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Hindi literature
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Hindi literature


The Hindi language has its roots in the classical Sanskrit language. The language acquired its current form over many centuries, and still numerous dialectical variations exist. Hindi literature may be traced back to medieval times when poets composed in dialects such as Brij-Bhasha and Avadhi. Prose was a late-comer to the Hindi literary scene, and the first work of prose in Hindi is generally agreed upon as being the fantasy novel Chandrakanta written by Devaki Nandan Khatri.

As far as Hindi poetry goes, four prominent stages may be identified in Hindi poetry. These are Bhakti (Devotional e.g. Kabir, Raskhan), Shringar (Eulogizing Beauty e.g. Keshav, Bihari), Veer-Gatha (Extolling Brave Warriors), and Adhunik (Modern).

Some prominent figures of Hindi Literature:

Kabir (15th century) is known for his Granthavali which contains verses with love as the dominant motif. He was a major figure of the bhakti (devotional) movement.

Goswami Tulasidas (1532-1623) is the greatest Hindi poet of the medieval period. His Ramcharitamanas which is a retelling of the Ramayana continues to be popular in India and the Caribbean.

Raskhan was another prodigous poet.

Bihari (1595-1664) became famous by writing Satasai (Seven Hundred Verses).

Premchand (1880-1936) was a great novelist. Of his novels, Godan (The Gift of a Cow, 1936) is considered the best. In this book he sketches rural life in an unparalleled manner. You can never praise this writer enough. Doctors, Lawyers, Land-owners, farmers, and every part of the pre-independence India find voice in his writings. He is with certainty the greatest judge of human nature - as seen from his writings - that India produced. His contemporary Leo Tolstoy died nearly the same year as him.

Maithili Sharan Gupt (1886-1964) was a pioneer of 'Khari Boli' (plain dialect) poetry and the author of the epic Saket in modern Hindi literature.

Jaishankar Prasad (1889-1937) was a leader of the literary movement called Chhayavada.

Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala' (1899-1961) wrote twelve collections of poetry, six novels, many short stories, essays and criticism, and also translated from Sanskrit and Bengali.

Sumitranandan Pant (1900-1977) authored twenty eight published works including poetry, verse plays and essays. Born in Kausani, in the hills of Kumaon, Pant's early years were spent in great poverty. He later moved to Kalakankar near Allahabad. The mark of the a childhood in the hills can be seen in his works and his poems resound with an echo of the beauty of nature.

Yashpal (1903-76) is renowned for Jhutha Sach (The False Truth, 1958-60), which is regarded as one of the best Hindi novels ever written.

Hazariprasad Dwivedi (1907-1979), novelist, literary historian, essayist, critic and scholar, penned numerous novels, collections of essays and a historical outline of Hindi literature.

Mahadevi Varma (1907-1987) was educated in Prayag, where she founded the Prayag Mahila Vidyapitha, promoting the education of girls. Mahadevi Verma was one of the four pillars of the great Romantic movement in modern Hindi poetry, Chhayavada, the remaining three being Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala', Jaishankar Prasad and Sumitranandan Pant. Her mysticism led to the birth of a movement called Rahasyavada. She has been compared with Mira Bai, the great 16th century devotional poetess, in her lyrical mysticism.

Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' (1908-1974) emerged as a rebellious poet with his nationalist poetry in pre-Independence days.

Nagarjun (b. 1911), is a major Hindi poet who has also penned a number of novels, short stories, literary biographies and travelogues. The most popular practising Hindi poet in the last decades of the twentieth century, Nagarjun is considered as the only poet, after Tulasidas, to have an audience ranging from the rural sections of society to the elite. His poems are usually centred around regional topics.

S. H. Vatsyayan (1911-1987), (Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayana), was popularly known by his pen-name Ajneya or Agyeya, was a pioneer of modern trends not only in the realm of poetry, but also fiction, criticism and journalism. He was one of the most prominent exponents of the 'Nayi kavita' (New Poetry) in Hindi, and edited the 'Tar Saptaks'. Amongst the most well-known of his poetry anthologies are 'Aangan ke paar dvaar', 'Chakranta-Shila', 'Kitni naavon mein kitni baar', 'Hari ghaas par kshan-bhar', 'Indradhanu raunde hue ye' etc. 'His major prose works include 'Shekhar: Ek Jeevani'. Agyeya was an extensive traveller, and in course of his travels held visiting positions at various institutions around the world, e.g. UC Berkeley. He received numerous honours such as the Sahitya Akademi Award, Jnanpith Award, Bharatbharati Award and the international Golden Wreath Award for poetry.

Vishnu Prabhakar (b. 1912), with several short stories, novels, plays and travelogues to his credit, won the Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel, Ardhanarishvara (The Androgynous God or Shiva).

Phanishwar Nath 'Renu' (1921-1977) is one of the great Hindi novelists of the post-Premchand era. His masterpiece is Maila Anchal (The Soiled Border, 1954), a social novel that depicts the life of a region and its people, the backward and the deprived. His short story 'Maare Gaye Gulfam'has been made into a film. Another of his short story 'Panchlight'(Petromax)is beautiful in its depiction of human behaviour. One can find many parallels between his and Premchand's writings only that if Premchand is a sea than he is a pond, talking in context of depth and expanse.

Shrilal Shukla (b. 1925) became renowned for his objective and purposive satire.

Mohan Rakesh (1925-1972) was one of the pioneers of the Nai Kahani movement of the 1950s. He made significant contribution to novel, short story, travelogue, criticism, memoirs and drama.

Dharmavir Bharati (1926-1997) was a renowned Hindi writer and known to many as the editor of the magazine Saaptahik Hindustan. Amongst his famous works are 'Suraj ka saatva ghoda' (The Seventh Steed of the Sun), and the lyrical play 'Andha-Yug'. The former is a short novella with seven relatively independent plots, but each woven together in an integrated whole. It has at places scathing wit, and may be read as meta-fiction or as an allegory. The latter is a moral allegory that draws its rubric from the Mahabharata but conveys a timeless message about degeneration of values in human society. He also wrote some very insightful essays, and some prominent essay antholgies are Thele par Himalaya and Pashyanti.

Raghuvir Sahay (1929-1990) was a versatile Hindi poet, translator, short-story writer and journalist.

Nirmal Verma (b. 1929) together with Mohan Rakesh, Bhisham Sahni, Kamleshwar, Amarkant and others, is the founder of the Nai Kahani (new short story) in Hindi literature. He is best known for his short stories.

Narendra Kohli (b. 1940) known for his plays, satires, short stories and novels, he is best known for his works on Ram katha (Abhyudaya), Mahabharat (Mahasamar) and Vivekanad (Toro Kara Toro). More details at http://www.narendrakohli.org .

Harishankar Parsai: Known for his works of satire that attacked the hypocrisy and corruption rampant in various walks of life.

Jainendra: An extremely influential figure in 20th century Hindi literature. His works are known for powerful depiction of female characters. Major works include 'Sunita', 'Dashartha' etc. Also wrote numerous short stories.