Medieval Indian Literature: Surveys and Selections, Assamese/Bengali/Dogri/- An Anthology (Vol-I)
|K. Ayyappa Paniker
|SAHITYA AKADEMI, DELHI
|10.00 X 7.00 inch
The medieval age in Indian history, which roughly covers the period A.D. 1100-1800 forms a vital fountainhead of Indian cultural heritage. An Anthology of Medieval Indian Literature in four volumes is an attempt to present a historical and critical survey of the literature of twenty-one Indian languages written during this period. It also presents selections from nearly 700 authors rendered into English by over 200 translators.
The present volume has two parts: Surveys of all the languages and Selections from three languages-Assamese, Bengali and Dogri. The surveys present an objective assessment of the different literary trends and of the beginnings of the medieval period and comment on the origin of some of the Indian languages which came into being in this period. Besides laying stress on the contributions of individual authors and their historical significance, they also feature the intrinsic literary merits of the major works written during this period.
The selections from Assamese, Bengali and Dogri literatures include excerpts from major works written during this period.
Dr. K. Ayyappa Paniker (1930-2006) Malayalam writer and a major modern Indian poet, is the Chief Editor of the Anthology of Medieval Indian Literature. A pioneer of modern poetry in Malayalam, Paniker obtained his M.A., Ph.D. degrees from Indiana University and did postdoctoral research at Yale and Harvard. He has taught in various colleges in Kerala and at Indiana University. He was Prof. of English at Kerala University till retirement in 1990. His major works include three volumes of Collected Poems, two volumes of Collected Translation (of poetry). Besides these he has rendered in Malayalam a volume of Cuban poetry, Mayakovsky's poems and Raja Rao's Cat and Shakespeare. He has authored and edited several books and anthologies in English. He is a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi and Kerala Sahitya Akademi Awards for poetry and criticism, SPCS Award, Bhilwara Award from Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad on Calcutta and Kabir Samman from the Govt. of Madhya Pradesh.
When I was about to retire from the University of Kerala as Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Indra Nath Choudhuri asked me if I could take up the Chief Editorship of Sahitya Akademi's prestigious project on Medieval Indian Literature. I expressed my willingness without perhaps fully visualizing the problems involved. Coordinating the different language editors and coaxing the innumerable translators, finding replacements for editors as well as translators when the need arose, editing the translations of works produced in the distant past and in distant areas, having to work with a minimal editorial and administrative staff: all these raised issues which had to be tackled with care and dedication in the years that followed. But the active cooperation and help I received from all quarters made it possible for me to complete the work without undue delay. The surveys and anthologies assembled here will help both Indian and foreign readers to understand not only medieval Indian literary works but also the mainsprings of modern Indian writing; for, it seems to me, the middle ages form a vital fountainhead of India's cultural heritage. In India, perhaps more than in any other part of the world, the medieval is in a sense still contemporary: many of the problems we have to face today have their roots in the middle ages, and a knowledge of the medieval is a prerequisite for understanding the present. It was with this awareness of the presentness of our medieval past that I addressed myself to the task of editing this work.
The present work, chronologically the second in the series of surveys and selections to be published by Sahitya Akademi, comprises the writings of nearly 700 authors over a period of 700 years, written in as many as 21 languages and rendered into modern English by over 200 translators under the direction of 21 language editors. Specimen passages from each language were selected by a panel of three experts, including the language editor and the member of the Akademi Executive Board for the language concerned, who in turn Were helped by a large number of consultants consisting of writers, critics and scholars in the field.
The editorial work was started in October 1990 and completed by the end of 1994. The project office was located at Trivandrum and the Chief Editor was assisted by an Executive Editor and a three-member administrative staff. I take this opportunity to thank my colleagues for the sincere and hard work they put in to complete the project as fast as possible. Thanks are also due to the language editor's for writing the surveys of the respective literatures in addition to securing and checking the translations; to the other members of the Selection Committee for their active co-operation and valuable advice, and to the translators who, in their solitary hours of creativity, wrestled with the problem of finding equivalents in present-day English for medieval Indian concepts and poetic conventions and came out, by and large, with creditable success. It is hoped that these survey-articles and translated selections will convey to the readers, both Indian and foreign, something of the richness and variety of the medieval Indian literary imagination as well as the interrelatedness of the literatures in different languages.
