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India Hindu Period (500 CE-1500 CE) Language And Literature

Prem Nagar
09/23/2021

India Hindu Period (500 CE-1500 CE) Language and Literature

Proliferation of regionalism led to the development of many regional languages (deśabhāṣās).

Figure 1. Process of hybridization of regional language development

Nāṭyaśāstra describes seven Prākrit forms of languages. Northern Vernaculars were labelled as Apabhraṃśa. Three Principal Languages Sanskrit, Tamil, Prakrit/Pali were used in trade, administration, education and communication (Figure-1).   

For grammar, the northern and eastern languages leaned on Pāṇinian’s Aṣṭādhyāyī, while southern and western languages used Tholkappiyar’s Tolkappiyam as well as Aṣṭādhyāyī. By 1500 CE, Regional Language in North and East of India were Pãjābī, Awadhi, Maithili, Nēpālī, Odia, Bengali, Assamese, Santali, Manipuri, Meitei (mənɪˈpʊri), Bodo and others, similarly in West and South were Pashto, Multani (Saraiki), Sindhi, Gujarātī, Marāṭhī, Konkani, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, and others.

Evolution of script in various languages during the period is summarized in Figure 2. 

Figure 2. Time development of script in various Indian languages


Progression of Brāhmī to Devanāgarī Consonant Syllables found on stone or copper plates is reproduced in Figure 3.
 

 

Figure 3. Development from Brahmi script to Devanagari script (by James Prinsep, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, in March 1838)


In South, Pallava script evolved into the Brahmic-Tamil and Grantha and these were found in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Vatteluttu in Tamil-Malayalam.
 

Bhartrihari’s Vākyapadīya (600CE) theorized “act of speech” in four mental stages, notion of Sphota at Speech Level and perception of a sentence at three level, varṇa-sphoṭa, at syllable level, pada-sphoṭa or Śabda- sphoṭa, at word level, and vakya-sphoṭa, at sentence level. 

Ease of writing led to the transcription of huge Oral literature. Many of those were retold in regional languages including Bhagavada-Gita, Natyasastra, the Ramayana and the Mahabharat. 

Devotional (Bhakti) Literature, inspired through Bhagavad-Gita, Bhagavata-Purana and Padma-Purana, originated in South India (700CE) and embraced by all regions by 1500 CE. (Figure-4).

Figure 4. Devotional Literature

Daṇḍin’s Kāvyādarśa (800CE) characterized poem (Kāvya) “beauty is derived from its use of rhetoric (Alaṁkāra)”. Bhāmaha‘s Kāvyālamkāra (700CE), Vāmana’s Kāvyālamkārasutravratti (900CE) Ānandavardhana’s Dhvanyāloka (900CE), Abhinavagupta’s Abhinavabharatī (1000CE), Mammaṭa’s Kāvyaprakāsa (1100CE) are gems of Sanskrit literature. Jayadeva's Gītagovinda in Sanskrit explored the mood of love in eight different contexts (Figure-5). Kalidas, India’s greatest playwright, established Hero (nayaka), Heroine (nayika), and Clown (vidusaka), the three tenets of a typical drama. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5. Gita-Govinda (Songs of Govinda) (1200CE)

In secular literature, Adi Shankara’s (800CE) Rāmānuja’s (1100CE) and Hemachandra’s (1200CE) are noteworthy. Availability of texts accelerated the proliferation of Education Centers in monastery (Matha) and halls attached to temples for debates (Ghatika). Education centers flourished at: Nālandā (100CE-1200CE); Vallabhi (475-1200CE); Vikramaśīla (800CE); Dharampala (800CE); Odantpuri (750-1200CE); and Jagaddala, and Mithila (1200-1500CE). Students were trained in Vedas, Upanishads, Philosophy, Economics, Law, Politics, Medicine, and practical training.

Śārṅgadeva’s Sangita-Ratnakara (1300CE) established the Grammar of music and Music genres.  Rāgas and Tala lead to Dance forms: Bharatanatyam, Kathak (story telling), Odissi, Koodiyattam, and others.  Thus, Orality to Text to the Literary Expressiveness matured.

Literary ornamentation (Alankar) transformed through the orchestration of literature, singing, drama and dance, into an expression of creativity (Jhankar). Thus, Orality to Text to the Literary Expressiveness matured. 

Figure 6. Ruins of Vikramashila Mahavihra

Language was influenced by the social, trade and political contacts with foreigners and the speakers of other languages. Brahmagupta’s (598CE-668CE) Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta and Khaṇḍakhādyaka on the Indian decimal system was translated into Arabic by Muhammad-al-Fazari. Al-Khwarizmi (800–850CE) wrote “al-Jam-wal-tafriq-bi-hisal-al-Hind” in Arabic that in turn was translated in Latin (1300CE) as “Algorithmi de numero indorum” which led to the spread of the decimal system throughout the world. “Panchatantra” was translated in Persian (800CE) by Ibn-al-Muqaffa-tin as “Kalīla-wa-Dimna”. Al-Beruni’s (973-1048CE) travel diary is considered a reference document on India in the west.

Bibliography

1. Bholanath Tiwari, Bhartiya Bhashaon Ka Udbhava Aur Vikas, in Dr. Nagendra (ed.), Bhartiya Sahitya ka Samekit Itihas, p.79, Hindi Madhyam Karyanvaya Nideshalaya, Delhi University, 1989,

2. James Prinsep, as published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, in March 1838

3. Phonology–orthography interface in Devanāgarī for Hindi by: Pramod Pandey; Jawaharlal Nehru University

4. Education System in Ancient India: A Historical Review by: Dr. Devidas B. Waydande, M.S. Kakade College, Someshwarnagar Dist –Pune (Maharashtra)

5. Evolution of Early Writing in India by: Subhash Kak; Indian Journal of History of Science, vol. 28, 1994, pp.375-388

6. A HISTORY OF ANCIENT AND EARLY MEDIEVAL INDIA, FROM THE STONE AGE TO THE 12TH CENTURY by: Upinder Singh,

7. THE INFLUENCE OF ARABIC ON INDIAN LANGUAGE: HISTORICALLY AND LINGUSTICALLY MUNA MOHAMMED ABBAS ALKHATEEB, HASANEIN HASAN, College of Basic Education, Babylon University, IRAQ

8. Seminar Presentation at: https://www.indiadiscoverycenter.org/seminars/hinduperiod/langlit/

Mr. Prem Nagar leads the Language and Literature track in India Discovery Center project on "Evolution of Indian Culture: Pre-history to 1947AD".

More information and updates on the project are available at

https://www.facebook.com/Evolution-of-Indian-Culture-An-IDC-Project-107749391111922

Information on India Discovery Center is at

https://www.indiadiscoverycenter.org

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