1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hindōstānī Literature
HINDŌSTĀNĪ LITERATURE. The writings dealt with in this article are those composed in the vernacular of that part of India which is properly called Hindōstān,—that is, the valleys of the Jumna and Ganges rivers as far east as the river Kōs, and the tract to the south including Rajpūtānā, Central India (Bundēlkhaṇḍ and Baghēlkhaṇḍ), the Narmadā (Nerbudda) valley as far west as Khandwā, and the northern half of the Central Provinces. It does not include the Punjab proper (though the town population there speak Hindōstānī), nor does it extend to Lower Bengal.
In this region several different dialects prevail. The people of the towns everywhere use chiefly the form of the language called Urdū or Rēkhta, stocked with Persian words and phrases, and ordinarily written in a modification of the Persian character. The country folk (who form the immense majority) speak different varieties of Hindī, of which the word-stock derives from the Prākrits and literary Sanskrit, and which are written in the Dēvanāgari or Kaithī character. Of these the most important from a literary point of view, proceeding from west to east, are Mārwāṛī and Jaipurī (the languages of Rajpūtānā), Brajbhāshā (the language of the country about Mathurā and Agra), Kanaujī (the language of the lower Ganges-Jumna Doāb and western Rohilkhaṇḍ), Eastern Hindī, also called Awadhī and Baiswārī (the language of Eastern Rohilkhaṇḍ, Oudh and the Benares division of the United Provinces) and Bihārī (the language of Bihār or Mithilā, comprising several distinct dialects). What is called High Hindī is a modern development, for literary purposes, of the dialect of Western Hindi spoken in the neighbourhood of Delhi and thence northwards to the Himālaya, which has formed the vernacular basis of Urdū; the Persian words in the latter have been eliminated and replaced by words of Sanskritic origin, and the order of words in the sentence which is proper to the indigenous speech is more strictly adhered to than in Urdū, which under the influence of Persian constructions has admitted many inversions.
As in many other countries, nearly all the early vernacular literature of Hindōstān is in verse, and works in prose are a modern growth. Both Hindī and Urdū are, in their application to literary purposes, at first intruders upon the ground already occupied by the learned languages Sanskrit and Persian, the former representing Hindū and the latter Musalmān culture. But there is this difference between them, that, whereas Hindī has been raised to the dignity of a literary speech chiefly by impulses of revolt against the monopoly of the Brahmans, Urdū has been cultivated with goodwill by authors who have themselves highly valued and dexterously used the polished Persian. Both Sanskrit and Persian continue to be employed occasionally for composition by Indian writers, though much fallen from their former estate; but for popular purposes it may be said that their vernacular rivals are now almost in sole possession of the field.
The subject may be conveniently divided as follows:—
1. Early Hindī, of the period during which the language was being fashioned as a literary medium out of the ancient Prākrits, represented by the old heroic poems of Rajpūtānā and the literature of the early Bhagats or Vaishnava reformers, and extending from about A.D. 1100 to 1550;
2. Middle Hindī, representing the best age of Hindī poetry, and reaching from about 1550 to the end of the 18th century;
3. The rise and development of literary Urdū, beginning about the end of the 16th century, and reaching its height during the 18th;
4. The modern period, marked by the growth of a prose literature in both dialects, and dating from the beginning of the 19th century.
1. Early Hindī.—Our knowledge of the ancient metrical chronicles of Rajpūtānā is still very imperfect, and is chiefly derived from the monumental work of Colonel James Tod, called The Annals and Antiquities of Rājāsthān (published in 1829-1832), which is founded on them. It is in the nature of compositions of this character to be subjected to perpetual revision and recasting; they are the production of the family bards of the dynasties whose fortunes they record, and from generation to generation they are added to, and their language constantly modified to make it intelligible to the people of the time. Round an original nucleus of historical fact a rich growth of legend accumulates; later redactors endeavour to systematize and to assign dates, but the result is not often such as to inspire confidence; and the mass has more the character of ballad literature than of serious history. The materials used by Tod are nearly all still unprinted; his manuscripts are now deposited in the library of the Royal Asiatic Society in London; and one of the tasks which, on linguistic and historical grounds, should first be undertaken by the investigator of early Hindī literature is the examination and sifting, and the publication in their original form, of these important texts.
Omitting a few fragments of more ancient bards given by compilers of accounts of Hindī literature, the earliest author of whom any portion has as yet been published in the original text is Chand Bardāī, the court bard of Prithwī-Rāj, the last Hindū sovereign of Delhi. His poem, entitled Prithī-Rāj Rāsau (or Rāysā), is a vast chronicle in 69 books or cantos, comprising a general history of the period when he wrote. Of this a small portion has been printed, partly under the editorship of the late Mr John Beames and partly under that of Dr Rudolf Hoernle, by the Asiatic Society of Bengal; but the excessively difficult nature of the task prevented both scholars from making much progress. Chand, who came of a family of bards, was a native of Lahore, which had for nearly 170 years (since 1023) been under Muslim rule when he flourished, and the language of the poem exhibits a considerable leaven of Persian words. In its present form the work is a redaction made by Amar Singh of Mēwār, about the beginning of the 17th century, and therefore more than 400 years after Chand’s death, with his patron Prithwī-Rāj, in 1193. There is, therefore, considerable reason to doubt whether we have in it much of Chand’s composition in its original shape; and the nature of the incidents described enhances this doubt. The detailed dates contained in the Chronicle have been shown by Kabirāj Syāmal Dās to be in every case about ninety years astray. It tells of repeated conflicts between the hero Prithwī-Rāj and Sultān Shihābuddin, of Ghōr (Muhammad Ghori), in which the latter always, except in the last great battle, comes off the worst, is taken prisoner and is released on payment of a ransom; these seem to be entirely unhistorical, our contemporary Persian authorities knowing of only one encounter (that of Tiraurī (Tirawari) near Thēnēsar, fought in 1191) in which the Sultān was defeated, and even then he escaped uncaptured to Lahore. The Mongols (Book XV.) are brought on the stage more than thirty years before they actually set foot in India, and are related to have been vanquished by the redoubtable Prithwī-Rāj. It is evident that such a record cannot possibly be, in its entirety, a contemporary chronicle; but nevertheless it appears to contain a considerable element which, from its language, may belong to Chand’s own age, and represents the earliest surviving document in Hindī. “Though we may not possess the actual text of Chand, we have certainly in his writings some of the oldest known specimens of Gaudian literature, abounding in pure Apabhramśa Śaurasēnī Prākrit forms” (Grierson).
It is very difficult now to form a just estimate of the poem as literature. The language, essentially transitional in character, consists largely of words which have long since died out of the vernacular speech. Even the most learned Hindus of the present day are unable to interpret it with confidence; and the meaning of the verses must be sought by investigating the processes by which Sanskrit and Prākrit forms have been transfigured in their progress into Hindī. Chand appears, on the whole, to exhibit the merits and defects of ballad chroniclers in general. There is much that is lively and spirited in his descriptions of fight or council; and the characters of the Rājpūt warriors who surround his hero are often sketched in their utterances with skill and animation. The sound, however, frequently predominates over the sense; the narrative is carried on with the wearisome iteration and tedious unfolding of familiar themes and images which characterize all such poetry in India; and his value, for us at least, is linguistic rather than literary.
Chand may be taken as the representative of a long line of successors, continued even to the present day in the Rājpūt states. Many of their compositions are still widely popular as ballad literature, but are known only in oral versions sung in Hindōstān by professional singers. One of the most famous of these is the Alhā-khaṇḍ, reputed to be the work of a contemporary of Chand called Jagnik or Jagnāyak, of Mahōbā in Bundēlkhaṇḍ, who sang the praises of Rājā-Parmāl, a ruler whose wars with Prithwī-Rāj are recorded in the Mahōbā-Khaṇḍ of Chand’s work. Ālhā and Ūdal, the heroes of the poem, are famous warriors in popular legend, and the stories connected with them exist in an eastern recension, current in Bihār, as well as in the Bundēlkhaṇḍī or western form which is best known. Two versions of the latter have been printed, having been taken down as recited by illiterate professional rhapsodists. Another celebrated bard was Sārangdhar of Rantambhōr, who flourished in 1363, and sang the praises of Hammīr Dēo (Hamir Deo), the Chauhān chief of Rantambhōr who fell in a heroic struggle against Sultān ‘Alā‘uddīn Khiljī in 1300. He wrote the Hammīr Kāvya and Hammīr Rāsau, of which an account is given by Tod; he was also a poet in Sanskrit, in which language he compiled, in 1363, the anthology called Sārngadhara-Paddhati. Another work which may be mentioned (though much more modern) is the long chronicle entitled Chhattra-Prakās, or the history of Rājā Chhatarsāl, the Bundēlā rājā of Pannā, who was killed, fighting on behalf of Prince Dārā-Shukōh, in the battle of Dhōlpur won by Aurangzēb in 1658. The author, Lāl Kabi, has given in this work a history of the valiant Bundēlā nation which was rendered into English by Captain W. R. Pogson in 1828, and printed at Calcutta.
