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 others.
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 thousand years.
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.