(Last Updated on : 14/02/2013)
The Indian literary scenario, beginning in the Vedic Ages, times even prior to historical preservation, have been endowed with the best and prime literary geniuses, be it in the oral or the written tradition. During the Vedic Period, as is however acknowledged from Indian ancient history, Hinduism was in its most elevated and supreme state, with the caste system just coming into vogue, with the Brahmans, Kshtriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. As such, the Brahmins had taken, rather seized centre-stage, with every sphere of daily life speaking out from the higher caste society. And educational and literary pursuits, writing or getting oneself educated in the ashrama system or in the gurukuls, were solely preserved for the higher caste and somewhat upper echelons in tandem. The medium of imparting education or penning down any version of one's thoughts or a fictional or legendary discourse, all were strictly done in the Sanskrit lingo. As such, the first traces of writings in Indian literature were done in the Sanskrit language, with Sanskritic body of literature tracing out its prestigious path down the ages. It was indeed in this highly mysterious Sanskrit literary wonders that one gets to discover the very first traces of Indian novels and novel writing in the Indian context.
Authors and legendary sages have been recognised to have devoted volumes of paper, pen and ink in priceless poetry or drama, dedicating each meticulous thought to penning down immortal creations that still arrests attention. However, it was only in the Later Vedic Age that one gets to witness the foremost and original and initial stages of Indian novel writing under the masters like sages Valmiki or Vyasa. Indian novels began to be first written in Sanskrit only, with the said literary body being divided into - Vedic Sanskrit, Epic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit literatures. Setting apart the first two ages with their distinctive genres, it was precisely in the Classical Sanskrit age that the plan and notion of 'novels' began to be first shelled out in India, lending a solid shape to the still-now floating criterion. The Classical age in Sanskrit literature was the time when fables and fictional novels were begun to be given a distinct shape for the common mass. As such, beginning from that period and still going on in the current scenario, Indian novels have time and again impressed upon the reading public as well as fetching esteemed and honoured accolades both the country and overseas.
Indian novels have been unbeaten enough to exhaustively reflect the history, society, political domain, economic status and tradition of Indian subcontinent, traversing ages. Indeed, the history of Indian novels has much to speak and state about such an all-encompassing genre, which can of course not be free from any controversies or its debatable arena. And the most distinguishing factor that surfaces to the tip of the iceberg is the role of Indian novelists and their novels in daringly reverberating the trying and testing times of India under the British Raj. The India back in those 200 years of slavery and cruelty under the merciless British Empire, had called to enlightenment enough reasons for which every Indian had taken up the pen, instead of a sword, to cry out injustice and unlawfulness against the hapless natives. Beginning from dramatisation or penning down thoughts in the poetical format, it was in fact the 'enslaved Indian novels' that had soared in every Indian morning, the outcry coming form every Indian language - modernistic, chic, or inert in the tribal format. And overwhelming it was! The Indian Independence Movement was the most prolific and opportune a time, when Bengali and Hindi novelistic tradition was at its helm. The British supremacy upon India however also had much to impress the socially 'shrewd and opportunistic' so-called 'intellectual class' which had paved way for the upcoming 'Indian novels in English', a phrase, which has attained much different a context in contemporary times.
The plethora of stellar Indian literary personalities have penned down successive historical events in their novels, sometimes depicting the societal structure, answerable as they are to the reading as well the pan-Indian non-reading populace, with what they have created. It was also noticed at times that such Indian novelists and their unforgettable wonders have instilled life into the contrived fictional novels and aired their stunning aura of creativity. Indian novels have been presented seamlessly and eternally in diverse languages, themes and other particulars. The prominent novelists like R. K Narayan have authored distinguished novels in English, portraying the colloquial Indian lifestyle and traditions. Gradually, the Indian English novel has been witnessed to have evolved as a subaltern consciousness, as a reaction to break away from the colonial literary overshadowing. The series of Malgudi Days, marked a special format and era of Indian novels. Satyajit Ray, the patron of Bengali creativity, reaching out undisturbed to every kind of reading generations in every possible language on earth, besides of course, Bengali, with his adventurous and exhilarating Feluda and Professor Shonku. It was Satyajit Ray who had brought about international adventure to the genre of children's thriller novels, loved by all age groups, a prime factor that still portrays no signs of fading away. Most of Ray's novels have victoriously been made into world famous films.
Indian novels have a high-flying fame in the diaspora of international novels, owing to their rather uncanny dissimilar shades, varied dialects and traditional flavour. Lately, a new pattern of Indian novels is into the markets, identified as 'graphic novels' (a type of comic book, mostly with a lengthy and complex storyline similar to those of novels; the term also embraces comic short story anthologies, and in some instances bound compendiums of previously published comic book series). These novels are imbibed with life through both speech and images. Some of the popular graphic novels created in India comprise - The Believers, Corridor, Kashmir Pending and The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers by various novelists, likening themselves to the range of comic book popularisation.
The contemporaneous Indian novels are widely sold and flying off the racks in overseas countries, besides just the native land itself. Novelists like Rohinton Mistry, Sarojini Sahoo, Jhumpa Lahiri, Shobha De, Anita Desai, Altaf Fatima, Shashi Tharoor and others have earned international acclamation for their works. Indian novelists are the creative masterminds behind such impeccable story plots and continuous meshes in language. Indian novels have reached a notable status not only in Indian book market, but also globally.