A Literary History Of India
The learned Brahmins of ancient India have been the hereditary custodians of the utterances of their earliest Aryan fore-fathers which are found enshrined in the Vedas and other ancient sacred literature. The 1028 hymns of the Rig Veda, as sung by the Vedic poets, enable the persevering and patient scholars of the present generation to pierce the mists of the long past history of India. These hymns of the Vedas are still held as revelations from the Creator of the Universe. But they tell nothing of the long dark night that preceded the advent of these Aryan Tribes who look so indistinct on the horizon of the literary history of India. The ancient learning of the land, particularly lofty philosophy of the Vedanta (which meant the summing up of all the revealed knowledge of the Vedic literature) is ?the great crown and glory of Indian thought.? This outburst of intellectual activity suffered an ignoble eclipse when India fell prey to Muslim invasion and became a target to wreck-less loot, plunder and devastation. The arrival of the Western invaders however proved a mixed blessing. Along with their eager race for wealth, they also started taking interest in the fantastic structure of the religious, social and intellectual life of Indian people. They started examination and study of the laws of the Brahmins. In 1785 a young merchant J. Wilkins published this translation of the Bhagvadgita an two years later appeared the collection of Hindu stories known as the ?Hitopadesa?, the original sources of the famed fables of Bidpai. Two years later when ?Shakuntala? the famous drama of Kalidasa was translated by Sir William Jones, the West woke up to the miracle of the India?s literary achiruement and a race developed among Western scholars to learn and master the ancient Indian languages and to write about their rich literary heritage. An outstanding example of this genre of books is the present volume. Its author was a great scholar well-versed in the ancient lore of India and also a member of Council of Royal Asiatic Society. As its title indicates, the present volume is a unique literary history of India which paints over a vast canvas not only the history of Vedic poets and the Sanskrit treasurers of the Aryans, who lived in the shadowed recesses of the silent forests bordering the mountain ranges, but also the whole range of literary output of successive generations of all ages in the languages that evolved later out of Sanskrit. The author who was a teacher of Telugu and Tamil at the University College and the Imperial Institute, London during the concluding decades of the 19th century, has also covered with an equal authority, the rich literature of the Dravidian languages such as Telugu, Tamil, Canarese and Malayalam. The research scholars from the Northern India who are not acquainted with these languages will find themselves lucky enough to have a fortuitous feast of highly informative account of such literary gems as Naladiyar, which is still taught in Tamil Schools, Kurral the university acknowledged masterpiece of great South Indian saint scholar, Tiruvalluvar, Tiru Vasagam, the celebrated poem of manikka vasagar and the immortal composition of sage Tiru Nana Sambandha whose fame in the South is so renowned that there is scarcely a Siva temple in the Tamil Country where his image is not daily worshiped. The concluding part of the volume covers the social, intellectual and literary renaissance of Bengal during the 19th century which serves as the fusing point of old and new. The book is undoubtedly an unrivalled literary masterpiece and an eye-opener not only for the scholars of the awakened West but also for the Indians who must feel proud of their ancient heritage and of the amazing achievement of their spiritual, intellectual and literary achievements long before the advent of modern civilisation.
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