lyrikline blog

Poetry from India

With the start of 2018 we’ll be able to present more poetry from India on Lyrikline thanks to a newly established partnership in India. The Enchanting Verses Literary Review and poet and editor Sonnet Mondal as its country-editor for India take care of the selection and recording of new Indian poets. Their first contribution to Lyrikline is poet Anju Makhija and we’re glad that more new voices are already being prepared.

Many thanks to Sonnet Mondal not only for his efforts in presenting Indian poetry but also for an insight into poetry in India he compiled, giving us an idea about the developments from the beginning to today, the diversity of languages and the various traditions of this rich poetry universe of India.

 

Poetry from India (by Sonnet Mondal)

The literary history and tradition of India spins around poetry. From the Vedic times to the 21st century, Indian poetry has come a long way through epics, cultural intersections, conquests, devotion, local dialects, and festivals. Vedvyasa’s Mahabharata, considered as the longest epic poem in the world is so huge that there’s a saying — ‘What’s missing in the Mahabharata doesn’t exist in India’. With 110,000 couplets in eighteen sections — this epic is about seven times the combined length of Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey. Other India epics that substantially used poetry as the medium of expression were — Valmiki’s Ramayana, Māgha’s Shishupala Vadha, Māgha’s Kiratarjuniya, Aśvaghoṣa’s Buddhacarita and Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda. Even in these times — poetry flourished in other languages — in other parts of the country. The Sangam literature era — from 300 BC to 300 AD contains about 2381 poems in Tamil composed by 473 poets from diverse backgrounds. The Bhakti movement during the 15th and 17th century AD saw an emergence of devotional poetry, the influence of which still remains contemporary. Influenced by Vedic beliefs — the works of poets like Andal, Kabir, Tulsidas, Ramananda, Tukaram, Mirabai, and Narsinh Mehta still remain a muse of the post-post modern period.

Though most of the early Indian poetry appeared in Sanskrit — there was a shift in course of language towards the medieval period. Amir Khusrau penned mainly in Persian, but composed almost half a million verses in Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Braj Bhasha, Hindavi as well as the Khadi Boli. Later Hindus started writing in Persian and this led to the development of Indo-Persian literature. The Abd-Allāh cites over 130 names of Hindu-Persian poets who lived in the late 18th and 19th century. The first evidence of a Hindu writing Persian poetry is attributed to a Brahmin named Pandit Dungar Mal. In late 17th century — Sikhs also started contributing to the Persian poetry of India, and Guru Gobind Singh himself wrote an extensive Persian poem — Zˈafarnāma.

From Jayadeva in 12th century and Amir Khusrau in the 15th century, to Michael Madhusudan Dutt and Tagore in the 19th Century, poetry in Indian vernaculars reigned supreme. The father of Bengali Sonnet, Michael Madhusudan Dutt brought a revolution by penning the famous tragic epic — Meghnad Bodh Kavya and also by introducing blank verse in Bengali poetry.

The local and regional languages first encountered English in the beginning of the 18th century — with the break-up of the Mughal empire to British India. The first Nationalist Poet of Modern India- Henry Louis Vivian Derozio — considered the father of Indian English Poetry wrote in English and was much influenced by the English Romantic poets. Tagore translated his own work into English — in his book Gitanjali. Later, Nissim Ezekiel and A.K. Ramanujan wrote much under the influence of post-war American Poets and some British poets like Wilfred Owen. Ramanujan travelled to America in 1959 and stayed in Chicago until his death in 1993. He wrote profusely during these years. Indian English poetry- from Derozio and Toru Dutt through Nissim Ezekiel, A.K. Ramanujan and Jayanta Mahapatra to present day poets is recognized worldwide. It has come up as a form that has its own tradition, lyrical quality, approach, delivery and style. Inspite of the surge of Indian English literature, regional language literature through the hundreds of languages spoken in India today — has remained close to the hearts of readers. Regional languages in the country has given rise to many countries within one country bounded by boundaries without lines. Regional poetry in India, allows an insight into the diverse depictions and presentation of same things by different regions of India.

Delving into Indian poetry, is like descending an age old cave in search of minerals, wall arts and history. Selecting poets for Lyrikline cannot be all inclusive but there would be a constant quest to include the best contemporaries from various Indian languages.

Sonnet Mondal, photo: John Minihan

Sonnet Mondal, photo: John Minihan

ref:​ (Abd-Allāh, p. 216; McLeod, p. 80; Shackle and Mandair, pp. 137-44).

 

Sonnet Mondal is the author of Ink and Line and five other books of poetry. Winner of the 2016 Gayatri Gamarsh Memorial Award for literary excellence, Mondal was one of the authors of the ‘Silk Routes’ project of the IWP, University of Iowa, from 2014 to 2016. He is the editor-in-chief of the Enchanting Verses Literary Review, and lives in Kolkata.

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