In the ancient period of Hindi or Adi Kaal (before 1400 AD), Hindi literature was developed in the states of Kannauj, Delhi and Ajmer. After Prithviraj Chauhan’s defeat, most literary works belonging to this period were destroyed in Muhammad Ghori’s campaign. Very few scripture and manuscripts are available and their genuineness is also doubted.
Medieval Hindi literature is marked by the influence of Bhakti movement and the composition of long, epic poems. Avadhi and Braj were the dialects in which literature was developed. The main works in Avadhi are Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s Padmavat and Tulasidas’s Ramcharitmanas. The major works in Braj dialect are Tulsidas’s Vinay Patrika and Surdas’s ‘Sur Sagar’.
The Bhakti poetry had two schools – the Nirguna school (the believers of a formless God or an abastract name) and the Saguna school (the believers of a God with attributes and worshippers of Vishnu’s incarnations). Kabir and Guru Nanak belong to the Nirguna school, while Vaishnava poets like Surdas, Tulsidas and others belonged to the Suguna School. In Ritikavya or Ritismagra Kavya period, the erotic element became pre-dominant in the Hindi literature.
Urdu was nurtured at various cultural centres. In North India, it started taking the shape of a separate dialect spoken in the Delhi region, and was known as Desi. It is clearly discernible during the thirteenth century, from the time of Amir Khusrau.
Amir Khusrau, the doyen of Persian literature and an expert musician, made it the language of his songs. He composed qaul, tarana, sohla, and other allied musical forms, which are prevalent in the dargahs of the Chishti Sufi saints, that have the sprinkling of Persian. These musical forms were popularized by a class of musicians who were known as qawwals. He also wrote riddles (pahelis) in the dialect which was spoken in and around Delhi.
During the fourteenth century when Muhammad Tughlaq made Daultabad his capital (1328–29), Urdu language was nurtured, which was greatly influenced by the spoken dialects of the region. This form of Urdu is still spoken in many settlements which were founded in the vicinity of Deogiri that was renamed as Daultabad by Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq and known as Aurangabadi.
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Gujarat had became the centre of Urdu, and after Akbar’s conquest of Gujarat in the year 1572 the centre of this language moved to the Deccan where it already taken roots during the Bahmani rule.
Amongst the Deccani states, the Adil Shahis of Bijapur (1490 –1686), Qutub Shahis of Golkunda (1512 –1687), and the Nizam Shahis (1496 –1636) were great patron of art and culture. Their Sultans were fine scholars and their courts attracted literary talent from far and wide. It is here that Dakhani Urdu flowered.
Though it was directly influenced by Persian, it retained its indigenous colour, in close contact with its cultural surroundings.
The Bangla literature developed in three main areas: Vaisnava literature, Mangala literature and translation literature. This period also saw the beginning of Muslim Bangla literature in the form of romantic and narrative poems.
The greatest of Vaishnava writers was the poet Baru Chandidas who rendered Jaydev’s Sanskrit lyrics about Radha and Krishna into Bangla. Chandidas has been credited with over a thousand lyrics. The introduction to Srikrishnakirtan edited by Basantaranjan Ray Vidvadvallabh and published in 1916 by Vangiya Sahitya Parishad mentions the name of Baru Chandidas. He was perhaps the original Chandidas who composed verses in 1350.
The patronage provided by the Muslim rulers, particularly Sultan Alauddin Hussein Shah, in promoting Bangla literature is noteworthy. The 45-year rule of the Hussein Shah dynasty (1493-1538) in Bengal not only led to political, social and cultural prosperity, but also nurtured Bangla Language and literature. Some Bengali poets began composing lyrics in Brajabuli.
The Imperial Ganga Kings of Orissa ruled the State from 1100 A.D. to 1435 A.D. They were lovers of Sanskrit literature and promoted the development of Sanskrit scholarship.
The love for Oriya language, literature and culture emerged with the enthronement of Emperor Kapilendra Deva of the Gajapati Surya Vanshi dynasty in 1435 A.D. He was a warrior of indomitable courage.
