*The Problem of Hindustani (1944) by Tara Chand*
II. Medieval Language and Literature of India
The appearance of modern Indian languages marks the transition from the ancient to the middle ages in Indian History. They became the media of literature and the instruments of medieval thought. It is true that Sanskrit continued to be cultivated; but with the downfall of Hindu principalities and the drying up of the sources of patronage, its vogue rapidly diminished. It still remained the language of orthodox religious literature and of philosophy, and treatises were composed in it on ancient sciences, but the days of its glory were over. The cultural currents which began to sweep the country from the 12th century onwards left the channels of Sanskrit dry, and flowed through new beds. The creative impulses of India passed it by and inspired new dialects. As the magnificent treasure-house of ancient Indian culture, Sanskrit still commanded the homage of the people, and exercised a deep influence over the growth of new languages and literatures; but for the expression of living experience and thought, its usefulness had ceased.
The conquerors of India brought with them a number of languages from abroad. Among them were Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Arabic, as the language of religion and of law, was cultivated by the learned, but its sphere was limited. Turkish might be spoken within the domestic walls, but it did not possess any considerable literature. Its influence was small. Persian was the language of the court. It was used not only as an official language for all state purposes; it was the medium of social intercourse, and it was the favorite of kings and princes, of officers and soldiers, merchants and mendicants. Patronage of learning was regarded in those times an important function of Government, and the centres of political authority attracted numerous aspirants to royal favour. Prose and poetry writers from Persia or Central Asia, and Indian authors born and bred in the country, displayed their skill at the courts of princes to win their favor. Thus there grew up in India a school of Persian writers who vied with the natives of Persia in enriching the literature of that language.
While it may be difficult to assess the contribution of India to Arabic literature, it is easy, with the help of the anthologies (tazkiras), to compile a goodly study of the considerable output of Persian literature from Indian pens. But inevitably the Persian literature of India has been dominated by the standards set by the Persians; and although in language, style, and content the Persian literature of India bears the indubitable impress of its land of origin, and there is little doubt regarding its high quality, it cannot be claimed that this literature is redolent of the native soil, or that it adequately enshrines the genius and spirit of the Indian people.
For the understanding of the medieval Indian mind, it is necessary to study the languages which were the living media of expression, and among them Hindustani, Braja, and Avadhi may be taken for illustration. All the three are closely related, but the first two are daughters of the same mother. The evolution of these languages is a deeply interesting study, not only from the point of view of past history, but also for the understanding of some problems which afflict us in our own times and upon the solution of which our future largely depends.
All these are of Aryan descent—offspring of the Aryan speech, which was brought into India by emigrants from Central Asia and which, after passing through different stages, at last emerged in the form of Apabhramsha in the sixth century A.D.—the century which saw the decline of the type of polity represented by Harsha, and the rise of Rajput kingdoms. Apparently the older literary Prakrits had now become stereotyped and distant from the spoken dialects, which were continuously changing. Apabhramsha denotes the literary phase of the spoken secondary Prakrits which came to the fore from the sixth century.
Whether every one of the Prakrits had an Apabhramsha or not cannot be stated with certainty. Grammarians like Markandeya seem to indicate that that was so. But only two or three of them were of importance, the best known among them being Nagar. It had probably two forms, one western and the other eastern. The western Apabhramsha, however, was used more extensively for literary purposes. The Apabhramsha literature in the west is quite abundant, for the Jains used it for writing religious books, among which may be mentioned Haribhadra's Samaraichcha Kaha, Dhanvala's Bhavisatta Kaha, Pushpadanta's Jasahar Chariu, Savayadhammadoha, etc.
In the east, the sect of the Siddhas used Apabhramsha for their religious texts. Examples are the Doha Kosha and Charyapadas, which contain the compositions of Saraha, Kanha, and others. Grammarians like Hema Chandra in the 12th century, Trivikrama in the16th century, and Markandeya in the 17th, laid down its rules, and culled illustrative verses from previous authors.
