In this article we will discuss about the development of local languages during the medieval times in India.
One of the immediate impact of the coming of Muslims in India was the development of the local languages. The Bhakti Movement which arose during the Medieval times was indirectly responsible for the development of the local languages.
The various religious reformers and saints wrote and spoke in the language which could be easily understood by the people. This not only led to the raise of Hindi language but also resulted in the growth of other languages like Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kashmiri as well as Telugu.
It shall be desirable to study about the position of these languages in some details:
Marathi Medieval age marked the beginning of the real Marathi literature. Some of the early prominent poets and scholars were Chakradhar, Bhaskar, Bhatt, Narendra and Muknndaraya. It was only with the emergence of religious saints like Namdeva that the Marathi language gained prominence.
Namdeva compered hymen is Marathi. Another prominent Bhakt who rendered valuable contribution to the Marathi literature was Jnaneswar of Pandharpur who advocated the doctrine that there were no ranks or classes before God and all were equal in his view.
The other saints whose teachings became very popular amongst the people of Maharashtra were Tukaram, Eknath, Ramdas, etc. They also composed number of hymns which enjoy a position of prominence in the Marathi literature of Medieval times. Janeswar wrote commentary on the Gita in Prakrit Marathi which greatly appealed to the people. Eknath translated Bhagwat in Marathi.
The other works translated by him in Marathi were Rukmini Swayamber and Bhawarth Ramayan. Similarly Tukaram wrote Abhangas. During the times of Moghals also Marathi literature was greatly enriched by the contributions of scholars like Dasopant, Mukteswar, Vaman Pandit, Moropant, etc. Shridhar Swami borrowed themes from Ramayana and composed a number of works, the prominent amongst them being Hari Vijaya, Rama Vijaya, Pandava Pratap and Shivalilamrila.
Similarly Mukteshwar composed the famous Ramayana. Raghunath Pandit wrote Nal Damayanti Swayambarakhyun. Vaman Pandit was the outstanding poet who wrote about Krishna cult in Mahabharata. His Yamak Alankar was written in a new style of verses. Moropant was a follower of the Rama cult and his work Kekawali breathes his intense devotion to Rama. He also composed Mahabharat in Arya metre.
With the rise of Marathas after the death of Aurangzeb, Marathi literature received greater encouragement. A number of Lawani and Pauwadas were written to inspire the Marathi soldiers. Ramjoshi, Anantfandi, Honaji Bal, Sagan, Bhau, Piabakar, Parash Ram were the most outstanding poets and writers of this period.
Valuable contribution was made to the Marathi language during the times of Shivaji. Shivaji introduced a number of Arabic and Persian terms in the Marathi language particularly with regard to the land, military and civil administration.
In fact, under Shivaji so many Perso-Arabic terms had been adopted that he had to appoint scholars like Parmanand, Jayaram and Bhushan to compile a Persian-Sanskrit dictionary. Sherwani says, this clearly shows the length to which Persian had permeated the administrative system of the country These Persian terms were so much observed by Marathi language that it has not been possible to eradicate them from the language.
During the Medieval times the Gujarati literature also flourished. Valuable contribution in this regard was made by the Jain monks and bards. The Jain monks composed many works in poetry called Ras. Some of the prominent Ras works composed during this period include Bharatbahubali Ras of Gunaratna Suri, Shil Ras of Vijaya Bhadra. Gautam Swami Ras of Udaywani, Madan Rekha of Harsewak and Shant Ras of Sunder Suri. With the rise of the Bhakti movement a new incentive was provided to the growth of Gujarati literature.
Narsing Mehta particularly played a prominent role in enriching the Gujarati literature. He composed more than two lakh verses of devotion and love to Lord Krishna in Gujarati. His prominent works include Chaturi Shodashi, Samalilas no Vivah, Dhan Lila and Govind Gaman.
The other important poets who rendered valuable contribution to the Guajarati literature were Vatso the author of Subhadra Haran and Sidhu Charitra; Vachharaja the author of Ras Manjari; Kushal Labh Vachak, who wrote Madhavanal Kamkandala Ras and Tulsi who wrote Dhruva. During this period books like Panchatantra, Ramayana, Yogvashisla and Gita were translated into Gujarati. The prominent persons who rendered valuable service in translating works from Sanskrit to Gujarati were Bhushan and Bhim. They composed a number of original works also.
Under the Mughals, Gujarati literature was greatly enriched and a number of saints and poets flourished in Gujarat. During the times of Akbar, Arwar was the most prominent scholar in Gujarati. He critically examined the human nature and exposed the materialistic outlook in his works.
His prominent works include Chitt-Vichar-Samvad, Shaipad, Kewalyagita. Another prominent persons who rendered valuable service to the Gujarati literature was Premanand. He is credited with the authorship of thirty-six books, although all of them are not readily available.
He is also given the credit for raising the Gujarati literature to a high level of literary excellence. Another outstanding literary figure was Samal Bhatt who specialised in dealing with Puranic legends and stories in verses. His important works include Madan Mohan and Samal Ratnamal, which are as popular today as they were during his time. All these scholars not only exercised tremendous influence on Gujarati literature during their own times but also for many years after they had left the scene.
After the death of Aurangzeb, Gujarati literature declined and no works of any mentionable importance were produced. No doubt, Jain poets continued to write in Gujarati but their works were not of high order.
A number of renowned scholars like Vidyapati, Chandi Das, etc. rendered valuable contributions to the Bengali literature. Vidyapati composed verses of devotion and love of Radha and Krishna which moved the hearts of millions of people. He was patronised by Shiva Singh of Tirhut and produced works not only in Bengali but also in Maithli and Sanskrit.
Certain other scholars were greatly inspired by Vidyapati and produced rich Bengali literature.
The Muslim rulers of Bengal also greatly patronised Bengali They encouraged scholars to translate Ramayana and Mahabharata into Bengali. Thus Sultan Nasiru’d-Din Nusrat Shah of Gaur got the Mahabharata translated into Bengali. Maladhar Vasu translated Gita into Bengali under the orders of Husain Shah. The Sultan greatly appreciated this work and bestowed the title of’ Ganaraj Khan in recognition of his work. Prof. Sherwani says that the Muslims were so much ‘Bengalised’ that they were able to compile works in the local language ; one of the most famous of them was Alaol (perhaps ‘Alau’l-Hasan) of Faridpur, who translated the Padmavat into Bengali and rendered into that language the Persian romance, Saifu’l Mulk wa Badiu’l-Jamal, and Nizami’s mathnawi, the Haft Paikar. A well-known historian of Bengali literature says that “Alaol has given a description of the religious ceremonies of the Hindus, their customs and manners, with an accuracy which strikes ore as wonderful. He has, besides, shown a knowledge of the planets such as would do credit to an astrologer.”
Chaitanya also rendered valuable contribution to the Bengali literature and composed a number of songs and bhajans. The disciples and the followers of Chaitanya also translated a number of bhajans and songs from Sanskrit into Bengali and thereby rendered a great service to the enrichment of the Bengali literature.
In the 16th century, there was an outburst of Vaishnava literature in Bengal and a number of biographies of Chaitanya were written by authors like Krishnadas Kaviraj, Brindavan Das, Jayanand, Trilochandas and Chakravarti. A number of books in praise of Chandi Devi and Mansa Devi were also composed.
After the decline of the Mughals also certain Bengali works were produced, the prominent among them being works of Bharat Chandra and Ram Prasad. In short during the Medieval times the Bengali literature was greatly enriched by Hindu and Muslim poets and writers.