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Indian Literature


INDIAN LITERATURE. In Europe literature is, as re gards its subjects, largely international, and any new fashion, such as romanticism, pessimism, the psychological novel, the detective novel, is quickly propagated. The individual qualities of prominent writers are soon known, directly or through trans lations, and evoke responses more or less obvious. Moreover, the similarity of social conditions and outlook lends interest to the same problems everywhere, and international science causes them to be approached from the same points of view.

In India the bulk of the educated public is acquainted with English ; new English publications are quickly available in the libraries and reading-rooms ; any new book which has obtained a vogue in England will soon be reviewed in India and be a subject of articles in magazines. Moreover, India has in England, America, France, Germany and elsewhere numerous students, and some journalists, who are living the lives of those countries. Consequently, there is a very large output of writings which in spirit and manner, and often in subject, are not properly Indian, but either international or what may be termed "colonial." In Bengal alone over i,000 publications in English (irrespective of bilinguals) are produced annually, and there are over ioo English periodicals of different kinds. We might mention in addition the large number of works by Indians and officials or ex-officials in India which are actually published in England.

A second department of Indian literature consists of writings in Indian languages which are based upon European models or deeply affected by such. Here we have a great mass of fiction, biography, history, much drama, lyric poetry, travels, political and social pamphleteering and an immense magazine literature, modes which are simply copied from European models. In this sphere we should not overlook the considerable number of actual translations or adaptations of individual works in English, French and so forth. This might be described as the vernacular literature of absorption.

A third stage is represented by that vernacular literature which, while it has absorbed European influences, has yet recov ered an Indian outlook and temper, whether in the course of nature or in obedience to the strong reactionary feeling. Already in the '8os of the i 9th century Bengal had produced a novel ist, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, whose work exhibits a creative synthesis of the new and the old ; and at the present day the Bengali language has, irrespective of its outstanding representa tive, Sir Rabindranath Tagore, a modern literature conscious of an independent inspiration.

A fourth department is constituted by the continuance of ancient modes and conceptions.

Linguistic Distribution.—Apart from the influence of par ticular centres, such as universities, the literature is very unevenly distributed. The matter must be stated in terms of languages. In the field of Assamese, Oriya, Panjabi, Sindhi, Nepali and Kashmiri, the Rajasthani dialects and Malayalam of southern India, the old modes may be said to prevail with little innovation. High Hindi, in regard to which the same might have been said a few years ago, is rapidly equipping itself with literary and scientific compositions on modern lines. Urdu, the chief organ of Mohammedans in Hindustan, the Punjab and Central India, is further advanced in the same direction. The two chief lan guages of the Bombay Presidency, Gujarati and Marathi, more especially the former, have a considerable modernizing litera ture. The Telugu of Madras is perhaps not so far advanced; but Tamil has a large productivity, hardly second to Bengali. Special educational efforts have led to the publication of a fair number of manuals in Kanarese (Mysore), as also in Gujarati (Baroda) and Urdu (Bhopal and Hyderabad) ; but other Indian States are not productive on modern lines.

For publications in English about the same proportions hold as for modernized vernacular literature. English works are, in deed, far more prevalent in the provincial capitals, whereas those in the vernacular abound in the less anglicized districts, Gujarati, for instance, favouring Ahmadabad, Marathi Poona. The non modernized literature is also published in all considerable places.

The chief classical language of India, Sanskrit, is represented by editions of two kinds, those on old Indian lines with or with out commentaries in Sanskrit or in modern vernaculars, and those with commentaries in English. The former are very widely published in the Deva-nagari character, or in Bengali, or in Gujarati or in the south Indian alphabets, sometimes even in the Panjabi or Urdu; and there are various combinations of these scripts. Editions on European lines appear for the most part in the provincial or State capitals or in the university towns. New original works in Sanskrit are not infrequent in the sphere of oriental philosophy, philology, science and religion; occasion ally there appear new poems and dramas of considerable extent and literary merit; and there are also Sanskrit periodicals, in cluding even a newspaper.

