Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Aspects of Hindi Literature

Sri Prakasa

Shri SRI PRAKASA

Governor of Madras

Friends,

Though I agreed to speak to you on some aspects of Hindi literature, I really did so under false pretences. The fact is that I have not studied Hindi at all, as, in the days of my boyhood and youth, the official and even cultural language of my home State of Uttar Pradesh was Urdu. Urdu really means ‘camp’; and it was the language of the Muslim armies camping in India, to begin with. Urdu is, in a way, a daughter of Hindi. The grammar which is the soul of a language, is the same both in Hindi and Urdu, but Urdu was enriched by Arabic and Persian words, and the Persian script was adopted for writing it. That was our heritage from Muslim days. For Hindi, the Nagari script was used. Truly speaking, Hindi written in Persian script, with a few necessary additions, is Urdu; and similarly Urdu, written in Nagari script, with similar additions, can be regarded as Hindi. However, Hindi in the earlier days, was looked down upon as bhakha–corrupted pronunciation of bhasha–thatis, the language spoken by mere common folk, a sort of patois, dialect or vernacular. Owing to the fact that Urdu was the language of culture in the North, Samskrit, which means a cultured language, was not pronounced as correctly and beautifully there as in the South. Maharashtrians perhaps pronounce Samskrit best, and most distinctly and accurately.

In my early days, the person who came under the spell of Muslim educationists, was better mannered and had a better pronunciation. Just as the good English teacher who says ‘pronounce your last syllable distinctly,’ so did the Maulvis also insist on their pupils pronouncing all words of the languages–Persian or Persianised Urdu that they taught–fully and correctly. Those who were brought up under Muslim teachers, seemed to hold in scant respect, those who spoke Hindi, because their pronunciation of Urdu was faulty according to their own standards, and also because their manners were regarded as bad. It was a pity that Samskrit Pandits generally, unlike Muslim Maulvis, did not seem to have laid much stress either on good pronunciation or good manners. The difference can be generally marked in the pupils of the two. Anyway, no one cared to learn Hindi as such. It was known because people spoke it and utilised it for the ordinary purposes of daily life. Hindi, as a language of culture and literature, was not in prominence at all. Pandits at home spoke local dialects of Hindi, unlike the Maulvis who spoke chaste Urdu to their wives and children. The Kashmiri Brahmanas and the Kayasthas among the North Indian Hindu communities, were particularly steeped in Muslim culture. Hindi was under an eclipse at the time; but towards the latter part of the last century, particularly under the influence of Bharatendu Harish Chandra, Hindi started becoming a living and vigorous language, quite capable of conveying thoughts on an subjects of human interest.

So far as my own education was concerned, great care was taken to teach me Samskrit and English; but Hindi as such, was never taught to me. I stated writing Hindi really when I was put in charge of the Hindi daily “AJ” of my home-town of Banaras. I was quite thirty years of age then. This aggressively nationalist paper was started by my friend, the great patriot Shri Shivaprasad Gupta, to break the unfortunate tradition that all Hindi papers represented Hindu communalism and similarly all Urdu papers, Muslim communalism.

In the circumstances above mentioned, a desire was felt towards the latter part of the 19th century that the great heritage of Hindi should be preserved, and its literature enriched and ennobled. Thus was founded the Nagari Pracharini Sabha at Banaras an association with the object of spreading the Nagari script, as its name implies–because, Urdu, they regarded, as Hindi written in persian script, with an unnecessary and undesirable admixture of foreign, Persian and Arabic, words. Soon this association, as the later one founded at Allahabad, called the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, stood out for Hindi wholly and absolutely. At the beginning of the century, there was a Lieutenant-Governor of Uttar Pradesh–then known as North West Province, and later the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh–Sir Antony McDonald who favoured Nagari, and issued a circular that in courts, if any papers were filed written in Nagari, they were to be accepted. If the court language was Urdu written in the Persian script. “It was only in that that people could file documents in courts. Many Courts continued to object to Nagari even afterwards, despite the circular and thesponsors of Nagari continued to have difficult time to the last. It should be mentioned here that only the script used was Nagari, the language continued to be the same as before, namely, highly Persianised. I might incidentally mention that one of the major tragedies of history, the partition of the country into Pakistan and Bharat, was due not a little to the most unfortunate Hindi–Urdu controversy in my home-State of Uttar Pradesh.

