram«, 2nd century AD, and its Buddhist counterpart »Manimekalai«), sayings (meaning above all the »Kural« of Tiruvalluvar) were created), which were also imitated in the north. Impact on the entire Indian poetry took its roots in the folk religion of the South Bhaktiliteratur (Bhakti), whose beginnings in the price songs of Vishnuite hymn poet Alvar (6th-10th century, u. A. Poykai, Putam, Pey, Periyalvar and Nammalvar,) and in the Tirumurai (6th – 12th centuries) of the Shivaite Nayanars. Perundevanars Translation of the “Mahabharata” testifies to the high degree of independence of Tamil as early as the 8th century. From the 11th century v. a. under the rule of Cola (9th – 12th centuries) there was an intensive reception of Sanskrit literature (epic, scientific works).

The canna literature (stone inscriptions since the 5th century AD), in older times under the strong influence of Sanskrit (epics, Jain works), had an independent development since the 10th century, while the literature in Malayalam only in the 13th century began with adaptations from Sanskrit literature. The older predominantly religious Teluguliteratur (handed down since the 6th century) also took its material from the Sanskrit legends, but preserved the Dravidian tradition in its narrative style. At the beginning of an independent literature was Nannaya Bhatta’s Telugu translation of the “Mahabharata” (11th century), which Tikkanna continued in the 13th century.

With the development of the regional languages ​​in the course of the 2nd millennium, the influence of Sanskrit as a literary language waned. But it was cultivated by the educated upper class as the language of religious literature, theater and science.

Indian Literature 1