Before passing on to the more important branch of early Hindī literature, the works of the Bhagats, mention may be made here of a remarkable composition, a poem entitled the Padmāwat, the materials of which are derived from the heroic legends of Rajpūtānā, but which is not the work of a bard nor even of a Hindu. The author, Malik Muḥammad of Jā‘is, in Oudh, was a venerated Muslim devotee, to whom the Hindu rājā of Amēṭhī was greatly attached. Malik Muḥammad wrote the Padmāwat in 1540, the year in which Shēr Shāh Sūr ousted Humāyān from the throne of Delhi. The poem is composed in the purest vernacular Awadhī, with no admixture of traditional Hindu learning, and is generally to be found written in the Persian character, though the metres and language are thoroughly Indian. It professes to tell the tale of Padmāwatī or Padminī, a princess celebrated for her beauty who was the wife of the Chauhān rājā of Chītōr in Mēwār. The historical Padminī’s husband was named Bhīm Singh, but Malik Muḥammad calls him Ratan Sēn; and the story turns upon the attempts of ‘Alā‘uddīn Khiljī, the sovereign of Delhi, to gain possession of her person. The tale of the siege of Chītōr in 1303 by ‘Alā‘uddīn, the heroic stand made by its defenders, who perished to the last man in fight with the Sultan’s army, and the self-immolation of Padminī and the other women, the wives and daughters of the warriors, by the fiery death called jōhar, will be found related in Tod’s Rājāsthān, i. 262 sqq. Malik Muḥammad takes great liberties with the history, and explains at the end of the poem that all is an allegory, and that the personages represent the human soul, Divine wisdom, Satan, delusion and other mystical characters.
Both on account of its interest as a true vernacular work, and as the composition of a Musalmān who has taken the incidents of his morality from the legends of his country and not from an exotic source, the poem is memorable. It has often been lithographed, and is very popular; a translation has even been made into Sanskrit. A critical edition has been prepared by Dr G. A. Grierson and Paṇḍit Sudhākar Dwivēdi.
The other class of composition which is characteristic of the period of early Hindī, the literature of the Bhagats, or Vaishnava saints, who propagated the doctrine of bhakti, or faith in Vishnu, as the popular religion of Hindōstān, has exercised a much more powerful influence both upon the national speech and upon the themes chosen for poetic treatment. It is also, as a body of literature, of high intrinsic interest for its form and content. Nearly the whole of subsequent poetical composition in Hindī is impressed with one or other type of Vaishnava doctrine, which, like Buddhism many centuries before, was essentially a reaction against Brahmanical influence and the chains of caste, a claim for the rights of humanity in face of the monopoly which the “twice-born” asserted of learning, of worship, of righteousness. A large proportion of the writers were non-Brahmans, and many of them of the lowest castes. As Śiva was the popular deity of the Brahmans, so was Vishnu of the people; and while the literature of the Śaivas and Śāktas is almost entirely in Sanskrit, and exercised little or no influence on the popular mind in northern India, that of the Vaishnavas is largely in Hindī, and in itself constitutes the great bulk of what has been written in that language.
The Vaishnava doctrine is commonly carried back to Rāmānuja, a Brahman who was born about the end of the 11th century, at Perambur in the neighbourhood of the modern Madras, and spent his life in southern India. His works, which are in Sanskrit and consist of commentaries on the Vēdānta Sūtras, are devoted to establishing “the personal existence of a Supreme Deity, possessing every gracious attribute, full of love and pity for the sinful beings who adore him, and granting the released soul a home of eternal bliss near him—a home where each soul never loses its identity, and whose state is one of perfect peace.” In the Deity’s infinite love and pity he has on several occasions become incarnate for the salvation of mankind, and of these incarnations two, Rāmachandra, the prince of Ayōdhyā, and Kṛishṇa, the chief of the Yādava clan and son of Vasudēva, are pre-eminently those in which it is most fitting that he should be worshipped. Both of these incarnations had for many centuries attracted popular veneration, and their histories had been celebrated by poets in epics and by weavers of religious myths in Purānas or “old stories”; but it was apparently Rāmānuja’s teaching which secured for them, and especially for Rāmachandra, their exclusive place as the objects of bhakti—ardent faith and personal devotion addressed to the Supreme. The adherents of Rāmānuja were, however, all Brahmans, and observed very strict rules in respect of food, bathing and dress; the new doctrine had not yet penetrated to the people.
Whether Rāmānuja himself gave the preference to Rāma against Krishna as the form of Vishnu most worthy of worship is uncertain. He dealt mainly with philosophic conceptions of the Divine Nature, and probably busied himself little with mythological legend. His mantra, or formula of initiation, if Wilson was correctly informed, implies devotion to Rāma; but Vāsudēva (Krishna) is also mentioned as a principal object of adoration, and Rāmānuja himself dwelt for several years in Mysore, at a temple erected by the rājā, at Yādavagiri in honour of Krishna in his form Raṇchhōṛ. It is stated that in his worship of Krishna he joined with that god as his Śaktī, or Energy, his wife Rukminī; while the later varieties of Krishna-worship prefer to honour his mistress Rādhā. The great difference, in temper and influence upon life, between these two forms of Vaishnava faith appears to be a development subsequent to Rāmānuja; but by the time of Jaidēo (about 1250) it is clear that the theme of Krishna and Rādhā, and the use of passionate language drawn from the relations of the sexes to express the longings of the soul for God, had become fully established; and from that time onwards the two types of Vaishnava religious emotion diverged more and more from one another.
The cult of Rāma is founded on family life, and the relation of the worshipper to the Deity is that of a child to a father. The morality it inculcates springs from the sacred sources of human piety which in all religions have wrought most in favour of pureness of life, of fraternal helpfulness and of humble devotion to a loving and tender Parent, who desires the good of mankind, His children, and hates violence and wrong. That of Krishna, on the other hand, had for its basis the legendary career of a less estimable human hero, whose exploits are marked by a kind of elvish and fantastic wantonness; it has more and more spent its energy in developing that side of devotion which is perilously near to sensual thought, and has allowed the imagination and ingenuity of poets to dwell on things unmeet for verse or even for speech. It is claimed for those who first opened this way to faith that their hearts were pure and their thoughts innocent, and that the language of erotic passion which they use as the vehicle of their religious emotion is merely mystical and allegorical. This is probable; but that these beginnings were followed by corruption in the multitude, and that the fervent impulses of adoration made way in later times for those of lust and lasciviousness, seems beyond dispute.
The worship of Krishna, especially in his infant and youthful form (which appeals chiefly to women), is widely popular in the neighbourhood of Mathurā, the capital of that land of Braj where as a boy he lived. Its literature is mainly composed in the dialect of this region, called Brajbhāshā. That of Rāma, though general throughout Hindōstān, has since the time of Tulsī Dās adopted for poetic use the language of Oudh, called Awadhī or Baiswārī, a form of Eastern Hindī easily understood throughout the whole of the Gangetic valley. Thus these two dialects came to be, what they are to this day, the standard vehicles of poetic expression.
Subsequently to Rāmānuja his doctrine appears to have been set forth, about 1250, in the vernacular of the people by Jaidēo, a Brahman born at Kinduvilva, the modern Kenduli, in the Bīrbhūm district of Bengal, author of the Sanskrit Gītā Gōvinda, and by Nāmdēo or Nāmā, a tailor of Mahārāshtra, of both of whom verses in the popular speech are preserved in the Ādi Granth of the Sikhs. But it was not until the beginning of the 15th century that the Brahman Rāmānand, a prominent Gōsāīṅ of the sect of Rāmānuja, having had a dispute with the members of his order in regard to the stringent rules observed by them, left the community, migrated to northern India (where he is said to have made his headquarters Galtā in Rajpūtānā), and addressed himself to those outside the Brahman caste, thus initiating the teaching of Vaishnavism as the popular faith of Hindōstān. Among his twelve disciples or apostles were a Rājpūt, a Jāt, a leather-worker, a barber and a Musalmān weaver; the last-mentioned was the celebrated Kabīr (see separate article). One short Hindī poem by Rāmānand is contained in the Ādi Granth, and Dr Grierson has collected hymns (bhajans) attributed to him and still current in Mithilā or Tirhūt. Both Rāmānand and Kabīr were adherents of the form of Vaishnavism where devotion is specially addressed to Rāama, who is regarded not only as an incarnation, but as himself identical with the Deity. A contemporary of Rāmānand, Bidyāpati Ṭhākur, is celebrated as the author of numerous lyrics in the Maithilī dialect of Bihār, expressive of the other side of Vaishnavism, the passionate adoration of the Deity in the person of Krishna, the aspirations of the worshipper being mystically conveyed in the character of Rādhā, the cowherdess of Braj and the beloved of the son of Vasudēva. These stanzas of Bidyāpati (who was a Brahman and author of several works in Sanskrit) afterwards inspired the Vaishnava literature of Bengal, whose most celebrated exponent was Chaitanya (b. 1484). Another famous adherent of the same cult was Mīrā Bāī, “the one great poetess of northern India” (Grierson). This lady, daughter of Rājā Ratiyā Rānā, Rāṭhōr, of Mērtā in Rajpūtānā, must have been born about the beginning of the 15th century; she was married in 1413 to Rājā Kumbhkaran of Mēwār, who was killed by his son Uday Rānā in 1469. She was devoted to Krishna in the form of Raṇchhōṛ, and her songs have a wide currency in northern India.