All this long introduction is only meant to show that I have never studied Hindi due to circumstances that prevailed in the North in the latter part of the 19th, and the early part of this century; and that is why I feel I am not wrong when I say that you have all come to hear me on Hindi under false pretences for I am no authority on either the language or its literature. Sheer self-respect compelled me to accept your invitation to speak, lest you should feel amazed that there should be an apparently educated man whose mother tongue is Hindi and who still does not know anything about it. The two languages that they took pains to teach me, as I have said before, are English and Samskrit, and my ignorance of Hindi therefore is really pardonable.

I need hardly add that like many other major languages of the land, Hindi is also regarded as having been derived from Samskrit. You may, however, be interested and even perhaps amused to know that the very learned Mahamahopadtiyaya Pandit Sudhakar Dvivedi of Banaras, said that Samskrit was the offspring of Hindi and not the other way round. His argument was simple: ‘Samskrit’ means a cultured language. There must be something rough before the same is cultured. Cultured Hindi is Samsrit. Thus he tried to prove his thesis. Well, whatever Pandit Sudhakar Dvivedi might have thought, generally speaking, we all believe that Hindi is the offspring of Samskrit. You do not hear (much) of Hindi before the10th century of the Christian era. People must have spoken some forum of the language in the street and the field in the earlier days as well. They certainly did not speak Samskrit. Hindi as a living, written language was unknown in the earlier years; and so we mighttake the 10th to the 14th century as the first or early period of Hindi when we hear something of the language.

This period may be called the period of the poetry of chivalry, of deeds of valour and of prowess. It appears that the writing of poetry came earlier than the writing of prose in the world. As there was no printing and everything had to be committed to memory, it was found that poetry is ever so much easier to remember than prose. Therefore all who could write used poetry as the medium for the expression of their thoughts. Thus we begin by chronicling the deeds of the brave. Twovery great illustrations of this type of poetry are found in a poet of the name of Chand Bardayi who wrote his famous ‘Prithviraj Raso’ and Jaga-nayak who sang of the exploits of Alha and Udal (Uday Singh). Chand Bardayi has written about the exploits of Prithvi Raj. Prithvi Raj and Jaychand were important historical figures at the time of Mohammad Ghori in the 11th century and closely related to each other. We hear of an attack by Ghori on Prithvi Raj, king of Kanauj. Jaychand turned against him. It was Jaychand who migrated from Kanauj after those wars, and founded the well-known kingdom of Jodhpur. We also have Alha-Udal stories and songs in praise of Udaya Singh, the well-known and brave king or chieftain of Bundel Khand round about Jhansi, Banda and Hamirpur districts of to-day. In this bardic age ofnearly four centuries, these poets sang the praise of war lords, of their fights, of their valour, of their greatness, and so on. Not that they did not speak of other subjects, but chivalry was their main thesis.

Then we come to another three centuries from the 14th to the 17th where we find a sudden emergence of devotional poetry. While the first four centuries gave us war-poetry in which the valour of the chieftains was idolised, we come now to rich and beautiful poetry–great songs sung in praise of God in various forms. The bhakti (devotional) school then came into prominence, and we have a large number of earnest devotees as poets, expressing their feelings of love of, and absolute surrender to, God in the most ecstatic language. It is this age which is greatly stressed in the history of the evolution of Hindi. The poems were all written in vraja bhasha where the original words had tobe elongated or shortened in order to suit the exigencies of metre–for instance, ‘sneha’ (love) becomes ‘neha’; ‘yatna’, (effort) becomes ‘jatana’; ‘paksha(feather) becomes ‘pakha’; ‘smarana’ (remembrance) becomes ‘sumarin’; and even the Persian, word ‘ishka’ (love) is turned to ‘isik’.