I wish to place on record my deep indebtedness to Sahitya Akademi and its dedicated band of officers, whose generosity and professional expertise I drew upon in an abundant measure: the former President Dr. B.K. Bhattacharyya, the present President Prof. U.R. Anantha Murthy, the former Vice-President, Sri Gangadhar Gadgil and the present Vice-President Sri Ramakanta Rath, the members of the Steering Committee and all the members of the former and present Executive Boards.
In times of crises Prof. Indra Nath Choudhuri offered generous help and advice, without which the work of coordinating the editors and the translators distributed in the far corners of our vast country would have been impossible. It was a pleasure working with him and his administrative staff, who were very prompt, patient and considerate in rendering assistance at every step. I remember them all with affection and gratitude.
Indian Literature in the Middle Ages presents not a picture of stagnation but of diversified growth. It was long assumed that the Middle Ages in India too were a dark period of little creativity as they were in Europe. The pattern for understanding any literature in colonial countries was based on the European model. Recent studies in different Indian literatures have shown that there was a steady stream of creative expression in all parts of India during the period between A.D. 1100 and A.D. 1800. The rise of modern Indian languages itself is a fascinating part of medieval Indian history. The mingling of cultural streams from neighbouring regions fertilizing the native stream accounts to a great degree for the growth of incipient literatures in the different languages; it certainly explains the difference between ancient and medieval India. Although some of these new languages had produced great literary works before A.D. 1100, the nearly uniform spread of the Bhakti movement gave a fresh impetus to literary output after A.D. 1100 An anthology like the present one gives the lie to the popular misconceptions about Indian literary history.
Sahitya Akademi is committed to the idea of promotion of literature in all the Indian languages. Indians themselves are mostly ignorant of the big strides taken by Indian language literatures during the Middle Ages. The surveys of different literatures contained in this work are intended to highlight parallel developments in all of them between A.D. 1100 and A.D. 1800. Even the unevenness in these developments is of great interest to the student of literary history. The twenty-one languages which bear witness to this phenomenal growth have had a share in various pan-Indian developments. The illiteracy of the people, their poverty, their being made to fight the wars of their overlords, their clannishness and tribal rivalries, and the vast distances between the north and the south as well as the east and the west : all these formidable impediments did not deter the people from producing a significant quantum of literature.
Modern India is the child of Medieval India. Without understanding the India of the Middle Ages with its varied customs and beliefs, its diverse tribal affiliations, its rich and variegated cultural matrix, no one can understand the India of the present age; a sense of medievalism still flourishes in many areas of Indian life.
The continuity of Indian literary tradition is the contribution of thousands of writers: we are now familiar with only a few of these writers and their important works.
This three-part anthology with survey undertaken by Sahitya Akademi is an ambitious project. It is a worthwhile project too, being in consonance with the avowed objectives for which the institution was set up. The three volumes of the third part-Modern Indian Literature-have already been published; this is the first volume of the second part-Medieval Indian Literature. The volumes of the first part- Ancient Indian Literature- are also coming out very soon. These will constitute the most comprehensive anthology of the entire Indian literature: it will make the readers familiar with what has been produced in the different languages during the long period of 5000 years of continuous history. To understand literature is to grasp the Indian ethos and the creative potential of the people in the field of literature.
I would like to convey my deep sense of appreciation and admiration to Dr. K. Ayyappa Paniker, the distinguished Malayalam poet and Chief Editor of the Medieval Indian Literature volumes, and his team of discerning language editors for successfully completing this challenging editorial assignment. The genesis and conception of this significant and exploratory venture speaks of the vision of my worthy predecessors; I feel grateful to them. I am happy to place on record my appreciation for the efforts put in by our Ex-Secretary Prof. Indra Nath Choudhuri and his team in making all this actually happen. I sincerely hope that the volume succeeds in creating a surge of interest in the subject contributing towards a systematic study and documentation and enriching our understanding of the classical literary culture of India.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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