An important compilation of the utterances of the early Vaishnava saints or Bhagats is contained in the sacred book, or Ādi Granth, of the Sikh Gurus. Nānak, the founder of this sect (1469-1538), though a native of the Punjab (born at Talvandī on the Rāvī near Lahore), took his doctrine from the Bhagats (see Kabīr); and each of the thirty-one rāgs, forming the body of the Granth, is followed by a compilation of texts from the utterances of Vaishnava saints, chiefly of Kabīr, in confirmation of the teaching of the Gurus, while the whole book is closed by a bhōg or conclusion, containing more verses by the same authors, as well as by a celebrated Indian Sūfī, Shēkh Farīd of Pākpaṭṭan. The body of the Granth (q.v.), being in old Panjābī, falls outside the scope of this article; but the extracts included in it from the early writers of old Hindī are a precious store of specimens of authors some of whom have left no other record in the surviving literature. The Ādi Granth, which was put together about 1600 by Arjun, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, sets forth the creed of the sect in its original pietistic form, before it assumed the militant character which afterwards distinguished it under the five Gurus who succeeded him.
2. Middle Hindī.—The second period, that of middle Hindī, begins with the reign of the Emperor Akbar (1556-1605); and it is not improbable that the broad and liberal views of this great monarch, his active sympathy with his Hindū subjects, the interest which he took in their religion and literature, and the peace which his organization of the empire secured for Hindostan, had an important effect on the great development of Hindī poetry which now set in. Akbar’s court was itself a centre of poetical composition. The court musician Tān Sēn (who was also a poet) is still renowned, and many verses composed by him in the Emperor’s name live to this day in the memory of the people. Akbar’s favourite minister and companion, Rājā Bīrbal (who fell in battle on the north-western frontier in 1583), was a musician and a poet as well as a politician, and held the title, conferred by the Emperor, of Kabi-Rāy, or poet laureate; his verses and witty sayings are still extremely popular in northern India, though no complete work by him is known to exist. Other nobles of the court were also poets, among them the Khān-khānān ‘Abdur-Raḥīm, son of Bairam Khān, whose Hindī dōhās and kabittas are still held in high estimation, and Faiẓī, brother of the celebrated Abul-Faẓl, the Emperor’s annalist.
By this time the worship of Krishna as the lover of Rādhā (Rādhā-ballabh) had been systematized, and a local habitation found for it at Gokul, opposite Mathurā on the Jumna, some 30 m. upstream from Agra, Akbar’s capital, by Vallabhāchārya, a Tailinga Brāhman from Madras. Born in 1478, in 1497 he chose the land of Braj as his headquarters, thence making missionary tours throughout India. He wrote chiefly, if not entirely, in Sanskrit; but among his immediate followers, and those of his son Biṭṭhalnāth (who succeeded his father on the latter’s death in 1530), were some of the most eminent poets in Hindī. Four disciples of Vallabhāchārya and four of Biṭṭhalnāth, who flourished between 1550 and 1570, are known as the Ashṭ Chhāp, or “Eight Seals,” and are the acknowledged masters of the literature of Braj-bhāshā, in which dialect they all wrote. Their names are Krishna-Dās Pay-ahārī, Sūr Dās (the Bhāṭ), Parmānand Dās, Kumbhan Dās, Chaturbhuj Dās, Chhīt Swāmī, Nand Dās and Gōbind Dās. Of these much the most celebrated, and the only one whose verses are still popular, is Sūr Dās. The son of Bābā Rām Dās, who was a singer at Akbar’s court, Sūr Dās was descended, according to his own statement, from the bard of Prithwī-Rāj, Chand Bardāī. A tradition gives the date of his birth as 1483, and that of his death as 1573; but both seem to be placed too early, and in Abul-Faẓl’s Aīn-i Akbarī he is mentioned as living when that work was completed (1596/7). He was blind, and entirely devoted to the worship of Krishna, to whose address he composed a great number of hymns (bhajans), which have been collected in a compilation entitled the Sūr Sāgar, said to contain 60,000 verses; this work is very highly esteemed as the high-water mark of Braj devotional poetry, and has been repeatedly printed in India. Other compositions by him were a translation in verse of the Bhāgavata Purāna, and a poem dealing with the famous story of Nala and Damayanti; of the latter no copies are now known to exist.
The great glory of this age is Tulsī Dās (q.v.). He and Sūr Dās between them are held to have exhausted the possibilities of the poetic art. It is somewhat remarkable that the time of their appearance coincided with the Elizabethan age of English literature.
To these great masters succeeded a period of artifice and reflection, when many works were composed dealing with the rules of poetry and the analysis and the appropriate language of sentiment. Of their writers the most famous is Kēsab Dās, a Brahman of Bundēlkhaṇḍ, who flourished during the latter part of Akbar’s reign and the beginning of that of Jahāngīr. His works are the Rasik-priyā, on composition (1591), the Kavi-priyā, on the laws of poetry (1601), a highly esteemed poem dedicated to Parbīn Rāi Pāturī, a celebrated courtesan of Orchha in Bundēlkhaṇḍ, the Rāmachandrikā, dealing with the history of Rāma, (1610), and the Vigyān-gītā (1610). The fruit of this elaboration of the poetic art reached its highest perfection in Bihārī Lāl, whose Sat-saī, or “seven centuries” (1662), is the most remarkable example in Hindī of the rhetorical style in poetry (see separate article).
Side by side with this cultivation of the literary use of the themes of Rāma and Krishna, there grew up a class of compositions dealing, in a devotional spirit, with the lives and doings of the holy men from whose utterances and example the development of the popular religion proceeded. The most famous of these is the Bhakta-mālā, or “Roll of the Bhagats,” by Nārāyan Dās, otherwise called Nābhā Dās, or Nābhājī. This author, who belonged to the despised caste of Dōms and was a native of the Deccan, had in his youth seen Tulsī Dās at Mathurā, and himself flourished in the first half of the 17th century. His work consists of 108 stanzas in chhappāī metre, each setting forth the characteristics of some holy personage, and expressed in a style which is extremely brief and obscure. Its exact date is unknown, but it falls between 1585 and 1623. The book was furnished with a īkā (supplement or gloss) in the kabitta metre, by Priyā Dās in 1713, gathering up, in an allusive and disjointed fashion, all the legendary stories related of each saint. This again was expanded about a century later by a modern author named Lachhman into a detailed work of biography, called the Bhakta-sindhu. From these nearly all our knowledge (such as it is) of the lives of the Vaishnava authors, both of the Rāma and the Krishna cults, is derived, and much of it is of a very legendary and untrustworthy character. Another work, somewhat earlier in date than the Bhakta-mālā, named the Chaurāsī Vārta, is devoted exclusively to stories of the followers of Vallabhāchārya. It is reputed to have been written by Gōkulnāth, son of Biṭṭhalnāth, son of Vallabhāchārya, and is dated in 1551.
The matter of these tales is justly characterized by Professor Wilson (who gives some translated specimens) as “marvellous and insipid anecdotes”; but the book is remarkable for being in very artless prose, and, though written more than 300 years ago, shows that the current language of Braj was then almost precisely identical with that now spoken in that region. A specimen of the text will be found at p. 296 of Mr F. S. Growse’s Mathura, a District Memoir (3rd ed., 1883).
It would be tedious to enumerate the many authors who succeeded the great period of Hind poetical composition which extended through the reigns of Akbar, Jahāngīr and Shāhjahān. None of them attained to the fame of Sūr Dās, Tuls Dās or Bihārī Lāl. Their themes exhibit no novelty, and they repeat with a wearisome monotony the sentiments of their predecessors. The list of Hindī authors drawn up by Dr G. A. Grierson, and printed in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1889, may be consulted for the names and works of these epigoni. The courts of Chhatarsāl, rājā of Pannā in Bundēlkhaṇḍ, who was killed in battle with Aurangzēb in 1658, and of several rājās of Bāndhō (now called Rīwān or Rewah) in Baghēlkhaṇḍ, were famous for their patronage of poets; and the Mogul court itself kept up the office of Kabi-Rāy or poet laureate even during the fanatical reign of Aurangzēb.