Other classical languages are: (I) Prakrit, usually that of the Jains and published in the Bombay province or in the Hindi- or Marwari-speaking areas; (2) the Buddhist Pali, rare in India; (3) the Tibetan, published at Calcutta and Darjeeling; (4) the Pahlavi of the Parsees, published in Pahlavi or Gujarati script in the Bombay Presidency; (5) the Arabic, appearing chiefly in Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad; (6) the Persian, more occasional. Many of the vernacular languages also have their old or classical periods, and prominently the Dravidian group, Tamil, Telugu, Kanarese and Malayalam; re-editions of their classical works are very frequent, and for the most part are published within the areas of the respective vernaculars.

Translations of Sanskrit works are innumerable in nearly all the vernaculars, the Bhagavad-gitd for instance being repro duced many times every year; and some degree of the same favour extends to some of the local classics, the Hindi poems of Tulasi-dasa, and the Hindi Bjiaktarndla. Among modern Hindu writers Swami Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Sir Rabindranath Tagore, Romesh Chunder Dutt and Haraprasad Shastri have also a vogue in several languages ; and popular novels, in particular the favourite Ciandrakdntd (from the Hindi), and its imitators, are frequently translated. Portuguese publi cations appear at Goa, French at Pondicherry and Chander nagore ; the Roman Catholic missions print some brochures in Latin, and there is even an Italian periodical issued from Man galore (La Missione di Mangalore) .

The literature of India is, therefore, highly polyglot, while individual publications are very often bilingual at least. The alphabetic aspect of the matter has also been partly indicated. In spite of the attention which has been given to the possibility of a common script for India, some advocating the Roman, some the Deva-nagari (which has a Hindi periodical devoted to its interest) , there is no evidence of progress toward simplification; there is a certain amount of Roman-Urdu, and Roman is usually employed for the Konkani form of Marathi and for the rendering of previously unwritten languages. But in general each leading language holds to its traditional script. Sometimes it has more than one ; for the Mohammedan writes his Panjabi or Hindi or Malayalam or Tamil (not, however, his "Musalmani Bengali") in the Urdu character, with any necessary modifica tions. The Sikh may write his Sindhi in the Gurumukhi of the Punjab. Bilingual books are therefore usually also bialphabetic (except as regards the above-mentioned case of the Sanskrit, or similar cases with Pahlavi and Gujarati, or Arabic texts with Persian or Urdu) ; and this adds to the multiform appearance of the Indian literary output, already sufficiently variegated, even if we overlook such characters as the Multani, Modi, Kaithi, Savara, which indeed are rarely printed, or the numerous old writings appearing in philological works. The format of the book is not seldom that of the old Indian potlii, sometimes (in Bengal) even printed on palm leaves; while the Punjab Gurumukhi and the Mohammedan Arabic are much less often printed than lithographed from handwritten originals.

Popular Literature.

To begin with the lowest stratum, we must note the existence in India of an extensive, really popular, literature in verse. In all parts of India, but especially perhaps in the Punjab, in the Kanarese country and in the Tamil area, there is a constant production of songs and ballads, provoked by any notable occasion, such as a prize-fight, a flood or calamity, a crime, a tragedy, a personality, a social event, an act of adminis tration; these have a real, though probably in general a brief, life upon the lips of the people, who sing them over their work or in their social gatherings. Of late years this form has been largely used for political propaganda, innumerable small collec tions of "national songs" appearing in all the chief languages. There are also many collections of songs for special occasions; Garb/ii songs for women, marriage songs, songs for the Holi (spring) festival and other celebrations, boat songs for aquatic sports in Orissa and Bengal and so forth. At certain times of the year the Mohammedans put forth vast quantities of "verses" in honour of Mohammed or dirges for Hasan and Husain. Re ligion has a large share in this poetic activity : songs in honour of Krishna (especially in Hindustan, Bengal and Orissa, but also in Gujarat and southern India), of Caitanya (kirttans in Bengal), of Karttikeya, Ganesa, Dattatreya, Vithoba (in the Marathi area) ; songs for pilgrims to or at the various shrines (innumer able in the Telugu and Tamil country) ; songs for temple rites; collections of Jain hymns ; and the many publications of Chris tian sects, which in some cases (Roman Catholic) even deign to follow Indian models. Not all this popular literature is in verse, since there are occasions when sacred stories in prose (Hari-kathas and the like) are narrated in or near the temples. An oral existence appertains also to a good part of the various classical writings of India. This is the case not only with Sanskrit works such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana, some parts of the Puranas, and some stories such as those of Savitri and Haris chandra, but also with the classics of the several vernaculars. Not to mention the substance of stories and legends, the texts of such poets as Kabir and Tulasi-dasa in the Hindi area; Vidyapati, Govind Das and many others in Bengal; Narsinh Mehta, Mira Bai and Premanand in Gujarati; Namdev and Tukaram in the Marathi country, Lalla in Kashmir; the Sufi poets of Sindh; the Vaishnava and Saiva saints and moralists of the Tamil country, are very familiar on the lips of ordinary people in their respective areas, and, besides being used in edu cation, are frequently re-edited. In the Punjab some Darts of the Sikh Granth are similarly used.

