Languages and Literature of Gujrat

Languages and Literature of Gujrat

Gujarat is inhabited by people belonging to varied castes, religions and communities. Due to this reason, a number of varied languages are spoken in the state. The official language of the state is Gujarati. It is an Indo Aryan language derived from Sanskrit and was invented by Anand Kukadia. He had perfect knowledge of Hindi and other languages. Gujarati is the 26th most widely spoken language in the world. In addition to this, it has eleven dialects, spoken in different parts of the state.   Gujarat shares its borders with other neighboring states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Therefore, there is a small population which speaks the respective languages of the different states also, namely Marwari, Hindi, and Marathi. Apart from this, Urdu and Sindhi are also spoken in Gujarat. Kutch is one of the important areas in the state. It has an independent identity and is growing popular amongst tourists. The mother tongue of the people of Kutch is Kachchi. It is an important language of the region.

Like other languages of the Indo-Aryan family, Gujarati is derived from Sanskrit through ‘Prakrit’ and ‘Apabhramsha’. The Gujarati language that is widely used today evolved much later.   The language originally spoken in Gujarat and West Rajasthan was known as old western Rajasthani and then as Maru Gujar. ‘Apabhramsha’ or ancient Gujarati was spoken in this region between the 11th and the 14th century.   Old Gujarati then evolved after the establishment of the Sultanate of Gujarat in the 15th century. But it was in the 17th century that the foundations of modern Gujarat were laid. This was assiduously cultivated and ultimately developed into a powerful vehicle of expression by a number of writers, scholars and poets from Narsinh Mehta to Mahatma Gandhi.

Literature gives order to human experience. It explores cultural values. Literature in Gujarat stands for its Literary tradition in the form of folk songs, narratives, theater and aphorisms. Traced back to the Sultanate period, the stories and messages evolved as they passed through generations, leaving behind versions of myth and legends.  The early Literary journey began in Gujarat way back during 11th Century when Trade and commerce influenced Hinduism and Jainism. Before Gujarati emerged in its own linguistic identity, the works were notably in Sanskrit and Prakrit Languages. Literature with Hemachandracharya’s Grammar Book, Siddha Hema Shabdanushasan, came into existense during 1088-1072.

Literature tradition in Gujarat is largely linked to the Bhakti Movement and as it swept across most of India during 12th and 17th Century, it began with the Poet Narsinh Mehta (1414-1481) Narsinh Mehta began the rise of Gujarati Literature and is referred as ‘Father of Literature.’ He spent his life practicing and advocating selfless human compassion while facing immense opposition from his community during 1408-80. About the 12th Century, even the teachings of Acharyas, Ramanujcharya and Madhavcharya-the great refuters of Shankarachayra’s philosophy, penetrated into Gujarat and influenced people. 1342-1800 was the period when many Jain Literaturetes influenced Gujarat with their writings which still remained hidden or possessed by individuals. During this period, Mirabai, the foremost woman poet, dedicated her life to the worship of Krishna and alongwith, a number of other saints-poets who wrote in praise of god, became composers and musicians.   In the period 1298-1420, when the Mohemeddan conquered Cambay, Anhilwad, Somnath, Junagadh, Idar and laid the foundation of Ahmedabad in 1412 A.D, the languages most in use were Sanskrit and Prakrit with Literature as entirely religious.

Akhyan : a form of story telling through verse was popularized by Premanand (1636-1734). He also was Mannbhaat, a poet who sang to the accompaniment of music created by Copper pot struck with ringed fingers.   About the 12th Century, teachings of Acharyas, Ramanujcharya and Madhavcharya-the great refuters of Shankarachayra’s philosophy, penetrated into Gujarat and influenced people.   In 19th Century, it was Narmad, the Poet (1833-86) who pioneered prose and poetry through his work on social revolution. He promoted to adopt single national language and wrote about self government. He opposed religious orthodoxy and was a social fanatic. As a result, he published ‘Dandiyo’ – a newsletter to increase community awareness against British rule. He conveyed his ideas in new phrase forms while introducing western literary forms too. The year 1886-1907 saw the Literature of Govardhanram Tripathi who was ignited of the Bhakti flame by Narsinh Mehta and Mirabai. He penned the novel ‘Sarasvatichandra’ and depicted the complexities of the society and bring about social reforms. This became the most influential Literature piece in Gujarati.

Girdhar wrote the only popular versified ‘Ramayana’ in 1815 A.D. Tulsivivah, a poem on the marriage of Krishna with Tulsi Plant and many other compositions were written by him. Ranchod Bhakta (1805 A.D), Ranchodji Divan, Hari Bhatt and many others produced Gujarati Literature on Krishna during this period of 1800-1900s. K M Munshi brought history to life with the Solanki Dynasty from 1887-1971 and Zaverchand Meghani (1897-1947) compiled and published the rich repertoire of oral traditions of Saurashtra. Pannalal Patel wrote of rural Gujarat while Sundaram exploited the plight of the poor. Umashankar Joshi (1911-1988) introduced the free verse form of poetry and made a significant contribution in Gujarati Literature.   Beginning of World War I later marked the beginning of Gandhian era from 1915-45 in Gujarati Literature. It was characterized by humanism, social consiousness and with the perseverance of National spirit. Gandhian era Literature was filled with Patriotism with critics like K M Munshi, Meghani, Rasiklal Parikh, Kaka Kalekar, Darshak as Nagindas Parekh, Mansukhlal Jhaveri, Anantrai Raval, Snehrashmi, etc. who contributed to Gujarati Literature. Among the short story writers and playwrights, Jayanti Dalal, Chunilal Madia, Gulabdas Brokers and others added to the critics list of new criticism and traditional criticism to post Gandhian period. Post Gandhian era Literature also has traditional critics like Niranjan Bhagat, a well equipped poet critic. Others are Yashwant Shukla, Dhirubhai Thakkar, Ramanlal Joshi, Chandrakanth Sheth, Suresh Dalal, etc. apart from other Philosophical and linguistic Gujarati Literature authors.

Gujarat Vidyapith became the centre of all literary activities where new values emerged and more emphasis was given on Gujarati Literature. Novels, short stories, diaries, letters, plays, essays, criticisms, biographies, travel books and all kinds of prose began to flood Gujarati literature. British Government’s existence passé by and the new technology of printing and press, there began the English language and medium of Education. The new age reads with newspapers, magazines, etc. influenced information and awareness in Society. Literature flourished with modernity as creations reflect to new age thinking, social welfare, criticism, plays, patriotism, politics, spiritual, management, facts, fiction and stories, etc.   In current scenario, Literature in Gujarat with Gujarati Literature is no more limited to Gujarati language as English Literature has entered into the domain. Gujarat have more and more Literature Authors venturing into multi lingual writing and English Literature writers stepping to Gujarati translated versions for eg. Is Paul Coelho whose new age books are translated in local language. Children’s Literature, Arts Literature, women’s Literature etc. has paved in way with Gujarati and English language writing getting prominent boost in Gujarat as new writers flourish in State. It has been the current trend of Author meets, book launches, debating, review sessions and promoting knowledge is power.   The Book Publishing Industry and Internet has even given way to new age writers. Works are published in form of e-books, posted at Google Open book source and even Gujarati Authors are getting Self-published with the POD (Print on Demand services). Thereby, writing, marketing and promoting Literature throughout the world.

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