Influences on Modern Hindi Literature can be best understood by placing it against the backdrop of the socio-political conditions of Indian society in the twentieth century. The Indian nation witnessed important political changes during the period under consideration: from a colony of the British Empire it became an independent nation in 1947. The violence of colonialism, however bore heavily on the shaping of the nation. The struggle for independence from British colonial rule underwent a number of ups and downs before the arrival of freedom in 1947. Independence came with a price that was paid by the nation's division into India and Pakistan. During the period of de-colonization since independence, the nation has undergone severe upheavals in the form of external aggressions, such as wars with Pakistan and China, and internal aggressions such as communal violence. This kind of a political upheaval both under British rule and after independence has played a definite role in the shaping of Hindi literature.
The manifestation of all these events is found in the multifaceted character of Hindi literature. A variety of themes are found represented in the Hindi literary works. These include the partition of the subcontinent, freedom from colonial oppression, freedom from internal hegemonies, freedom from the struggles of workers against various forms of exploitation, and feminist challenges to oppressive patriarchal structures and social traditions. These multiple themes and trends have been channeled through movements such as chayavad, or romantic literature; pragativad, or progressive realism; New Criticism; nai kahani or new short story; and feminist literature. Although some of these movements have been influenced by similar trends in the West, they emerged from their specific cultural traditions and sociopolitical milieus. These various voices have movements have both contributed to the process of nation building and addressed, at the same time, the sociopolitical problems within Indian society.
Broadly speaking, modern Hindi literature can be divided into two parts- pre-independence and post-independence at 1947, which heralded a new era of national independence as well as the nation's partition into India and Pakistan. The first part deals with the emergence of nationalist thought and ideology in literary works of the period before independence. The nationalist politics of this era were accompanied by a controversy over the status of Hindi language and Urdu language, which created communal dissensions that ultimately jeopardized the possibility of a unified struggle against British imperialism. This linguistic controversy is significant, complicating the nationalist struggle against British imperialism by internal communal politics. Configuration of issues such as the partition, the urge for national unity, democracy and secularism in the 1950s, social issues related to village economies, and continuing problems of peasants, workers, women, and other marginalized groups constitutes, to a large degree, the subject matter of Hindi writings after independence and constitutes the second half.
However, there is one minor shortcoming when we try to analyze Hindi literature from this perspective. The chief drawback arises from an inability to define the exact parameters of Hindi literature because of overlaps between Hindi and Urdu. At present, the linguistic differentiation between these languages is rather unsettled. Despite the attempts to settle the differences between Hindi and Urdu since the second half of the nineteenth century, when the debate over linguistic classification first began, it remains difficult to make clear-cut demarcations. Writers who wrote in either of the languages have been co-opted into their respective literatures for political reasons. For example, Munshi Premchand, whose works have acquired a very important place in the canon of Hindi literature, wrote some of his works in Urdu before they were transcribed into Devanagari. The choice of the script was forced on him because of the increasingly difficult task of finding publishers for Urdu at a time when Hindi was being propagated as the national language. For the purposes of this chapter, I discuss primarily literature written in Devanagari.
However whatever the shortcomings it is evident that the influences on Modern Hindi literature have gone a long way in shaping the writing style and content of the literary works produced in the different periods under consideration.