Indian culture finds its best expression in the literature of languages like Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu, as well as other regional languages. Besides being a treasure trove for the literary, philosophical, social, economic, political, and cultural history of India, they have been the torch bearers to humanity for the perpetuation of excellence.
Eminent Indians: Indian Language Litterateurs contains the profiles of Kalidasa (Sanskrit), Rabindranath Tagore, Bankimchandra Chatterjee and Mahasweta Devi (Bengali), Subramania Bharati (Tamil), Bulhe Shah and Amrita Pritam (Punjabi), Kazi Nazrul Islam and Mohammed lqbal (Urdu), Vedam Venkataraya Sastry (Telgu) and Munshi Premchand (Hindi).
Written in simple and lucid language, the essays included in this book provide the background and exposition of the creative works attempted by the litterateurs concerned. The book should be useful for all those interested in the study of Indian literature in general and regional writing in particular.
Recipient of Janseva Sadbhavana Award (2006) and Bharat Gaurav Award (2007), M. L. Ahuja, M.A., DLL, DCS, is the author of over twenty books. Associated with book publishing as well as distribution of books and journals. He has traveled extensively both within and outside India and has presented a number of papers at several national and international seminars. He has also contributed a number of articles to journals and books, which are mostly on publishing or marketing of books and journals.
The culture of a nation finds its best expression in its literature. The rich culture and heritage of India is undoubtedly manifested in the literature of Indian languages like Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Assamese, Bengali, Kashmiri and Sindhi.
Though available in diverse languages, regional literatures in India has a uniform message—to preserve our cultural essence, make people aware of the rich literary heritage of our country and to revive the interest in our age-old traditions. While written and composed under the impact of the prevailing situations, it has always been a window to the world wisdom. Many of the creative works have been translated into English and other world languages.
Besides being the source of knowledge for the literary, religious, philosophical, social, economic, political, administrative, technological and cultural history of India, they have been the torch bearers to humanity for the perpetuation of excellence.
In spite of India being a multi-racial and polyglot ‘country, Indian languages (Indo-Aryan and Dravidian) have a common link in Sanskrit. It is a great treasure house from where all Indian literary languages have been drawing inspiration, ideas and expressions. Majority of the ancient Indian authors used Sanskrit in their texts. However, the medieval period of Indian history was characterized by the phenomenal development of the major regional languages and script in order to make the ancient knowledge accessible to all. Nevertheless, Sanskrit still continues to be the principal vehicle of India’s rich, secular and religious literature.
Indian wisdom has its greatest manifestation in devotional literature which cropped up during the late medieval period religious movements, viz. Bhakti, headed by the mystic saints. These saints realized the unity of God invoked by the followers of the different religious sects under different names. Their teachings may be regarded as the most astute message to distinct communities and cultures facing each other. The foremost among these saints were Ramananda, his disciple Kabir, Guru Nanak, Surdas, Chaitanya and others. The Bhakti movement, which swept over the whole of India contributed a lot to the development of the regional languages.
Regional literature in India blossomed under the impact of British rule in India. The year 1765 marked the recognition of the British rule by the Central Indian (Mughal) authority. The later years of the 18th and 19th century saw the expansion and consolidation of the British power in India and the accompanying exploitation, particularly economic, of the sub-continent. The sordid picture, however, had one silver lining—the broadening of intellectual contacts between India and the West. Oriental learning was encouraged among the Europeans partly to satisfy local demand and partly to acquire the knowledge of the culture, custom and languages of a country under domination. In course of time, due to India’s role in world affairs, readers in many countries developed a keen interest in the socio-economic and political life of Indians. As a result, many works in the Indian languages have been translated in English and European languages.
There have also been substantial developments in Indian literature due to the impact of western literature. Bengal was the first province to come in contact with the European mind. An expressive prose style was established and the drama, novel, short story and essay emerged in regional writing during the 19th century. This is reflected in the writings of Michael Madhusudan and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Rabindranath Tagore, the leading figure in Indian as well as Bengali literature wrote poems, plays, novels, short stories, epistles and essays on diverse subjects. In 1913, he became the first Indian to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Sarat Chandra Chatterjee represented the school of realism in Bengal. His novels vividly reflect the social conditions of the times, particularly of the rural areas.
Stimulated by the Bengali literature, the regional languages too saw a revival in modern writers and works of merit. Lakshminath Bezbaroa (Assamese), Fakirmohan Senapati (Oriya), Harinarayan Apte (Marathi), Dalpatram, Narmadashankar Laishankar and K.M. Munshhi (Gujarati), Mahmud Gani and Paramananda (Kashniiri), Puran Singh (Punjabi), Nandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu and Vedam Venkataraya Sastri ‘Pelugu), Kesur, Galganatha and T.P. Kailasam (Kannada), and 0. Chanty Menon and C.V. Rama Pillai Kumaran Asan (Malayalam) come to mind in this context. Most of them were prose writers, introducing, inter alias, novels in their respective languages. In Tamil, the rising tempo of nationalism since the beginning of the 20th century inspired poets like Subramanya Bharathi (1882—192 1) who donned the forceful voice of patriotic emotion.
Harishchandra (1846—1884) is universally acknowledged as one of the architects of modern Hindi. Munshi Premchand (1880—1936) was a great Hindi novelist and short story writer. Urdu emerged as a literary language in the 18th century. Ghalib (1797—1869), known for his Sufi philosophy and mystic approach is a great name in Urdu literature. In poetry, Altaf Husain Panipati, better known as Hail (1837—19 14) innovated the modern spirit in Urdu poetry. However, it was Mohammed Iqbal (1873—1938) who earned through his poetry great fame for his language.
Since Independence, there has been a substantial change in the socio-economic and political life of the people. Writers have explored the fast changing social backdrop with respect to women, human relations, urbanity, class struggle and social values. In many novels in Indian languages, the authors have envisioned an ideal humanity. Several littérateurs are enriching the Indian literature to the extent which can make any nation proud of them.
With this background of Indian literature, I have attempted in the following pages the profiles of litterateurs in Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali, who, I feel, ideally represent the pattern of creative writings in these languages in particular and in India in general. This small book is one in the series of, Eminent Indians, devoted to the study of the lives of Indians who have distinguished themselves in various fields like visual and performing arts, science and technology, religion and philosophy, management, etc. I feel that the enviable contributions of such people can serve as a role model for excellence to our younger generation. If this painstaking work can benefit even some people, I shall deem myself well-rewarded.
While attempting this book, I have received encouragement from Dr GVG Krishnamurthy, former Direction Commissioner of India. I would like to express my deep sense of gratitude to him. My thanks are due to the authors of various books and articles, which form the source material for writing this book. I am thankful to all such authors. My thanks are due to Rupa & Co. for undertaking the publication of this book. My wife, Asha Ahuja, also deserves my thanks for her support and cooperation in my endeavour.
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