Medieval literature encompasses a diverse and rich tapestry of literary traditions that thrived during the medieval period. It reflects the vibrant linguistic and cultural tapestry of the Indian subcontinent during this epoch. The medieval era witnessed the confluence of multiple literary trends and the emergence of distinct languages and dialects that would later influence the course of Indian literature.
The Influence of Prakrit and the Birth of Vernacular Languages
- Around 1000 A.D., the influence of Prakrit became more pronounced, eventually giving rise to Apabhramsa. This linguistic transformation marked the transition from classical languages to modern vernaculars.
- The medieval period saw the crystallization of languages like Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu, and Hindi, each shaped by its regional, linguistic, and ethnic environment.
- Persian, brought by Turks and Mongols in the 12th century, became the language of the court and played a pivotal role in shaping the literary landscape.
Persian Literature: Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Courts
- Persian, with its ancient roots, entered India with the Turks and Mongols in the 12th century.
- Amir Khusrau Dehlavi, a prominent Persian poet, left an indelible mark with his works like the ‘Diwan,’ ‘Nuh Sipihr,’ and the tragic love poem ‘Masnavi Duwal Rani Khizr Khan.’
- Historians like Zia-ud din Barani and Minhajus-Siraj chronicled the era, shedding light on the socio-political dynamics.
- The Mughal era heralded an explosion of Persian literature. Notable works include ‘Tuzuk-I-Babari,’ the autobiography of Babar, and ‘Ain-e Akbari’ and ‘Akbarnama’ by Abul Fazl.
- The translation of Sanskrit texts into Persian, such as the ‘Razmnama,’ brought two literary worlds together.
- Notable works from this era include ‘Hamzanama,’ ‘Padmavat’ by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, and contributions from Badauni and Faizi.
- Shah Jahan’s reign saw the creation of texts like ‘Shah Jahan-nama’ by Inayat Khan.
- Satirists, including Mir Jafar Zatalli, penned their ‘Kulliyat’ during Aurangzeb’s time.
- ‘Tabqat-i-Alamgiri’ is a valuable source for understanding the eighteenth century, and ‘Padshahnama’ by Abdul Hamid Lahori is a notable story about Shah Jahan.
The Evolution of Urdu Literature:
- Urdu, believed to have originated in Turkish army barracks through the fusion of Persian and Hindi, was still in its infancy during this period.
- Early Urdu works by Amir Khusrau and the influence of Persian on the language set the stage for its future development.
- Poets like Mirza Ghalib, Sauda, Dard, and Mir Taqi Mir contributed significantly to Urdu literature.
- Visionaries like Iqbal, the author of ‘Bang-i-Dara,’ left an indelible mark with his nationalistic anthem, ‘Saare Jahan se achcha.’
- The Nawabs of Awadh were patrons of Urdu literature, and Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan brought new life to the language in the twentieth century.
- Hindi, born from Apabhramsa, flourished between the seventh and fourteenth centuries.
- The Bhakti movement played a pivotal role in shaping Hindi literature, as it championed the use of the language of the common people.
- Notable works include ‘Prithviraj Raso,’ documenting the life of Prithviraj Chauhan.
- Bhakti poets like Kabir, Tulsidas, Surdas, Rahim, Bhushan, and Raskhan composed devotional verses with themes centered around Lord Rama and Lord Krishna.
- Mirabai, the iconic devotee of Lord Krishna, expressed her devotion through Bhakti poetry.
- The works of Satsai from Bihar and other poets contributed to the diverse landscape of Hindi literature.
Medieval literature in the Indian subcontinent is an intricate tapestry of linguistic diversity and cultural expression. From Persian poetry to the evolution of Urdu and the emergence of vernacular languages like Hindi, this period laid the foundation for the vibrant literary traditions that continue to captivate readers to this day.
FAQs on Medieval Literature
1. What defines Medieval Literature and when did this literary period occur?
Answer: Medieval Literature refers to the literary works produced in Europe during the Middle Ages, roughly spanning from the 5th to the 15th century. It encompasses a variety of genres, including epic poetry, romance, allegory, and religious writings. The period is characterized by the influence of Christian thought, chivalry, and feudal society on literary themes and styles.
2. How did religion shape Medieval Literature, and what role did it play in the storytelling?
Answer: Religion was a dominant force in Medieval Literature, with Christianity heavily influencing the themes and content. Many works reflected religious ideals, moral lessons, and the worldview of the time. Religious allegories, such as Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” and epic poems like “Beowulf,” often incorporated Christian symbolism, providing insight into the moral and spiritual values of the medieval society.
3. What are some notable literary works from the Medieval period, and why are they significant?
Answer: Several influential works emerged during the Medieval period. Examples include Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales,” a collection of stories that provides a diverse snapshot of medieval society, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an Arthurian romance that explores chivalry and morality. These works are significant for their cultural and historical impact, offering insights into the values, beliefs, and social structures of the time.
4. How did the concept of chivalry influence Medieval Literature, and what are some examples of chivalric literature?
Answer: Chivalry, a code of conduct associated with knights, played a crucial role in shaping Medieval Literature. It emphasized virtues such as bravery, honor, and loyalty. Chivalric literature, like the Arthurian legends, often depicted knights undertaking quests, demonstrating valor, and facing moral dilemmas. Notable examples include “Le Morte d’Arthur” by Sir Thomas Malory and the adventures of Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain.
5. How did the invention of the printing press impact Medieval Literature?
Answer: The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century had a profound impact on Medieval Literature. Before the printing press, texts were handwritten and laboriously copied, limiting their availability. The printing press revolutionized the distribution of literature, making books more accessible and affordable. This technological advancement played a crucial role in the dissemination of medieval texts and contributed to the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
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