Apabhramsha is of interest to students of modern Indian languages, as it is the last stage of the secondary Prakrits from which modern languages are derived. Before taking them up, attention may be drawn to a form of Apabhramsha known as Avahattha, which was employed by the well-known poet Vidyapati of Mithila in his interesting work Kirtilata. It contains the story of two princes of Mitihila who traveled to Jaunpur in order to lay a complaint, against the conduct of a Muslim captain who had killed their father, before the ruler of Jaunpur—the famous King Ibrahim Shah. The poem gives a contemporary picture of the city under the Sharqi Kingdom.
The last stage in the history of India's linguistic evolution begins in the period which saw India invaded by the Ghaznavides and the Ghoris. The modern languages of India, grouped together as the new Indo-Aryan languages or tertiary Prakrits, developed from the Apabhramshas, and possibly in some cases directly from the secondary Prakrits. Unfortunately their history is largely enveloped in obscurity.
Among the Prakrits of Northern India, Saurseni and Ardha Magadhi were important. But what relation they bore to the Apabhramshas known as western and eastern Nagar, it is extremely difficult to state. In all likelihood, the western Apabhramshas gave rise to such western modern languages as Rajasthani, Punjabi, and Western Hindi; while the eastern Apabhramsha developed into Avadhi and the Purbi dialects.
Western Hindi is a modern name which is used to cover the group of dialects spoken in the region watered by the upper reaches of the Jumna and the Ganges. They include Khari Boli, Braja, and Bundeli. Punjabi is spoken to their north, Rajasthani to their west, Avadhi to their east, and Marathi to their south. Khari Boli is the dialect of the northern region from Sirhind to Delhi, and Meerut to Bijnor; Braj belongs to the middle region whose centre is Mathura; and Bundeli lies to the south.
Of this group of dialects, Punjabi need not be considered here. Rajasthani played an important part in the early middle ages in the greater part of northern India, for it had the patronage of Rajput princes, especially the Sisodias of Mewar. It was used as the medium of heroic ballads and bardic poems, as well as of religious and devotional verse. It had a prose literature too, consisting of narratives of notable deeds of princes. The famous Prithviraja Raso, of Chand Bardai, however, is written in such mixed dialects as to be of little value for determining the history of Rajasthani. Gauri Shanker Hirachand Ojha, a well-known scholar of Rajputana, does not consider its date to be earlier than the 16th century. The use of Rajasthani continued from the end of the 14th to the end of the 18th century, but after the 15th century it was confined to Rajputana.
Avadhi or Purbi Hindi, which traces its descent from Ardha Magadhi Prakrit, through a possible eastern Apabhramsha, has had a chequered career. The Jainas had employed Ardha Magadhi in their religious books, but the relation of Jaina Ardha Magadhi with modern Avadhi is not clear. The language of the compositions of the Siddhas is an eastern dialect claimed by some as akin to old eastern Hindi, and by others to Bengali. In the 15th ocentury, when the eastern districts of ancient Avadha sprang into fresh activity as a result of the establishment of the Sharqi dynasty, Avadhi seems to have received a new stimulus.
Kabir, a speaker of Avadhi, presumably composed his Bani (Sayings) in this dialect. Some doubt has been thrown upon Kabir's language on account of the fact that his printed works, published by the Nagari Pracharini Sabha on the basis of what the editor considered a 16th century manuscript, is mixed Purabi, Panjabi, and Rajasthani. On the other hand, Kabir's poems contained in the Adigranth of the Sikhs, a compilation of [the] early 17th century, are in almost unmixed Avadhi.
Kabir lived in the 15th century. He had many followers who used his native dialect. But a school of Sufi poets also arose here which employed Avadhi. Among them Qutban was the first. He wrote a poem entitled Mrigavati, in 1501, which is the story of the love of the Prince of Chandranagar and Princess Mrigavati of Kanchanpur. There were other poets of the same school, but Malik Muhammad Jayasi is the most famous among them. He composed the well-known poem Padmavat in 1540 AD.
All poets of Avadhi, however, were eclipsed by Tulasidas, the author of the immortal Ramcharitamanas, who lived in the 17th century. Tulasidas had really no successor of eminence, although Avadhi claims a considerable number of poets. Ultimately, the language was eclipsed by the greater popularity of Braj. The origin of Braj, like that of a number of other dialects, is still shrouded in darkness. There are no certain data yet available to carry back the story of its literature beyond the commencement of the 16th century. As a spoken dialect it must have come into vogue in the 13th century, and it is likely that popular songs in Braj were current from the very beginning, but its employment as a literary vehicle appears to have begun when Vallabhacharya came to settle down in Brajmandal at the end of the 15th century. He founded a new sect in which devotion to Krishna was the central object. He gathered round him many disciples, among whom eight attained fame.
