The Concept of Indian Literature

The Concept of Indian Literature

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Item Code: ILL11
Author: Vinayak Krishna Gokak
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1979
Pages: 283
Cover: HardCover
Other Details 9.6" X 6.3"
Weight 460 gm
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About the Book:

This book offers a comprehensive as well as intensive scrutiny of the concept of Indian literature. In a world which is shrinking fast and in which the notion of world literature is itself a compelling need a national literature has to be envisaged in clear outline. Unifying forces like those of the modern and the new poetic consciousness are making a perceptible impact on world literature. The mutual impact of East and West itself brings out in sharp relief the unity of World Literature.

Starting with the idea of a federal political structure and the imprint it leaves on national literature, a comparison is instituted here between American and Indian literature on the one hand and Indian and Russian literature on the other and the unique character of Indian Literature underlined in this way. The reader is invited to consider a new academic discipline under literature, - the unity of World Literature from an Indian standpoint.

After examining thoroughly the idea of a national literature and of the Indianness of Indian literature, a bird's eye-view is given of the totality of Indian literature written in many languages. This is, so far, the only survey of this kind, telescoping the Indian literature which is one, but written in many languages. This study is further strengthened and supported by choosing for close examination some typical aspects of ancient, medieval and modern Indian literature or typical writers of one of these periods, - the transcendental and humanistic traditions in the ancient phase, Basaveshwara, Guru Nanak and Shankaradeva of the medieval phase and Tagore's influence and Indian aesthetics in the modern phase.

Side by side with these 'macro' studies in world literature, there are given 'micro' studies in para-regional or regional aspects to prove the soundness of the Unity of Indian Literature. Finally, a working syllabus is presented, from a pedagogical angle, introducing a study of Indian literature at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. There are useful appendices, particularly the one that lists world classics for a study of world literature from an Indian standpoint.

About the Author:

Vinayak Krishna Gokak is a senior Professor of English; former Director of the Central Institute of English and Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University; in 1957 was a delegate to the International P.E.N. Conference at Tokyo; in 1960 attended the Internationl Conference of poets in Belgium; recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award and also the Padmashri Award; widely published in India and abroad.


I received an invitation from Bangalore University to deliver two lectures under the Shri S. Nijalingappa Endowment when I was at work on this book. I spoke there on the Unity of World literature and on Indian litera- ture. I am grateful to Dr. H. Narasimhaiah, Vice-Chancellor, for the opportunity given to me to think a little more intensively on these topics. We have completed three decades of Independence in our country and it is time that in our universities as well as for the general education of our people, we thought of a course of study in World Literature. It is a gesture which can prove to the cultural and educational world that we are alive and circumspect. It will also be a fitting tribute to the planet on which we live, for the heritage of humanity is great and inspiring and it will reveal itself to those who have a global outlook.

Similarly, we have been paying lip homage to Indian literature, but segmenting it for actual study. We study Sanskrit literature, Prakrit, Persian, Kannada, Hindi literature, but not Indian literature. What is Indian litera- ture? What are the principles governing its study? How far can English and Hindi help us in such a study? The Sahitya Akademi, the Jnanpith, the National Book Trust and the Extension Departments of various Indian Universities are making available to the public a steady stream of transla- tions of ancient and modern Indian works into English and Hindi and also critical writings about them. It would be good to have a course in Indian literature studied in our universities and also by members of the general public.

This book has been divided into six parts. The first part deals with a world background for the study of Indian literature. The contribution that is being made by the literary interaction between the Eastern and Western hemispheres to the Unity of World literature is brought out in a special chapter. The nature of the Modern Consciousness and also of the New Poetic Consciousness reflected in the world's recent poetry is set forth in some detail. The illustrations are drawn mainly from English poetry. But the suggestion is that if English poetry, which is very rarely mystical, is so introspective and so greatly preoccupied with the fundamentals of human existence, it should be easy to expect a similar trend in the poetry in other languages of the world.

The second part deals with the Concept of Indian Literature. The con- cept is thoroughly examined in a chapter and an interesting survey given of the unity and variety of all the regional literatures in another. There is also a chapter on the Indianness of Indian literature.

