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Gujarati Language And The Literature

Bijoy Misra

Gujarati Language and Literature

Dr. Neelima Shukla-Bhatt presented the third lecture in the series of “Languages and Literature of India” organized by the Outreach Committee of the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University on February 10.

Gujarati is an old language, the early development mostly being done by Jaina monks.  The Shaurseni Prakrit can be traced almost two thousand years, eventually leading to Apabhramsa literature. The poetry form in the language is about a thousand year old, enriched by both Hindu and non-Hindu poets. The poetry of Narsi Mehta is most eloquent, popularized by Mahatma Gandhi through his daily prayers. Gujarati prose writing and journalism was developed in the nineteenth century called the “age of Narmad”. Protest writing against colonialism led to a string of powerful essays leading to the foundation of modern Gujarati literature. With the movement of Gujaratis to other lands, the literature also took shape in the form of stories of every day life of people in various areas. The humor literature developed in the process. Mahatma Gandhi had a profound effect on the modern Gujarati literature through his simple style and direct expressions. The twentieth century literature is enriched by many eminent writers, essayists, playwrights, humorists and poets providing the picture of the life, living and conflicts in Gujarati society. 

Dr. Bhatt presented pictures and biographies of all major contributors to Gujarati literature with examples of major contributions from each.  The old Raso literature, the middle-age devotional literature, the colonial social literature and the modern reformist literature form the fabric of the Gujarati language. She  gave a short tutorial on Gujarati script and explained the unique features of Gujarati grammar. The lecture was followed by recitation by eminent local area Gujarati poet Mr. Chandrakant Shah from his famous collection of poems “Blue Jeans”.  Mr. Shah and Mrs. Pallavi Gandhi presented a small skit presenting a scene depicting urban life in a Gujarati city. Dr. Bijoy Misra offered the vote of thanks on behalf of the University.

Outreach lectures at Harvard University are held on second Saturdays during the academic year in Science Center.  The schedule is posted at Harvard University website http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~sanskrit/outreach.html and in Lokvani.com.

The next lecture in the series will focus on Urdu Literature.  The eminent scholar Dr. Naseem Hines, Preceptor of Urdu-Hindi at Harvard University will be the speaker. 

Urdu is a modern language and its literature has been made popular through
Ghazal and Qawwali.  This lecture will explore the world of Urdu poetry
in its classical and modern forms and discuss the impact it has had on the
ecumenical culture of the Subcontinent.  The lecture will be followed by
recitations of selected pieces of Urdu poetry and prose.

Speaker's bio:
Dr. Naseem Akhtar Hines received her Ph.D. in Asian Languages and Literature from the University of Washington in Seattle. Her dissertation focuses on the devotional literature of North India. She has taught Urdu and Hindi languages and literatures at the University of Washington in Seattle, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and at University of California at Berkeley. Her scholarly articles, fiction, poetry, and English translation of Urdu and Hindi poetry are published in several anthologies. Currently she is working on the English translation of a fourteenth century Indo-Sufi allegorical
romance, Chandayan.

Saturday, March 10, 2007, 3:00 PM
Hall A, Harvard University Science Center
1 Oxford Street, Cambridge

Contact telephones: 617-864-5121 or 617-495-3295.

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