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Literature in Medieval Period


In the early medieval period in northern India, Sanskrit continued to be the language of literature. This is the period of the works of two writers in Kashmir-Somadeva’s Katha-sarit –sagar and Kalhana’s Rajataringini.Rajataringini is a work of great importance as this is first historical work in India. Another famous work of this period is Gitagovinda by Jayadeva.It is one of the finest poems in Sanskrit literature.

One of the earliest works in an early form of Hindi was Prithviraj Raso by Chandbardai.It is a work on heroic deeds of Prithviraj Chauhan.

Another important Sanskrit work of this period is Bilhana’s Vikramankadeva-Charita a biography of the Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI.

This period also saw development in Dravidian languages.Nripatunga wrote a great work of poetry in Kannada called the Kavirajamarga.Pampa wrote the Adipurana and Vikramarjuna- Vijaya with the former dealing with the life of the first Jain tirthankara and latter based on the Mahabharata.Ponna wrote the Shantipurana, a legendary history of the 16th tirthankara.Another great Kannada writer was Ranna a contemporary of Pampa and Ponna.

Two of the famous works are the Ajitapurana and Gadayuddha.Kamban wrote the Rama a contemporary of Pampa and Ponna.Two of the famous works are the Ajitapurana and Gadayuddha.Kamban wrote the Ramayanam in Tamil.This was the period of the composition of the great hymns of the Alvars and the Nayanars. The hymns of the Alvars are collected into the Nalayira- Divyanam in Tamil. This was the period of the composition of the great hymns of the Alvars and the Nayanars. The hymns of the Alvars are collected into the Nalayira- Divya Prabandham. Some of the Nayanar works are the Thiruvasagam,the Thirumanairam and Thiruttondattogai.

The Delhi Sultanate saw great advancement in the growth of Indian languages and literature.Braj Bhasha and Khari Boli began to be used in literary compositions.The famous Rajasthani ballad Alha Udal and the Vishaldeo Raso belong to this period.Mulla Daud wrote the oldest poem in Awadhi language called Chandayana.

Persian was the court language of the Sultanate.A very notable contribution of the Turks was in the field of historical literature in Persian.There were many historians in this period.Ziauddin Barani wrote the Tarikh-i- Firozshahi which gives a detailed account of Khaljis and Tughlaqs. He also wrote a work on political theory called the Fatawa-i- Jahandari.

The most outstanding literary figure in this period was Amir Khusrau.He was a poet,historian,mystic and composer of music. He was also a disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya.He wrote the Ashiqa,the Nuh Siphir ,the QiranalSadayan,the Khazain-ul- Futuh and several works of poetry.

The regional kingdoms provided a great stimulus to regional languages and literature.There were two main forms of Hindi in this period- Bhojpuri and Awadhi.Kabir wrote in Bhojpuri and his dohas or couplets have become a part of the folklore.Malik Muhammad Jayasi wrote the Padmavat in Awadhi.The famous Ramacharitmanas by Tulsidas was also written in Awadhi in this period.Qutban a disciple of the sufi saint Shaikh Burhan wrote the Mrigavati. In Bengali the Ramayana by Krittivasa and the hundreds of lyrics by the famous poet Chandidas were written under the patronage of the rulers. With Chaitanya the tradition of writing devotional songs began.Narasi Mehta wrote devotional songs in Gujarati and Namdev and Eknath in Marathi.

Under king Krishnadeva Raya,telugu literature reached new heights.He was Telugu and Sanskrit writer.He wrote the Vishnuchittiya.The other famous poets in his court were Allasani Peddana who wrote the Manucharita.Dhurjati wrote the Kalahasti Mahatamya. In Mughal India,Babbar was one of the pioneers of Turkish poetry and also author of biography in Turkish Babar nama.Gulbadan Begum sister of Humayun wrote the Humayun Nama.Jahangir wrote his autobiography the Tuzuk-i- Jahangiri.Aurangzeb also was a prolific writer and the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was a notable Urdu poet.

Hindi literature made a significant progress during Akbar’s reign.Tulsidas ,Keshavdas wrote on themes of love.Rahim’s dohas or couplets are extremely popular to this day.This was a period of many writings in Persian language.Abu Fazl wrote the Ain-i- Akbari and the Akbar Nama.Akbar had started a whole department for translation of works like Mahabharata,the Ramayana the Atharva veda,the Bhagvad Gita and the Panchtantra.Some of the historians of this period were Abdul Hamid Lahori,Khafi Khan,Muhammad Kazim amd Sujan Rai Bandhari.

One of the most significant developments during the medieval period was the birth of the Urdu language. This new language soon developed one of the richest literatures in the world.It produced great poets like Wali, Mir Dard,Mir Taqi Mir,Nazir Akbarabadi,Asadullah Khan Ghalib etc.Urdu prose also developed early in the 18th century when the translation of most of the historical works from Persian and Sanskrit into Urdu began.At the same time many original works in Urdu were written like Muhammad Hussain Azad’s Darbar-i- Akbari.The Urdu novel was one of the earliest to develop in the Indian languages.