Last Updated 14 Apr 2020

India Under Nehru View

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India has always been considered as a mysterious world with wide variety of interesting traditional values that was created all along the history line of India, from the big and complex things like philosophy schools of India to the daily’s things like the lamp in Diwali festival. So what has made India the way it is now with the blooming yet mysterious beauty from the richness in its culture? Well, here is a saying from the former Minister of India – Sir JAWAHARLAL NEHRU – to show the idea of Indian personality or India in general: She was like some ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought and reverie had been inscribed, and yet no succeeding layer had completely hidden or erased what had been written previously. All of these had existed in our conscious or subconscious selves, though we may not have been aware of them. And they have gone to build up the complex mysterious personality of India. ” The meaning of this saying is that Nehru wanted to imply the idea of a complex yet so unified India in which everything from culture, living style to artistic structures was created in an unending process of both preservation and evolution at the same time.

The way the Indian created their flourished culture has deeply showed the Indian personality who always try to maintain the traditional beauty in the evolution progress. They had built up the whole Indian culture based on the traditional values from thousands years ago without once trying to get rid of the old fundamental values of their grand and grand fathers, yet they known how to achieved the new things and balanced them between the old and the new so that now we can trace back the trail of the thousands years old civilizations through everything in Indian people’s daily life.

After thousands years, India culture has now become richer in range wise and structure wise. We can see the richness in cultural values and the Indian has done a good job in advancing the India culture to be so flourished and full of colors from the very traditional base of their ancestors culture. The most common thing that people tend to think about India personality or India in general is that the life of Indian people is very rich in religious activities and it had played a big role in their life, also in their mind we can clearly see the strong affects of traditional value like Vedas or Upanishad.

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If we look inside those old literatures closely, we can find innumerable of evidences that can prove the uniquely richness in traditional values and also it can show the two paralleled processes of preserving and advancing, which is the personality of India that Nehru had stated. Here is some piece of my mind about Indian literature along the history to prove the statement of Sir. Jawaharlal Nehru. In every branch or various sections of literature from fiction, drama, biography, poetry, drama, novels, short stories and literary criticism, Indian literature has a tremendous variety to offer.

Nearly every major Indian language has a rich tradition of literature. The earliest works of Indian literature were orally transmitted. Sanskrit literature begins with the Vedas collections of sacred hymns dating to the period 1500–1200 BCE. Those earliest works like the Vedas or Upanishads were composed to be sung or recited and were transmitted for many generations before being written down. Since almost all of the earliest works of ancient India literature were all orally transmitted so we can’t find the exactly time of those brilliant works in the timeline of India history.

The earliest records of a text may be later by several centuries than the date of its composition. After this time from around 200 BC to around 11 AD, Sanskrit literature went through a secular phase. A major development during the secular period was the introduction of drama, with the early dramas set in historical epic tales. During the first through fifth centuries, South India's literature was primarily secular and written in Tamil, not Sanskrit, with the main topics being war and love.

Following this period was a time of change for southern literature, with the tradition changing to bhakti (devotional) literature that in subsequent centuries eventually spread northward. All in all, the giant India literature was big in size and contents, and the number of literature works of India is like stars in the sky along the timeline of India history. This has shown how big and complex of the Indian literature. There was such a wide variety in types and styles of composing, from poems to verses, oral literature to written works but we can still see the unity in them with the main theme and color being India traditional mind and soul.

Since the religious and Vedic culture had such tremendous impact on Indian culture and I must say those traditional elements were deeply engraved in every Indian people’s mind, so it’s no surprising to know that the major topic of Indian literature is about religious deities and philosophy. And much more later the ancient period of oral literature, the tradition of picking the idea from stories or myths in Vedas or the great Mahabharata to compose bhakti poems and literatures was very noticeable.

This tradition was slowed down since the domination of British in India, which had bring major changes in the styles and topics of literature. It seemed like with the invasion of British culture or the Western in general, India’s literature had faced big challenge to preserve the traditional colors in their works yet somehow the India factor was still strongly presented. So we can conclude that along the timeline of India’s history, never once the traditional culture had failed to exist in every literature work, with time went by India literature was advanced bit by bit, yet it still maintained the main flow of tradition culture.

