Gujarati Literature

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gujarati Literature


the literature of the Gujarati people, who live in western India in the state of Gujarat and in Bombay. Its sources are found in oral folk art.

The early stage of Gujarati literature (12th to 14th centuries) is characterized by artistic forms associated with folk celebrations, such as songs of the seasons and round-dance songs, as well as religious-didactic poems (rasas) by Jain preachers. Poem of Neminatha (1140), by Vinaycandra, is one of the earliest works of Gujarati literature. In the 14th to 17th centuries Gujarati literature was pervaded by ideas of the democratic religious-reform movement of bhakti (“love for God”), which enveloped all of northern India. The poetry of Narasimha Mehta (1414–80), Mira Bai (1499–1547), and Bhalana (1434–1514) was aimed against the higher castes and orthodox Hinduism. The principal heroes of the poems and hymns were the ruler and military leader Rama and the shepherd-god Krishna, who were regarded as earthly incarnations of the god Vishnu. The Gujarati literature of this period affirmed equality and expressed the interests of the simple man. Wide use was made of the classical subjects of the ancient Indian epic the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and various Puranas. The Tale of Kanhadade (1456), a poem by Padmanabha, was devoted to the struggle of the Gujarati people against the Muslim conquerors in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the Gujarati literature of the 17th and 18th centuries there was an increase in the trend to depart from religious themes. Akho (1591–1656), Premanand (1636–1734). and Shamal (1684–1769) condemn religious obscurantism and caste privilege and protest the servile status of women (the Song of Akho and Tale of Akho’s Mind, and The Abduction of Subhadara by Premanand). The medieval period of the development of Gujarati literature was completed with the works of Dayaram (1777–1852), who, in addition to the lyrical verses of garbis. created several prose works. Nineteenth-century Gujarati literature was saturated with enlightening ideas; it called for the reorganization of society through social reforms. The founders of the new Gujarati literature, Dalpatram (1820–98) and Narmadashankar (1833–86), opposed Hindu-Muslim conflict, caste inequality, and the hard lot of women. The novel by Govardhanram Tripathi (1855–1907), Sarasvaticandra, is one of the major works of Indian enlightenment. New genres were established in Gujarati literature: the novel, the short story, the sonnet, and the elegy. The assimilation of European literary experience continued, and many works of Western literature were translated into Gujarati. In the 20th century the realistic trend in Gujarati literature was intensified (in the works of Ramanlal Desai, Kanaiyalal Munshi, Zavercand Meghani, and others), and critical realism developed. Literary organizations and societies have been arising, and the number of periodicals contributing to the development of a national Gujarati literature is increasing.


Istoriia indiiskikh literatur. Moscow. 1964. (Translated from English.)
Vaidya, V. K. Gujarati sahitayani ruparekha. Bombay, 1949.
Jhaveri, M., and R. Shah. Gujarati sahitayanun rekhadarshan. Bombay, 1953.
Thakar, D. P. Gujarati sahitayani vikasarekha, vols. 1–2. Surat, 1959–60.
Pathak, R. V. Arvachinakavya-sahityanam vaheno. Ahmadabad, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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