• It is the largest language group of India and around 74% of the Indians speak those languages which belong to this group. Old Indo-Aryan Group
  • This group had its development around 1500 B.C. and Sanskrit was born out of this group.Middle Indo-Aryan Group
  • The period of development of this sub-group is between 600 BC to 1000 AD and started with the development of Prakrit language.Modern Indo-Aryan Group
  • The languages belonging to this group are Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujrati, Marathi, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Odia, Urdu etc.
  • The languages under this sub-group developed gradually after 1000 AD.
  • These languages are mainly spoken in the northern, western and the eastern parts of India.


  • The development of Sanskrit grammar began with Panini in 400 B.C. with his book Asthadhyayi being the oldest book in Sanskrit grammar.
  • Some of the Buddhist literature belonging to Mahayana and the Hinayana school are even written in Sanskrit language.
  • Sanskrit is the only language that transcended the barriers of region and boundaries.
  • This is a period of creation of pure literature which is evident in the works as Mahakavyas (epics).
  • Plays developed during Gupta period are peculiar as the use of Sanskrit language was done by the characters of high varna and the use of Prakrit language by women and shudras.


  • Prakrit is a broader term under which all the Middle Indo-Aryan group languages are generally clubbed together.
  • Prakrit was associated with the common people.
  • On the other hand, Sanskrit was orthodox, had fixed rules and was used by learned people or the elites, especially Brahmins.
  • Prakrit includes: Pali, Magadhi Prakrit or Ardha-Magadhi, Shauraseni, Maharashtri Prakrit.


  • By 6th-7th century, the development of ‘Apabhramsa’ (corrupt or non-grammatical) took place.
  • Apabhramsa is also an umbrella term which means dialects other than Sanskrit or even Prakrit.
  • It represents a transition from Middle to Modern Indo-Aryan Group of languages.
  • Many Jain monks and scholars wrote extensively in Apabhramsa and sustained it.
  • Major texts and writers are: Pushpadanta’s Mahapurana(Digambara Jain text), Dhanapala’s Bhavisayattakaha, etc.


  • There are 21 languages that belong to the Dravidian Group.
  • They can be broadly classified into three groups: Northern group, Central group and Southern group. Northern Group
  • It consist of three languages, i.e., Brahui, Malto and Kurukh.
  • Brahui is spoken in Baluchistan, Malto in the tribal areas of Bengal and Odisha while Kurukh in Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Central Group
  • It consist of eleven languages i.e., Gondi, Khond, Kui, Manda, Parji, Gadaba, Kolami, Pengo, Naiki, Kuvi and Telugu.
  • Only Telugu became a civilised language and is spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana whereas others are tribal languages.



Seven languages belong this group. They are Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Tulu, Kodagu, Toda and Kota. Among them, the four major languages of the Dravidian group are:

  1. Telugu (numerically the largest of all Dravidian languages)
  2. Tamil (oldest and purest form of language)
  3. Kannada
  4. Malayalam (smallest and the youngest of the Dravidian group).


  • Official Language Act, 1963 declares Hindi in Devanagari script as the official language of the Union.
  • English has been given the status of “subsidiary official language” of the union.
  • The Constitution of India made a provision for each of the Indian states to choose their own official language for communications at the State level.
  • Many languages are listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution which may be used by the States for the official purpose.
  • Initially 14 languages were selected under Eighth Schedule and now we have total 22 languages listed.
  • There is no national language of India.
  • Hindi is not a national language.
  • Neither does the Constitution nor any Act defines the national language.
  • The Constitution does not specify the official language to be used by the States for the conduct of official function. States are free to adopt it.
  • The language to be adopted by the States need not be one of those listed in the Eighth Schedule, and several States have adopted official language which are not listed.


Languages so far declared to be Classical language are:

  • Tamil in the year 2004
  • Sanskrit in the year 2005
  • Telugu in the year 2008
  • Kannada in the year 2008
  • Malayalam in the year 2013
  • Odia in the year 2014

NOTE: For Sanskrit, there is a special status mentioned in article 351, whereby Sanskrit was given a position of the primary source language for many languages including Hindi.



  • There are four major Vedas: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda.
  • These were mostly written by Vedic seers and poets called the rishis who envisioned the cosmic mysteries and wrote them in the form of Sanskrit poetry.
  • All the Vedas give prominence to yagna (sacrifice).


