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Indian literature, writings of the Indian subcontinent, produced there in a variety of languages, including Sanskrit, Prākrit, Pāli, Bengali, Bihārī, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajāsthānī, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and Sindhi. A brief treatment of Indian literature follows. For full treatment, see South Asian Arts: Literature. The earliest Indian literature took the form of the canonical Hindu sacred writings, known as the Veda, which were written in Sanskrit. To the Veda were added prose commentaries such as the Brāhmaṇas and the Upaniṣhads. The production of Sanskrit literature extended from about 1400 bc to ad 1200 and reached its height of development in the 1st to 7th centuries ad. In addition to sacred and philosophical writings, such genres as erotic and devotional lyrics, court poetry, plays, and narrative folktales emerged. Because Sanskrit was identified with the Brahminical religion of the Vedas, reform movements such as Buddhism and Jainism adopted other literary languages, e.g., Pāli and Ardhamāgadhī, respectively. Out of these and other derivative languages there evolved the modern languages of northern India. Theliterature of those languages depended largely on the ancient Indian background, which includes the Sanskrit epics, the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa, the Krishna story as told in the Bhāgavata-Purāṇa, the other Puranic legends, and the fable anthologies. In addition, the Sanskrit philosophies were the source of philosophical writing in the later literatures, and the Sanskrit schools of rhetoric were of great importance for the development of court poetry in many of the modern literatures. The South Indian language of Tamil is an exception to this pattern of Sanskrit influence because it had a classical tradition of its own. Urdu and Sindhi are other exceptions, having arisen out of an Islāmic background. Beginning in the 19th century, British and Western literary models in general had a great impact on Indian literature, the most striking result being the introduction of the use of vernacular prose on a major scale. Such previously unknown forms as the novel and short story began to be adopted by Indian writers, as did realism and a new interest in social questions and psychological description. See also specific Indian literatures. The Ancient Indian Literature
The ancient literature is the crowning glory of the Indian civilization. No other part of the world has produced such voluminous literature of knowledge and wisdom. The Vedas are the most celebrated possessions of the mankind. The Rig Veda is the oldest literary work in the history of the world. The Vedas are the exquisite expressions of the Divinity. They are the first significant utterances on the lips of man. The ancient Indian literature is the glorious gift of the Indian civilization to the world. It comprises of the illustrious scriptures. The Indian scriptures can be broadly classified into two categories: (1) The Shruti literature (2) The Smriti literature.
Shruti is concerned with ‘the heard’ or ‘the revealed’.Smriti is concerned with ‘the remembered.’ The Vedas and the Upanishads are considered as theShruti literature. The Sanskrit root ‘shrut’ means ‘to hear’. In ancient times, while doing their tapasya and sadhana, the great sages ‘heard’ the divine truths. Whatever was ‘heard’ was presented in the Vedas and the Upanishads. Thus they came to be known as the Shruti literature. Smriti literature is concerned with ‘that what is remembered’. The literature which was based on the knowledge acquired through the experience or the tradition was the Smriti literature. Generally, the Smriti literature is based on the Shruti. The famous Manu-Smriti and other smritis and shastrasconstitute the Smriti literature. The guidelines for ethics, moral obligations, social codes, customs etc. are found in...
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