The historical setting of this period was just the same as the historical setting of the previous period. In the earlier period, a large number of Hindu chieftains over whom the Muslims were trying to establish sovereignty, were resisting them with all their might, because of which bardic poetry was born. So in the political setting of the next three centuries, we find Muslim rule having been more or less established. The heart of the people did not like this, for they felt that they should not have this foreign rule. They wanted to throw it away, but they found that chieftain after chieftain surrendered–maybe, because of weakness of implements of warfare; maybe, because of treachery for which I fear our country is rather noted from the time of Vibhishan downwards–and so those who felt that this was not the correct thing and still felt helpless, withdrew from the battle, so to say, and said: Let us now praise God, let us Surrender ourselves to Him for surely He will come some day to rescue His people from their serfdom and sorrow, for has not the Lord pledged Himself in the words of the Bhagavad Gita:

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati Bharata,
Abhyutthana-madharmasya, tadatmanam srijamyaham;
Paritranaya sadhunam, vinashaya cha dushkritam,
Dharma samsthapanarthaya, sambhavami yuge yuge

“Whenever there is decay of righteousness, O Bharata, and exaltation of unrighteousness, then do I create myself, I incarnate myself in some form. For the protection of the good, and the destruction of evil-doers, for the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born from age to age.”

Tulasi Das has put the same in his own words:

Jab-jab hoi dharam ki hani,
Badhe adham asur abhimani,
Tab tab prabhu dhari vividh sharira,
Harahin kripanidhi sajjan pida.

“Whenever righteousness declines, and the low, the wicked and the proud get the Upper hand, the Lord, the ocean of pity, putting on different bodies, comes to rescue the good, again and again.” I find it difficult to say which version is more beautiful. My own theory about the growth of devotional cult in India is that all good people of the time thought that the game was up: that they must pray to God to get rid of mlechchas who would otherwise destroy their temples, their wealth and their cattle, and ruin all the structure of civilisation and culture that had been built up by them. So they practised complete non-co-operation with the powers-that-be. They just refused to recognise them or even acknowledge their existence in the land. It is indeed a curious thing that though Tulasi Das’ Ramayana is a big volume, and he has written many other books besides, he does not even mention at any place, the existence of a foreign power in the country. The same can be said of the other poets also of this age. Kabir. who came earlier, too pleads for the total renunciation of the world when he calls:

Kabira khara bazar men liye lukati hath
Jo ghar jaye apana chale hamare sath.

“Those alone should come with me who are prepared to burn and destroy their own hearths and homes, so says Kabir, standing in the market place with a lighted torch in his hand.” Non-co-operation with the existing order of things, begotten of despair that the world could not be put in order, and that all was lost, resulted in calling on God for help. The Roman Empire in its hey-day was much too strong, and so the oppressed Christians of those times did exactly the same. They put their trust in God and underwent endless sufferings. People invariably find consolation in bhakti, in devotion to God, when they see no relief or escape anywhere.

Tulasi Das and Sur Das are among the most famous of Hindi poets of that age. They were high born, but Kabir was only a humble weaver. There was a sort of strong brotherhood among all the devotees. When someone said to Tulasi Das as he started writing in Hindi: “You are a scholar in Samskrit. What is this plebian language in which you are writing? Write in Samskrit,” replied: “I am writing for the multitude. I am not writing for the learned few;” and gave a very beautiful simile:

Hara Hari jasa sura nata gira
Baranahin sant sujan,
Handi hatak charu chir
Randhe swad saman.

“The good and the learned describe the language of the Gods (Samskrit) and of men (Hindi) as if they were respectively Hara (Shiva) and Hari (Vishnu)–different facets of the same god-head. Food whether cooked in earthen jars or golden vessels, is equally delicious and welcome.”

So he wrote in Hindi for the sake of the masses of our people; and he poured forth in the most beautiful cadence his devotion to God. He went on even to the extent of saying that he was not a believer in the Vedantic conception of the individual atmam achieving moksha (liberation). He believed in a personal God in the form of Ramachandra to whom his devotion was absolute. He said he did not want Moksha and to become one with God, for then he would lose his object of worship, and would not know what to do. If Tulasi Das had not written his Hindi Ramayana, there would have been utter darkness in the Hindi world all these centuries that have passed since then. Our debt to him can never be repaid.