Such, in the briefest outline, is the character of Hind literature during the period when it grew and flourished through its own original forces. Founded by a popular and religious impulse in many respects comparable to that which, nearly 1600 years before, had produced the doctrine and literature, in the vernacular tongue, of Jainism and Buddhism, and cultivated largely (though by no means exclusively) by authors not belonging to the Brahmanical order, it was the legitimate descendant in spirit, as Hindī is the legitimate descendant in speech, of the Prākrit literature which preceded it. Entirely in verse, it adopted and elaborated the Prākrit metrical forms, and carried them to a pitch of perfection too often overlooked by those who concern themselves rather with the substance than the form of the works they read. It covers a wide range of style, and expresses, in the works of its greatest masters, a rich variety of human feeling. Little studied by Europeans in the past, it deserves much more attention than it has received. The few who have explored it speak of it as an “enchanted garden” (Grierson), abounding in beauties of thought and phrase. Above all it is to be remembered that it is genuinely popular, and has reached strata of society scarcely touched by literature in Europe. The ballads of Rajput prowess, the aphorisms of Kabīr, Tulsī Dās’s Rāmāyan, and the bhajans of Sūr Dās are to this day carried about everywhere by wandering minstrels, and have found their way, throughout the great plains of northern India and the uplands of the Vindhyā plateau, to the hearts of the people. There is no surer key to unlock the confidence of the villager than an apt quotation from one of these inspired singers.
3. Literary Urdū.—The origines of Urdū as a literary language are somewhat obscure. The popular account refers its rise to the time of Tīmūr’s invasion (1398). Some authors even claim for it a higher antiquity, asserting that a dīwān, or collection of poems, was composed in Rēkhta by Mas‘ūd, son of Sa’d, in the last half of the 11th or beginning of the 12th century, and that Sa’di of Shīrāz and his friend Amīr Khusrau of Delhi likewise made verses in that dialect before the end of the 13th century. This, however, is very improbable. It has already been seen that during the early centuries of Muslim rule in India adherents of that faith used the language and metrical forms of the country for their compositions. Persian words early made their way into the popular speech; they are common in Chand, and in Kabīr’s verses (which are nevertheless unquestionable Hindī) they are in many places used as freely as in the modern dialect. Much of the confusion which besets the subject is due to the want of a clear understanding of what Urdū, as opposed to Hindī, really is.
Urdū, as a literary language, differs from Hindī rather in its form than in its substance. The grammar, and to a large extent the vocabulary, of both are the same. The really vital point of difference, that in which Hindī and Urdū are incommensurable, is the prosody. Hardly one of the metres taken over by Urdū poets from Persian agrees with those used in Hindī. In the latter language it is the rule to give the short a inherent in every consonant or nexus of consonants its full value in scansion (though in prose it is no longer heard), except occasionally at the metrical pause; in Urdū this is never done, the words being scanned generally as pronounced in prose, with a few exceptions which need not be mentioned here. The great majority of Hindī metres are scanned by the number of mātrās or syllabic instants—the value in time of a short syllable—of which the lines consist; in Urdū, as in Persian, the metre follows a special order of long and short syllables.
The question, then, is not When did Persian first become intermixed with Hindī in the literary speech?—for this process began with the first entry of Muslim conquerors into India, and continued for centuries before a line of Urdū verse was composed; nor When was the Persian character first employed to write Hindī?—for the written form is but a subordinate matter; as already mentioned, the MSS. of Malik Muḥammad’s purely Hindī poem, the Padmāwat, are ordinarily found to be written in the Persian character; and copies lithographed in Dēvanāgarī of the popular compositions of the Urdū poet Naẕīr are commonly procurable in the bāzārs. We must ask When was the first verse composed in Hindī, whether with or without foreign admixture, according to the forms of Persian prosody, and not in those of the indigenous metrical system? Then, and not till then, did Urdū poetry come into being. This appears to have happened, as already mentioned, about the end of the 16th century. Meantime the vernacular speech had been gradually permeated with Persian words and phrases. The impulse which Akbar’s interest in his Hindū subjects had given to the translation of Sanskrit works into Persian had brought the indigenous and the foreign literatures into contact. The current language of the neighbourhood of the capital, the Hindī spoken about Delhi and thence northwards to the Himālaya, was naturally the form of the vernacular which was most subject to foreign influences; and with the extension of Mogul territory by the conquests in the south of Akbar and his successors, this idiom was carried abroad by their armies, and was adopted by the Musalmān kingdoms of the Deccan as their court language some time before their overthrow by the campaigns of Aurangzēb.
It is not a little remarkable that, as happened with the Vaishnava reformation initiated by Rāmānuja and Rāmānand, and with the Vallabhāchārya cult of Krishna established at Mathurā, the first impulse to literary composition in Urdū should have been given, not at the headquarters of the empire in the north, but at the Muhammadan courts of Gōlkondā and Bījāpur in the south, the former situated amid an indigenous population speaking Telugu, and the latter among one whose speech was Kanarese, both Dravidian languages having nothing in common with the Aryan tongues of the north. This fact of itself defines the nature of the literature thus inaugurated. It had nothing to do with the idiom or ideas of the people among whom it was born, but was from the beginning an imitation of Persian models. It adopted the standards of form and content current among the poets of Ērān. The qaṣīda or laudatory ode, the ghazal or love-sonnet, usually of mystical import, the marsiya or dirge, the masnavī or narrative poem with coupled rhymes, the hijā or satire, the rubā‘ī or epigram—these were the types which Urdū took over ready-made. And with the forms were appropriated also all the conventions of poetic diction. The Persians, having for centuries treated the same themes with a fecundity which most Europeans find extremely wearisome, had elaborated a system of rhetoric and a stock of poetic images which, in the exhaustion of original matter, made the success of the poet depend chiefly upon dexterity of artifice and cleverness of conceit. Pleasing hyperbole, ingenious comparison, antithesis, alliteration, carefully arranged gradation of noun and epithet, are the means employed to obtain variety; and few of the most eloquent passages of later Persian verse admit of translation into any other language without losing that which in the original makes their whole charm. What is true of Persian is likewise true of Urdū poetry. Until quite modern times, there is scarcely anything in it which can be called original. Differences of school, which are made much of by native critics, are to us hardly perceptible; they consist in the use of one or other range of metaphor or comparison, classed, according as they repeat the well-worn poetical stock-in-trade of the Persians, or seek a slightly fresher and more Indian field of sentiment, as the old or the new style of composition.
Shujā‘uddīn Nūrī, a native of Gujarāt, a friend of Faiẓī and contemporary of Akbar, is mentioned by the native biographers as the most ancient Urdū poet after Amīr Khusrau. He was tutor of the son of the wazīr of Sultān Abu-l-Ḥasan Kuṭb Shāh of Golkonda, and several ghazals by him are said to survive. Kulī Kuṭb Shāh of Golkonda, who reigned from 1581, and his successor ‘Abdullāh Kuṭb Shāh, who came to the throne in 1611, have both left collections of verse, including ghazals, rubā‘īs, masnavīs and qaṣīdas. And during the reign of the latter Ibn Nishāṭī wrote two works which are still famous as models of composition in Dakhni; they are masnavīs entitled the Tūṭī-nāma, or “Tales of a Parrot,” and the Phūl-ban. The first, written in 1639, is an adaptation of a Persian work by Nakhshabī, but derives ultimately from a Sanskrit original entitled the Śuka-saptati; this collection has been frequently rehandled in Urdū, both in verse and prose, and is the original of the Ṭōṭā-Kahāni, one of the first works in Urdū prose, composed in 1801 by Muḥammad Ḥaidar-bakhsh Ḥaidarī of the Fort William College. The Phūl-ban is a love tale named from its heroine, said to be translated from a Persian work entitled the Basātīn. Another famous work which probably belongs to the same place and time is the Story of Kāmrūp and Kalā by Taḥsīnuddīn, a masnavī which has been published (1836) by M. Garcin de Tassy; what makes this poem remarkable is that, though the work of a Musalmān, its personages are Hindu. Kāmrũp, the hero, is son of the king of Oudh, and the heroine, Kalā, daughter of the king of Ceylon; the incidents somewhat resemble those of the tale of as-Sindibād in the Thousand and One Nights; the hero and heroine dream one of the other, and the former sets forth to find his beloved; his wanderings take him to many strange countries and through many wonderful adventures, ending in a happy marriage.
The court of Bījāpur was no less distinguished in literature. Ibrāhīm ‘Ādil Shāh (1579-1626) was the author of a work in verse on music entitled the Nau-ras or “Nine Savours,” which, however, appears to have been in Hindī rather than Urdū; the three prefaces (dībājas) to this poem were rendered into Persian prose by Maulā ẕuhūrī, and, under the name of the Sih nasr-i ẕuhūrī, are well-known models of style. A successor of this prince, ‘Alī ‘Ādil Shāh, had as his court poet a Brahman known poetically as Nuṣratī, who in 1657 composed a maṣnavī of some repute entitled the Gulshan-i ‘Ishq, or “Rose-garden of Love,” a romance relating the history of Prince Manōhar and Madmālatī,—like the Kāmrūp, an Indian theme. The same poet is author of an extremely long masnavī entitled the ‘Alī-nāma, celebrating the monarch under whom he lived.
