Literature in Hindi also includes literature in several Indo-Aryan languages. As we all know, literature depicts a civilization, cultural development and the demography of a specific time and place. Before the arrival of modern literature, ancient pieces like Vir-Gathas, Bhakti poems and Riti poems dominated the scene. Antediluvian literature was produced in dialects such as Braj, Bundeli, Awadhi, Kannauji, Khariboli, Marwari, Maithili and Bhojpuri. From 20th century onwards, works produced in standard Hindi, is recognized as modern literature. Here are, according to us, the top 10 books in modern Hindi literature.
The novel ‘Chandrakanta’ was written by Devaki Nandan Khatri. It is widely believed to be the first major prose in the modern Hindi literature. It has a romantic-fantasy storyline concerning two lovers, hailing from rival kingdoms – the princess Chandrakanta of Vijaygarh, and the prince Virendra Singh of Naugarh. There are several twists and turns in its elaborate plot, involving the wicked Krur Singh. It is a seven-book series collectively known as ‘Chandrakanta Santati’.
‘Chidambara’ is the illustrious collection of Sumitranandan Pant’s celebrated poems. It is considered as one of the major pieces of the Chayavadi school of Hindi literature. Pant received the 1968 Jnanpith award for the same.
One of the most hard-hitting satires of the modern Hindi oeuvre, this 1970 novel by noted author Shrilal Shukla juxtaposes the power dynamics and the erosion of values in post-independence India. The novel tells the story of Ranganath, the student-idealist, who on a sojourn to his uncle’s village witnesses the abuse of social, and political institutions for personal gains and struggles to substantiate the liberal ideals of his university education against the myriad instances of manipulation, abuse, and machinations of power struggle. Raag Darbari remains one of the most telling narratives of the chasm between libertarian ideals and social dogmas.
‘Kamayani’ is an epic poem by legendary poet Jaishankar Prasad. It is considered as one of the greatest literary works of modern Hindi literature. It epitomizes the Chayawadi school of Hindi literature, which gained popularity in late 19th and 20th century. The contextual map of ‘Kamayani’ has, in its interwoven elements, ideas of human emotions, thoughts, and expressions, displayed in beautiful virtuosity utilizing mythological and metaphorical styles. The poem references a number of personalities from the Vedic era, such as Manu, Ida and Shradha.
It is written by one of the four pillars of Chayavad movement: Mahadevi Verma. Most of her poetry reflected the backward state of the girl child in then society, and the uneven treatment of women in general. ‘Yama’, a collection of poems, fetched Verma the coveted Jnanpith award in 1936.
It is a collection of 135 four-line verses, written by Hindi poet and writer Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan. It is an important work in impressionistic literature of the 20th century. ‘Madhushala’ is part of a trilogy – other titles being ‘Madhubala’ and ‘Madhukalash’. In this poem, the poet is explaining the intricate issues of life, with madhu (wine), pyala (cup) as well as the madiralaya (bar).
‘Urvashi’ is like a beautiful piece of flower in literary bouquet. Penned by Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’, ‘Urvashi’ is different from the rest of his works, which are largely based on nationalism and Veer-Rasa. Ramdhari Singh won the Jnanpith award in 1972 for the poem.
This is a collection of 20 short-stories, based on the Aryans, by Rahul Sankrityayan. He was a wandering spirit, often taking journeys to places such as Nepal, Tibet, China, Soviet Russia and Iran. Sankrityayan had profound expertise in depicting cultural descriptions and diversities. ‘Volga Se Ganga’ has been translated into a number of regional as well as a few inter-continental languages. The last three stories have tint of Marxism, as Sankrityayan was greatly influenced by the Karl Marx.
‘Godaan’, written by Munshi Premchand in 1956, is unarguably the greatest book in Hindi literature. The literal translation of the title in English is: The Gift of a Cow. The novel has been adapted for film and TV. The theme of the novel revolves around the social deprivation of an old, poor couple and the importance of a cow to them. The characters – Hori and Dhania – have since become immortal icons of social and class struggle.