Tulasi Das has exclaimed in deep pathos:

Para-ninda suni shravana malina bhaye
vachana dosa para gaye,
Saba prakara mala lag bhara nija
natha charana visaraye.
Tulasi Das vrat dana jnana tapa
shuddhi hetu shruti gaven,
Par Shri Ramachandra anuraga nira bin
mal atinasa na paven.

“We soil our ears by hearing ill of others. We soil our speech by speaking ill of others. By abandoning the feet of the Lord, we are overweighted with evils of all sorts. Tulasi Das himself has tried fasts, charities, studies, austerities, recitation of the Vedas, to cleanse himself, but he cannot wash off his accumulated sins without the help of the waters of Shri Ramachandra’s love.”

Let us take another piece from the self-same poet and devotee Tulasi Das with its exquisite imagery:

Kesava kahi na jaya kya kahiye,
Dekhiya lava rachana vichitra
ati samujhi man hi man rahiye,
Shunya bhitti par chitra ranga nahin
Bin kar likha chitere,
Dhoye mile na marayi bhiti dukh
Paye yaha tana here
Ravikara nira base ati daruna
Makara rupa tehi mahin,
Badana hina so grase chara-char,
Pan karan jo jahin,
Ko-u kaha satya, jutha kaha ko-u
Yugal prabala kari manen,
Tulasi Dasa parihare tini bhrama
So apan pahichane.

“O Lord, seeing your variegated creation, one is struck dumb with amazement. How is one to describe it? On this wall of vacuum, the painter without hands has drawn innumerable pictures in many colours without the help of any paint. The fear of death will never disappear, however hard one might try to wash away these drawings. Some say the whole thing is false; others, that it is true. Still both regard it as forcefully effective. Verily in this vast ocean of sunlight, there lives a huge crocodile who grabs all things–sentient or insentient–that dare to go to bathe in it, even though it has no mouth or teeth itself. Tulasi Das avers that he alone can attain true freedom who casts aside the three-fold doubts that assail all.”

Then there is of course the great singer Mira Bai. She was a princess and married too to a prince whose race was regarded as the highest and the greatest in all Hindudom–the venerated Shishodia House of Mewar (Udaipur). The Lord’s love pursued her, and she gave up all to which she was heiress, satisfied with her love for her Lord alone. In verses of exquisite beauty she sings:

Manhe chakar rakhoji,
Giridharilala chakar rakhoji
Chakar rahasun bag lagasun
Nita uthi darsana pasun.
Vrindavan ki kunj galin men
Govinda lila gasun...
Mira ke prabhu gahira gambhira
Hridaya raho ji dhira
Adhi rath prabhu darsana dinho
Prem nodi ke tira.

“O my Lord, take me as your servant. I shall be your hand-maiden and shall rear a garden for you. I shall have a glimpse of you every morning as I rise and I shall sing the praise of the Lord in the streets of Vrindavan...The Lord of Mira is indeed deep and profound. O heart, keep up courage. The Lord shall surely appear at midnight on the banks of the river of love.”

It is a fact to be noted that just as many Europeans have been drawn to the philosophy and thought of India, so were many Muslims attracted by the ecstatic poetry and devotion of the Hindu saints. We have a particularly great Muslim poet Raza Khan who used the pen-name of ‘Raskhan’ which, translated, would mean ‘a mine of joyous emotion’. His language is the same as the language of the great Hindi poet-devotees of those days. He says for instance:

Ya lokuti aru kamariya par
Raja tihun pula ko taji daron,
Athahu siddhi navo nidhi ko sukh
Nand ki gayi chardi bisaron.
Rasikhani kabaun in akhin so
Vraja ke vana bag tadag niharon,
Kotik haun kal dhauta ke dham
Karil ke kunjan upar varon.

“Rasikhan, if only he could see the forests, gardens and tanks of Vraj (Krishna’s playground), he would abandon the joys of a thousand heavens for the surrounding thorny bushes of Vrindavana. The overlordship of the three worlds is nothing before the pilgrim’s garb that takes one there. He will cast aside the pleasures of all the eight siddhis and the nine nidhis (various methods of attaining one’s desires) for the honour of taking Nanda’s cows to pasture.”