On the borderland between the oral and the literary we have the drama. In India it was indigenous in many forms, from the heroic down to the morality, miracle play, the farce, the shadow or puppet show. Except in the extreme south of India, it would seem that the popular forms of representation have been more or less levelled out. The ordinary play, produced chiefly in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, is similar to the European forms —melodrama, social sketch, burlesque, problem play (the old man and the young wife, the modern young man or woman and so forth), love story: it is generally interspersed with verses, and these are often separately published for popular use. The more literary drama, still sometimes in Sanskrit, takes its sub jects chiefly from old Indian poetry and legend, and is not sel dom an adaptation of a particular Sanskrit work (the gakuntald, the Mandbhdrata and Ramdyana or episodes therein, and so forth). The choice is to some extent affected by local celebrity, and occasionally a political application may be suspected.

The pabulum of the ordinary reader in India is furnished by the magazine, containing essays, biographies and descriptions, short stories and serials, notes and not rarely illustrations. The total output is enormous; for in addition to the diversity of lan guages we have to reckon with the division of the Hindus into castes with their separate interests and claims. Important castes prefer an organ (or competing organs) of their own, which, along with the ordinary magazine material, will ventilate any matters having a communal bearing. This literature, therefore, presents no ordinary problem to the bibliographer; somewhere in India it should be sedulously collected and preserved, c,n account of the special biographical and sociological items which it contains. Schools and colleges have their organs (usually, however, in Eng lish). The missionary agencies, including the Salvation Army, issue innumerable periodicals of all grades, both in English and in the vernacular. Trades and the business world, professions (teaching, medicine, law, astrology, and so on), and grades of official service all contribute to the mass of vernacular matter. There are further a Hindi Punch, a Hindi Graphic, a Gujarati and Marathi Tit-Bits, and short story magazines; music and the stage are also represented by popular periodicals. Special interests, such as the cause of women, social service, co-operation, labour, economics, business, arts and sciences, travel, boy-scouting, are similarly equipped. The chief vernaculars have usually at least one literary periodical of a fairly high type. In some cases these have flourished during long periods : the Sentamil of Madras is in its 24th volume, the Hindi Sarasvati in its 25th, the Bengali Bha rati in its 49th, the Gujarati Samalochak in its 3oth, the Marathi Vividhajndnavistara in its 56th. The Urdu Humdyun also is of some standing.

Modern Indian poetry, excepting translations and adaptations of old Sanskrit works and themes, is usually in the form of short lyrics issued in small volumes. Larger productions are for the most part collected works of single authors, or anthologies, or the outcome of literary Eisteddfods. In the Hindi area the ballad of old style attains a greater length, as do Tamil Kdvyas on classical models. The poetry is generally erotic, ethical, philo sophical or religious; but the satirical and controversial, and also, as we have seen, the political, claim a place. The verse-forms are usually the traditional ones : only Bengali, it appears, mani fests original power in this direction.

Fiction on European lines is making rapid headway in India, and is supplanting the old romantic tales, at least so far as prose is concerned. The Punjab may still reprint its Hir and Ranjhd, Rdjd Rasalu, etc., the Sindh its Sassi and Punnun, the Urdu language its Laiti and Ma jnzin, and Hindi the tales of Bharthari and Gopichand. The novel is popular both in the form of the short story and of more substantial narratives; and it reflects all the varieties of subjects which have a vogue in English, his torical, social, romantic, adventurous (including the detective novel). A new feature is the translation of well-known (includ ing English) novels into several languages and the immense vogue of such popular stories as that of the Hindi Chandrakdnta.