The greatest of them was Surdas, whose padas (songs) are recognised as giving most adequate expression to the deepest emotions of a devotee towards his beloved deity. With Surdas, Braj leapt into fame as a fit medium for song and poetry. Its sweetness so enraptured northern India that it spread all over the north as the language of literature. Even Bengal, which had its own literary language, made use of a corrupt Braj called Brajbuli, for Krishnaite poetry. The domination of Braj lasted till well into the 19th century. Only during the last 50 years it has been gradually displaced by modern Hindi.
Hindustani, the northern dialect of western Hindi, named Khari Boli to distinguish it from Braj; called Rekhta and Hindwi by Amir Khusru; Dakhini and Urdu by its southern and northern speakers, is one of those obscure dialects which the ancient midland, the home of Sanskrit, evolved. Saurseni Prakrit, Nagar or Saurseni Apabhramsha, were its predecessors. Its phonetic and morphological systems were derived from the secondary Prakrits. But while it was still a spoken dialect, it came under the influence of people who spoke Persian and Arabic. It received new sounds from them, and evolved an ampler phonetic system. Along with new sounds, many new words of Turkish, Persian, and Arabic origin entered into its vocabulary. So far as its grammar was concerned, it underwent very little modification, though the structure of phrases and the methods of derivation of words and compounds were changed to a small extent, and minor grammatical forms and usages were adopted from Persian.
The dialect thus developed had an extraordinarily curious history. In its own homeland it remained a more or less despised mongrel patois, employed as a means of communication between the foreigner and the people, more or less as pidgin English is used in Madras and other cantonments, where there is a considerable colony of the British. But there is hardly any authentic literary work which might testify to its use in literature till later.
Against this statement, mention may be made of the use of Hindi words in the poems of Persian poets, instances of which are found in the works of Farrukhi, Manuchehri, Mukhtari, Hakim Sanai, and others of the Ghaznavide period. Even more important than this is the fact that Masud Saad Salman is reported to have composed a whole Diwan in Hindi. He was born in Mahmud Ghaznavi's reign, and acquired fame in Sultan Ibrahim's time. What form of Hindi language he used it is impossible to determine, but the lines of his Diwan give instances of the Khari Boli forms, e.g.:
Ae parastare sang-o-sukh darpan
Wai giriftare ishq-e-sbam'a-o-lagan
Dil na mi arzad ki az mastiash kas
Warihanadya ba byohare dihad
It may, therefore, be inferred that those Persian poets who resided in the Punjab were employing Khari Boli. Again Amir Khusrau, who was born in 1253 and died in 1325, is described as the author of quite a considerable number of verses in Hindi. The statement is gravely doubted, but the preface to his Diwan, Ghurratual Kamal, contains a line:—
Ari ari haman bayari aeyi
Maree maree birah ki maree aeyee
Apart from this, Hindi words are scattered through his verses. Again, Fariduddin Ganj Shakar, who died in 1265, is quoted in his biographies as having used the phrase
Poonon ka Chand bala hota hai—a fine Khari Boli sentence. His poems are included in the Adigranth too, but their language is Punjabi. Similarly, phrases of Hamiduddin Nagori, Bu Ali Qalandar, Sharafuddin Yahya Muniri are reproduced. It has been asserted that Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti too employed Hindi in his talks. However that may be, the fact remains that these centuries up to the 15th furnish little evidence of independent Khari Boli literature in the north. Though undoubtedly it must have flourished as a spoken tongue, and might even have produced songs and poems whose record is lost.
