The constitution of India (Article 343) recognises Hindi as the official language of India. Hindi is also the main language in many states of India such as Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal/ Uttarakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Himachal Pradesh. It is spoken by more than 437 million people in the world. The other dialects of Hindi are Brajbhasha, Bundeli, Awadhi, Marwari, Maithili, Bhojpuri, to name only a few.
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 rhetorics) and Ritimukta
(free from rhetorical conventions). The former poets composed on
definitional and (Lakshana) and illustrative (Lakshya) themes. The
essential nature of Rasa, Alankara, Nayikabheda were illustrated by them
through Saviyas and Kavithas. Poets like Chintamani, Keshav, Mati Ram,
Deva, Kulpati Misra and Bhikari Das were leaders of this style. The
second group consists of free-minded poets like Alam, Ghananand, Bodha
and Thakur. They wrote in a spontaneous manner with feelings of love,
quite quite dissilimar to rhetorical poetry. This age saw two more
poetic trends. Didactic poetry in stray verses composed by Vrinda,
Vaital and Giridhar and Heroic Poetry by Bhushan, Sudan, Lal and various
Adhunikkal or Modern Period:
Modern Hindi literature has been divided into four phases; the age of
Bharatendu or the Renaissance (1868-1893), Dwivedi Yug (1893-1918),
Chhayavada Yug (1918-1937) and the Contemporary Period (1937 onwards).
Bharatendu Harishchandra (1849-1882) brought in a modern outlook in
Hindi literature and is thus called the 'Father of Modern Hindi
Literature'. Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi later took up this vision. Dwivedi
was a reformist by nature and he brought in a refined style of writing
in Hindi poetry, which later acquired a deeper moral tone. This was the
age of revival when the glory and grandeur of ancient Indian culture was
fully adopted to enrich modern life. Social, political and economic
problems were portrayed in poetry while songs were of social awakening.
This trend helped in the emergence of National Cultural Poetry whose
leading poets were Makhanlal Chaturvedi, Balkrishna Shama 'Navin',
Siyaram Gupta and 'Dinkar'. These poets put more stress on moral aspect
of life rather than on love or beauty, which later evolved in the
Chhayavada style of poetry.
Kamayani is the zenith of this school and Chhayavada was best
represented by Prasad, Nirala, Pant and Mahadevi Verma. After the
decline of this movement in came the leftist ideology which found voice
in two opposite styles of Hindi poetry. One was Progressivism and
Prayogavada or later called Nai Kavita. The former was an effort of
translating Marx's philosophy of Social realism into art. The most
notable figure of this movement was Sumitranandan Pant. The latter
safeguarded artistic freedom and brought in new poetic content and
talent to reflect modern insight. The pioneers of this trend were
Aggeya, Girija Kumar, Mathur and Dharamvir Bharati. A third style called
Personal Lyrics also appeared, aiming at free and spontaneous human
expressions with Harivansh Rai Bachchan as the leader of this trend. The
history of Hindi poetry, thus, extends over a period of almost one
The proper development of Hindi prose followed the rise and growth of
Khari Boli (colloquial dialect). Pre-Bharatendu writers like Ram Prasad
Niranjani, Sadasukh Lal, Insha Allah Khan and Sadal Misra composed
proses mainly based on mythological stories. Insha Allah Khan used the
typical Khari Boli while others were more influenced by Sanskrit and
Braj Bhasha. The development of Hindi prose has been classified into
three periods: The first phase (1868-1918), the period of growth
(1918-1937) and the present age of excellence (1938 onwards).
The First Phase:
Prose literature of Bharatendu and Dwivedi era covers the first phase.
The writers of this age developed drama, novel, short story, essay and
literary criticism.Popular dramatic compositions were done mainly by
Bharatendu Harishchandra, Bal Krishna Bhatt and Radha Krishna Das. They
inclined more towards satires on contemporary conditions, social and
patriotic plays. Eminent prosateurs of this age included Devaki Nandan
Khatri (novelist), Chandradhar Sharma (short-story writer), Mahavir
Prasad Dwivedi (essayist) and Padma Singh Sharma (critic).
The period of growth
This is represented by Jayshankar Prasad, Rai Krishna Das and Mahadevi
Varma. Drama acquired a distinct place for itself in this period but the
theatre did not respond to it. Again, fiction attained new proportions
with Premchand as its most outstanding representative.
The period of excellence
This period came more whole-heartedly after the Independence of India
in 1947. Hindi drama of this period laid emphasis on realistic
expressions and two new forms evolved like poetic Drama and radio play.
Now the theatre also became interested in enacting these plays. 'Ashka'
Jagdish Chandra Mathur, Mohan Rakesh and Lakshminarayan Lal have
acquired distinction amongst modern playwrights. Fiction made a
wonderful progress during this period. Realism, psycho-analytical
techniques and prose-style was the main ingredient of the plot
structure. Modern Hindi fiction found its mentors in Yash Pal, Agyeya
and Renu. Essay and literary criticism also developed during this
period. Essayists like Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Mahadevi Varma and Siyaram
Sharan Gupta found new ways of expressing themselves through
reminiscences, reportage and sketch. The history of Hindi prose is not
expansive, as it had started out quite late. However, it has progressed
at a rapid pace.