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Cultural Heritage: Indian Literature

Indian Cultural Heritage

The first known written work of Indian literature is the 'Ramayana', in Sanskrit, by Sage 'Valmiki' around 4th century BC. The story of 'Rama', an incarnation of Lord 'Vishnu' was composed in 24000 verses. Ramayana, a great work of literature, is the most sacred and holy of all books written in Sanskrit next only to 'Bhagvat Gita'.

Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize Winner for Literature 'Mahabharatha' is the largest literary work in the world. It consists of 100,000 verses and Sage 'Vyasa', often referred as the Homer of India, composed it. Mahabharatha is a glorious work of high literary and philosophical value. It is a poem, an epic and a legend believed to have been written around 4th century BC.

'Panchathantra' (five strategies) is a book of edifying tales. It contains five books each teaching a strategy, through fairy tales, to be applied to tackle a situation. 'Vishnu Sharma' (100-500 AD) wrote it and its contents did had an influence on the West Asia and medieval Europe.

One of the greatest poets of all times, 'Kalidasa' (4th century AD) had enriched Indian literature with his works of 'Abhijnanasakuntalam', 'Meghadootham', 'Raghuvamsam' and 'Kumarasambhavam'. All of his works is still a model for 'Mahakavyas'.

There were many writers like 'Aswa Gosha' (Budhacharitha, II century AD), 'Vishaka Datta' (Political plays, VI century), 'Bana Bhatta' (Autobiographical elements, VII century) and 'Kalhana' (History, XI century) those are only a few who contributed to the development of Indian literature.

Every Indian language has its share of enrichment in Indian literature. Great works are created in every field and to mention them and their authors will be exhaustive. The earliest literary works were revolving mainly around mythology and religion but gradually started to deal directly with social, political and economical themes.

India has produced a number of literary marvels in English as well. 'Rabindranath Tagore' won Nobel Prize for his collection of popular poems, 'Gitanjali'. Raja Rao received the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for literature. Vikram Seth who won the Commonwealth Writer's prize, published the first Indian English novel in verse (Golden Gate). Shashi Tharoor is another writer who won the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Amitav Gosh has won the Prix Medici Estranger, a top French literary award, and the Sahitya Acadamy Award. Arundhathi Roy won the Booker Prize for her first novel, The God of small things, for the year 1997.

R. K. Narayan (fiction), Kamala Das (poetry), Mulk Raj Anand (social realism), Kushwant Singh (fiction) and A. K. Ramanujan (poetry) are only a few of the other literary giants in English.