What the north failed to achieve, strangely enough, the Deccan accomplished. Alauddin Khilji's conquests had opened the country, and numerous Sufi saints and Dervishes visited the south in order to spread their message. In the south Persian was an almost unknown tongue, and they were compelled to use the dialect of Delhi, which they knew, in order to carry on their work. Among these saints the one who created the greatest impression was Khwaja Gesu-daraz Banda-nawaz. He left the north when Timur invaded the Punjab in 1398, and settled down in the Deccan. He probably is the first writer of the Khari Boli who made it a literary language. His Risala, Mi’raj-ul Ashiquin, edited from a manuscript of 1500 AD, gives an example of his language. Here are a few sentences from the Risala: Insan ke boojoe kon panch tan. Har ek tan ko panch darwaze hain hor panch darban hain. Pahla tan wajbul wajood. Muqam iska shaitani nafs iska ammara. (The authenticity of this Risala is doubted.)
Next to him is Shams-ul-Ushshaq Shah Miranji, who died in 1496. Many of his works have been preserved, and they illustrate the language of the 15th century.
The 15th century produced quite a number of writers of this language. Bahauddin Bajan, who lived at Berhampur, was a Sufi poet. He wrote:
Yun bajan baje re asrar chhaje
Mandal man men dhamke, rabab rang men jhamke, soofi un par thumke.
Nizami was a poet at the court of Sultan Ahmad Shah III, and lived in the 15th century. He is the author of the first known allegorical poem (Masnavi) in the language, entitled Masnavi Kadorn Rao aur Padam.
From this period—that is, the end of the 14th century—this language, which may be called Hindustani, continues to progress rapidly. When Aurangzeb began the conquest of Bijapur and Golkonda in the 17th century, the poets of the Deccan began to visit the North, and the consequence was that Hindustani poetry became known to the writers of Delhi and other places. The return of the prodigal to the paternal home led to a new development. The courtiers of the Emperors of Delhi were mainly speakers and writers of Persian, but the Hindustani which came to them from the Deccan was the true representative of the mixture of Hindu-Muslim culture which prevailed among the peoples of India.
They found it rather uncouth for their tastes, and in their misguided zeal started to reform and, according to their judgment, purify it. Thus non-Persian sounds were regarded by them as harsh and heavy, and they began to abandon all the words containing such sounds. Again, the Hindustani of the Deccan was the language originally of the ordinary common people, which the Sufis had adopted for the reason that it was popular. It contained many expressions which struck the ears of the aristocratic courtiers as vulgar.
Thus the language was shorn of a great deal of its naturalness, and the growing degeneracy and demoralization of the Mughal court favored the development of an artificial language and literature. During the 18th century, Hindustani was transformed into Urdu-i-Mualla. The patronage of the high and the mighty increased the number of its votaries. Unfortunately, in the sequel it suffered from this change. Although it became the language of both Hindu and Muslim upper classes, its contact with the common people was weakened. At the end of the 18th century, the Mughal Empire broke down. The British seized power, and they began the search for a language which could be used for popular purposes. At Fort William College, Calcutta, which was established to teach British officers Indian languages besides other subjects, a number of them were taken up for study.
Among them were Braj and Urdu. Braj, as has been indicated above, was the language of poetry, and did not lend itself readily for the purposes of prose. Urdu, which was studied by both Hindus and Muslims, was naturally selected as the common language of India. Unfortunately the zeal for finding distinctions led the professors of the College to encourage attempts to create a new type of Urdu, from which all Persian and Arabic words were removed and replaced by Sanskrit words. This was done ostensibly to provide the Hindus with a language of their own. But the step had far-reaching consequences, and India is still suffering from this artificial bifurcation of tongues.
The Hindustani, which the Deccanese developed, came into literary use at the end of the 14th or the beginning of the15th century; that is, more than a quarter of a century previous to the establishment of Mughal rule in India. So far as the sister languages were concerned, Rajasthani and Avadhi were its contemporaries, but both went out of literary use before the end of the Mughal rule. Braj began a century later and continued its literary career till recent times, but it remained the language of poetry only, and therefore condemned itself as the medium of serious prose; for a poetic language, howsoever fine, could not live long.
Hindustani thus is the only survivor which has a history of unbroken service during a period of five centuries. If it desires to avoid the fate of its sisters, the only course before it is that it should return to the common people from whom it sprang, and become the medium of expression of their longings and fears, hopes and aspirations.