Religious Literature.

Indian religious literature, in so far as it is not lyrical, philosophical, argumentative or philological, consists mainly of manuals of ritual for daily life (dina-caryd) or for particular occasions (marriage, burial, times and seasons, pilgrimages, vows), and of the stories therewith associated; for instance, the story of the Tulasi plant and that of Satya-Naray ana are constantly reproduced. Benares takes a prominent part in such publications. Since each section, from the Vedic 'akhas downwards, must have its separate rituals, it results that the number of such publications is very great.

We pass to a consideration of the activity in the reproduction of old canonical texts, with or without commentaries, for the purpose not of ritual, but of study and edification. This accounts for a great mass of republication: in the Punjab, for instance, there is a steady stream of thick volumes of Selections from the Adi-granth. There are some valuable series of such canon ical texts; the Jains have several, and the Madhya doctrine of south India and the sect of the Maharajas in Bombay have thus made accessible their chief writings. Important groups have usually one or more periodical organs, which, amid other mat ter, publish and comment upon their authoritative books. Many religious texts are, of course, not the property of any particular sect, and are therefore variously reproduced ; and from these we can hardly separate those which are of a philosophical rather than of a religious character : such are the Vedanta writings, the Madras periodical Vedanta-dipikai, and other philosophical jour nals; of wider scope, the Siddhanta-dipikai and the Marathi Tattvajndna-vistara. There are English periodicals belonging to one or the other of the above two groups : such are the Vedanta kesari of Madras, the Ahmadi Review of Religions and The Theosophist (which also has vernacular allies). Modern philos ophy is represented by the Calcutta Philosophical Society, and by a now extinct Indian Philosophical Review published during several years in Baroda.


Philology of a more general character is no longer in India restricted to one or two classical languages, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tamil, Pahlavi, Persian, Arabic. There are societies which devote themselves to the publication of old texts in the existing vernaculars. The Bangiya Sahitya Parishat, with its Pattrika and its series of separate old Bengali texts, has a very honourable record. The Tamil Sangam of Madura (which issues the Sentamil) is likewise distinguished. There are now other Sahitya Parishats in the province of Bengal, and for Telugu also there is the Andhra Sahitya Parishat. For Hindi there are the Nagari-pracharini Sabha and certain Mandalas; for the Pun jab the Khalsa Tract Society; in Gujarat, where societies for publication seem to flourish, the oldest is the Gujarat Vernacular Society, while there is also a Sahitya Parishat, and a Sahitya vardhana Society ; in Marathi an important series of editions of old poetry was published under the title Kavya-samgraha. In literary history there are very important and extensive works by Rai Saheb Dineschandra Sen (Bengali) ; Sir G. Grierson and the Misra brothers (Hindi) ; G. M. Tripathi and K. M. Jhaveri (Gujarati) ; Prof. W. B. Patwardhan (Marathi) ; and Viresa lingam Pantulu (Telugu).

As regards general philological activity of India, it is hardly possible to draw any clear line between indigenous scholarship and that affected by European methods : the main aim and pro cedure of scholarship are the same everywhere, and whether a commentary is in Sanskrit or Bengali or English seems to make little essential difference. Only comparative philology is new to India. This philological activity, wherewith is associated the investigation of archaeology and pre-British history, and from which we may exclude the astounding output of educational work up to the level of university textbooks, is connected chiefly with organizations of some kind. The Government of India itself maintains an Archaeological Survey, which publishes annual reports in the several provinces and at headquarters, and splen did special monographs, as well as a periodical relating to Epig raphy (see INDIAN AND SINHALESE ART AND ARCHAEOLOGY). This example is followed by Indian States, Mysore, Travancore, Hyderabad, Kashmir. Several provincial Governments have pub lished catalogues of Sanskrit mss. (Bengal, the United Provinces, Bombay, Madras, the Central Provinces) ; States, small and great, Kashmir, Nepal, Baroda, Mysore, Travancore, Alwar, under the title Bibliotheca Indica a vast collection of Sanskrit, or Arabic texts, too, are officially edited in Bombay, Mysore, Travancore, Kashmir, Hyderabad, Baroda.

