(Last Updated on : 10/08/2009)
The forms of Indian literature entwined with its ancientness and modernity are perhaps one of the most complementary yet dichotomous facet, always charming and captivating its readers along the way. Indian literature, its composers, its authors, its philosophers, its pandits (scholarly men, or gurus from erstwhile Vedic Ages), all had generously contributed to the literary. Indian literature wholly mirrors the highly well-heeled culture as well as tradition of ancient India. Literature in India and its literary customs are intimately and integrally linked with the rich past of the nation. Regarded as one of the oldest literary works in the world, history of Indian literature is almost wholly and entirely influenced by the Hindu literary traditions. Indeed, Hinduism and its religious concepts were the only refined and sophisticated aspects, which had thoroughly charmed and enthralled every Indian interested in treatises. Beginning with the Vedas and then moving ahead towards additional literary marvels, forms in Indian literature always have been the most counted, around which every Indian authorship is based, even to this day.
Ancientness of literary tradition in India states that the first ever traces of forms in Indian literature being propagated were primarily delivered orally in vernacular languages. Indeed, Indian oral literature is one such domain in history of literature, which can perhaps never be viewed by contemporary, or for that matter, by any other generation that had occurred previously. As can be very well grasped, this form in Indian literature entirely had depended solely on the word of mouth, first initiated in the gurukul form of teaching and imparting, in the guru-shishya parampara (the teacher-student relationship and its legacy). However, there also lies no evidence about the fact that students for once had neglected or ignored such kind of imparting of knowledge. On the contrary, such knowledge and learning was passed down from generation to generation, without the utilisation of any kind of manuscript; these pieces of information were generally sung or recited while in the process of learning and ascertaining. It was precisely during the 16th century that an extensive and an all-encompassing format of written literature appeared, forever veering the course of Indian literature and its forms.
Written literature in India had come about due to several changes in the tradition of Hinduism and religious scholars, but not just a sudden and ill-fated decision of ill-thinkers. Indeed, umpteen intelligent and meritorious minds had gone behind the research work and denomination of literature in India in the written layout. The reason for this change and alteration in the forms of Indian literature was the absolute literary predominance of Sanskrit language and the gradual surfacing of Hindu pietistic movements, that had assayed to reach the mass in their vernacular languages. The most foremost and earlier forms of Indian literature were out-and-out religious in nature and essence. The bunch includes the four Vedas (Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda), the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aryankas, the Upanishads, the Sanskrit Epics- Ramayana and Mahabharatha, the Brahmashastras and the mythological writings acknowledged as Puranas. Literature from this period were written and composed principally in Sanskrit, followed by the Pali and Prakrit languages, considered to be derivates of Sanskrit.
The earliest written form of Indian literature took the form of the canonical Hindu sacred compositions, acknowledged as the Veda, which were penned in Sanskrit language. To this Veda were added prose commentaries, such as the tremendously admired and scholarly Brahmanas and the Upanishads. The next in line to arrive in the category of written forms of Indian literature were also written in Sanskrit and based on mythological stories. Immortal epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana or the Puranas were written during this period, i.e. the Vedic Age (held from second and first millennia BCE. continuing up to the 6th century BCE). The bulk of traditional Indian literature is deduced and drawn in theme and form not only from Sanskrit literature, but also from the Buddhist and Jain texts written in the Pali language and the other Prakrits (medieval dialects of Sanskrit). This very intermingling phenomenon applies to literature in the Dravidian languages of south India as well as to literature in the Indo-Iranian languages of the north. Invasions of Persians and Turks, commencing from the 14th century had ensued in the influence of Persian and Islamic culture in Urdu, although significant Islamic chains can be witnessed in other literatures as well. This influence was perhaps the most potent in those written in Bengali, Gujarati, and Kashmiri. Post 1817, entirely new forms in Indian literature and its literary values were established, which still remain dominant to this day.