The evolution of Hindustani language shows the same processes of assimilation at work in medieval India as had led to the development of a common religious and mystical philosophy. A purely Indo-Aryan dialect was adopted by the missionaries of the Sufi religion of love, for the propagation of their message—not only among the Muslims, but also among the Hindus. By their efforts, the dialect became a literary language. It is necessary then to survey the field of its literature.
In regard to Hindustani literature a number of misunderstandings exist in the minds of many people—among whom some at least ought to have known better. It is, for instance, not sufficiently widely recognized—and for this both Hindus and Muslims are to blame—that although the faith of the conquerors was different from that of the conquered, no sooner had the former settled down in the country than they forgot their foreign origins and began to look upon the country as their home. The pride of these foreigners in the land of their adoption is indeed amazing.
It was this pride which inspired the people of India and gave them a legitimate confidence in their destiny. Even foreigners were dazzled by the India of those days, and sighed for a sojourn here.
The courts of the Indian rulers were not open only to Persian poets. Numerous Hindu poets received patronage from them in the same way as the others. So far as Sanskrit poets are concerned, history mentions the following facts.
Before the Mughals the presence of Pandits is noted at the courts of most Sultans. Of Firoz, it is stated that he had Sanskrit works translated into Persian. Jalaluddin of Bengal was the patron of Brihaspati, on whom he conferred the title of Rai Mukut. He gave him an elephant and a pearl necklace in reward. Sher Shah Sur had in his service Bhuvananda and Todar Mai; and Salim Shah, Chandrakirti the author of Saraswati Prakriya. Akbar patronized a number of them—Vithal, Krishna Das, Gangadhar, Nrismha, Bhanu Chand, Siddha Chand, Narayaru Bhatt, Nilkantha, and Kalidas. Jahangir's Pandits were Govind Sharma, Kavi Karnapur; Shahjahan's, Vedanga Rai, Kavindracharya, Parashu, Ram Misra, Panditraj Jagannnath. Even Aurangzeb seems to have had Pandits, for they translated for Azam's son a treatise from Sanskrit on the sciences.
The provincial rulers and noblemen were equally eager to support learning. Zain-ul-Abidin of Kashmir was fond of hearing Yoga Vasistha and Ramayana. Pandit Srivara of Kashmir translated Jami's Yusuf Zulaikha from Persian into Sanskrit.
Of the Hindi, or rather Braj, poets who received encouragement and rewards at the Durbars, the list is even longer. In fact it may be noted that the Mughal rulers were greater patrons of Braj than of Urdu. From Akbar to Aurangzeb not one had an Urdu poet at his court, but several [had] Braj poets. Only after Aurangzeb's death, and in fact from Muhammad Shah's reign, the patronage of Urdu began; and that too, without affecting the patronage of Braj.
The history of Indian languages other than Hindi, shows similar generosity on the part of Muslim rulers, but it is impossible to speak of them all in this essay.
Another aspect of literature which is overlooked is that there was much give and take between Hindu and Muslim writers. An illustration of this tendency is the borrowing of Hindi words by Persian writers, and of Persian words by writers of Braj, Avadhi, Marathi, Bengali, etc. Cases of Ghaznavide poets have been alluded to already, but illustrations could be adduced from poets of every period. Gulbadan Begam's Humayun Nama contains a considerable number of Hindi words; the use of some of them is surprising, for it indicates that newcomers to India adopted readily Indian manners and customs. This tendency became so pronounced that the phrase
Sher-i-Farasi ba rawishe mardume Hindustanwas applied to Indian works of poetry. It is stated in one of the letters of Aurangzeb, that he was asked to give names to two new varieties of mango, and he selected Rasana Vilas and Sudha Ras as the most appropriate. Similarly he named the city of Barnala "Nawaltara," and gave the names Agniban, Ramjangi, Gadhnal, and Gajnal to his guns.
So far as literary composition is concerned, there was no prejudice on either side. The Ramayana of Tulasidas, the padas of Surdas, the Satsai of Bihari Lal, and in fact every Avadhi and Braj work of those times, used many words of Persian and Arabic origin.
The same spirit characterized authorship. Among Braj and Avadhi writers there were many Muslims, and they took rank with the best Hindu poets. Raskhan compares favorably with Surdas, Raslin and Pemi with Mati Ram and Chintamani; Rahim stands in a class by himself; and Jayasi is not inferior to anyone as an Avadhi writer.
