Indian literature

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Indian literature.

Oral literature in the vernacular languages of India is of great antiquity, but it was not until about the 16th cent. that an extensive written literature appeared. Chief factors in this development were the intellectual and literary predominance of Sanskrit until then (except in S India, where a vast literature in Tamil was produced from ancient times) and the emergence of Hindu pietistic movements that sought to reach the people in their spoken languages. Among the Muslims classical Persian poetry was the fountainhead of a later growth in the Urdu literature produced for the Mughal court, and elaborate Urdu verse on set themes was produced in abundance. In the early 19th cent., with the establishment of vernacular schools and the importation of printing presses, a great impetus was given to popular prose, with Bengali writers perhaps taking the lead. Foreign, particularly English, literature was eagerly studied and to some extent assimilated to classical Indian modes and themes.

Today there is a written literature in all the important languages of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, as well as a large literature in English intended to reach all the university-educated public regardless of native language. Among the best-known writers of the 19th and early 20th cent. are Rammohun RoyRoy, Rammohun
, 1772–1833, Indian religious and educational reformer. Sometimes called the father of modern India, Roy was born to a wealthy and devout Brahman family in Bengal.
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, Bankim Chandra ChatterjeeChatterjee, Bankim Chandra
, 1838–94, Indian nationalist writer, b. Bengal. He popularized a Bengali prose style that became the vehicle of the major nationalist literature of the region.
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, VivekanandaVivekananda
, 1863–1902, Hindu mystic, major exponent of Vedanta philosophy. He was born of a well-to-do family in Calcutta (now Kolkata), and his given name was Narendra Nath Datta.
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, Rabindranath TagoreTagore, Sir Rabindranath
, 1861–1941, Indian author and guru, b. Calcutta (now Kolkata). Tagore came from a wealthy Bengali family. He went abroad in 1877 to study law in England but soon returned to India.
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, winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature, and Prem Chand, as well as Asadullah Khan Ghalib and Muhammad IqbalIqbal, Muhammad
, 1877–1938, Indian Muslim poet, philosopher, and political leader. He studied at Government College, Lahore, Cambridge, and the Univ. of Munich, and then he taught philosophy at Government College and practiced law.
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, the Muslim poets who wrote in Urdu and in Persian. Later writers include R. K. NarayanNarayan, R. K.
(Rasipuram Krishnaswami Narayan) , 1906–2001, Indian novelist, b. Madras (now Chennai). Narayan, who wrote in English, published his first novel, Swami and Friends, in 1935.
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, Raja RaoRao, Raja
, 1909–2006, Indian novelist, b. Hassan, Mysore (now Karnataka), as Raja. Rao took his surname as an adult, and was educated in India and France and for many years divided his time among India, Europe, and the United States.
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, Bhabhani BhattacharyaBhattacharya, Bhabhani
, 1906–88, Indian novelist, journalist, and translator. Bhattacharya was educated in India and England and taught and traveled in many parts of the world; he lived in the United States from 1972 until his death.
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, Ahmed Ali, Khushwant Singh, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, and Mulk Raj Anand in the field of fiction; Sarojini NaiduNaidu, Sarojini
, 1879–1949, Indian poet and political leader. Born Sarojini Chattopadhyay, she was educated in Madras (now Chennai) and at King's College, London, and Cambridge. In 1898 she married Dr. M. G. Naidu.
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, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Nazrul Islam, and the Bangladeshi Shamsur Rahman in the field of poetry; and Mohandas GandhiGandhi, Mohandas Karamchand
, 1869–1948, Indian political and spiritual leader, b. Porbandar. In South Africa

Educated in India and in London, he was admitted to the English bar in 1889 and practiced law unsuccessfully in India for two years.
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, M. N. Roy, Jawaharlal NehruNehru, Jawaharlal
, 1889–1964, Indian statesman, b. Allahabad (now Priyagraj); son of Motilal Nehru. A politician and statesman of great skill, Nehru was enormously popular in India.
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, and Jaya Prakash NarayanNarayan, Jaya Prakash,
1902–79. Indian political leader. He was a founder (1934) of the Congress Socialist party and later (1952) the Indian Socialist party. He was an opponent of Indira Gandhi and formed the coalition Janata party which successfully opposed her Congress
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 in the field of politics.

See also Sanskrit literatureSanskrit literature,
literary works written in Sanskrit constituting the main body of the classical literature of India. Introduction

The literature is divided into two main periods—the Vedic (c.1500–c.200 B.C.
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; Pali canonPali canon
, sacred literature of Buddhism. The texts in the Pali canon are the earliest Buddhist sources, and for Theravada Buddhists, who claim to conserve the original teachings of the Buddha, they are still the most authoritative sacred texts.
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; Prakrit literaturePrakrit literature.
By the 6th cent. B.C. the people of India were speaking and writing languages that were much simpler than classical Sanskrit. These vernacular forms, of which there were several, are called the Prakrits [Skt.,=natural].
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See K. Kripalani, Modern Indian Literature (1970); T. W. Clark, The Novel in India (1970); M. Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature (2 vol., tr. 1927; repr. 1973).

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