From Chandrakanta To Madhushala, Great Classics of Hindi Literature Which You Must not Miss
Besides architecture, the literature demonstrates the richness of a civilization, culture as well as the demography of a particular period and place. With the influx of globalization, we often forget that our country has a diverse literary tradition in different Indian languages.
Hindi literature has been through a long evolution and prior to the arrival of modern literature, mythological literature along with Veer-Gathas, Shringar-ras or romantic poems as well as Bhakti-Gathas were prevalent. Apart from Hindi, other Indo-Aryan dialects like Braja, Maithili, Awadhi, Bundeli and many more are also included in Hindi literature. We, especially the younger generation, should be aware of our indigenous literature that deals with myriad themes, starting from mythology to social aspects to indomitable human spirit.
Here's a list of some of great classics of Hindi literature:
Chandrakanta Santati by Devaki Nandan Khatri
The mystical and mythical book of Chandrakanta is believed to be the first significant prose work of modern Hindi literature. This is a 7-book series, which has Chandrakanta, Chandrakanta Santati, Bhootnath and other subsequent parts. People who love the Harry Potter series for its magical world will be awestruck by the detailed description of the author's fantasy. The romantic-magical story of two lovers of two rival dynasties have quite a few intricate twists and turns across the book. Princess Chandrakanta, Prince Virendra Singh, villain Krur Singh and the whole fantastical world will leave the reader gobsmacked. A popular TV show was aired on Doordarshan on the same name.
Kamayani by Jaishankar Prasad
Kamayani is one of the epic poems by cult poet Jaishankar Prasad and symbolizes the "Chayavad" (romanticism) sect of literature that became popular during the latter half of 19th as well as the 20th century. Delicate human emotions, philosophical musing and cognitive elements are expressed with the help of mythology and metaphors. The poem uses references from Vedic characters like Manu, the first man of Earth as per Indian mythology, Ida, Shrestha. Prasad used "tatsam" (from Sanskrit) Hindi and stated clearly that his work isn't to be read in nooks and corners.
Godan by Munshi Premchand
Munshi Premchand who was born as Dhanpat Rai penned down Godan during 1956 and probably is one of the most celebrated literary works of Hindi literature. The English translation is with a title of "The Gift of a Cow" and apart from translation into different languages, it has been adapted for a television as well as film series. His ironical portrayal of reality, lucid language and satirical tone made him one the best Hindi authors of all time. The novel surrounds the social deprivation of an animal, a poor family and the cow's significance to them. The protagonists - Hori and Dhania have definitely become the icons of class struggle. His other noteworthy works are Nirmala, Karmabhoomi, Kafan. If you're a new reader and want to start with short stories, pick up Panch Parmeshwar or Mansarovar.
Yama by Mahadevi Verma
Just like Jaishankar Prasad, Mahadevi Verma is one of the major stalwarts of "Chayavad" sect of Hindi Literature. Her vivid elaborative description about nature as well as the impoverished state of a girl child is clearly manifested in her poetic compositions. Yama, one of her seven poem books, gave her the prestigious Sahitya Academy as well as Jnanpith (1936).
Urvashi by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar
Dinkar is regarded as the second national poet of the Hindi literature. Urvashi is his only work which isn't based on nationalism or Veer-Rasa (along with khadi boli). It's similar to a delicate piece of blossom in a bouquet of literature and this very poem adorned him the prestigious Jnanpith award in 1972. Dinkar's other important creations are Rashmirathi about Karna of Mahabharata, Kurukshetra, Parshuram ki Pratiksha etc.
Tamas by Bhisham Sahni
Tamas is written on the backdrop of the brutal partition of India. The literal meaning of Tamas is darkness, so the storyline revolves around the communal riots and massacre in a small town. Sahni's portrayal of the tumultuous period is heart-wrenching and real. A television show has been made on this story by Doordarshan. Sahni was conferred Sahitya Akademi for this book in 1975.
Chidambara by Sumitranandan Pant
This illustrious work of Pant is one of the most celebrated examples of "Chayavad" sect of Hindi literature. Pant utilizes the Chayavadi essence in his earlier works and later inclines towards themes like Samajwad or Socialism as well as Adhyatmawad or Spirituality. His other popular books are Gunjan, Swarna Kiran where he explained an author's idea about human mind and consciousness. For Chidambara, Pant was awarded Sahitya Akademi and later Jnanpith (1968).
Madhushala by Harivansh Rai Bachchan
Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan, father of Amitabh Bachchan was a great poet. His impressionist literary style, metaphorical and philosophical theme made him an eminent personality in Hindi literature. Madhushala is one of the parts of a trilogy with Madhubala and Madhukalash where the poet explains the complex issues of life with "Madhu" or wine, "Pyala" or cup and "Madiralay" or bar as metaphors. The 135 four-line verses of Madhushala is acclaimed as one of the best metaphorical works of Chayavad sect of Hindi Literature. His other important poems are Agneepath, Jo beet gayi so baat gayi etc. You may hear Amitabh Bachchan reciting these poetries many times on various occasions.
Gunahon Ka Devta by Dharamvir Bharati
In the popular culture of literature, this book has received immense importance because of the theme. It has symbolized Bharati as arguably the second most popular writer after Kabir in Hindi literature. The impeccable tragic love story between Chandar and Sudha is poignant in their own exploration. It's still popular and the Bharatiya Jnanpith Trust has published its 59th edition in 2009.
Yashodhara by Maithili Sharan Gupt
Maithili Sharan Gupt is among the most famous nationalist poets, promoting the Khadi Boli cult. Maximum literary works of Gupt revolve around patriotism along with mythology and history. This very poem is about the wife of Gautama Buddha that describes the lament on her condition after Buddha left her behind in Kapilavastu with a newborn son, Rahul when he went in search of enlightenment. However, many academicians think Saket, a retelling work on Ramayana as his best creation. But the extrapolation and pathos of Yashodhara are incomparable. Gupt's works often have strong female leads and therefore are often linked with women empowerment as well.
This list could continue as the Hindi literature has so many jewels. Apsara by Suryakant Tripathi (Nirala), Raag Darbari by Shrilal Shukla, Tyagpatra by Jainendra Kumar, Prithviraj Raso by Chand Bardai, Jhansi Ki Rani by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan (the origin of iconic lines "Khoob ladi mardani wo to Jhansi wali rani thi"), Kitne Pakistan by Kamleshwar (the pioneer of New-age Hindi literature) are some of the cults that mustn't be missed.
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