Hindi and other religious literature: Part II

Hindi and other religious literature: Part II


  • In north India: During this period, Sanskrit ceased to flourish as the main language of the Imperial court. Though Mughal Emperor and princes like Dara patronized Sanskrit scholars, it never again gained the same importance in Northern India
  • Mughals cultivated a thoroughly multicultural and multilingual imperial image that involved repeated attention to Sanskrit texts.
  • Although not much significant and original work was done in Sanskrit during the period, the number of Sanskrit works produced is quite impressive.
    • As before, most of the works were produced in south and east India under the patronage of local rulers, though a few were produced by brahmanas employed in the translation department of the emperors.
  • Jain and Brahman Sanskrit intellectuals visited the courts of Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan in considerable numbers.
    • A select few entered the royal court at the direct invitation of the crown, whereas others gained entree through regional or subimperial patrons.
  • Sanskrit authors crafted many works under imperial sponsorship and participated in numerous aspects of court life.
    • They acted as intellectual informants, astrologers, religious guides, translators, and political negotiators for the Mughals.
  • The Mughals also turned to Sanskrit intellectuals for information concerning other Indian practices and ideas that could inform an imperial agenda, including the notion that Akbar was an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.
    • Bada’uni unhappily attests that Brahmans introduced Sanskrit works that predicted Akbar’s rise to power as Vishnu’s avatar.

Sanskrit during Akbar:

  • Akbar patronised Bhanuchandra and Siddha Chandra who wrote a commentary on Bana’s Kadambari.
  • Jains provided Akbar access to certain Sanskrit-based practices that would prove politically potent, such as sun veneration.
    • Bhanucandra, a Tapa Gaccha ascetic whom Hiravijaya sent to the Mughal court in Lahore in 1587, taught Akbar how to recite a Sanskrit text titled Suryasahasranama (Thousand Names of the Sun).
    • Siddhicandra, Bhanucandra’s Sanskrit biographer, tells the tale.
    • Later in his work, Siddhicandra portrays Akbar as devoted to honouring the sun to the exclusion of other religious activities.
  • Bihari Krishnadas wrote Parri Prakaska in which he gave Sanskrit equivalents of large number of Persian term.
  • Another outstanding work produced during the times of Akbar was Ramavinoda by Ramachandra, an official of Akbar.
  • Translation works:
    • Akbar sponsored the translation of the Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, into Persian.
    • The famous story of Nala and Damayanti was also render­ed into Persian by Faizi and was given the name of Maanavi Nal-o Daman.
    • Certain technical works like Bhaskara’s Lilavati, Panchatantra and Simhosanad vatrinshatika were also translated in Persian during Akbar’s time.
    • These translations were team efforts that required a group of Mughal Muslim scholars working alongside a cadre of Brahmans. Many times nobody involved in the translations knew both Sanskrit and Persian. Rather the Brahmans read the Sanskrit text and verbally translated it into Hindi, based on which the Mughal translators wrote down a Persian translation.
  • In his bilingual grammar from the late sixteenth century, Krishnadasa praises Akbar as Vishnu embodied.
  • In addition to the works mentioned above, many other Sanskrit works were compiled or translated during the time of Akbar either under his order or under the orders of his nobles.

Sanskrit during Jahangir:

  • During the time of Jahangir also a large number of Sanskrit works were translated into Persian.
  • Certain new works were also produced during his time. The prominent amongst them are Kirtisamullasa and Danmhahcharitra by the poet Rudra.
  • Jagannath, the prominent Sanskrit scholar also lived at the court of Jahangir and enjoyed his patronage.
    • He was granted the title of ‘Panditraj’ and produced outstanding Sanskrit works like, Manoramalcucamardana on grammar, Chitramimansakhandana on rhetoric, and Asafvijaya, a eulogy of Asaf Khan.

Sanskrit during Shah Jahan:

  • During the times of Shah Jahan also Sanskrit scholars were patronized.
  • Shah Jahan sponsored Jagannatha Panditaraja and Kavindracarya Sarasvati.
    • Both of these luminaries are mentioned in Persian-language chronicles from Shah Jahan’s reign.
  • Apart from Jaganath, the great Sanskrit scholar who flourished at the court of Jahangir, certain other scholars also lived at the court of Shah Jahan. These included Vanshidhar Misra and Harinarayana Misra.
  • The prominent works produced in Sanskrit during Shahjahan’s reign include,
    • Munishvar’s Siddhan Uuarvabhauma,
    • Bhagavati Svamin’s Kavyaviruiaprabodha
    • Vedangaraja’s Parri Prakaaka.
  • Abdul Hamid Lahauri, a great historian of Shah Jahan, has mentioned several other names of Sanskrit poets who received patronage from the Emperor.