We must not forget to mention another Muslim poet known as Abdur Rahim Khankhana who is supposed to have been a contemporary of Tulasi Das and Governor of Banaras on behalf of the Moghal emperor. It is said that on one occasion Tulasi Das recited one line of a verse:

Sura-tiya nara-tiya naga-tiya
Saha vedan sab koya,

“The wives of gods, of men and of serpents suffer terrible pains (at child-birth)”, which Khankhana completed with a beautiful line that rhymed with it as well as complimented the great poet:

Garbha liye hulasi phiren;
Tulasi son suta hoya.

“Even so, pregnant women go about in joy praying; May I have a son like Tulasi.” Abdur Rahim Khankhana wrote under the pen-name of ‘Rahiman’ and sometimes ‘Rahim’. He has given us some very beautiful couplets on good conduct and worldly wisdom. Let me quote one on friendship:

Ye na rahim sarahiye
len den ki prit
Pranam baji rakhiye
har hwai va jit.

“O Rahim, praise not the friendship that is based on considerations of gains and losses. Stake your very life for your friend, regardless of victory or defeat.” We should note that great emphasis is laid on friendship in this verse. The Muslim perhaps is the best friend in the world, and would do anything for a person to whom he has given his affection. The poet has also given good worldly advice when he says:

Rahiman nija man ki vyatha
manahin rakho goya,
Suni athilaihen loga saba
bati na laihen koya.

“O Rahiman, keep the sorrows of the heart, hidden in the heart itself. People, when they hear about it, would only ridicule and laugh. They would not share it.” The Samskrit verse conveying a similar thought on an even extended theme, reads:

Artha nasham mans-tapam
Gehe dush-charitani cha,
Vanchanam cha pamanam cha,
matiman na prakashayet.

“The wise man does not talk to others of his financial losses, mental worries, domestic improprieties, or of his being cheated or insulted by fellowmen.”

We may now come to the third stage of Hindi poetry which takes us from about the middle of the 17th to the middle of the 19th centuries. This is the age of erotic poetry. Some persons interpret it as only an extension of devotional poetry put in a language that could be regarded as giving prominence to the physical side of love. Various types of lovers and beloveds are described, and the quality of love is scrutinised when extended in licit or illicit manner. The view also finds expression that illicit love has greater force and passion in it than the legitimate variety. There is endless description of nayika-bheda, the difference between various types of heroines, with its stress on swakiya (love for one’s own wife) and parakiya (love for other folks’ wives). This age of writing may be interpreted as the expression of a mentality that has surrendered to the scheme of things as they were at the time. People might have realised that their personal asceticism, self-denial and their devotion to God and their prayers to Him to help, have yielded no results. The rule of the Muslims was getting stronger and stronger, and actually law and order had been established and there was peace and plenty in the land.

There is no doubt that by the time Shahjahan came to the throne and the conquests of Akbar has been consolidated, the country had settled down. We read in a little book ELIZABETHAN VENTURE by Cecil Tragen, the story of the first Englishmen–Ralph Fitch and John Newbery–who came to our country towards the close of the 16th century. They travelled far and wide in the land; had been captured and kept as prisoners by the Portuguese in Goa; had escaped from their confinement; had gone on to Agra and Hooghly (that is near modern Calcutta). It is clear from what they have left behind, that the writ of Akbar was running all over the land, and that there was sufficient safety in travel to enable them to go about in the manner they did. They even found a veterinary hospital at Cooch-Behar. No wonder that in these circumstances, the poets and writers thought that they should accept facts as they were and give themselves to sensualism and the joys that flesh could give, after a long period of asceticism and self-denial. We can regard this period as one of reaction from the extreme puritanism of the earlier age and a recognition of the inevitability of things as they were, namely, the subjection of the country by a foreigner for all time. Such swinging from one extreme to another is not unknown in the social history of other peoples as well. Sex being the instrument for the highest physical pleasure in man, the poetry of these centuries is inclined to express sensual sentiments. The great poet of the age is Bihari with his seven hundred couplets on love. After Tulasi Das, he is perhaps the most popular and best known Hindi poet. Let me quote just one verse:

Main misaha soyo samujh
Mukh chumyo ding jaya.
Hasau khisani gara gahyo
Liye gare lapataya.