After the Governments we may mention the universities, colleges and libraries as active in the publication of texts and researches (the universities of Calcutta, Madras, Lahore, the Benares Sanskrit college, the Maharajah's college, Vizianagram, the Bankipur public library). Important journals are issued by societies (the Asiatic Society of Bengal, which has also published under the title Bibliotheca Indica a vast collection of Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Tibetan texts; the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, the Mythic Society of Bangalore, the Bihar and Orissa Research Society, the Hyderabad Archaeo logical Society, the Bhandarkar Oriental Institute) ; and some, like the Sanskrit Research, the South Indian Research and the Jain Puratattva, are occasionally started independently or by religious bodies. The books issued by authors, editors, or indi vidual publishers are, however, more numerous, and on the whole the Indian publication of philological, historical and archaeo logical matter relating to pre-British India quite dwarfs in bulk all that is done outside. Much is highly meritorious, and some of it is fully equal to the best production of Europe. The monu mental Linguistic Survey of India, edited by Sir G. Grierson for the Government of India, is now completed (see PHILOLOGY) .

History and Biography.

For educational purposes and gen eral reading many short histories of India, of England and of other countries are produced both in English and in the vernac ulars. But original research and independent judgment will be found chiefly in the few first-hand histories of particular States and dynasties; and with a few exceptions (such as the Maratha researches of Rai Bahadur, D. B. Parasnis and the volumes of Maratha records published by the Maratha Historical Society of Poona ; the volumes of Prof. Sarkar concerning Aurangzeb; the biography of Jahangir and the Journal of Indian History, published by the Allahabad university school of Indian history; the works on south India by Prof. Kumaraswamy Aiyangar, Subrahmanyam Aiyar and a few others) in the works of English men. The valuable monographs produced in Europe or India by Indian scholars relate for the most part to ancient times, and are less historical than philological. Many volumes of records and calendars in English have been published by local Govern ments; the gazetteers also are replete with historical informa tion not absorbed in formal histories; and there are several socie ties, the Bengal Historical Society, the Punjab Historical Society and the United Provinces Historical Society, whose journals are composed of original matter.

Biography, including autobiography, is now popular in India, taking chiefly the form of short memoirs, which in the case of princes and of important religious leaders such as Debendra Nath Tagore and Dayananda Sarasvati, may attain a consider able length; so also in the case of historical personages, ivaji, Jahangir and others. A very favourite form, of which there are old examples, is the serial biography, containing lives of saints, lives of famous women, hierarchical, dynastic and family biog raphies. Valuable work of this kind has been done in regard to the Tamil and Telugu saints and poets, and the poets of Bengal and Gujarat. Small volumes of "prison reminiscences" have been published by political offenders, and the number of short "lives" of popular heroes, such as Tilak, Gokhale and Gandhi, is be yond counting. The old form of biography in verse is still favoured in relation to saintly and historical characters : naturally, it has aims other than information and research. Many Indians, from princes downwards, have written accounts of their travels, whether in England, on the continent of Europe, in America or in other countries, including the Far East. But India itself fur nishes rich material and occasions for travellers' experiences, especially in connection with its shrines and pilgrimages, so that such titles as Bharata-bhramana quite naturally recur.

(F. W. TH.) INDIAN MUSIC. The music of India has a threefold inter est. It offers the most complete example, in theory and practice, of melody untouched by harmony; hence, it provides a key to the problems of ancient Greek music, which have fascinated scholars and musicians; and it has for an Englishman the appeal that it concerns a majority of his fellow-subjects.

