(Last Updated on : 07/01/2015)
Romance in Indian literature is as old and perhaps as commonplace as Indian history or advent of human civilisation. Since the birth of proper humanity and their establishment of a structured society, man has known and acknowledged romance in their lives, that was integrally linked with verbalisation and scripting of literary quotations. As is known from historical annals, literature in India, during its very initiation, was essentially oral and delivered by the word of mouth. The Vedic trend of gurukul and the guru-shishya process was the primary initiator of this trend, which entailed a young boy travel to his guru's home and be imparted religious education by his teacher in each occasion. This gurukul mode had, in turn gifted the students to become enlightened in historical romances, although orally. However, in this oral manner, the maximum of these invaluable creations were realised to be lost in time, forever resting in oblivion. Be it tales of religion, adventure, thrill, tragedy, comedy, play, poetry or romance under any form, it gradually dawned on man to pen down these literatures in manuscript, beginning a new era in Indian literary traditions.
Romantic themes in Indian literature bear its striking mass majority in Hindu religious literature, which was the one predominating religious faction during the then Indian scenario. As such, Hinduism was one such religion that practically had assimilated every kind literary genre, in the process also influencing every other sphere of life. In this context, as the term 'romance' is comprehended in present times, perhaps an after-effect of globalisation, was very much different during ancient Indian times and mood. Romance in literary sections does not necessarily entail about two opposite genders individual falling madly in love and deciding to tie the matrimonial knot, but also encompassing courageous and bold tales of chivalry, battle, preparation to battle, victory, unity of a nation, its political structure and finally, a happy or saddened ending to a fundamental male-female love story. As such, gallantry and courtliness were the primary decisive characteristics that pivoted around romantic literature in ancient India. However, overwhelming romance and exquisite manifestation of it is essayed in the extensive Sanskrit literature, beginning with Kalidasa.
Indeed Kalidasa's each single creation can be termed as epitomisation of romance and lovelorn lasses and lads, passing through the phase of losing love and further winning it back. The litterateur's subtle, implicit yet blatant expression dedicated to love and romance, the pathos and drama hidden within each line, is further heightened by Kalidasa's usage of magnificent overlapping of prose and verse. His Ritusamhara, or even Meghaduta wondrously portrays the romance in seasonal changes and its essential characteristics and its effect upon a lover and his lady in arms. Then again romance is thoroughly established in works of ?hudraka, Bhasa, Asvaghosa, who have religiously sought to emphasise romance in literary works. Romantic theme in Indian literature is also evidenced in the fabled and fairy-tale works like Sanskritic Panchatantra and Hitopadesha, which do contain umpteen tales targeted for the younger and child population, considered a huge hit for all generations that have matured henceforth.
Leaving behind the Sanskritic literary traditions of Vedic Age, romantic themes in Indian literature are also manifested in later literary traditions, which are further even more explicit in regional literature, like Hindi, Bengali, Kannada or Tamil. Going back to several centuries in Indian history, these languages, including Urdu under Islamic rule, had been deduced from Apabhramsa, a faction of Sanskrit. Just as Munshi Premchand in Hindi or Mirza Ghalib or Amir Khusro in Urdu, each has devoted their precious pen to penning romance of epic proportions. The over-the-top descriptions of battles, armoury, the prolonged monologues of the piece's lead male or female character in war-torn periods, the king and his relationship with his mother or father, in general depictions of nature, flora and fauna, each is painstakingly delineated for the readers to admire for a lifetime. However, the best illustration of romance in Indian literature is evaluated during the colonial rule by British domination in the prolonged 200 year period. With Bengali literature seizing its overriding position during those times, umpteen writers had come to prominence, beginning with Rabindranath Tagore.
Bengali writers like Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhay, Tarashankar Bandyopadhay, Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhay, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Dinabandhu Mitra, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Kazi Nazrul Islam or Premendra Mitra, the list never seems to end when concerned with romantic themes in Indian literature. The pre-independence time period, with its bloodshed, loss of lives, protests, sieges, daring and audacious rendezvous by night, nationalist glorification, British hatred - each theme was romanticised to the utmost level in a writer's hand. Not only did hard-core romance occupy centre-stage, but a freedom fighter's plight for his/her nation's freedom was also extolled in near-romanticised and glorified and glamourised verses. Such was Bengali literature's enigma and circulation spanning the then fired society, that Bengali contemporary authors still base their treatises on these luminaries or make Indian Independence the central theme of their book.
For instance, Tagore's Gora, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhay's Parineeta, Tarashankar Bandyopadhay's Dhatri Devata, or Madhusudan Dutt's Meghnadbadh Kavya, each incredibly enunciates romance in a different genre, setting, time and place. In comparative later times from Indian Independence, Bengali author Ashutosh Mukhopadhay has successfully been able to capture every single Bengali mind, beginning from the young and ending in grey hairs. Then again, Hindi literature is yet another area, wherein romantic theme rules supreme for Indian literature and its advancement.
Beginning from Chand Bardai with his Prithviraj Raso, or Tulsidasa with his Ramacharitamanas, even Kabir and his influence to the Bhakti Movement, romantic theme in Indian literature has always bore an illustrious lineage to royal families and emperors and their queens. Such has been their predomination on Indian society that present Indian writers or the society they try to delineate is generally based upon a romantic backdrop, with a different main plot. R. K. Narayan with his quintessential Malgudi novels, Arundhati Roy with her God of Small Things, Amitav Ghosh with his Shadow Lines, Anita Desai or Ved Mehta, or even Kamala Das with her symbolic poetry, have all in one way or the other have envisioned romance, adventure and gallantry in knightly dimensions. It seems as if that the concept of fairy-tale romance from children's folk literature has never been able to leave the pan Indian subconscious, which still remains ingrained