“The beloved thinking me to be fast asleep, though like a hypocrite, I was only feigning, came near to me and kissed me on the mouth. I smiled; she blushed; I threw my arms around her; and then she too took me in a warm embrace.”

We have thus passed through three stages of Hindi literature: from the 10th to the 14th centuries, there is the early age of heroic poetry; then there is the middle age from the mid-14th to the mid-17th century of devotional poetry, followed by a third stage from mid-17th to mid-19th century which may be called the later medieval or early modem age when we have our erotic poetry. In the middle of the 19th century we come to the modem age of Hindi writing, which covers roughly an hundred years up to date. Thus we come after 800 years of poetry of all sorts, to an age of prose writing as well. When paper was scarce and there was no method of duplication, people composed in poetry that was comparatively easy to remember. When paper came into existence and the art of writing was developed, the making of extra copies became easy, and people started writing both in prose and poetry. The Christian missionary was almost a pioneer in this respect, for he translated the Bible into the various spoken languages of the land to enable him to take his message to the remotest corners. Newspapers also came into existence, and all manner of subjects came now to be freely discussed. Prose literature grew rapidly, and books on science, philosophy and history became quite common. The influence of European life thought, ideals and technique on it are great and undeniable.

The outstanding figure of this age is Bharatendu Harish Chandra who is rightly regarded as the father of modern Hindi. He lived a very short life of only about 35 years; but in that period he wrote copiously and on varied subjects. He belonged to an aristocratic family of Banaras, and must have been an extra-ordinary individual who could do so much in so short a time. He showed by his own writings, how the Hindi language could be utilised for the expression of thought in every department of human endeavour. The spoken language became a most powerful vehicle in the supple hands of learned writers, beginning with Bharatendu Harish Chandra. A grateful people gave him the title of Bharatendu, the moon of India, in recognition of his great talents and services. While formerly all poetry was in vraja bhasha, today poetry, like prose, is almost entirely in khadi boli, the spoken language. Those who love the poetry of vraja bhasha may not find modern khadi boli poetry equally vigorous or beautiful; but that may be a matter of opinion. Khari Bali is translated by some as the ordinary spoken language, while others think it means perfected or chaste language. The evils of the Hindu social system also attracted great writers; and Harish Chandra himself has written on many current topics criticising the various wrongs done in society: the differentiation of rich and poor, the hypocrisy of Hindu life, covering wrongs under the guise of religion, etc. He was well-versed in Samskrit also, for he translated difficult Samskrit dramas into Hindi.

We should also mention Devaki Nandan Khatri who wrote stories of magic. Many people grew so fond of them, that they actually learnt Hindi–both script and language–in order to be able to read his then famous books, “Chandrakanta” and others. He wrote in his own peculiar style, but people read him with pleasure. He was thus able to teach the language to many people who would never have learnt it otherwise. We must also not forget the contemporary figure of Raja Shiva Prasad who lived a remarkable life of varied activities, and about whom more should be known than actually is. He suffered from the fact that he was a supporter of the British Government out and out, and was invested with many high titles by them for his loyal services. His good qualities have therefore been rather obscured because of prejudice against him for buttressing foreign domination. It may perhaps amuse friends to know that the title of Bharatendu (Moon of Bharat) was given to the patriot-poet Harish Chandra as an answer to the Companionship of the most exalted order of the ‘Star of India’ (translated in Hindi-Urdu as Sitare-Hind or Star of Hind) given by the British Government to Raja Shiva Prasad. Though astronomers tell us that stars are huge suns larger than ours, to the layman, the moon is more powerful than stars, for as the Samskrit verse goes: ‘Ekah chandrah tamo hanti na cha tara gana api’ (one moon kills all darkness, but not so a multitude of stars).’ Bharatendu to the public was thus bigger and greater by far that Sitare Hind.