The third part deals with some of the aspects of ancient and medieval Indian literature-the presence of the transcendental and humanistic tradition and the attempts during the Middle Ages, at reform, reconciliation and synthesis by Basavanna, Guru Nanak, Sankara Deva of Assam and Sarvajna. The fourth part, which deals with modern Indian literature, consists of chapters on the modern Indian way of life, the milieu of the modern Indian writer, Western thought and modern Indian aesthetics and so on. The chapter on Tagore's influence on modern Indian poetry shows how certain seminal influences cut across all regional barriers and operate in the country as a whole. The chapters on Modernity and on the common man are also illustrative of this trend. The chapter on a philosopher and a missionary of the Indian renaissance shows how each linguistic region in India threw up volunteers dedicating themselves to the great cause with varying degrees of distinction.

An attempt is made in the fifth part of the book to have an intensive dip into the quality of Indian literature. A particular regional literature, i.e., one of the limbs of Indian literature, is subjected to intensive scrutiny in a chapter. Tagore's influence on it is traced in detail so that this survey might be compared with Tagore's impact on Indian literature as a whole. The middle perspective-that between the telescopic and the microscopic view-the South Indian or Zonal standpoint-is adopted in order to see what light it can throw on the nature of Indian literature itself.

The sixth or last part of the book tries to see what academic dimensions the subject can have. In Appendix III in which a regular list of books for study is given, an attempt is made to present a Course in World Literature from an Indian standpoint as well as a Course in Indian literature. The two courses converge in the pages of this list. Appendix I contains a brief survey of Indian civilization and Appendix II a survey of the literary pedigree of the Indian people.

I shall be happy if this book! is regarded as a good effort which paves the way for a serious study of Indian literature. It was after great labour that, some twenty years ago, I was able to hew a path towards such a study when no path was visible anywhere, while writing an introduction to the Union Ministry's Publication -The Literatures in the Modern Indian Languages, on being requested by the late Shri P.M. Lad. I have placed the survey in this book in its proper setting and I have supplemented the survey with other illuminating aids. I could also lay my hands on the paper by Mr. Isenberg of the Rockefeller Foundation which points out that it is not enough for a child to be born, cradled and named. The child has to be sent to school if its merit is to be discovered. This book takes the reader as far as the naming ceremony. Let us hope earnestly that the sectors of society responsible for the other procedures will be fair to Indian literature.




Part I

A World Background for the study of Indian Literature

Chapter 1
Three Approaches to the Study of World Literature
Chapter 2
World Poetry and the Modern Consciousness
Chapter 3
World Poetry and the New Poetic Consciousness
Chapter 4
Eastern and Western Literature: Their Mutual Impact


Part II

The Concept of Indian Literature

Chapter 5
The Idea of a National Literature: Indian Literature
Chapter 6
A Survey of Indian Literature
Chapter 7
The Indianness of Indian Literature


Part III

Some Aspects of Ancient and Medieval Indian Literature

Chapter 8
The Transcendental and Humanistic Traditions
Chapter 9
Medieval Indian Literature


Part IV

Modern Indian Literature

Chapter 10
The Modern Indian Way of Life
Chapter 11
The Milieu of the Modern Indian Writer
Chapter 12
Western Thought and Modern Indian Aesthetics
Chapter 13
Tagore's Influence on Modern Indian Poetry
Chapter 14
A Philosopher and a Missionary of the Indian Renaissance
Chapter 15
Modernity in Contemporary Indian Literature
Chapter 16
Foreign Influences on Modern Indian Poetry (1947-56)
Chapter 17
Modern Indian Literature and the Common Man


Part V

A Regional Perspective for the Study of Indian Literature

Chapter 18
The Literature in the South Indian Languages
Chapter 19
Kannada Literature
Chapter 20
Tagore and Modern Kannada Literature
Chapter 21
Literary Men, Though not Literature


Part VI

The Study of Indian Literature

Chapter 22
The Ways and Means of Ensuring a Better Access to Indian Literature
Chapter 23
Courses of Study in Indian Literature in Our Universities
       A Brief Survey of Indian Civilization
       A Brief Survey of the Various Phases of Indian Civilization with Reference to the Literary Pedigree of the Indian People
       A List of Books Appended to the Course of Studies Discussed in Chapter I

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