Literature, Art and Books


Indian literature refers to literature created in the Indian subcontinent. Oral tradition transmitted down the first masterpieces of Indian literature. Sanskrit literature is founded on the Rig Veda. At the end of the first millennium BCE, the Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata initially emerged. In the first millennium CE, classical Sanskrit literature, Tamil Sangam literature, and Pali literature thrived. Literature in Kannada and Telugu dates back to the 9th and 11th centuries, respectively. Later on, Marathi, Bengali, Hindi, Persian, and Urdu literature developed.

The Gupta dynasty reigned from 3 to 6 CE, and is considered as India's literary golden age. With the arrival of Muslim invaders and the founding of the Mughal empire's Delhi Sultanate, Indian literature was enhanced with diverse currents of thought. During colonial rule, a new kind of literature described as nationalist literature arose, which encouraged and pushed Indians to struggle for freedom.

We will study about the various types of Indian literature in this tutorial.

Ancient Indian Hindu Literature

  • Sacred scriptures such as the Vedas and Upanishads were not the exclusive sources of Hindu literature in ancient India, contrary to popular perception.

  • There is a lot of writing in Prakrit that is full of realism and moral principles but isn't religious.

  • The Vedas, which are sacred scriptures utilised in religious rites as well as everyday life, are the most well-known series of ancient works.

  • However, epics and lyrical works composed in two main ancient languages, Sanskrit and Prakrit, are included in this period's literature.

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Literature from the Vedas

  • The Vedas are the earliest known works of literature in India.

  • The Vedas are Sanskrit texts that have been passed down orally through the generations.

  • The Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda are the four Vedas that make up Vedic literature.

  • The Brahmanas, Upanishads, and Arayankas make up each Veda. The Rig Veda, Sama Veda, and Yajur Veda are referred to as Traji.

  • The Atharava Veda was later included in this group.

Literature in Pali and Prakrit

  • In addition to Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit literature were composed throughout the post-Vedic period.

  • Prakrit is a word used to refer to any language apart from Sanskrit, which is the most common.

  • Pali is the name given to an ancient or old version of Prakrit that incorporates numerous dialects.

  • When Buddhist and Jain religious literature was composed in these languages, they became well-known.

Literature of the Jain

  • Depending on the era, region, and patrons who financed them, Jain writing was written in a variety of languages apart from Prakrit and Ardha Magadhi.

  • They wrote in Tamil during the Sangam Age in southern India. In addition, they also composed in Shauraseni, Sanskrit, Marathi, Gujarati and other languages.

  • The Jain holy literature has been maintained orally from Mahavira's time.

  • From time to time, the Jain council carefully organised these literatures.

  • By the end of the 4th century B.C., a council in Pataliputra (Patna) had organised the Jain canonical literature, which was followed by two further councils in Mathura and Valabhi in the early 3rd century B.C.

  • In 454 or 467 A.D., the fourth and final Jain council was held in Valabhi.

  • This council is claimed to be the source of the Svetambara Jain text.

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Literature of the Sikhs

  • Sikhism is a relatively modern religion based on Guru Nanak's teachings that was created in the 15th century.

  • The sacred text Guru Granth Sahib, which incorporates Sikhism's ideas and concepts, is included in Sikh Literature.

  • The Guru Granth Sahib and the Gurbani are a compilation of hymns and works by Sikh Gurus.

  • Sauraseni Prakrit, also known as Sauraseni Apabhransa, is a fractured version of Sanskrit that gave rise to Punjabi.

  • Punjabi shares the same grammatical base as Braj Bhasha and Rajasthani.

  • Prior to Guru Nanak, however, there is no historical account of Punjabi literature (1469-1538 AD).

  • The earliest text is Guru Arjun Dev's 'Adi Granth,' which was finished in 1604 AD.

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Dravidian Literature

  • Dravidian Literature includes works in Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam, the four major Dravidian languages.

  • Tamil is regarded to be the oldest of the four languages, and it is claimed to be quite similar to Sanskrit in terms of grammar and borrowing words.

  • In Tamil, the classical works, often known as Sangam literature, are the most well-known.

Middle Age Literature

  • Various tendencies influenced the languages and dialects that formed throughout the mediaeval period, resulting in mediaeval literature.

  • Around 1000 AD local distinctions in Prakrit grew more evident, which eventually became known as Apabhramsa, and the contemporary Indian languages took shape and were born.

  • As a result of their geographical, linguistic, and ethnic settings, these languages developed distinct linguistic traits.

  • The adoption of Persian as the official language of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal courts marked a momentous shift.

  • Hindi originated from the old Apabhramsa language about the same period.

Literature of the Present

  • Adhunik kaal is a term used to describe a period in modern literature. It is mostly a Hindi word.

  • Although Hindi became one of the most widely spoken languages in Northern India, it was joined by Bengali, Odia, Assamese, Rajasthani, Gujarati, and other languages.


Qns1. What is India's oldest literary tradition?

Ans. The Vedas are India's oldest known works of literature. The Vedas were written in Sanskrit and passed down from generation to generation verbally.

Qns2. What was the language of Jain literature?

Ans. Jain literature was composed in a number of languages other than Prakrit and Ardha Magadhi, depending on the era, area, and patrons who sponsored them. They wrote in Tamil during the Sangam Age in south India. In addition to other languages, they also wrote in Sanskrit, Shauraseni, Gujarati, and Marathi.

Qns3. What is it about Indian literature that makes it so well-known throughout the world?

Ans. Indian literature is likely one of the world's oldest and most diverse. Oral dissemination of knowledge is also seen in the earliest works of Indian literature. India is a vastly diverse country that welcomes individuals from many cultural backgrounds.

Qns 4. What is India's oldest literary tradition?

Ans. The canonical Hindu holy books referred as the Veda, which were composed in Sanskrit, were the first form of Indian literature. Prose comments including the Brahmanas and Upanishads were added to the Veda.

Qns 5. What are the three literary eras in India?

Ans. Literature from India the Vedas and Upanishads are included in the Vedic period (c. 1500–c. 200 bc); the Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, and Ramayana are included in the Epic period (c. 400 bc– 400); and the Kalidasa verses are included in the Classical period (from 200).


Simply Easy Learning

Updated on: 13-Oct-2022


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