Marathi Literature

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Marathi Literature


the literature of the Maratha peoples (southwest India, state of Maharashtra) in the Marathi language.

The beginning of Marathi literature is closely associated with the religious reformation movements of the 11th and 12th centuries. The leaders of these movements sought to institute the use of vernacular languages in the place of Sanskrit. Early Marathi poets relied mainly on the ancient Indian epic and used the popular poetic forms of the abhanga (for short lyrical religious verse) and ovi (for epic works). Prose genres were also developed. The most important representatives of medieval Marathi literature were the poets Mukundraj (1128-98), Jnanesvar (1271-96), Namdev (1270-1350), Eknath (1533-99), Tukaram (1608-49), and Ramdas (1608-81).

In the 17th century, Marathi literature was enriched by popular poetic forms, namely, the powada (heroic ballad) and the lavani (love lyric), which were written by poets from the lower castes. Aristocratic Brahman “learned poetry” also emerged. The Brahman poets Vaman and Moropant composed verse on mythlogical and epic subjects and in many ways adhered to the norms of Sanskrit poetics.

During the first half of the 19th century, English colonial rule was established in the Maratha principalities. The Maratha intelligentsia’s acquaintance with European bourgeois philosophy and literature, as well as the development of bourgeois society in India, contributed to the revival of Marathi literature and the development of enlightenment tendencies. The main genres became the novel, and also drama, of everyday life, the historical novel, and political drama based on mythological subjects. In the late 19th century the short-story genre appeared. Marathi poetry became more and more politically oriented. Protests against feudal customs and institutions and, from the the end of the 19th century, against English colonial oppression were voiced by the publicists V. Brahmacari (1825-70), J. Phule (1827-90), G. Agarkar (1856-95), the outstanding Indian democrat B. Tilak (1856-1920), the prose writer H. N. Apte (1864-1919), the poets Kesavasut (K. K. Damle; 1866-1905) and N. M. Gupte (1872-1947), and the playwrights G. B. Deval (1854-1916) and K. P. Khadilkar (1872-1948).

Poetry of the 1920’s was represented by the Sunbeam romantic school, which included M. J. Patvardhan (1894-1939), S. K. Kanetar (born 1893), Y. Pendharkar (born 1899). The growth of the national liberation movement in India during the 1930’s-1940’s helped strengthen realistic tendencies in prose—for example, the novels of M. Despande (born 1899), N. Phadke (born 1894), and V. Khandekar (born 1898)—and led to the emergence of revolutionary-patriotic poetry, which included the poets A. Despande (born 1901), V. Sirvadkar (born 1912), and V. Kant (born 1913). The writers B. V. Varerkar (1883-1965), G. T. Madkholkar (born 1899), and V. V. Hadap (1900-66) depicted the struggle of peasants and workers for their rights.

Marathi literature of independent India is characterized by the interweaving of various currents and styles, an interest in social and moral problems, and antibourgeois tendencies. It includes a large number of prose writers (S. Pendse, V. Mudgulkar, J. Dalvi), poets (S. Muktibodh, V. Karandikar, V. Bapat), and playwrights (P. Despande, V. Tendulkar). The journals Abhiruchi and Satyakatha have played an important part in the development and revival of Marathi literature.


Istoriia indiiskikh literatur. Moscow, 1964. (Translated from English.)
Lamshukov, V. K. Maratkhskaia literatura. Moscow, 1970. (Contains bibiliography.)
Bhave, V. Maharashtra sarasvat, vols. 1-2. Poona, 1924.
Sarsode, K. Marathi sahitya ka itihas. Allahabad, 1956.
Despande, A. N. Adhunik marathi vangmayaca itihas, vols. 1-2. Poona, 1954-58.
Dzosi, P. N. Marathi sahityatil madhurabhakti. Poona, 1959.


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