Guest of Honor
(Nov 30 - Dec 8)
Indian Culture and Literature
The ancient civilization of India differs from the other civilizations of the world, in that its traditions have been preserved without a break down to the present day.
Indian culture is fully conscious of its own antiquity and has not fundamentally changed for many thousands of years. India has, in fact, the oldest continuous cultural tradition in the world.
Indian culture is a mosaic of cultures, religions, races, languages, attitudes and world views; hence the concept of Indian literature also is open, inclusive, dynamic and flexible accommodating diverse voices, of the majority as well as of the religious, linguistic, sexual and ethnic minorities.
Indian literature includes everything which is included in the word ‘literature’ in its broadest, sense: religious and mundane, epic and lyric, dramatic and didactic poetry, narrative and scientific prose, as well as oral poetry and song. Treatise on traditional system of medicine called Ayurveda, surgery, mathematics, astronomy, physics and biological and chemical sciences, philosophy and Yoga, Arthashastra - an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy together constitute the wide spectrum of the Indian literature.
With around 184 mother tongues, 25 writing systems, scores of oral literary traditions and several traditions of written literature, most of them at least a millennium old, the diversity of India’s literary landscape can match only the complexity of its linguistic map. The highlight of India’s society is its composite culture giving rise to a multi-linguistic Indian literature and this is a source of its creative abundance. Every Indian language has its share of enrichment in Indian literature.
Even though Indian literature is written in different languages, there is a pan-Indian sensibility, because the original voice of Indian mind has always been one. In spite of having the regional differences, there has been a unity of thought and aspirations. ‘Unity in diversity’ is the essence of Indian culture and it is reflected in Indian literature. An important feature of Indian literature, since the ancient times and through the medieval, is the focus on the spiritualism which is inherent in the minds of the Indian people.
The journey of Indian literature from the ancient to the contemporary times is fascinatingly complex, dynamic and organic. The earliest literary works revolved mainly around spiritualism, mythology and religion but gradually started to deal directly with social, political and economic themes.
The period between the mid-19th and mid-20th century saw the rise of a large number of literary works which often incorporated both the elements of Sanskrit and Western literature. The 20th century also saw the emergence of the Indian English literature which refers to literary works that are written by Indian authors in English language. Most famous Indian authors of the this school include the Nobel laureates Rabindranath Tagore and V. S. Naipaul, R. K. Narayan, Amitava Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai to mention only a few.
One may conclude that no single Indian literature is complete in itself, and hence no study of it, within a single language context, can do justice to it, or even to its writers, who grow in a common cultural ambience. What is noteworthy is that Indian literature is written in many languages, but there is a vital, living relationship among them, because of polyglot fluidity, inter-language translations, shared themes, forms, concerns, direction and movements. All these keep the ideals of Indian literature dynamically alive.