Adikabi Sarala Das was the leading poet of this period during which Orissa was at the apex of her political and military glory and economic prosperity. During this period of Oriya resurgence, Sarala Das wrote three of his epoch-making works in Oriya — namely the Mahabharata, Bilanka Ramayana and Chandi Purana; the most important of the above three Oriya Literary works being Mahabharata. These were new creations of Sarala Das which did not merely follow the outlines in the original Sanskrit texts.
The Bhakti literature in Oriya flourished during the 16th century. Oriya literature was largely enriched by the contributions of the five saint-poets (Panchasakha) who however did not emerge at a time. They were Jagannath Das, Balaram Das, Achyutanda Das, Yasovanta Das and Ananta Das. Jagannath Das and Shri Chaitanya were contemporaries.
Jagannath Das (1492-1552) was the most famous of the Panchasakhas and famous for his immensely popular Oriya Bhagabat. It is not a mere translation of the Sanskrit Bhagabat. Oriya Bhagabat was easily intelligible and could be memorized by the devotees, mainly rural masses. Jagannath Das had adopted a style in his Oriya Bhagbat which was at once chaste, elegant, dignified, beautiful, simple and intelligible to all classes of people and hence it’s abiding popularity down the ages to the present day.
The earliest Punjabi literature is found in the fragments of writings of the 11th Nath yogis Gorakshanath and Charpatnah which is primarily spiritual and mystical in tone.Notwithstanding this early yogic literature, the Punjabi literary tradition is popularly seen to commence with Fariduddin Ganjshakar(1173–1266) whose Sufi poetry was compiled after his death in the Adi Granth.
The Janamsakhis, stories on the life and legend of Guru Nanak (1469–1539), are early examples of Punjabi prose literature. Guru Nanak himself composed Punjabi verse incorporating vocabulary from Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, and other South Asian languages as characteristic of the Gurbani tradition.
Punjabi Sufi poetry developed under Shah Hussain (1538–1599), Sultan Bahu (1628–1691), Shah Sharaf (1640–1724), Ali Haider (1690–1785), Saleh muhammad safoori and Bulleh Shah (1680–1757). In contrast to Persian poets, who had preferred the ghazal for poetic expression, Punjabi Sufi poets tended to compose in the Kafi.
Literature in Gujarati is classified into two broad categories, namely poetry and prose, the former savouring and basking in its long lineage, dating back to the 6th century. Poetry as a perception was a medium for expressing religious beliefs and judgements, a stronghold of medieval Indian times. In this context of gradual evolution, the history of Gujarati literature is generally classed into three broad periods, consisting of the Early period (up to c. 1450 AD), the Middle period (1450 to 1850 AD) and the Modern period (1850 AD. onwards).
However, Gujarati literature and its tremendous maturation and proficiency in contributing to culture is retraced back to sultanate days (referring to the Muzaffarid dynasty, which had provided the sultans of Gujarat in western India from 1391 to 1583).
Gujarati literature is divided mainly into three eras or Yugs; the early, medieval and modern, with these eras being further subdivided.
The early era (up to 1450 AD) and medieval era ( 1450 AD – 1850 AD) are divided into ‘before Narsinh’ and ‘after Narsinh’ periods sometimes. Some scholars divide this period as ‘Rāsa yug’, ‘Saguṇ Bhakti yug’ and ‘Nirguṇ Bhakti yug’ also.
The medieval period was the period of the Imperial Cholas when the entire south India was under a single administration. The period between the 11th and the 13th centuries, during which the Chola power was at its peak, there were relatively few foreign incursions and the life for the Tamil people was one of peace and prosperity.
It also provided the opportunity for the people to interact with cultures beyond their own, as the Cholas ruled over most of the South India, Sri Lanka and traded with the kingdoms in southeast Asia. The Cholas built numerous temples, mainly for their favourite god Siva, and these were celebrated in numerous hymns.
The Prabhanda became the dominant form of poetry. The religious canons of Saiva and Vaishnava sects were beginning to be systematically collected and categorised. Nambi Andar Nambi, who was a contemporary of Rajaraja Chola I, collected and arranged the books on Saivism into eleven books called Tirumurais.