These early authors, however, were but pioneers; the first generally accepted standard of form, a standard which suffered little change in two centuries, was established by Walī of Aurangābād (about 1680-1720) and his contemporary and fellow-townsman Sirāj. The former of these is commonly called “the Father of Rēkhtah”—Bābā-e Rēkhta; and all accounts agree that the immense development attained by Urdū poetry in northern India during the 18th century was due to his example and initiative. Very little is known of Walī’s life; he is believed to have visited Delhi towards the end of the reign of Aurangzēb, and is said to have there received instruction from Shāh Gulshan in the art of clothing in a vernacular dress the ideas of the Persian poets. His Kullīyāt or complete works have been published by M. Garcin de Tassy, with notes and a translation of selected passages (Paris, 1834-1836), and may be commended to readers desirous of consulting in the original a favourable specimen of Urdū poetical composition.
The first of the Delhi school of poets was Zuhūruddīn Hātim, who was born in 1699 and died in 1792. In the second year of Muhammad Shāh (1719), the dīwān of Walī reached Delhi, and excited the emulation of scholars there. Hātim was the first to imitate it in the Urdū of the north, and was followed by his friends Nājī, Mazmūn and Ābrū. Two dīwāns by him survive. He became the founder of a school, and one of his pupils was Rafī us-Saudā, the most distinguished poet of northern India. Khān Ārzū (1689-1756) was another of the fathers of Urdū poetry in the north. This author is chiefly renowned as a Persian scholar, in which language he not only composed much poetry, but one of the best of Persian lexicons, the Sirāju-l-lughāt; but his compositions in Urdū are also highly esteemed. He was the master of Mīr Taqī, who ranks next to Saudā as the most eminent Urdū poet. Ārzū died at Lucknow, whither he betook himself after the devastation of Delhi by Nādir Shāh (1739). Another of the early Delhi poets who is considered to have surpassed his fellows was In‘āmullāh Khān Yaqīn, who died during the reign of Ahmad Shāh (1748-1754), aged only twenty-five. Another was Mīr Dard, pupil of the same Shāh Gulshan who is said to have instructed Walī; his dīwān is not long, but extremely popular, and especially esteemed for the skill with which it develops the themes of spiritualism. In his old age he became a darwēsh of the Naqshbandī following, and died in 1793.
Saudā and Mīr Taqī are beyond question the most distinguished Urdū poets. The former was born at Delhi about the beginning of the 18th century, and studied under Hātim. He left Delhi after its devastation, and settled at Lucknow, where the Nawāb Āṣafuddaulah gave him a jāgīr of Rs. 6000 a year, and where he died in 1780. His poems are very numerous, and cover all the styles of Urdū poetry; but it is to his satires that his fame is chiefly due, and in these he is considered to have surpassed all other Indian poets. Mīr Taqī was born at Agra, but early removed to Delhi, where he studied under Ārzū; he was still living there at the time of Saudā’s death, but in 1782 repaired to Lucknow, where he likewise received a pension; he died at a very advanced age in 1810. His works are very voluminous, including no less than six dīwāns. Mīr is counted the superior of Saudā in the ghazal and masnavī, while the latter excelled him in the satire and qaṣīda. Sayyid Aḥmad, an excellent authority, and himself one of the best of modern authors in Urdū, says of him in his Āsāru-ṣ-Ṣanādīd: “Mīr’s language is so pure, and the expressions which he employs so suitable and natural, that to this day all are unanimous in his praise. Although the language of Saudā is also excellent, and he is superior to Mīr in the point of his allusions, he is nevertheless inferior to him in style.”
The tremendous misfortunes which befell Delhi at the hands of Nādir Shāh (1739), Ahmad Shāh Durrānī (1756), and the Marāṭhās (1759), and the rapid decay of the Mogul empire under these repeated shocks, transferred the centre of the cultivation of literature from that city to Lucknow, the capital of the newly founded and flourishing state of Oudh. It has been mentioned how Ārzū, Saudā and Mīr betook themselves to this refuge and ended their days there; they were followed in their new residence by a school of poets hardly inferior to those who had made Delhi illustrious in the first half of the century. Here they were joined by Mīr Hasan (d. 1786), Mīr Sōz (d. 1800) and Qalandar-bakhsh Jur’at (d. 1810), also like themselves refugees from Delhi, and illustrious poets. Mīr Hasan was a friend and collaborator of Mīr Dard, and first established himself at Faizābād and subsequently at Lucknow; he excelled in the ghazal, rubā‘ī, masnavī and marsiya, and is counted the third, with Saudā and Mīr Taqī, among the most eminent of Urdū poets. His fame chiefly rests upon a much admired masnavī entitled the Siḥru-l-bayān, or “Magic of Eloquence,” a romance relating the loves of Prince Bë-naẕīr and the Princess Badr-i Munīr; his masnavī called the Gulzār-i Iram (“Rose-garden of Iram,” the legendary ‘Ādite paradise in southern Arabia), in praise of Faizābād, is likewise highly esteemed. Mīr Muḥammadī Sōz was an elegant poet, remarkable for the success with which he composed in the dialect of the harem called Rekhtī, but somewhat licentious in his verse; he became a darwēsh and renounced the world in his later years. Jur’at was also a prolific poet, but, like Sōz, his ghazals and masnavīs are licentious and full of double meanings. He imitated Saudā in satire with much success; he also cultivated Hindī poetry, and composed dohās and kabittas. Miskīn was another Lucknow poet of the same period, whose marsiyas are especially admired; one of them, that on the death of Muslim and his two sons, is considered a masterpiece of this style of composition. The school of Lucknow, so founded and maintained during the early years of the century, continued to flourish till the dethronement of the last king, Wājid ‘Alī, in 1856. Ātash and Nāsikh (who died respectively in 1847 and 1841) are the best among the modern poets of the school in the ghazal; Mīr Anīs, a grandson of Mīr Hasan, and his contemporary Dabīr, the former of whom died in December 1875 and the latter a few months later, excelled in the marsiyah. Rajab Alī Beg Surūr, who died in 1869, was the author of a much-admired romance in rhyming prose entitled the Fisānah-e ‘Ajāib or “Tale of Marvels,” besides a dīwān. The dethroned prince Wājid ‘Alī himself, poetically styled Akhtar, was also a poet; he published three dīwāns, among them a quantity of poetry in the rustic dialect of Oudh which is philologically of much interest.
Though Delhi was thus deserted by its brightest lights of literature, it did not altogether cease to cultivate the poetic art. Among the last Moguls several princes were themselves creditable poets. Shāh Ālam II. (1761-1806) wrote under the name of Āftāb, and was the author of a romance entitled Manẕūm-i Aqdas, besides a dīwān. His son Sulaimān-shukoh, brother of Akbar Shāh II., who had at first, like his brother authors, repaired to Lucknow, returned to Delhi in 1815, and died in 1838; he also has left a dīwān. Lastly, his nephew Bahādur Shāh II., the last titular emperor of Delhi (d. 1862), wrote under the name of ẕafar, and was a pupil in poetry of Shaikh Ibrāhīm ẕauq, a distinguished writer; he has left a voluminous dīwān, which has been printed at Delhi. Maṣḥafī (Ghulām-i Hamdānī), who died about 1814, was one of the most distinguished of the revived poetic school of Delhi, and was himself one of its founders. Originally of Lucknow, he left that city for Delhi in 1777, and held conferences of poets, at which several authors who afterwards acquired repute formed their style; he has left five dīwāns, a Taẕkira or biography of Urdū poets, and a Shāh-nāma or account of the kings of Delhi down to Shāh ‘Ālam. Qāim (Qiyāmuddīn ‘Alī) was one of his society, and died in 1792; he has left several works of merit. Ghālib, otherwise Mirzā Asadullāh Khān Naushāh, laureate of the last Mogul, who died in 1869, was undoubtedly the most eminent of the modern Delhi poets. He wrote chiefly in Persian, of which language, especially in the form cultivated by Firdausī, free from intermixture of Arabic words, he was a master; but his Urdū dīwān, though short, is excellent in its way, and his reputation spread far and wide. To this school, though he lived and died at Agra, may be attached Mīr Walī Muḥammad Naẕīr (who died in the year 1832); his masnavīs entitled Jogī-nāma, Kauṛī-nāma, Banjāre-nāma, and Buṛhāpe-nāma, as well as his dīwān, have been frequently reprinted, and are extremely popular. His language is less artificial than that of the generality of Urdū poets, and some of his poems have been printed in Nāgarī, and are as well known and as much esteemed by Hindus as by Mahommedans. His verse is defaced by much obscenity.