That the Hindus reciprocated the compliment is well known. Persian and Urdu count many a Hindu votary who worshipped at their shrine. Chandrabhan Brahman, Anand Ram Mukhlis, Lachhmi Narain Shafiq, Brindaban Das, Tekchand Bahar, are only some of the Hindu writers of Persian. So far as Urdu is concerned, their name is legion. In this connection it is noteworthy that throughout the middle age translations from Arabic and Persian into Sanskrit and Hindi, and vice versa, were frequent. They constituted a powerful means of bringing the two communities together. In view of these facts it is not surprising that the literatures of Hindustani, Braj, and Avadhi show remarkable correspondences.
In considering them, the first principle to be kept in mind is that literature is a social product and must embody the ideas and ideals of the society to which it belongs. The literature which truly represents India's spirit and reflects India's mind in the middle ages is the literature in Indian languages—Hindustani, Braj, Avadhi, and others. Now if one makes a broad survey of the literature of the three languages, certain important conclusions emerge.
It need not be repeated that the three languages received similar treatment from both the communities of India. In patronage and authorship there is much that is common to them. But the question of importance is whether there is anything in common in their form and substance. This is a difficult question, but an attempt has been made here to answer it by a comparative study of these.
Now if the period during which these literatures flourished is analyzed, it seems to fall into two divisions. The first part extends from the end of the 14th century to about the last quarter of the 17th century; and the second comprises the next century and half.
Among the noted Hindustani poets of the first period we come across the names of Nizami, Wajahi, Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah, Ibn Nishati, Burhanuddin Janam, Muqimi, Shauqi, Nusrati, Aminuddin Ala. Their works consist predominantly of masnavis, qasidas, marsias, or longer poems. The subjects of the masnavis may be divided into mystical tales, romances, biographical pieces; the qasidas (eulogies) deal either the praises of the Prophet or Ali or some great religious leader, or are encomiums on princes and Sultans. Marsias treat of the tragic events of Karbala.
Religion, romance, heroism and war provide the basic emotional content of this poetry. It is poetry of high endeavor, of striving for greatness in this life or beyond. It is idealist in the true sense of the term. It applauds struggle, even suffering, in the cause of moral and spiritual progress. It is earnest and genuine. It is true, because it calls upon man to be what the dignity of his manhood demands that he ought to be. It is true, therefore, to life and to nature. It avoids exaggeration, which is a form of distortion, and therefore of falsehood. Its language is simple, racy, natural. Among these poems, quite a number are apparently translations either from Persian or Hindi, but in fact they are adaptations. Their style and manner are their own, and no one who reads them can say that they are not original, for their makers were skilled artists.
But when the second period is brought under survey, a very different picture is revealed. The poetry of the last quarter of the 17th, and the 18th, century is quite different in tone and in substance. So far as form is concerned, the ghazal has become dominant. Masnavis, qasidas, and marsias are not altogether abandoned, but they have lost the ring of truth, earnestness, and moral exaltation. The masnavis, of which Mir Hasan's Sihrul Bayan may be taken as the best exemplar, show no power of construction or characterization. They are stories of an artificial exaggerated passion. Whereas many of the older masnavis suggested that human love and its sorrows and joys were transient, and hinted at a state of things more truly and permanently satisfying, the later masnavis make no appeal to anything beyond fleeting sense-life.
The qasidas of Sauda and Zauq are utterly jejeune, in spite of the frightening array of pompous words culled from the vocabularies of Arabic and Persian. They have lost the capacity of stating anything simply and in a straightforward manner. They are complex, full of all kinds of twists and turns. Nor even in marsia—which made a great advance upon its early form—is the old directness of statement and economy of feeling observed.
The later poets revel in ghazal. Stereotyped in its subject matter, it gives unlimited opportunity for display of skill in the choice of words. This skill cannot be denied. It occasionally amounts to genius, as in the case of Mir and Ghalib. But how is it possible to imprison within the strait-jacket of qafia and radif so elusive a fairy as the poetry of love? The very arrangement of the poems on so mechanical a basis as the last letter of the line condemns it. Such commonplace treatment of an exalted and ennobling human passion betokens nothing but lowering of standards of culture and refinement.