  • The Rig Veda is the oldest existing Veda amongst the other four.
  • It consists of 10 mandals and 1028 suktas.
  • Most of the hymns concentrate on the themes of life, death, creation, sacrifice and for seeking godly pleasure or soma.
  • It is a collection of prayers offered to Indra, Agni, Mitra and Varuna.
  • The third mandala consists of Gayatri mantra dedicated to the Sun god. It was composed by Sage Vishwamitra.
  • Rig Veda also mentions female goddesses such as Usha and AditiGoddess Laxmi is also mentioned.
  • Lord Shiva is referred as Rudra.
  • Rigveda does not mention Lord Brahma.


  • It is an extension to Rigveda with 75 new suktas.
  • It is considered to be the oldest text on Indian music.
  • It consists of hymns, detached verses and 16,000 raga (musical notes) and raginis.
  • It is because of the lyrical nature of the text that it has also been called the ‘book of chants’.
  • It mostly contains hymns dedicated to Sun God.
  • It talks about the appearance and disappearance of Sarasvati river.


  • The Yajur Veda is predominantly a ritual Veda as it acts like a guide book for the rishis/priests who conduct sacrificial rituals.
  • The suktas are hence related to yagya/rituals.
  • Rice is mentioned as Vrihi in this text.


  • This Veda has been attributed to two rishis called Atharvah and Angira, respectively.
  • It consists of charms and spells to ward of diseases.
  • It is also known as Brahmaveda.
  • Its associated priest i.e. Brahma is considered highest of all four Vedic priests.
  • It mentions the Vedic assemblies of Sabha and Samiti as two daughters of Prajapati.


  • To fully understand the Vedas, it is necessary to read the Vedangas or the branches/limbs of the Veda.
  • They are like a supplement to the original Veda and concentrate on topics like siksha (education), nirukta (etymology or the origin of words), Chhanda (metrics in Sanskrit grammar), jyotisha (astronomy) vyakarana (grammar) and Kalpa (ritual).
  • In the later period, several authors picked these subjects and wrote treatises on them, called Sutra.
  • One of the most striking examples of such literature is Panini’s Ashtadhyayiwhich is a text to define the rules of Sanskrit grammar.

SRUTI: That which is heard (Revealation)

  • Vedas: Sama, Rig, Atharva, Yajur
  • Brahamanas
  • Aranyakas
  • Upanishads

SMRITI: That which is remembered (Written)

  • Smrutis: Manu, Visnu, Yagnavalka
  • Itihasas
  • Puranas - Vaishnavas, Saiva, Brahma, Upapuranas, Sthalapurana


  • The Brahmanas are part of the Hindu sruti (revealed knowledge) literature.
  • Each Veda has a Brahmana attached to it, which is essentially a collection of texts with commentaries on the particular Veda.
  • They consist of instructions as to how to properly conduct rituals and enunciate the science of sacrifice.


  • The latter portions of the Brahmanas were called the Aranyakas
  • They describe the rituals and sacrifices involved in the Vedas from various perspectives.
  • Arayankas also deal with topics such as soul, birth and death and life beyond it.
  • They are said to be compilations of ritualistic information on the birth and death cycles as well as the complexity of the soul.
  • These were studied and taught by men in Vanprastha i.e. Munis and the inhabitants living inside the forests.


  • The word Upanishad is derived from upa (nearby), and nishad (to sit-down), that is, “sitting down near”.
  • Groups of pupil sit near the Guru to learn from him in the Guru-shishya Parampara.
  • The Upanishads mark the culmination of Indian thought and are the final parts of the Vedas.
  • As the Upanishads contain abstract and difficult discussions of ultimate philosophical problems, they were taught to the pupils at the end.


  • There are more than 200 known Upanishads, one of which, the Muktika, gives a list of 108 Upanishads – this number corresponds to the holy number of beads on a mala or Hindu rosary.
  • They deal with questions like the origin of the universe, life and death, the material and spiritual world, nature of knowledge and many other questions.



  • The most famous and revered recension of the Ramayana is by the sage Valmiki who is also called as Adikavi or the first amongst the poets.
  • By the same logic Ramayana is called Adikavya or the first amongst the poetry.
  • The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses and is divided into seven books, called Khandas.


  • The Mahabharata has several versions, but the most popular one is penned by Ved Vyas.
  • It was written in Sanskrit and initially had 8,800 verses.
  • This version was called ‘Jaya’ or the story of ‘victory’.
  • The number of verses increased to 24,000 and it was renamed as ‘Bharata’ after the earliest Vedic tribes.
  • The current form consists of 1,00,000 verses and is divided into 10 parvas (chapters) with insets in the texts which are called Itihas Purana (mythical history).


