Hindi can be traced back to as early as the seventh or eighth century. The dialect that has been chosen as the official language is Khariboli in the Devnagari script. Other dialects of Hindi are Brajbhasa, Bundeli, Awadhi, Marwari, Maithili and Bhojpuri.
It was in the 10th century that authentic Hindi poetry took its form and since then it has been constantly modified. History of Hindi literature as a whole can be divided into four stages: Adikal (the Early Period), Bhaktikal (the Devotional Period), Ritikal (the Scholastic Period) and Adhunikkal (the Modern Period).
Adikal starts from the middle of the 10th century to the beginning of the 14th century. The poetry of this period has been divided into three categories Apabhramsha Poetry, Heroic Poetry and Miscellaneous Poetry. Apabhramsha Poetry includes the Siddha literature (750-1200), the Nath literature and the Jain literature. Siddha literature was written in the popular language and this echoed devotional themes combined with a strong erotic feeling. Between the 7th and the 14th century, the poet Gorakhnath and his followers mainly composed the Nath literature. They avoided eroticism, scorned racial discrimination and put stress on moral values, using the Doha (couplet) and the Chaupai (quartet) styles in their poems. These compositions had a great influence on the Sant (devotional literature made popular by Rahim and Kabir et al) literature. During this period Jain poets like Swayambhu, Som Datt Suri, Sharang Dhar and Nalla Singh composed the Charit Kavyas, which propagate moral tenets and portrayals of Nature. Heroic Poetry was composed wholly in the native speech.
Bhakti Kal or the Devotional Period :
The bhakti kal stretched between the 14th and the 17th century. During this age Islamic customs were heaped upon the common people and the Hindus were quite dejected by this. The poets of this period felt that it was their moral duty to arouse a sense of devotion through religious poetry. These poets have been divided into two groups: Nirguna and Saguna poets, depending upon the devotional attitude towards the Lord. Nirgunas have been further divided into two groups on the basis of different sadhanas (disciplines) followed by them. Those that put emphasis on the importance of knowledge for the realization of God were called the Saint poets. Kabir Das, Guru Nanak, Dharma Das, Maluk Das, Dadudayal, Sunder Das belong to this genre. In their Sakhis (couplets) and Padas (songs) they condemned rituals and laid emphasis on the theory of Monotheism (the belief that there is one God).
Poets who believed love was the path of realizing God were called Sufi Poets. Jayasi, Manjhan, Kutuban and Usman were the pioneers of this school. Poets of the Saguna style are also divided into two groups: the followers of Rama and those of Krishna. Tulsi Das is the leading poet of the former group along with Agra Das, Nabha Das and Pran Chand Chauhan. Tulsi Das depicts Rama as the Ideal Man in his classical works Ramacharitamanasa, Gitavali, Kavitavali and Vinay Patrika. The devotees of Krishna have, however, portrayed him according to his popular image, that of the playful Krishna. These poets like Surdas, Nand Das, Parmananda Das and Meera have written about love and beauty. The devotional period created immortal literature and is distinguished as the golden age of Hindi Poetry.
Ritikal or the Scholastic period:
The poets of Ritikal can be classified into two groups on the basis of their subject: Ritibaddha (those wedded to...