It was indeed diversity in unity. The history of Indian literature dated back to 1500AD or more since the existence of the first ever literature work of India, which name was Rig Veda – the first and most important part of the famous Vedas. Rig Veda was composed in Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. The Sanskrit word veda "knowledge, wisdom" is derived from the root vid- "to know", that’s why the scholars called the Vedas the sacred books of knowledge.

The Vedas can be considered an encyclopedia of ancient India and it gave many tips about how the life of ancient people would be like. With it giant length, it’s such an amazing thing to know that the Vedas were actually orally transmitted through centuries. And along with the Vedas, other ancient literatures were also preserved by oral way. This is why the literary tradition in India is primarily oral literature in vernacular languages. It was in the 6th century that an extensive written literature appeared.

Through such a long period of time, the oral literature of ancient India has been successfully passed down to the next generations by using rhythmic recitation and thus the whole giant walls of text that we know nowadays are almost exactly the same to the one from approximately one thousands and five hundreds years before Christ. This has show how strong and effective of the preservation progress of Indian, they didn’t just let all the literatures to be in vain because of having no writing system to store it, ancient Indian had found a way by using oral literature to preserve the world’s longest literature work that is totally unbelievable!

The Vedas were the all time topic for other writers to compose their own works that related to it like Puranas and Itihasas which explained myths in the Vedas to the mass Indian. From the original Vedas to the vast number of many branches that were expanded through years to explain or improve all the knowledge of Vedas. We can clearly see the broadening of the Vedas and its branches by many writers. They did not just make a whole new literature works out of nowhere but they based their works on the root of Vedas and its knowledge then added their own creativeness.

The main themes of Indian literature were mostly about religious stories or myths with Brahmanism deities (and later Hinduism). Many epics dealt with Vedas stories and they always contained the spirit of Vedas’ principles. Noticeable evidences that we can find in India literature about this characteristic are Mahabharata, Ramayana from the early Sanskrit literatures and many Bhakti poems in the medieval period. Mahabharata and Ramayana are the longest literatures size wise in the world, those epics were the all time favorite of every Indian people.

Mahabharata itself was an improved version of the originally 8,800 verses literature named Jaya which was composed by Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa, later this version was enlarged to 24,000 verses namely Bharata by Vaisampayana and then it became the giant version Mahabharata version which was written by Ugrasravas with up to 100,000 verses. This enlargement of the Mahabharata epic has shown that Indian literature had undergone many improvements through years and those advances had somehow made Indian literature become rich in content and complex in structure.

Not only the expand of old literatures since the Vedic age, the tradition of Bhakti is also very noticeable in term of the common theme about deities. Bhakti (or a personal devotion to a god) usually was composed in poems to show their respectful attitude to a god. Many of the Bhakti poems told stories or just shown Indian’s praising to their gods from Vedas or epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. That’s why Indian literature was so big in size and varied in style. On another note, we can find many translated versions of the epics or myths in a wide variety of languages all over India.

For an example, Jagannath Das wrote an Oriya version of the Bhagavata and Tuncattu Eruttacchan, the so-called father of Malayalam literature, wrote recensions of traditional literature. Much traditional Indian literature is derived in theme and form not only from Sanskrit literature but from the Buddhist and Jain texts written in the Pali language and the other Prakrits (medieval dialects of Sanskrit). This has shown how effective of the persevering process in India since many literature works were not only available in its original language but also in many more languages.

This process had somehow helped spread the traditional values to all other areas in India and maybe other places out side of India too. So, all we can conclude here is that in term of preserving and advancing of the traditional values, Indian has maintained their own colorful literature and culture through many obstacles in history. I must say Indian was worth being called the ocean of knowledge and mysterious myths! After being through many centuries of improving and preserving, Indian literature has grown giant with such a wide variety of themes and styles, yet it still possessed the unity in variety.

And to top of it all, through analyzing Indian literature to prove my point of view of Sir Nehru’s saying, I’ve realized that India has such a unique charm that no other country can possess, that is the ability of keeping the thousands years old traditional culture’s values and indigenous spirit in every aspect of Indian’s daily life without any cracks even though many new things were accepted in the culture during the history’s timeline. No wonder, Indian literature and Indian culture in general had such an attracting charm to everyone who ever had a chance to know about it.

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India Under Nehru View. (2018, Jun 17). Retrieved from

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