  • As the word ‘Purana’ suggests, these texts talk about ‘that which renews the old’.
  • These are ancient Indian mythological texts, which consist of the narrative stories about the creation of the universe and illustrate its history till the supposed destruction of the universe.
  • It contains the stories of the kingsheroessages, and demi-Gods, but it focuses on the divine Hindu trimurti or trinity/ three Gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.
  • There are 18 major Puranas (Mahapuranas) and each gives prominence to a particular deity and expound on the philosophical and religious concepts related to them.
  • Some of the more prominent and well-known Puranas are Bhagvata, Brahma, Vayu, Agni, Garuda, Padma, Vishnu and Matsya.
  • These contain information about the social, cultural and religious life of post-Vedic India and provide the historians with critical information about the geography, history and the dynastic genealogies.
  • These Puranas are written in the form of stories, which combine myths, legends and sermons about the deities and this easy form of story-writing made it very popular amongst the masses who did not always understand the complex Vedas.
  • Hence, the Puranas were translated and distributed in various vernacular languages.


One of the most popular genres of Sanskrit literature is poetry and prose.

The rules regarding the performance, acting, gestures, stage direction and acting have been illustrated in the Natyasastra by Bharata (200BC–200 AD).


  • Malavikagnimitra: The love story of Malavika a maiden of Queen and Agnimitra the son of Pushyamitra Shunga
  • Vikramorvasiya: Love story of Vikram and Urvasi
  • Abhigyana Shakuntala


  • Mricchakatika (The Little Clay Cart): Love affair of young brahmin Charudatta with a wealthy courtesan.


  • Mudra Rakshasa: is a political drama and narrates ascent of king Chandragupta Maurya to power in India


  • Uttara Ramacharitam (the later life of Rama). It was written in 700 AD.


  • Swapnavasavadatta
  • Pancharatra
  • Urubhanga (story of Duryodhana during and after his fight with Bhima)

Harshavardhana (wrote 3 Sanskrit plays)

  • Ratnavali (about the love story of princess Ratnavali, daughter of the king of Ceylon and king Udayana. We find here, the mention of celebration of Holi for the first time).
  • Nagananda (story of how prince Jimutavahana gives up his own body to stop a sacrifice of serpents to the divine Garuda)
  • Priyadarsika

A large body of books dealing with various sciences, law, medicine and grammar other than religious texts also developed. To this class belong the law books called the Dharmasutras and smritis, together known as Dharmashastras.

The Dharmasutras were compiled between 500 and 200 BC. Dharmashastra lay down duties for different varnas as well as for the kings and their officials. They prescribed the rules according to which property had to be held, sold and inherited. They also prescribe punishments for persons guilty of assault, murder and adultery.


The earliest Buddhist works were written in Pali, which was spoken in Magadha and South Bihar. The Buddhist works can be divided into the canonical and the non-canonical.

The canonical literature is best represented by the “Tripitakas”, that is, three baskets - Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and AbhidhammaPitaka.

  • Vinaya Pitaka deals with rules and regulations of daily life of monks.
  • The Sutta Pitaka contains the Buddha’s discourses on various doctrinal issues in dialogue form.
  • The Abhidhamma Pitaka is a later work, and contains a thorough study and systemization of the teachings of the Sutta Pitaka through lists, summaries, and questions and answers.


The non-canonical literature is best represented by the Jatakas.

  • Jatakas are the most interesting stories on the previous births of the Buddha.
  • It was believed that before he was finally born as Gautama, the Buddha while practicing Dharma passed through more than 550 births, in many cases even in the form of animals.
  • Each birth story is called a Jataka.
  • The Jatakas throw invaluable light on the social and economic conditions ranging from the sixth century BC to the second century BC.
  • They also make incidental reference to political events in the age of the Buddha.


They can be broadly divided into two major categories; Canonical or religious texts called Jain Agamas or Agam and non-canonical literary works.

