UPSC History Arts and Cultural Movements Literature


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Sanskrit Literature

Following the great Sankara, works in the field of Advaita philosophy by Ramanuja, Mad-hava, Vallabha, etc., continued to be written in Sanskrit. Besides philosophy, works in the field of kavya (poetical narrative), drama, fiction, medicine, astronomy, music, etc., continued to be written. A large number of commentaries and digests on the Hindu law (Dharmashastras) were prepared between the twelfth and the sixteenth century. The great Mitakshara of Vijneshwar, which forms one of the two principal Hindu schools of law, cannot be placed earlier than the twelfth century. Most of the works were produced in the south, followed by Bengal, Mithila and western India under the patronage of Hindu rulers. The Jains too, contributed to the growth of Sanskrit. Hemachandra Suri was the most eminent of these. Little attempt was made to translate Islamic works of Persian literature into Sanskrit. Possibly, the only exception was the translation of the love story of Yusuf and Zulaikha written by the famous Persian poet, Jami this might be taken to be an index of the insularity of outlook which had been mentioned by Albaruni earlier.


Arabic and Persian Literature

Althoug the greatest amount of literature produced by the Muslims was in Arabic which was the language of the Prophet and was used as the language of literature from Spain to Banghdad, the Turks who came to India were deeply influenced by the Persian language which had become the literary and administrative language of Central Asia from the tenth century onwards. In India, tghe use of Arabnic remained largely confined to a narrow circle of Islamic scholars and philolophers, most of the original literature on the subject being written in Arabic. A few works on science and astronomy were also translated into Arabic. In course of time, digests of the Islamic law were prepared in Persian with the help of Indian scholars. The most well-known of these were prepared in the reign of Firuz Tughlaq.


With the arrival of the Turks in India during the tenth century, a new language in Iran and Central Asia from the tenth century onwards and some of the greatest poets of the Persian language, such as Firdausi and Sadi, lived and composed their works be- tween the tenth and fourteenth centuries. From the beginning the Turks adopted Persian as the language of literature and administration in the country. Thus, Lahore emerged as the first centre for the cultivation of the Persian language. However, the most notable Persian writer of the period was Amir Khusrau. Born in 1252 at Patiali (near Badayun in western Uttar Pradesh), Amir Khusrau took pride in being an Indian. He says: I have praised India for two reasons. First, because India is the land of tmy birth and our country. Love of the country is an important obligation... Hindustan is like heaven. Its climate is better than that of Khurasan... it is green and full of flowers all the year round... The brahmanas here are as learned as Aristotle and there are many scholars in various fields...


Khusrau has praised the Indian languages, including Hindi (which he calls Hindavi). He was also an accomplished musician and took part in religious musical gatherings (ama) organised by the famous Sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya. Khusrau it is said, gave up his life the day after he learnt of the death of his pir. Nizamuddin Auliya (1325). He was buried in the same compound.


Apart from poetry, a strong school of history writing in Persian developed in India during the period. The most famous historians of this period were Ziauddin Barani, Afif and Isami.Through the Persian language, Indian was able to develop close cultural relations with Central Asia and Iran. In course of time, Persian became not only the language of administration and diplomacy, but also the language of the upper classes and their dependents, at first in north India and later of the entire country with the expansion of the Delhi Sultanat to the south and the establishment of Muslim kingdoms in different parts of the country.


At first, there was little interchange between the two. Zia Nakhshabi was the first to translate into Persian Sanskrit stories which were related by a parrot to a woman whose husband had gone on a journey. The book Tuti Nama (Book of the Parrot), written in the time of Muhammad Tughlaq, proved very popular and was translated from Persian into Turkish and into many European languages as Well. He also translated the old Indian treatise on sexology, the Kok Shastra, into Persian. Later, in the time of Firuz Shah, Sanksrit books on medicine and music were translated into Persian. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin of Kashmir had the famous historical work Rajatarangini and the Mahabharata translated into Persian. Sanskrit works on medicine and music.


Regional Languages

During this period, literary works of high quality were produced in many of the regional languages as well. Amir Khusrau had noted the existence of regional languages and remarked: The use of the common language

By the Bhakti saints was, undoubtedly, an important factor in the rise of these languages,. In fact, in many parts of the country, these early saints fashioned these languages for literary purposes. It seems that in many regional kingdoms of the pre-Turkish period, regional languages, such as Tamil, Kan-nada, Marathi, etc. were used for administrative purposes, in addition to Sanskrit. This must have been continued under the Turkish rule, for we hear of Hindi knowing revenue accountants appointed in the Delhi Sultanat. Later, when, the Delhi Sultanat broke up, local languages, in addition to Persian, continued to be used for administrative purpose in many of the regional kingdoms. Thus, literature in Telugu developed in south India under the patronage of the Vijayanagara rulers. Marathi was one of the administrative languages in the Bahmani kingdom, and later, at the court of Bijapur. Nusrat Shah of Bengal had the Mahabharata and the Ramayana translated into Bengali. Maladhar Basu also translated the Bhagavata Gita into Bengali under his partronage.

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