India is one the most linguistically diverse countries in the world, a land of many languages, 22 of which are recognized by the Constitution itself. We are fortunate enough to have a rich canon of literature associated with our regional languages. Regional literature in India – novels, poetry, short stories, folk tales, regional adaptations of the great epics – Mahabharata and Ramayana etc represent one of humanity’s richest creation. India’s regional literature offers plenty of potential to appeal to a world audience in a big way through appealing stories, poetries, novels & folk tales. Apart from Ramayan and Mahabharath, below are few of India’s classic literature :
Bharathipura & Samskara by U. R. Ananthamurthy (Kannada)– Nominated for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013, UR Ananthamurthy is known for pioneering the stream of the consciousness style of writing in Kannada literature. His famous work, Samskara, which describes the story of a brahmin who has sex with an ‘untouchable’ woman without mincing any details, was a path-breaking book. Bharathipura revolves around the practice of untouchability and the caste system in India.
The Legends Of Khasak by O. V. Vijayan (Malyalam )– Vijayan became an overnight sensation with his first novel Khasakkinte Itihasam (The Legends of Khasak) was released in 1969. So much so that Malayalam novels today are often described as pre-Khasak and post-Khasak. This is the story of Ravi, who embarks on a journey to get rid of his guilt, restlessness, and despair. The novel has been reprinted more than fifty times, making it one of the most best-selling novels in South Asia.
Parinde by Nirmal Verma (Hindi) – Nirmal Verma wrote for more than five decades and is known as the father of the New Story literary movement that changed the theme and technique in which Hindi short stories were written in the ’70s. He is credited as being one of the pioneers of the ‘Nayi Kahani’ (New Story) literary movement of Hindi literature, wherein his first collection of stories, Parinde (Birds) is considered its first signature.
Multiple works of Munshi Premchand (Urdu/Hindi) – Dhanpat Rai Srivastav changed his pen name to Nawab Rai before finally settling on Premchand. As one of the foremost chroniclers of India during his lifetime spanning the early 20th century, Premchand earned the nickname of Upanyas Samrat or the ‘Emperor Among Novelists’ for his exhaustive work comprising of over a dozen novels, 250 short stories and innumerable essays. Incredibly, some of his best-known work such as Godaan, Karmabhoomi, Shatranj Ke Khiladi and Gaban are full of situations depicting society’s hypocrisies and corruption that are relatable to this day.
Multiple works of Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali) – Tagore’s legacy as India’s only Nobel laureate for Literature is not something we can overlook easily. His writings have held sway for over a century simply because his stories are timeless. Whether describing man’s individuality versus his duties in Ghare Baire or exposing feudalism and politics in Chokher Bali, Tagore never shied to tell things exactly as he saw it. His Nobel-winning book Gitanjali is a collection of poems that is profoundly sensitive and fresh even to this day.
Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar (Marathi)– Cobalt blue is story of a brother and sister who fall in love with the same man, and how a traditional Marathi family is shattered by the ensuing events – a work that both shocked and spoke to Marathi readers. This is a beautiful tale of love, heartbreak and a sensitive subject handled very subtly. This one is for you if you like simple , but elegant prose, well sketched characters and multi shaded relationships
Chemmeen by T. S. Pillai (Malyalam)– Chemmeen is an incredibly moving and tragic tale of a young poor fisherwoman who falls in love with a Muslim man, yet tries to adhere to her own traditions – even though she suffers greatly for the honor of her community
The Fakir by Sunil Gangopadhyay (Bengali)– The Fakir is the fictional life story of a popular and revered eighteenth century Bengali mystic known as Lalan Fakir. There are many legends about this man, but nothing definite is known about him. The famous Bengali writer, Sunil Gangopadhyay has pieced together this interesting biography, The Fakir, based on many legends.
Tamas by Bhisham Sahni (Hindi)– A timeless classic about the Partition of India, Tamas is also a chilling reminder of the consequences of religious intolerance and communal prejudice. Daisy Rockwell s fresh and definitive translation expertly renders the power and passion of this iconic and award-winning novel for a new generation of readers.
My Personal Favorite work of Indian regional Literature is:
One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan (Tamizh) – One Part Woman is about Kali and Ponna, a married couple who are unable to conceive a child. They are constantly being humiliated and taunted by other members of the society. On the night of the chariot festival in the temple of Ardhanareeswara it is socially acceptable for any man and woman to have consensual sex. Their hope is hinged on the possibility that Ponna might get pregnant if she has sex with someone else. This gives them hope but also puts their relationship to a test.