Among my own contemporaries, there was Prem Chand who has, like Charles Dickens in England, depicted, in vivid language, the wrongs that are being perpetrated on the humble in society. He has drawn our hearts to sympathy for the sufferings of the poor and the lowly. Charles Dickens was lucky inasmuch as he wrote among a people who set themselves to the task of eradicating the evils that the author had exposed. Unfortunately Prem Chand has not met with equal success here. Both his novels and his short stories are, however, most popular in the Hindi-speaking world to-day. We must also remember the great living poet Maithili Saran Gupta who generally draws his themes from the great figures of ancient legend, and interprets the characters of the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas in his own unique and exquisite manner. There is also the famous poet Jaya Shankar Prasad with his high philosophical concepts, who is studied by students and scholars with care and attention, and whose premature death has been very widely mourned.

Among the journalists, I am bound to mention Pandit Mahavir Prasad Dvivedi, the learned and popular editor of the famous Hindi monthly “Saraswati” who died some years to the sorrow of all his friends and admirers. He was the person who searched out talent and encouraged young persons to write in Hindi. In fact it was he who found me out also; and I can never be sufficiently grateful to him for the first letters he wrote to me inviting me to write for his journal. It may interest some of my friends to know that I had written a very long letter to my mother from Paris where I had spent the Christmas of 1913. In this letter I had described various sights and sounds of that great city. This letter got into the hands of a friend who copied it in a manuscript magazine that was being issued at that time, in my home-town of Banaras. Some one seeing this, reproduced it in a weekly of Gorakhpur. Pandit Mahavir Prasad Dvivedi, seeing this, wrote to me saying that he was ‘overjoyed’ on reading the article, and would very much like me to write for his magazine as well. In our country unfortunately we do not encourage others, and Pandit Mahavir Prasad Dvivedi is a great exception to the rule. It may be safely said that he created writers and served Hindi in a remarkably successful manner. In fact he is so widely respected that some scholars are inclined to speak of the Dvivedi age in Hindi, as the immediately preceding one is described as the Bharatendu age. Modern Hindi literature is not without its controversialists; and the various types of poetry-chayavada (the shadow cult) and others–are all subjected to the utmost scrutiny by the learned: and very often in the course of discussions, poets are inclined to use hot words against each other representing different schools of poetry, and sometimes almost threaten to come to blows. I am not qualified enough to speak on the merits of these controversies, and so must leave them at that. I should also be pardoned for not mentioning more writers, poets, essayists, journalists, speakers, novelists, and others of the modern age of Hindi for their number is very large indeed. I have only mentioned a few whose names came to my mind on the spur of the moment, and with whom and whose works, I myself happen to have some slight acquaintance. I have not ventured to quote from them for that would take me too far afield, and it is obviously difficult to pick and choose.

Hindi has had its great protagonists in the land outside the Hindi-speaking areas as well. Both Swami Dayanada Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, and Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, had for their mother-tongue, the great Gujerati language, but both were advocates of Hindi as India’s common language so to say; and they did, what few could have done, to spread a knowledge of the language and raise its status. Modern Hindi journalism is eternally indebted to a large number of Maharashtra editors who have used Hindi to great and good purpose in the daily press. The present Constitution of the. country has accepted Hindi as the all-India official language and the language for inter-state communication. It is hardly necessary to repeat that this has not been done because Hindi was richer and more powerful than any other language of the land–it is decidedly not so. This has been done solely because it does happen that Hindi is known, spoken and understood by a greater number of people and over a larger area than any other. I do most earnestly hope that all the unfortunate controversies that have arisen in our country in the wake of Swaraj over the subject of language, will soon disappear, and that we would all settle down in peace and amity ever enriching our own regional languages for all intra-state purposes, and also learning Hindi for the sake of national unity and well-being. We should, at the same time, preserve the very useful and the very vigorous English language as well for purposes of international converse and understanding.

* Talk given at the Madras Group of the Indian P. E. N. meeting held on February 22, 1956, at Raj Bhavan, Guindy and communicated by the convener, Dr. V. Raghavan.

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