  • Agamas are the sacred texts and are said to be the teachings of the Jain tirthankars.
  • They are said to be originally compiled by the Gandharas who were immediate disciples of Mahavira.
  • These texts are important for Svetambaras.
  • The present Angas are said to be re-compiled in a council of monks of Svetambaras sect held in Vallabhi (Gujarat) during mid-5 th century AD.
  • Agamas comprised of 46 texts.
  • They are 12 Angas, 12 Upanga, 10 Prakirnakas, 4 Mulasutras, 6 Chedasutras, 2 Chulika Sutra.
  • They were written in Ardha-Magadhi Prakrit language.
  • The Digamabara sect believes that original teachings were lost long ago and they do not accept the authority of Agamas compiled in Valabhi.
  • Hemchandra Suri, (12th century AD) wrote Parishishtaparvan which gives a history of the earliest Jaina teachers and also mentions certain details of political history.
  • Jainism helped in the growth of a rich literature comprising poetry, philosophy and grammar.
  • These works contain many passages which help us to reconstruct the political history of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  • The Jain texts refer repeatedly to trade and traders.

Apart from writing in Ardha Magadhi, Jain monks wrote in many other languages depending on the era, region and the patrons who supported them. They wrote in Tamil during the SangamAge in south India. They also wrote in Sanskrit, Shauraseniand Maharashtri.

Bhadrabahu (3 rd century BC) is one of the greatest Jain monks and was the teacher of Chandragupta Maurya. He wrote Kalpa Sutra (Biographies of Jain Tirthankars). He was the pioneer of the Digambara sect.


Vijayanagar Kingdom

  • The Vijayanagar period was the goldenage of Telugu literature.
  • Nachana Somanatha, a court poet of Bukka I, produced a poetical work titled Uttaraharivamsam.

Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529), the greatest of the Vijayanagara emperors, was a poet of great merit.

  • His work Amukta Malyada is regarded as an excellent work in Telugu.
  • He also wrote treatise in Sanskrit which includes Madalasa Charita, SatyavaduParinaya and Rasamanjari and Jambavati Kalyana.
  • Eight Telugu literary luminaries, popularly known as ashtadiggajas adorned his court.
  • Among them, Allasani Peddana, the author of Manucharitram, was the greatest.
  • He was known as Andhra Kavitapitamaha.
  • Tenali Ramakrishna, the court jester, was an interesting figure of the Krishnadevaraya’s court.
  • His practical jokes on high-placed men of the time are recounted with pleasure even today.
  • Ramakrishna was the author of Panduranga Mahatmayam which was considered one of the greatest poetical works of Telugu literature.
  • Madayagari Mallana’s work Rajashekharacharitra is a prabandha dealing with the wars and loves of Rajashekhara, king of Avanti.


  • Many Jain scholars contributed to the growth of Kannada literature.
  • Kannada language developed fully after the tenth century AD.
  • The earliest known literary work in Kannada is Kavirajamang written by the Rashtrakuta King, Nripatunga Amoghavarsha I.
  • Pampa, known as the father of Kannada wrote his great poetic works Adi Purana and Vïkramarjiva Vijaya in the tenth century AD.
  • Pampa lived in the court of Chalukya Arikesari.
  • Ponna and Ranna were two other poets who lived during the reign of Rashtrakuta Krishna III.
  • Ponna wrote an epic named Shanti Purana and Ranna wrote Ajitanatha Purana.
  • Together Pampa, Ponna and Ranna earned the title Ratnatraya (the three gems).
  • Kannada literature flourished considerably between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries under the patronage of the Vijayanagara kings.
  • Kunura Vyasa wrote Bharata and Narahari wrote Tarave Ramayana.
  • This is the first Rama Katha in Kannada composed on the basis of Valmikis Ramayana.
  • A special mention may be made of Honnamma, perhaps the first outstanding poetess in Kannada.
  • Her Hadibadeya Dharma (Duty of a Devout Wife) is a compendium of ethics.


  • Arabic and Persian were introduced in India with the coming of the Turks and the Mongols.
  • Persian remained the court language for many centuries.
  • Urdu as a language was born out of the interaction between Hindi and Persian.
  • Originally it was a dialect but slowly it acquired all the features of a formal language.
  • It was further given an impetus by its use in Bahamani states of Ahmadnagar, Golkunda, Bijapur and Berar.
  • Here it was even called dakshini or daccani (southern). As time passed, it became popular with the masses of Delhi.
  • Urdu became more popular in the early eighteenth century.People even wrote accounts of later Mughals in Urdu.
  • Gradually it achieved a status where literature-both poetry and prose-started being composed in it.
  • The last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar wrote poetry in it.
  • The earliest Urdu poet is supposed to be Amir Khusrau (1253-1325).
  • He started writing as a poet in the reign of Sultan Balban and was a follower of Nizam ud-din Auliya.
  • Among other well-known poets are Ghalib and Iqbal.
  • Iqbal’s Urdu poetry is available in his collection called Bang- i - dara. His Sarejahan se achcha Hindostanhamara is sung and played at many of the national celebrations in India.


