Languages and literature of Maharashtra

Languages and literature of Maharashtra

Maharashtra is counted amongst the coastal cities of India and has been gifted with natural beauty in abundance. Combine this with the architectural splendor of the state and voila, you have the perfect answer to why the state is so popular amongst Indian as well as foreign tourists. If you are going to a new place, especially if it’s in a foreign country, it is better to be prepared with all the information regarding it, right from the weather to location to languages spoken there.

As far as Maharashtra is concerned, the official language is Marathi. Infact, this language is spoken by the majority of population living in the state. In the bigger cities of Maharashtra (like Mumbai, Pune, etc), where the populace has acquired cosmopolitan nature, Hindi and English are counted amongst the major languages. Along with this, people are also found speaking Gujarati and Urdu. You can also find a number of dialects spoken in the state, which differ as you move from one region to another.

For instance, in the northwest parts of Maharashtra, Ahirani dialect is spoken. As you move the south Konkan, you will hear many people speaking in Malvani – a dialect of Konkani. Then, in the Desh region of the Deccan Plateau, you will come across people speaking in Deshi. Even the Varhadi dialect can be heard from the people of Vidarbha region. However, whatever be region that you visit or the language that you hear, the hospitality offered by the people of Maharashtra will remain the same, now and always!

Marathi litreture

Marathi literature is the oldest of the Indo-Aryan literatures, dating to about 1000 CE. In the 13th century, two Brahmanical sects arose, the Mahanubhava and the Varakari Panth, that both shaped Marathi literature significantly. The latter sect was perhaps the more productive, for it became associated with bhakti movements, particularly with the popular cult of Vitthoba at Pandharpur. It was out of this tradition that the great names of early Marathi literature came: Jnaneshvara, in the 13th century; Namdev, his younger contemporary, some of whose devotional songs are included in the holy book of the Sikhs, the Adi Granth; and the 16th-century writer Eknath, whose best-known work is a Marathi version of the 11th book of the Bhagavata-purana. Among the bhakti poets of Maharashtra, the most famous is Tukaram, who wrote in the 16th century. A unique contribution of Marathi is the tradition of povadas, heroic stories popular among a martial people. This tradition was particularly vital during the 17th century, when Shivaji, the great Maratha king, led his armies against the might of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

Epigraphic evidence suggests that Marathi was a standard written language by the 12th century. However, the earliest records of actual literature in Marathi appear only in the late 13th century.The early Marathi literature emerged during the Seuna (Yadava) rule, because of which some scholars have theorized that it was produced with support from the Yadava rulers.The Yadavas did regard Marathi as a significant language for connecting with the general public, and Marathi replaced Kannada and Sanskrit as the dominant language of the inscriptions during the last half century of the Yadava rule. However, there is no evidence that the Yadava royal court directly supported the production of Marathi literature with state funds.

The early Marathi literature was mostly religious and philosophical in nature, and was composed by the saint-poets belonging to Mahanubhava and Warkari sects. During the reign of the last three Yadava kings, a great deal of literature in verse and prose, on astrology, medicine, Puranas, Vedanta, kings and courtiers were created. Nalopakhyan, Rukmini Swayamvar and Shripati’s Jyotishratnamala (1039) are a few examples.

There was relatively little activity in Marathi in the early days of the Bahmani Sultanate (1347–1527) and the Bijapur Sultanate (1527–1686). The Warkari saint-poet Eknath (1533–1599), the main successor of Dnyaneshwar, was a major Marathi literary figure during this period. He made available an authentic, edited version of Dnyaneshwari, which had been forgotten after the Islamic invasion of Deccan. He also wrote several abhangs (devotional poems), narratives and minor works that dealt with the Bhagavata Purana He wrote Eknathi Bhagwat, Bhavarth Ramayan, Rukmini Swayamwar Hastamalak, and Bharud. Dasopant was another minor but notable poet from this era.[6] Mukteshwar (1574-1645), the grandson of Eknath, too, wrote several works in Marathi including a translation of the epic Mahabharata.

The Marathas, the Marathi-speaking natives, formed their own kingdom in the 17th century. The development of the Marathi literature accelerated during this period. Although their leader, Shivaji, was formally crowned as the king in 1674, he had been the de facto ruler of a large area in Western Maharashtra for some time. Tukaram and Samarth Ramdas, who were contemporaries of Shivaji, were the well-known poets of the early Maratha period. Tukaram (1608–1650) was the most prominent Marathi Varkari spiritual poet identified with the Bhakti movement, and had a great influence on the later Maratha society. His contemporary, Samarth Ramdas composed Dasbodh and Manache Shlok in Marathi.

The British colonial period (also known as the Modern Period) saw standardisation of Marathi grammar through the efforts of the Christian missionary William Carey. Carey’s dictionary had fewer entries and Marathi words were in Devanagari script instead of the Modi script prevalent at that time. Carey also translated the new and old testament of the bible into Marathi in 1811 and 1820 respectively The most comprehensive Marathi-English dictionaries was compiled by Captain James Thomas Molesworth and Major Thomas Candy in 1831. The book is still in print nearly two centuries after its publication.,The colonial authorities also worked on standardizing Marathi under the leadership of Molesworth . They used Brahmins of Pune for this task and adopted the Sanskrit dominated dialect spoken by this caste in the city as the standard dialect for Marathi. The Christian missionaries introduced the Western forms to the Marathi literature.

Marathi at this time was efficiently aided by Marathi Drama. Here, there also was a different genre called ‘Sangit Natya’ or Musicals. The first play was V.A. Bhave’s Sita Swayamvar in 1843 Later Kirloskar (1843–85) and G.B. Deval (1854-19l6) brought a romantic aroma and social content. But Krishnaji Prabhakar Khadilkar (1872-1948) with his banned play Kichaka-Vadh (1910) set the trend of political playwriting. These were followed by stalwarts like Ram Ganesh Gadkari and Prahlad Keshav Atre.


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