Indian literature

Oral literary tradition in India
Orality is an alternative culture – it may get written down or may co-exist with written
analogue. But even when an oral culture gets written down, it continues to be oral. For eg.
Texts such as Mahābhārata that remain recitative.
 For centuries, most of the Indians have been accustomed to literature primarily as an
oral manifestation of language. Even today, the literature of our rural communities
means 'spoken word'.
 Of the 1952 distinct languages spoken in our country, not more than 24 can be
associated with the written culture.
 Most of our ancient literature was oral, which was recited and interpreted by scholars
to listeners.

Features of Indian literature
 It is composed in many languages including dialects and the speech of small
communities;
 While having a distinct Indian character, it has immense regional variety of forms
and themes;
 It is worldly and concerns the travails of ordinary human life.

Phases of Indian literature
 Vedic Literature phase, up to 1200 BC:
 Classical Literature phase, from 1200 BC to 7th CE: Sanskrit epics (Ramayana,
mahabharata), Kalidasa's Shakuntalam and meghaduta, Sangam literature, Tamil
epics(Cilappatikāram and Manimekhalāī), Pāli Buddhist canon and the Prākṛt Jaina
literature.
 Prākrt Literature, from 1st century CE to 11th century: compositions in various
Prākrts including Mahārāṣṭrī, the most important literary Prākṛt. Eg. King Hāla’s
Sattasaī or Gāthā Saptaśatī.
 Apabhraṁsa Literature, from 7th century CE to 18th century (regional Indian
languages’ literatures); Islamic influence (Rise of Persian and birth of Urdu); Bhakti
and sufi poetries (Eg. Marathi Jñāneśvarī and Guru Granth Sāhib).
 Indian-language literatures in Modern period, from 18th century: Western influence –
Use of English; Free verse style and novels;

Poetry by Women Bhakti saints
 Women bhaktas wrote of the obstacles of home, family tensions, meaningless
household chores, and restrictions of married life, including their status as a married
women.
 Often they rejected traditional women’s roles and societal norms.
 They formed communities with other poet-saints.
 Their new focus was utter devotion and worship of their divine husbands.

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