Religious books on the Vaishnava sect were mostly composed in Sanskrit during this period. The great Vaishnava leader Ramanuja lived during the reigns of Athirajendra Chola and Kulothunga Chola I, and had to face religious persecution from the Cholas who belonged to the Saiva sect. One of the best known Tamil works of this period is the Ramavatharam by Kamban who flourished during the reign of Kulottunga III. Ramavatharam is the greatest epic in Tamil Literature.
Ever since its emergence in the latter half of the 13th century A.D., the Marathi literature betrayed profound religious and philosophical fervor, which continued till the end of the 17th century A.D. From the 17thcentury,
The next stage of Marathi literature witnessed towering personalities, such as Jnanadeva, Namdev, Eknatha and Tukarama etc. Jnanadeva’s literary skills and philosophical depth are aptly reflected in his Bhavartha-Dipika, popularly known as Jnaneshvari, and the Amritanubhava. The poetic compositions of other saints Eknath and Tukarama reached to common people in their own language and left deep imprint onto their thoughts and minds.
Tukaram is particularly known for his Abhanga or short lyrical poems, which made direct appeal to the people through the intensity of their lyrical quality. Ramdas Samrath, the great saint preceptor of Shivaji, was another literary stalwart of this age.
Medieval Telugu literature entered its golden epoch during the reign of the Vijayanagar ruler Krishnadeva Raya (1509-1529).
Under him and his team of eight great poets (the Ashthadiggaja) which adorned his court, the practice of writing Telugu translations of Sanskrit classics, gradually started giving way to original writings on the Puranic themes.
Krishnadeva Raya’s Amuktamalyada or Vishnuchittiya, which deals with the life of a prominent Vaishnava saint of South India (Alvar) Vishnuchitta, is counted among the five great ‘Kavyas’ in Telugu. Another great poet of Krishnadeva Raya’s court was Nandi Timmana, the author of Parijatapaharana, which deals with an episode of Sri Krishna’s life.
The most interesting of the Ashtadiggaja was, however, Tenali Ramakrishna. He is still remembered as a court jester known for his humor and jokes. He was also a talented poet and his Panduranga Mahatmya and Udbhatcharyacharita serve as good specimen of the contemporary Telugu writings.
The medieval Malayali literature has greatly been contributed by the Niranam poets, so called from their native village Niranam. These poets tried to develop an independent Malayalam style, relatively free from the domination of Sanskrit or Tamil models.
Rama Panikkar, who wrote the Ramayanam, Bharata Gatha, Savitri Mahatmyam, Bhagwatam and others, was perhaps the most prominent of the Nirnam poets. Owing to his rich literary contributions to this language, he has been called the Chaucer of Malayalam. Attakatha or Kathakali, a variety of dance-drama was yet another popular form of medieval Malayalam literature. The Raman-attam of Kottarakkaa Tampuran is counted amongst the first such (extant) Attakathas. Many Attakathas were written subsequently-about two hundred kathas have so far been listed.
Although, the early and medieval Kannada literature displayed a predominant religious fervor, some outstanding works on non-religious themes were also prepared. Writing important treatise on Kannada grammer was one such literary domain.
Nagavarma II (c. mid- 12th c. A.D.) was one of the most important grammarians of this age. His Kavyavalokana is an important work on Kannada grammar and rhetoric. His Karnatakabhashabhushana is another major work on Kannada grammar.
He also wrote Vastukos, an important Kannada dictionary. Kesirja’s (c.1260) Sabdamanidarpana is viewed as the standard grammar of Kannada. The writings on Kannada grammar continued throughout this period. The Karnatakasabdanusasana (1604) of Bhattakalankadeva is the most comprehensive text on Kannada grammar.
Similarly, some very important works were written on science, and scientific themes. Chavundaraya’s Lokopakara(1025) is a guide to daily life on various subjects such as astronomy, astrology, sculpture, consumption, cookery etc. Shridharacharya’s Jataka-tilaka (1049) is the earliest work in Kannada on astrology. Kirttivarma’s Govaidya is a work on veterinary science, half medicine and half magic. Similarly, Rajaditya dealt with mathematical subjects in several ganita works like Vyavahara-ganita, Kshetra-ganita and Lilavati.