6 junio, 2024

Indian literature: what it is, origin, characteristics, authors

What is Indian literature?

The Indian literature, or Hindu literature, is one of the oldest, it is believed that the first record arose more than 4,000 years ago in what is now India and in some regions of Pakistan. It is also known as Sanskrit literature because most of the pieces are written in Sanskrit, an ancient language made up of various types of scripts.

In general terms, Indian literature talks about wisdom, religion, worship and social norms, themes that were dealt with throughout the works. It should be noted that the oldest writings found are compiled in a book called Vedas (from the term «truth»), and these became the basis of the Hindu religion. It is the so-called Hindu literature.

An essential feature of this literature is the linguistic, mythical and religious richness through which it broadly covers the history of a region from its genesis, taking into account various types of language, as well as the manifestation of other cultures and practices that nurtured it. even more.

The first manifestations of Indian literature were closely related to religion. Then, as it developed, the works began to cover other topics, even in contrast to the doctrinal material characteristic of the first expressions of this literature.

Origins and history of Indian literature

The first manifestations of Indian literature are known from the emergence of the Vedasa series of ancient writings (between 1600 and 700 BC), which were preserved as they were the foundations of what would later become Hinduism.

The Vedas They contemplate a series of rituals, precepts, myths and songs, which were initially transmitted orally. Later these would be written down to be used in the rituals headed by the ancient priests.

Subsequently, the post-Vedic period was characterized by the presence of new doctrines that served to contradict some of the postulates that were raised in the Vedas.

It should be noted that it was at this time that the two most important works of Indian literature were composed: The Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

He Ramayana is a relatively short text that focuses on compiling the philosophical and theological teachings of Prince Rama, who suffers a series of misadventures with the intention of saving his wife, who is in the hands of the demon Ravana.

On the other hand, the Mahabharata It is considered the second longest work of universal literature, since it contains more than 200,000 verses.

This work contemplates a mixture of narrations, myths and advice made in different styles and by different authors. Currently, it can be considered as a kind of Bible for the Hindus.

After this stage, the Brahmanical period was consolidated, which served as a sort of transition between the Vedas and the Hindu religion. At this historical moment there is also talk of the division of society by castes and the principles of interaction between them.

In this current, the Laws of Manua book where the main rules of conduct, the operation of karma and punishments are indicated.

stages of literature India

There were four main stages in the formation and development of Indian literature, from its beginnings to the present day. The characteristics of each of these stages are detailed below.

1. Adikal Literature

The main expression of this literature was poetry, focusing in turn on religiosity and epic stories.

2. Bhakti Kal Literature

It developed between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. At this stage the process of highlighting the importance of God consciousness begins, although records of epic poems have also been found.

Thanks to the Islamic presence at that time, it is possible to find the influence of religion in various artistic expressions.

3. Ritikal Literature

Period developed between 1600 and 1850. Ritikal literature emphasizes the power of love and other emotions throughout the poems made at the time.

4. Adhunikaal Literature

It developed from the mid-19th century to the present. It is further divided into four phases: Renaissance, Dwivedi Yug, Chhayavada Yug, and the contemporary period.

Different literary styles and genres are explored, including drama, comedy, criticism, novels, short stories, and nonfiction.

Features of Indian literature

Despite the convergence of different styles, languages ​​and religious manifestations, it is possible to point out some general characteristics of Indian literature:

The vast majority of the texts talk about gods and the benefits that human beings obtain when they are granted a favor from them. Likewise, they also recount the punishments they must assume for improper conduct. This reflects the importance of religious content.
The elements that interact with humans, inanimate or not, have their own personality and qualities.
The stories seek to leave some kind of valuable lesson for the reader.
There is an intention to explain the origins of the world, so it is common to find stories that talk about it.
There is a host of fantastic events in which beings with supernatural and extraordinary qualities intervene.
The protagonists of these stories have special and unique traits: they are gods or divine reincarnations, they have great beauty, courage and admirable moral conduct.
There is an emphasis that the balance of the Universe depends on the respect that is given to all living beings that coexist. Any action taken against any of them will have repercussions in the next life.

Social context

Brahmanism was a transitional religion between the Veda period and the establishment of Hinduism. However, some of his postulates would have great repercussions in Indian literature.

During the time (1st century BC, approximately) a caste classification was established, which is still maintained today.

This categorization is made as follows: priests and scholars of literature (Brahmans), warriors, merchants and peasants (also including slaves) and the invisible, considered subhuman, untouchable.

The social dynamic gave way to the creation of new texts that would indicate the functioning and behavior of the members of each of the castes.

These precepts were exposed in the so-called Dharma-sastraswhich are books of norms and social laws.

Despite the fact that the country suffered the Islamic (which also contributed to the enrichment of the arts) and British invasions, this social system would continue to form part of the national and cultural identity, rejecting the presence of other more Western models.

Literature India contemporary

The current current presents a significant change in relation to ancient literature. One characteristic is the need for independence and rebellion against the British, headed by the pacifist precepts proposed by Mahatma Gandhi.

At that point, there is evidence of a resumption of Hinduism and Buddhism, religions that have millions of followers so far.

Likewise, thanks to the influence of the West, Indian literature opened up to new expressions and styles. It would not only be limited to poetry, but would also branch out into non-fiction, drama, satire, and short story making.

Indian Literature Authors

Among the most important authors of Indian literature, the following stand out:


writer of the ramayanaone of the most popular books in India and in Indian literature in general.

2. Kalidasa

Writer of religious and devotional literature, author of the Sanskrit play sakuntala.


Brahmin and writer of the Sanskrit text artha shastraone of the most important treatises on how a State should function.

In this he exposes that practices such as the use of poison against the enemy or the death penalty for serious crimes are valid.

4. Dhanpat Rai Srivastav

Also known as Premchadn, he is considered one of the foremost writers in Indian literature.

His works include short stories, essays and translations. He is the author of recognized works such as Panch Parameshvar, Igah and sevasadan.

5. R. K. Narayan

He stood out for writing fiction and non-fiction books, among which are: Swami and His Friends, Hamish Hamilton, The Darkroom and Waiting for Mahatma.

6. Vatsyiana

He was the author of kamasutra, undoubtedly one of the best known Hindu works in the West. The historical time in which he lived is not known with certainty, but it is assumed that it was between the 1st and 4th centuries.

7. Rabindranath Tagore

Bengali writer who left an extensive legacy of works that revolutionized Indian and Bengali literature. He was characterized by having a spontaneous prose, considered by some as sensual.

He was the author of titles such as The King and Queen, The New Moon either Harvest. Thanks to his work, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

8.Salman Rushdie

Born in Bombay in 1947, he is today the best-known author. his work, satanic verses (1988), earned him the government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (death sentence) for the alleged blasphemous content. In 2022 he received an attack that almost ended his life.


Indian language. Recovered from indianmirror.com.
Hindi literature. Recovered from britannica.com.

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