4. Modern Period.—While such, in outline, is the history of the literary schools of the Deccan, Delhi and Lucknow, a fourth, that of the Fort William College at Calcutta, was being formed, and was destined to give no less an impulse to the cultivation of Urdū prose than had a hundred years before been given to that of poetry by Walī. At the commencement of the 19th century Dr John Gilchrist was the head of this institution, and his efforts were directed towards getting together a body of literature suitable as text-books for the study of the Urdū language by the European officers of the administration. To his exertions we owe the elaboration of the vernacular as an official speech, and the possibility of substituting it for the previously current Persian as the language of the courts and the government. He gathered together at Calcutta the most eminent vernacular scholars of the time, and their works, due to his initiative, are still notable as specimens of elegant and serviceable prose composition, not only in Urdū, but also in Hindī. The chief authors of this school are Ḥaidarī (Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥaidar-bakhsh), Ḥusainī (Mīr Bahādur ‘Alī), Mīr Amman Luṭf, Ḥafīẕuddīn Aḥmad, Shēr ‘Alī Afsōs, Nihāl Chand of Lahore, Kāẕim ‘Alī Jawān, Lallū Lāl Kavi, Maẕhar ‘Alī Wilā and Ikrām ‘Alī.
Ḥaidarī died in 1828. He composed the Ṭoṭā-Kahānī (1801), a prose redaction of the Ṭūṭī-nāmah which has been already mentioned; a romance named Ārāish-i Maḥfil (“Ornament of the Assembly”), detailing the adventures of the famous Arab chief Ḥātim-i Ṭai; the Gul-i Maghfirat or Dah Majlis, an account of the holy persons of the Muhammadan faith; the Gulzār-i Dānish, a translation of the Bahār-i Dānish, a Persian work containing stories descriptive of the craft and faithlessness of women; and the Tārīkh-i Nādirī, a translation of a Persian history of Nādir Shāh. Ḥusainī is the author of an imitation in prose of Mīr Ḥasan’s Siḥru-l-bayān, under the name of Naṣr-i Bēnaẕīr (“the Incomparable Prose,” or “the Prose of Bēnaẓīr,” the latter being the name of the hero), and of a work named Akhlāq-i Hindī, or “Indian Morals,” both composed in 1802. The Akhlāq-i Hindī is an adaptation of a Persian work called the Mufarriḥu-l-qulūb (“the Delighter of Hearts”), itself a version of the Hitōpadēša. Mīr Amman was a native of Delhi, which he left in the time of Aḥmad Shāh Durrānī for Patna, and in 1801 repaired to Calcutta. To him we owe the Bāgh o Bahār (1801-1802), an adaptation of Amīr Khusrau’s famous Persian romance entitled the Chahār Darwēsh, or “Story of the Four Dervishes.” Amman’s work is not itself directly modelled on the Persian, but is a rehandling of an almost contemporary rendering by Tahsīn of Etāwā, called the Nau-ṭarz-i Muraṣṣa‘. The style of this composition is much admired by natives of India, and editions of it are very numerous. Amman also composed an imitation of Husain Wā‘iz Kāshifī’s Akhlāq-i Muḥsinī under the name of the Ganj-i Khūbī (“Treasure of Virtue”), produced in 1802. Ḥafīẕuddīn Ahmad was a professor at the Fort William College; in 1803 he completed a translation of Abu-l-Faẓl’s ’Iyār-i Dānish, under the name of the Khirad-afrōz (“Enlightener of the Understanding”). The ’Iyār-i Dānish (“Touchstone of Wisdom”) is one of the numerous imitations of the originally Sanskrit collection of apologues known in Persian as the Fables of Bīdpāī, or Kalīlah and Dimna. Afsōs was one of the most illustrious of the Fort William school; originally of Delhi, he left that city at the age of eleven, and entered the service of Qāsim ‘Alī Khān, Nawāb of Bengal; he afterwards repaired to Hyderābād in the Deccan, and thence to Lucknow, where he was the pupil of Mīr Ḥasan, Mīr Sōz and Mīr Ḥaidar ‘Alī Ḥairān. He joined the Fort William College in 1800, and died in 1809. He is the author of a much esteemed dīwān; but his chief reputation is founded on two prose works of great excellence, the Ārāish-i Mahfil (1805), an account of India adapted from the introduction of the Persian Khulāṣatu-t-tawārikh of Sujān Rāe, and the Bāgh-i Urdū (1808), a translation of Sa’dī’s Gulistān. Nihāl Chand translated into Urdū a masnavī, entitled the Gul-i Bakāwalī, under the name of Maẕhab-i ‘Ishq (“Religion of Love”); this work is in prose intermingled with verse, was composed in 1804, and has been frequently reproduced. Jawān, like most of his collaborators, was originally of Delhi and afterwards of Lucknow; he joined the College in 1800. He is the author of a version in Urdū of the well-known story of Sakuntalā, under the name of Sakuntalā Nāṭak; the Urdū was rendered from a previous Braj-bhāshā version by Nawāz Kabīshwar made in 1716, and was printed in 1802. He also composed a Bārah-māsā, or poetical description of the twelve months (a very popular and often-handled form of composition), with accounts of the various Hindu and Muhammadan festivals, entitled the Dastūr-i Hind (“Usages of India”), printed in 1812. Ikrām ‘Ali translated, under the name of the Ikhwānu-ṣ-ṣafā, or “Brothers of Purity” (1810), a chapter of a famous Arabian collection of treatises on science and philosophy entitled Rasāilu Ikhwāni-ṣ-ṣafā, and composed in the 10th century. The complete collection, due to different writers who dwelt at Baṣra, has recently been made known to European readers by the translation of Dr F. Dieterici (1858-1879); the chapter selected by Ikrām ‘Alī is the third, which records an allegorical strife for the mastery between men and animals before the king of the Jinn. The translation is written in excellent Urdū, and is one of the best of the Fort William productions.
Srī Lallū Lāl was a Brahman, whose family, originally of Gujarāt, had long been settled in northern India. What was done by the other Fort William authors for Urdū prose was done by Lallū Lāl almost alone for Hindī. He may indeed without exaggeration be said to have created “High Hindī” as a literary language. His Prem Sāgar and Rājnīti, the former a version in pure Hindī of the 10th chapter of the Bhāgavata Purāna, detailing the history of Kṛishṇa, and founded on a previous Braj-bhāshā version by Chaturbhuj Misr, and the latter an adaptation in Braj-bhāshā prose of the Hitōpadēs̄a and part of the Pancha-tantra, are unquestionably the most important works in Hindī prose. The Prem Sāgar was begun in 1804 and ended in 1810; it enjoys immense popularity in northern India, has been frequently reproduced in a lithographed form, and has several times been printed. The Rājnīti was composed in 1809; it is much admired for its sententious brevity and the purity of its language. Besides these two works, Lallū Lāl was the author of a collection of a hundred anecdotes in Hindī and Urdū entitled Latāif-i Hindī, an anthology of Hindī verse called the Sabhā-bilās, a Sat-saī in the style of Bihāri-Lāl called Sapta-satika and several other works. He and Jawān worked together at the Singhāsan Battīsī (1801), a redaction in mixed Urdū and Hindī (Dēvanāgarī character) of a famous collection of legends relating the prowess of King Vikramāditya; and he also aided the latter author in the production of the Sakuntalā Nāṭak. Maẕhar ‘Ali Wilā was his collaborator in the Baitāl Pachīsī, a collection of stories similar in many respects to the Singhāsan Battīsī, and also in mixed Urdū-Hindī; and he aided Wilā in the preparation in Urdū of the Story of Mādhōnal, a romance originally composed in Braj-bhāshā by Mōtī Rām.
The works of these authors, though compiled and published under the superintendence of Dr Gilchrist, Captain Abraham Lockett, Professor J. W. Taylor, Dr W. Hunter and other European officers of the college of Fort William, and originally intended for the instruction of the Company’s officers in the vernacular, are essentially Indian in taste and style, and, until superseded by the more recent developments of literature noticed below, enjoyed a very wide reputation and popularity. They may, indeed, be said to have set the standard of prose composition in Urdū and Hindī, and for the first half of the 19th century their influence in this respect continued almost unchallenged. Side by side with them, among the Musalmān population of northern India, another almost contemporaneous impulse did much for the expansion of the Urdū language, and, like the work of the Vaishnava reformers in moulding literary Hindī, gave an impetus to composition which might otherwise have been lacking. This was the reform in Islam led by Sayyid Ahmad and his followers. In all Eastern countries religion is the first and chief subject of literary production; and the controversies which the new preaching aroused in India at once afforded abundant material for authorship in Urdū, and interested deeply the people to whom the works were addressed.
