Notes on the Literary Heritage of India

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Our literary heritage is also varied and superb. India has given to the world some fine works of great variety of literary heritage and universal merit, India has a large number of languages and dialects and each one of them produced literature of great quality, both the written and oral type.

India has a rich literary traditions. Some of the important literary works are as follows:

1. Sanskrit Literature“:

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This is the earliest work of Aryans in India. It is a collection of 1028 hymns in Vedic Sanskrit. Most of the hymns are in praise of different Vedic deities intended for recitation at the Yajnas or sacrifices. Many of them are beautiful descriptions of nature. Some of the most enchanting are addressed to Usha, the goddess of dawn.

“In the sky’s framework she has gleamed with brightness. The goddess has cast off the rob of darkness. Rousing the world from sleep, with ruddy horses, dawn in her well-yoked chariot is arriving.”

The Rigveda was followed by three more Vedas — Yajurveda which gives directions for the performance of the Yajna, the Samveda which prescribes the tunes for the recitation of the hymns and the Atharvaveda which prescribes rites and rituals. After the four Vedas a number of works, called the Brahmans, grew which contained detailed explanation of Vedic literature and instructions.

The earliest Upanishads are the Brihad Aranyaka and Chanddogya. The Upanishads are in the form of dialogues and express the highest thoughts in simple and beautiful words.

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All these works were in Sanskrit. They were handed down from generation to generation orally and were put to writing much later.

Ramayana written by Valmiki and Mahabharata written by Vedvyas are the two great epics of India. Bhagwat Gita with 18 puranas form the bases of our philosophical texts, Gupta period is marked with the climax of literary traditions. Both religious and secular literature, grammar, sciences, were encouraged. Eminent authors of this period were Kalidasa, Bhasa, Varahamihira, Aryabhatta. Panini’s Astaadhyayi is the greatest work on Sanskrit grammar.

The Tirukkural (Tamil) and writings of Sangam poets have everlasting value and significance.

Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda, became popular in the entire country and is a source of inspiration for rendering in different dance forms.

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2. Buddhist and Jain Literature:

The Buddhists and the Jain literature too have great literary value. The Tripitakas and Jatakas of the Buddhist in Pali language are superb in their rendering. Likewise the great Jaina works like the Agamas and Upangas, Haribhadra’s -Shaddarshan-Samuchchaya have great literary as well as religious value.

3. Other Literary Works:

In the early medieval period in northern India, Sanskrit continued to be the language of literature.

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Some of the well-known works of this period are :

(i) Katha-Sarit-Sagar of Somadeva.

(ii) Rajatarangini of Kalhan.

(iii) Gitagovinda of Jayadeva.

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(iv) Historical accounts of Sultanate rulers was written in Persian. Zia-ud-din Barani’s Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi; Minhaj Siraj’s Tabaqat-e-Nasiri are the most important works of the period.

This was the period when other languages had started developing into modern Indian languages.

Nripatunga wrote a great work of poetry in Kannada called the Kavirajamarga. Pampa wrote the Adipurana and Vikramarjuna-Vijaya. Ponna wrote the Shantipurana. Two of his famous works are the Ajitapurana and the Gadayuddha.

Kamban wrote the Ramayana in Tamil. Telgu also produced great religious and secular literature in this period.

Ain-e-Akbari by Abul Fazal gives an account of Akbar’s reign. Many classical Sanskrit works on different subjects were also rendered in Persian during the Mughal period.

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