  • As Persian was the language of the court, much of the literature produced in Medieval period was written in Persian.
  • Amir Khusrau and Amir Hasan Dehelvi wrote superb poetry in Persian.
  • Historians like Minhas-us-Siraj and Barani and Ibn Batuta who came to India during those days wrote accounts of rulers, important political events and incidents in this language.
  • Several historical accounts, administrative manuals and allied literature in this language have come down to us.
  • The Mughal rulers were great patrons of leaning and literature.
  • Babar wrote his tuzuk (autobiography) in Turkish language, but his grandson Akbar got it translated into Persian.
  • Abul Fazl’s (Court poet and historian under Akbar) Akbarnamah and Ain-e-Akbari give us a good deal of information about Akbar and his times.
  • Jahangir’s autobiography (Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri) is in Persian and is a unique piece of literature.
  • During Shah Jahan’s time there was a well known scholar named Abdul Hameed Lahori. He wrote Badshah Nama/Padshahnama.
  • Similarly, we have Masir-e-Alamgiri, shedding light on Aurangzeb’s reign by Saqi Mustaid Khan.
  • Several collections of letters of the Mughal period (insha) have also come down to us. Besides shedding light on Mughal history, they indicate different styles of letter writing.


  • A large number of people speak Hindi in its different forms that include Braj Bhasha and Avadhi (spoken in Oudh region), Bhojpuri, Magadhi, and Maithili (spoken around Mithila), and Rajasthani and Khadi Boli(spoken around Delhi).
  • This classification has been made on the basis of literature produced by great poets over a length of time.
  • For ex: The language used by Surdas and Bihari has been given the name of Braj Bhasha; that used by Tulsidas in the Ramacharitamanasa is called Avadhi.
  • Hindi even shows some influence of Urdu.
  • Hindi evolved during the Apabhramsa stage between the 7th and 8th centuries A.D.
  • Hindi literature looked to Sanskrit classics for guidance.
  • During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as a part of the Bhakti movement prose and poetry were being composed in Hindi.
  • Tuisidas wrote Ramcharitmanas based on Valmiki’s Ramayana, however, he has altered situations and added quite a few new scenes and situations based on folklore.
  • For example, Sita’s exile is mentioned in Valmiki’sversion but it is not mentioned in Tulsidas’s account.
  • Similarly, Surdas wrote his Sur Sagar in which he talks of Krishna as an infant, a young lad indulging in pranks and a young man engaged in dalliance with the gopis.
  • Bihari wrote his Satsai in the seventeenth century; it gives us a glimpse of shringar(love) and other rasas.


  • A very important landmark was achieved by William Carey, who wrote a grammar of Bengali and published an English-Bengali dictionary and also wrote books on dialogues and stories.
  • It may be noted that the grammar and dictionaries are important in the development of a literature.
  • The Baptist Mission Press was established in Serampore near Calcutta in 1800.
  • Although the aim of the press run by the missionaries was mainly to propagate Christian faith but other presses run by local people helped in the flourishing of non-Christian literature.
  • Rabindra Nath Tagore (1861-1941) won the Nobel Prize for literature for his Geetanjali.


  • Baba Farid and Guru Nanak were the earliest composers in Punjabi.
  • Farid’s verses have found a place in the Adi Granth. Adi Granth
  • It was compiled in 1604 by Bhai Gurdas under the auspices of the fifth guru, Guru Arjan Dev. It’s written in the Gurumukhi script.
  • It is the predecessor to the Guru Granth Sahib.Guru Granth Sahib
  • Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, expanded on Adi Granth in 1678. The Sikhs hold it in high regard.
  • It is regarded as the Sikhs’ eleventh and final spiritual authority.

Guru Granth Sahib

The book includes the teachings of thirteen Bhakti saints known as ’Bhagats,’ including Ramananda, Namadev, Ravidas, Parmanand, Sain, Surdas, and others, as well as two Muslim Bhagats, Kabir and Baba Farid.

Dasam Granth

It is widely assumed that the hymns written by Guru Gobind Singh (Tenth Guru) are compiled in this book, but many disagree.

Guru Gobind Singh has composed two savaiyyas (form of poetry) in Punjabi but these are not a part of the Adi Granth.