Sayyid Aḥmad was born in 1782, and received his early education at Delhi; his instructors were two learned Muslims, Shāh ‘Abdul-‘Azīz, author of a celebrated commentary on the Qur‘ān (the Tafsīr-i ‘Azīziyyah), and his brother ‘Abdu-l-Qādir, the writer of the first translation of the holy volume into Urdū. Under their guidance Sayyid Aḥmad embraced the doctrines of the Wahhābīs, a sect whose preaching appears at this time to have first reached India. He gathered round him a large number of fervent disciples, among others Ismā‘īl Ḥājī, nephew of ‘Abdu-l‘Azīz and ‘Abdu-l-Qādir, the chief author of the sect. After a course of preaching and apostleship at Delhi, Sayyid Aḥmad set out in 1820 for Calcutta, attended by numerous adherents. Thence in 1822 he started on a pilgrimage to Mecca, whence he went to Constantinople, and was there received with distinction and gained many disciples. He travelled for nearly six years in Turkey and Arabia, and then returned to Delhi. The religious degradation and coldness which he found in his native country strongly impressed him after his sojourn in lands where the life of Islām is stronger, and he and his disciples established a propaganda throughout northern India, reprobating the superstitions which had crept into the faith from contact with Hindus, and preaching a jihād or holy war against the Sikhs. In 1828 he started for Peshāwar, attended by, it is said, upwards of 100,000 Indians, and accompanied by his chief followers, Ḥājī Ismā‘īl and ‘Abdu-l-Ḥayy. He was furnished with means by a general subscription in northern India, and by several Muhammadan princes who had embraced his doctrines. At the beginning of 1829 he declared war against the Sikhs, and in the course of time made himself master of Peshāwar. The Afghāns, however, with whom he had allied himself in the contest, were soon disgusted by the rigour of his creed, and deserted him and his cause. He fled across the Indus and took refuge in the mountains of Pakhlī and Dhamtōr, where in 1831 he encountered a detachment of Sikhs under the command of Shēr Singh, and in the combat he and Ḥājī Isma‘īl were slain. His sect is, however, by no means extinct; the Wahhābī doctrines have continued to gain ground in India, and to give rise to much controversial writing, down to our own day.
The translation of the Quran by ‘Abdu-l-Qādir was finished in 1803, and first published by Sayyid ‘Abdullāh, a fervent disciple of Sayyid Aḥmad, at Hūghlī in 1829. The Tambīhu-l-ghāfilīn, or “Awakener of the Heedless,” a work in Persian by Sayyid Aḥmad, was rendered into Urdū by ‘Abdullāh, and published at the same press in 1830. Hājī Ismā‘īl was the author of a treatise in Urdū entitled Taqwiyatu-l-Īmān (“Confirmation of the Faith”), which had great vogue among the following of the Sayyid. Other works by the disciples of the Tarīqah-e Muḥammadiyyah (as the new preaching was called) are the Targhīb-i Jihād (“Incitation to Holy War”), Hidāyatu-l-Mūminīn (“Guide of the Believers”), Mūẓiḥu-l-Kabāir wa-l-Bid’ah (“Exposition of Mortal Sins and Heresy”), Naṣlhatu-l-Muslimīn (“Admonition to Muslims”), and the Mi’at Masāil, or “Hundred Questions.”
Printing was first used for vernacular works by the College Press at Fort William, at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, and all the compositions prepared for Dr Gilchrist and his successors which have been mentioned were thus given to the public. But the expense of this method of reproduction long precluded its extensive use in India, and movable types, though well suited for alphabets derived from the Sanskrit, were not equally applicable to the flowing and graceful characters of Persian. Lithography was introduced about 1837, when the first press was set up at Delhi, and immediately gave a powerful stimulus to the multiplication of literature, both original and editions of older works. In 1832 the vernaculars were substituted for Persian as the official language of the courts and the acts of the legislature, and this at once led to the transfer to the former of a mass of technical and forensic terms which had previously been only to a limited extent in popular use. Thirdly, the spread of education in subjects of Western learning, for which text-books (many of them translations from English) were required, not only greatly enlarged the vocabulary of the common speech, but led by degrees to the use of a simpler and more direct style, and the abandonment wholesale of the florid and artificial ornament which was the legacy of the Persian literature upon which Urdū prose had at first modelled itself. Lastly, the establishment of a vernacular newspaper press, which lithography had rendered possible, placed within the reach of a continually widening public the means of becoming acquainted with new ideas in every department of culture, and practised the writers who contributed to it in the art of wielding their mother-tongue with effect in its application to European themes.
All these revolutionary agencies were at work, though in a tentative and limited fashion, when the great change, following on the Mutiny of 1857, of the transfer of the government of India from the Company to the Crown inaugurated a new era. Since 1860 their operation has become extremely rapid and far-reaching. The use of lithography both for Urdū and Hindī annually gives birth to hundreds of works. The extension of education through both public and private agency has created an immense mass of school-books, and the spread of instruction in English and the activity of translators have filled the vernaculars with a multitude of new words drawn from that language. The newspaper press, in Urdū and Hindī, now counts over two hundred journals, the majority issued in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh and in the Punjab, but a few at Madras, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bombay and Calcutta. Of this great body of literary production it is possible to speak only in general terms. Style and vocabulary are still in a somewhat fluid and unsettled condition, and the subjects treated are almost as various as they are in European literatures. Much, indeed, of the work produced has scarcely any claim to literary excellence, and in the crowd of writers we may content ourselves with mentioning only a few whose influence and authority make it probable that they will hereafter be known as leaders in the new culture.
One of the first effects of the new literary inspiration seemed to be the extinction of poetical composition as previously practised. With the deaths of Ẕauq (1854) and Ghālib (1869) of the Delhi school, and those of Anīs (1875) and Dabīr (1876) of Lucknow, the end of Urdū poetry appeared to have come. The new age was intensely practical and eager to engage in the race for material and political advancement, and had no time for sentiment, or taste for mystical conceits. Moreover, poetical composition in India, as in other Eastern countries, has always owed much to the patronage of courts and princes. The thrones of Delhi and Lucknow had passed away, and the new rulers showed little interest in this form of achievement. Only at Hyderabad in the Deccan, under the patronage of the Nizam, were laureates still honoured; the last of these, Mirzā Khān Dāgh (1831-1905), enjoyed a wide reputation as a graceful and eloquent master of the poetic art.
But prose and material prosperity did not succeed in monopolizing the genius of the people. The great movement of reform and liberalism in Islām led by Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Khān (1817-1898) found its bard in Sayyid Alṭāf Ḥusain of Pānipāṭ, poetically styled Ḥālī—an ambiguous nom-de-plume now generally taken in the sense of “modern,” or “up-to-date.” Ḥālī in his youth was a pupil of the famous Ghālib, whose life he has written and of whose writings he has published an able criticism. At the age of forty he came under the influence of Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Khān, and from that time devoted his great poetic gifts to the service of his co-religionists. He has published much verse, of which an interesting specimen will be found in the edition of his Rubā‘īs or quatrains (101 in number), with an English translation, by Mr G. E. Ward (Oxford, 1904); in this is included a famous poem addressed to his muse, setting forth his ideals in poetry—simplicity, avoidance of exaggeration and unreality, direct and emotional appeal to the heart, and above all sincerity. There can be no doubt that he has succeeded in becoming the leader of a new poetic school, which shows much vigour and promise.
Perhaps the most memorable of all Ḥālī’s compositions is his long poem in six-line stanzas (called musaddas) on “the flow and ebb of Islam” (1879), which has had an extraordinary influence in stimulating enthusiasm in the cause of progress among the Musalmāns of the north of India. In it he draws, in simple and direct but searching and eloquent language, a rapid sketch of the glories of Islam in the past, its principles and precepts, and the sources of its strength; and then turns to contrast with this picture the degradation and decay into which it had, when he wrote, fallen in Hindōstān. Never have the vices and shortcomings of a people been lashed by one of themselves with more vigorous denunciation, or with more earnestness of moral purpose. In his preface he explains how the poem came to be written—after a youth spent in heedlessness and unsettlement, at the instigation of Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Khān, and in the cause of that great reformer. The poem is still recited and imitated by Muslims in the Punjab and United Provinces, though the picture which it presents of Indian Musalmāns is no longer wholly applicable to the community. Ḥālī has recently completed a life of Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Khān in two volumes, entitled Ḥayāt-i Jāvīd (“eternal life”), a work of great merit.
Another writer whose work, though chiefly in prose, deals with poetry and poetic style, is Maulavī Muḥammad Ḥusain Āzād, lately professor of Arabic at the Government College, Lahore. He has not himself composed much verse; but his biographies of Urdū poets, with criticisms of their works, entitled Äb-i Ḥayāt (“Water of Life,” Lahore, 1883), is by far the best book dealing with the subject. His prose style is much admired. As Ḥālī was the pupil of Ghālib, so was Āzād that of Ẕauq, of whose poems he has published a revised and annotated edition. His other works in prose are Qiṣaṣ-i Hind, episodes of Indian history arranged for schools; Nairang-i Khayāl, an allegory dealing with human life; and Darbār-i Akbarī, an account of the reign of Akbar.
Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Khān’s life and work are dealt with elsewhere. Among his literary achievements may be mentioned the Āsāruṣ-Ṣanādid (“Vestiges of Princes”), an excellent account of Delhi and its monuments, which has passed through several editions since it was first lithographed in 1847. His essays and occasional papers, published in the Alīgaṛh Institute Gazette (started in 1864), and afterwards (from 1870 onwards) in a periodical entitled Tahẕībul-Akhlāq (or “Muhammadan Social Reformer”), handle all the problems of religious, social and educational advancement among Indian Musalmāns—the cause with which his life was identified. His great Commentary on the Qur‘ān, in seven volumes, the last finished only a few days before his death in 1898, is carried to the end of Sūrah xx., a little more than half the book. In him Urdū prose found its most powerful wielder for the diffusion of modern ideas, and the movement which he set on foot has been the spring of the best literature in the language during recent years.