Musical literature refers not seldom to the "laws of melody," but makes no attempt to formulate them, because European melody is always harmonized, and it is nearly impossible to say what part of it belongs to harmony and what to melody. From a system innocent of harmony, like the Indian, we realize (r) that melody swings, in the first instance, on two pivots—the vocal tonic (amsha), a sort of "Ecclesiastical" Dominant, at a pitch that varies with the mode, and the tonic in our sense of the word supported by a drone (kharaj) and, secondarily, on notes related as fourth or fifth to either of these. On this varying distance between the two tonics depends mainly the character of the mode (rag), poignant, if the amsha is high, festive or placid, if low. (2) There is a general contrast of major and minor, but the third of the scale is no more decisive of this than the seventh, sixth, or second; the ethos of the minor is not so much sad as elaborate and reflective, and is graduated or intensified by shades of intonation which we do not possess. (3) a melody is conceived as lying within, or round, the tetrachord, though the second part of it may spring to the upper octave, just as, with us, it would adjourn to a key of contrast. (4) The motion is mainly con junct ; intervals which strike us as odd (augmented second, or augmented fourth) are justified as motion to or from the amsha. (5) The octave contains, like ours, seven notes (it is called saptaka, a set of seven) with, possibly, an eighth or ninth as alter natives, not additions. The "quartertones" (shruti) have been entirely misconceived by European writers. They do not provide a scale of 22 notes through which the voice threads its precarious path, but are in use as increments of intervals well-known to us, and lend them an exhilarating or pathetic colouring. (Thus, from a tonic C, the sixth, A, will have 884 accents in one mode, 906 in another; B flat, similarly, 996 or 1,018.) The Indians have, in fact, preserved distinctions which we have merged by our "tem peraments," and now employ them for a musical purpose ; just as grammar will sometimes employ different forms (nosco, and novi; ken, can, and know) for different meanings. (6) Melody centres in the mode. The amateur knows a dozen of them, the pro fessional at least five, perhaps ten, dozen. (It is customary to say that we have only two modes, major and minor; but for those who consider the history and the implications of the "Neapolitan" sixth, the "German" and "diminished" sevenths, etc., there are more than two.) The modes are differentiated by (a) their amshas, (b) the flat (komal) and sharp (tivra), or the very flat and very sharp notes (atikomal, atitivra) and (c) the amount of transilience, i.e., whether they are of five, six or seven notes in all. The various admixture of these elements gives each mode its flavour (raga), and this is emphasized by assigning the mode to a particular hour of the day or season of the year.

We conceive musical times as multiples, they as sums. We take $ as 3 X 2, and $ as 3 X 3 ; they, as 3 + I + 2 and 5 + 2 + 2 (or 4+2+3, or in some other way). In these three instances, to go no farther, they are representing the dactyl (– ' ..) of their prosody, and allowing for (a) different lengths of short syllable and (b) different proportions of long to short. They have dealt similarly with trochee (– S), iambic (, –) and anapaest (v – ). The tribach (v v) they treat as three crotchets and a crotchet rest, thus arriving at common time, which they call "three-time." Such procedure soon becomes far too elaborate to follow out here, though, in practice, they confine themselves to only a dozen kinds of time.

But, in whatever time it may be, the essence of an Indian melody it that it employs cross rhythm. Singer and drummer converge upon a point ; one sings seven bars of ten units per haps, while the other drums ten bars of seven units ; or the drum mer's two hands beat different times, one 2 + 2 + 2 and the other 3 +3 ; or one hand starts at the beginning and the other in the middle of the bar, in different times, and they converge half a dozen bars later. The audience appreciates such a point, and waits for it.

In the absence of harmony, grace-notes are important, to em phasize one moment as against another. The couple of dozen graces that are practised are, in principle, two—the slide (as on the violin) and the "deflect" (as produced by the tangent of a clavichord). The eminence of a performer is largely decided by his skill in these, and he uses them to accentuate the essential notes of the mode.

The chief instruments are (I) viva, with three drone strings, and four fretted strings on the finger board, plucked like, and with the tone of, the guitar; (2) sitar, a simpler form of guitar, more easily played, with less noble tone, native to Bengal; (3) sarangi, an elementary violin, used for the nautsch (4) surnai, a hautboy of strident tone; (5) various drums, the most important being the tabla, a small pair, played one by each hand ; and, in the jungle (6) the banshyi, bamboo flute, of varying size, scale and compass. Concerted music, vocal or instrumental, is rare, and is in unison. (A. H. F. S.)

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