Sanskrit during Aurangzeb:

  • Aurangzeb, the next ruler was orthodox and had no soft cheer for Sanskrit learning.
  • He stopped extending patronage to Sanskrit scholars.
  • However, Sanskrit learning continued to flourish. Some of the outstanding works compiled during the time of Aurangzeb include
    • Raghunath’s Muhurtamala
    • Chaturbhuja’s Ratakalpadruma.

Sanskrit in South:

  • Due to the inspiring presence of Madhavacarya and Sayanacarya, that Sanskrit literature continued to enjoy the patronage of the kings of Vijayanagar.
    • After 1565, the rulers of Tuluva and Aravidu dynasties, the Nayakas of Tanjore and the chiefs of Travancore and Cochin kept alive the custom of patronising Sanskrit.
  • The various genres of Sanskrit literature –Mahakavyas, Slesh Kavyas, Champu Kavyas, Natakas and particularly historical Kavyas
    • Raghunatha Nayaka, a ruler of Tanjore and his court poets made notable contribution in Mahakavya, .
    • Srinivasa Dikshit a minister of the Nayakas of Gingee was a prolific writer.
      • He had composed eighteen dramas and sixty kavyas.
    • Govinda Dikshita flourished at the Nayak Court of Tanjore.
      • His works are Sahitya Sudha and Sangitsudhanidhi
    • Sanskrit Scholar Appaya Dikshita (1520-92) was patronised by the Nayak chiefs of Vellore. He wrote > 100 books.
    • Niliknatha Dikshit (17th century) was a minister of Tirumalanayaka of Madura.
      • He wrote a number of Mahakavyas among which two dealing with Siva-leela and the penance of Bhagirath are important.
    • Chakrakavi, a notable sanskrit poet andthe author of Janaki Parinaya and Narayana or Narayana Bhattatire.
    • Manadeva Zamouri, the king of Kozhikode (1637-1648): made profuse and varied contribution covering the fields of Kavya, Mimamsa, grammar, etc.
      • However, he excelled most in Mahakavyas and is considered as one of the greatest poets of Kerala.
  • Historical ‘Kavyas‘ and ‘Natakas‘ written during this period that give us a glimpse into the social perception of these Sanskrit writers.
    • The first of these historical kavyas was composed by a woman –Tirumalamba – who is described in the inscription as ‘the reader’.
      • Her work Varadgumbika parinaya deals with the marriage of Achutadevaraya.
      • It has historical value + It is also most beautiful ‘Champus’ of the later period.
    • Sahityasudha (by Govinda Dikshita) and Raghunathabhyudaya (by Ramabhadramba) throws light on the heroic exploits of Raghumalla Nayaka of Tanjore.
      • These contain references to many historical events.
    • Many Mahakavyas based on the life of Shivaji and his son are important source of Maratha history.
      • Anubharata or Sivabharata are most important Kavya in this context. This work was begun by Kavindra Paramananda (contemporary of Shivaji), continued by his son Devadatta and grandson Govinda who now incorporated the life of Shambhuji in their narrative.
    • Tarkasongraha (c. 1625) (by Annambhatta) is the most popular manual on logic written in South India.
    • Viyasaraya (d. 1539) and his pupil Viyayindra (1576) made important contribution to Dwaita philosophy.
    • Dalpati (1490-1533), a high officer at the Nizam Shahi court of Ahmednagar, wrote Nririmhaprarada which is an extensive work on religious and civil laws.
  • Some Muslim rulers also came to be included in a historical Kavya as heroes by their court poets like Pandita Jagannath who wrote Jagadabh in praise of Dara Shukoh, and Asaf Vilasa addressing Asaf Khan.
    • Dara Shukoh himself composed a prasasti in honour of Nrisimha Sarasvati of Benaras.

In spite of the examples mentioned above, Sanskrit literature was on the decline. Writers were obsessed with writing numerous commentaries rather than, composing original works, and though scientitic texts, works on music and philosophy continued they were few and far between. The bulk of the works were commentaries on existing texts or grammar.

  • One of the major causes was the rise of vernacular literature in this period.
  • The Bhakti movement which swept the country earlier inspired the regional poets who now composed elegant lyrics in a language which was closer to the spoken words.
  • The popularity of these literary works lay in the instant response which they drew from the common people as well as the aristocracy

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