Another excellent writer of Urdū is Shamsul-’Ulamā Maulavī Naẕīr Aḥmad of Delhī, who is the author of a series of novels describing domestic life, of a somewhat didactic character, which have had a wide popularity, and from their admirable moral tone have been specially serviceable in the education of Indian women. These are entitled the Mir‘ātul-‘Arūs (or “Brides’ Mirror”); Taubatun-Naṣūḥ (“the Repentance of Naṣūḥ”), Banātun-Na’sh (“the Seven Stars of the Great Bear”), Ibnul-Waqt (“Son of the Age”), and Ayāmā (“Widows”). But Naẕīr Aḥmad is a man of many sides; before he took to novel-writing he was the principal translator into Urdū of the Indian Penal Code (1861), which is reckoned a masterpiece in the exact rendering of European legal ideas; and more lately he gave to the world the best Urdū version of the Quran. He has been a popular lecturer on social subjects, displaying a rich vein of humour, and in his old age even ventured upon verse. During the latter portion of his life he was most closely associated with Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Khān.
The novel is one of the most noteworthy features of recent literary composition in Urdū. India has from time immemorial been rich in stories and romances of adventure; but the description of actual life and character in action, as the modern novel is understood in Europe, is quite a new development. The most admired production of this kind in Urdū is a work entitled Fisāna-e Āzād, by Paṇḍit Ratan-nāth Sarshār of Lucknow. The story, which is very long, is remarkable for the faithful and vivid pictures of Lucknow society which it presents, and its exact and lifelike delineation of character; it appeared originally as a feuilleton of the Awadh Akhbār, of which paper the author was at the time editor. Another good writer in the same branch of literature is Maulavī ‘Abdul-Ḥalīm Sharar, also a native of the neighbourhood of Lucknow, but settled at Hyderabad. He was editor of a monthly periodical called the Dil-gudāz (“melter of hearts”), which contained essays and papers in European style, and in it his novels, which are all of an historical character, in the style of Sir Walter Scott, originally appeared. The best are ‘Azīz and Virginā, a tale of the Crusades, and Mansūr and Mōhinā, a story of which the scene is laid in India at the time of the invasions of Sultan Maḥmūd of Ghaznī.
Although Urdū chiefly represents Musalmān culture, its use is by no means confined to adherents of that faith. It has just been mentioned that the most popular Urdū novelist is a Hindū (a Brāhman from Kashmīr); and the statistics of the vernacular press show that this form of the language is widely used by Hindūs as well as Musalmāns. Thus, of eighty periodicals in Urdū published in the United Provinces, twenty-nine are conducted by Hindūs; similarly, in the Punjab, of forty-eight Urdū journals, twenty are edited by Hindus.
“High Hindī” has scarcely adapted itself to modern requirements with the thoroughness displayed by Urdū. It is taught in the schools where the population is mainly Hindū, and books of science have been written in it with a terminology borrowed from Sanskrit, in place of the Persian terms used in the other dialect. But Sanskrit is far removed from the daily life of the people, and the majority of works in this style are read only by Paṇḍits, the great bulk of them dealing with religion, philosophy and the ancient literature. There are thirty-seven Hindī and four Hindī-Urdū journals in the United Provinces; but many of them are exclusively religious in their character, and several, though written in Dēvanāgarī, employ a mixed language which admits Persian words freely. The old dialects of literature, Awadhī and Braj-bhāshā, are now only used for poetry; High Hindī has been a complete failure for this purpose.
The most noticeable authors in Hindī since the middle of the 19th century have been Bābū Harishchandra and Rājā Ṡiva Prasād, both of Benares. The former, during his short life (1850-1885), was an enthusiastic cultivator of the old poetic art, using the dialects just mentioned. He published in the Sundarī Tilak an anthology of the best Hindī poetry, and in the Kabi-bachan-Sudhā (“ambrosia of the words of poets”) and the magazine called Harishchandrikā a quantity of old texts, with much added matter. He also wrote a volume of biographies of famous men, European and Indian, and many critical studies, historical and literary. In history especially he cleared up many problems, and traced the lines for further investigation. In his Kashmīr Kusum, or history of Kashmīr, a list is given of about a hundred works by him. He was also the real founder of the modern Hindī drama; he wrote plays himself, and inspired others. Rājā Ṡiva Prasād (1823-1895) served for many years in the educational department, and published a number of works intended for use in schools, which have greatly contributed to the formation of a sound vernacular form of Hindī, not excessively Sanskritized, and not rejecting current Persian forms. The society at Benares called the Nāgarī Prachārinī Sabhā (“Society for promoting the use of the Nāgarī character”) has, since the death of Harishchandra, been active in procuring the publication of works in Hindī, and has issued many useful books, besides conducting a systematic search for old MSS.
Bibliography.—The best account in English of Hindī literature is Dr G. A. Grierson’s Modern Vernacular Literature of Hindōstān, issued by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1889; the dates in this work, which is founded on indigenous compilations, have, however, in many cases to be received with caution. Before it appeared, Garcin de Tassy’s Histoire de la littérature Hindouie et Hindoustanie, and his annual summaries of the progress made from 1850 to 1877, were our chief authority, and may still be consulted with advantage. For the religious literature of the Vaishnava sects, Professor H. H. Wilson’s Essay on the Religious Sects of the Hindus (vol. i. of his collected works) has not yet been superseded.
For Urdū poets, Professor Āzād’s Āb-i Ḥayāt (in Urdū) is the most trustworthy record. For the new school of Urdū literature reference may be made to a series of lectures (in English) by Shaikh ‘Abdul-Qādir of Lahore, printed in 1898. The catalogues by Professor Blumhardt of Hindōstānī and Hindī books in the libraries of the British Museum and the India Office will give a good idea of the volume of the recent productions of the press in those languages.
- (C. J. L.)
- Urdū is a Turkish word meaning a camp or army with its followers, and is the origin of the European word horde. Rēkhta means “scattered, strewn,” referring to the way in which Persian words are intermixed with those of Indian origin; it is used chiefly for the literary form of Urdū.
- The only known exceptions are a work in Hindī called the Chaurāsī Vārtā (mentioned below) and a few commentaries on poems; the latter can scarcely be called literature.
- A fresh critical edition of the text by Paṇḍit Mōhan Lāl Vishnu Lāl Paṇḍia at Benares, under the auspices of the Nāgarī Prachārinī Sabhā, had reached canto xxiv. in 1907.
- See J.A.S.B. (1886), pp. 6 sqq.
- Annals and Antiquities, ii. 452 n. and 472 n.
- Worshippers of the energic power—Śaktī—of Śiva, represented by his consort Pārvatī or Bhawāní.
- Quoted from G. A. Grierson, chapter on “Literature,” in the India Gazetteer (ed. 1907).
- The worship of Krishna is as old as Megasthenes (about 300 B.C.), who calls him Herakles, and was then, as now, located at Mathurā on the Jumna river. That of Rāma is probably still more ancient; the name occurs in stories of the Buddha.
- Religious Sects of the Hindus, p. 40.
- This name of Krishna, which means “He who quits the battle,” is connected with the story of the transfer of the Yādava clan from Mathurā to the new capital on the coast of the peninsula of Kāthiawār, the city of Dwārāka. This migration was the result of an invasion of Braj by Jarāsandha, king of Magadhā, before whom Krishna resolved to retreat. As his path southwards took him through Rajpūtānā and Gujarāt, it is in these regions that his form Raṇchhōṛ is most generally venerated as a symbol of the shifting of the centre of divine life from Gangetic to southern India.
- In the Granth Nāmdēo is called a calico-printer, Chhīpī. The Marāthi tradition is that he was a tailor, Shimpī; it is probable that the latter word, being unknown in northern India, has been wrongly rendered by the former.
- It will be remembered that Akbar’s reign was remarkable for the translation into Persian of a large number of Sanskrit works of religion and philosophy, most of the versions being made by, or in the names of, members of his court.
- Religious Sects, p. 132.
- Amīr Khusrau is credited with the authorship of many still popular rhymes, riddles or punning verses (called pahēlīs and mukurīs); but these, though often containing Persian words, are in Hindī and scanned according to the prosody of that language; they are, therefore, like Malik Muḥammad’s Padmāwat, not Urdū or Rekhta verse (see Professor Āzād’s Ābi-Ḥayāt, pp. 72-76). A late Dakkhanī poet who used the takkalluṣ of Sa’dī is said by Āzād (p. 79) to have been confused by Mīrzā Rafī‘us-Saudā in his Tazkira with Sa’dī of Shīrāz.
- An exception may be made to this general statement in favour of the genre pictures of city and country life contained in the masnavīs of Saudā and Naẕīr. These are often satires (in the vein of Horace rather than Juvenal), and are full of interest as pictures of society. In Saudā, however, the conventional language used in description is often Persian rather than Indian.
- To be carefully distinguished from the reformer of the same name who flourished half a century later.