This judgment is harsh. Perhaps it needs qualification. For there are some redeeming features of the poetry produced in these times of terrible disruption, decay, and demoralization. What compensates for the lack of substance in the poetry is the polish of form. While its content is on the whole meager, the wonderful skill in the choice of words and the turn of phrase, imparts to it a glow of unusual attractiveness. If harmony and appropriateness of sound constitute half the charm of poetry, then there is no doubt that Urdu will pass the test with flying colors.
It must be remembered, however, that the period during which it flourished was extremely miserable, for intrigue, selfishness, treachery, and defeat mark the history of the 18th century, and this misery was bound to be communicated to literature. Insofar as it reflects the life of the times, it serves its purpose. Yet after all is said, what a contrast between the earlier vigor and earnestness, and the later sentimentality which "sicklies over the pale cast of thought."
And what about the literature in the sister languages, Avadhi and Braj? It is not surprising that its history runs parallel to that of Hindustani, and that it may be divided into the same two periods, and that it shows, in these periods, the same traits of emotion and thought.
Who are the great writers between 1500 and 1650? Malik Muhammad Jayasi, Kabir, Surdas, Tulasidas. Next to them in importance are Dadu, Nandadas, Mirabai, Raskhan, Rahim, Senapati, and Keshav. Except the last two, the predominant note of poetry is religious and moral. Jayasi's Padmavat is not a tale written for the delectation of idle youth absorbed in the tremendously trifling pursuit of romantic love, but a mystic allegory pointing to the everlasting quest of the human soul. Kabir, the most powerful denunciator of sham and hypocrisy that medieval India produced, is the high priest of a devotion to the divine principle which is beyond name and form. Surdas is a bard who sings of the entrancing love of the devotee to a personal God who assumes human attributes in order to pour his infinite grace upon man. Tulasidas, in his undying verse, brings God near to the heart of the simple common man by making Him a human being with human relations, emotions, trials, and vicissitudes.
Their poetry did not follow the false principle, 'Art for Art's sake', but the higher law that Art is for the sake of man. This poetry was naturally characterized by earnestness, and in the sense that all creative literature is the literature of power, it has the supreme quality of persuasiveness. Coming straight from the heart, and not composed for the sake of effect, it makes the deepest impression upon the reader, and has received the homage of generations of our countrymen.
On the contrary, the poetry of the second period is dominated by quite a different set of ideas. In the terminology of Hindi critics it is known as Riti poetry, poetry of Rasa and Alankara. It is a wholly artificial creation. Its main interest is Sringara (love); and its chief aim, the exemplification of varieties of figures of speech. Its love is not the human passion which moves the heart of an individual particular man or woman, nor the emotion which lifts us above the tyranny of here and now, but a psychologized, classified, laboratory object lying on the table of a dissecting scientist.
The great masters of verse of the latter half of the 17th and the 18th century were engaged largely in the production of poetry of this type. Among them were such magic workers as Chintamani Tripathi, Mati Ram, Bhushan, Bihari Lal, Dev, Pritam, Padmakar, Ghananand, and others. The nauseous subtleties of their nakh-sikh and naik-naika-bhed-varnan are amazing. They have attained the limits of ingenuity, and exhausted the possibilities of verbal skill, over their descriptions of all parts of woman's body and the nuances of moods of woman's passion.
At its best it excels the cut of the jeweller who cunningly shapes his precious stones to fit the golden ring which will adorn the bewitching fingers of some great beauty. They shine and glitter and dazzle by their sheer artistry. They please and even exhilarate, but they have not in them the life-giving ambrosia which heals lacerated hearts and quenches human thirst. It will not move anyone to goodness or greatness.
The tendencies shown by Urdu and Hindi in the two periods of the
ages are similar. But that is as it should be. The literature may
two languages, but it is the literature of the people of India,
had common experiences which united them in heart and intellect.
to the mysterious call which filled them with an eager enthusiasm
the world—inward and outward. When the impulse weakened, their
was overshadowed by dark clouds through which they glimpsed shapes
monsters which frightened them and laid a palsy upon their souls.
better and for worse, in good weather and bad, destiny had linked
lives in common bonds, and in whatever they did, thought, or spoke
exhibited a common mind.