history of Gujarati literature can be divided into three broad
periods: Early period (upto c.1450 A.D.), the Middle period (up
1850 A.D.) and the Modern period (1850 A.D. onwards).
It is claimed that the earliest writings in Gujarati was by
Jaina authors. These were in the form of Rasas,
Phagus and Vilasas. The rasas
were long poems which were heroic, romantic or narrative in
Bahubalirasa (1185 A.D.), Vijayasena's Revanagiri-rasa
(1235 A.D.), Ambadeva's Samararasa
(1315 A.D.) and Vinayaprabha's Gautama
Svamirasa (1356 A.D.) are the best examples of this form of
literature. The other
notable Prabandha or narrative poems of this period include
Sridhara's Ranamalla Chanda
(1398 A.D.), Merutunga's Prabodhachintamani,
Prabandha (1456 AD) and Bhima's
Sadayavatsa Katha (1410
A.D.). The phagus
are poems which depict the joyous nature of the spring festival (Vasantha).
(1344 A.D.) and Gunavanta's Vasantha-vilasa (1350 A.D.) are best examples of such texts. Neminatha
Catuspadika (1140 A.D.) by Vinayachandra is the oldest of the baramasi
genre of Gujarati poems. The earliest work in Gujarati prose was
(1355 A.D.). Prithvichandra
Charita (1422 A.D.) of Manikyasundara, which is a religious
romance, is the best representation of Old Gujarati prose and is
reminiscent of Bana's Kadambari.
the 16th century, the Gujarati literature came under
the strong influence of the Bhakti movement.
Narsimha Mehta (1415-1481 A.D.) was the foremost poet of this
period. His poems
very spiritual and mystical and were a deep reflection of the
philosophy of Advaitism.
His Govinda Gamana,
Surata Sangrama, Sudama Charitra and Sringaramala are outstanding specimens of devotional poetry.
Another poet, Bhalana (1434-1514 A.D.) rendered Bana's Kadambari
into Gujarati. He
also authored other important works like Dasama
Skandha, Nalakhyana, Ramabala Charitra and Chandi
another poet, Mandana, produced great works like Prabodha
Battisi, Ramayana and Rukmangada
Katha. In this
period, the Ramayana, the Bhagwad Gita,
the Yogavashistha and
the Panchatantra were
all translated into Gujarati.
17th and the 18th centuries were dominated
by three great Gujarati poets - Aksayadasa or Akho (1591-1656),
Premananda Bhatta (1636-1734) and Syamaladasa Bhatta or Samala
(1699-1769). Akho's Akho
Gita, Cittavicara Samvada and Anubhava
Bindu are emphatic works on the Vedanta.
Premananda Bhatta, who is considered as the greatest of all
the Gujarati poets, was instrumental in raising the Gujarati
language and literature to new heights.
Of his several works, the important ones are Okha
Harana, Nalakhyana, Abhimanyu Akhyana, Dasama Skandha, Sudama
Charitra and Sudhanva Khyana. Samala was also a prolific poet who produced great
works like Padmavati,
Batrisa Putali, Nanda Batrisi, Simhasana Batrisi and Madana Mohana. This
period also witnessed the Puranic revival which led to the
proliferation of devotional poetry in Gujarati.
Dayaram (1767-1852) produced religious, ethical and
romantic lyrics called garbis. His important
works include Bhakti Posana,
Rasika Vallabha and
Ajamila Akhyana. The
Ramayana was composed by
Giridhara in Gujarati in the middle of the 19th
Brahmanand, Vallabha, Haridas, Dhira Bhagat and Divali Bali were
the other important saint poets of this period.
the middle of the 19th century, Gujarati, like other
Indian languages, came under strong Western influence. Dalpat Ram
(1820-1898) and Narmada Shankar (1833-1886) are considered as the
pioneers of modern Gujarati literature.
Dalpatram's Venacharitra depicts his mastery over humour and wit.
Narmada Shankar has to his credit a Gujarati dictionary (Narmakosa),
a history of the world and a book on poetics.
He also attempted various varieties of poetry and adapted a
few English poems into Gujarati.
His Rukmini Harana, Vana Varnana and Virasimha are excellent collection of poems. The other great works
in Gujarati poetry include Bholanath Sarabhai's Ishvara Prarthanamala (1872), Narsimharao Divatia's Smarana
Samhita, Kusumamala, Hridayavina, Nupura Jhankara and Buddha
Charita; Manishankar Ratanji Bhatt's Devayani,
Atijnana, Vasanta Vijaya and Chakravaka
Mithuna and Balwantrai
Thakore's Bhanakara. Nanalal was another important poet of this period who
excelled in his apadya gadya
or rhyming prose. He
has to his credit two poetic collections - Vasantotsava
(1898) and Chitradarsana
(1921), an epic called Kuruksetra
and several plays like Idukumara,
Jayajyanta, Viosva Gita, Sanghamitra and Jagat
important modern Gujarati poets include Umashankar Joshi,
Sundarram, Sundarji Betail, Rajendra Shah, Niranjan Bhagat,
Benibhai Purohit and Balmukund Dave.
modern Gujarati prose was pioneered by Narmada Shankar (Ragrang),
Mansukhram Tripathi, Naval Ram, K.M.Munshi and Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhiji's Daksina Aphrikana
Satyagramo Itihasa and Atmakatha
are his two outstanding works in Gujarati.
K.M.Munshi was one of the most versatile and towering
literary figures of Gujarat of the modern times.
His voluminous works include dramas, essays, short stories
and novels. His famous novels are Gujratano
Natha, Prithvi Vallabha, Jaya Somanatha (1940), Bhagavan
Parasurama (1946) and Tapasvini
(1957). Nandshankar (1835-1905) and Govardhanram Tripathi
(1855-1907) were among the outstanding novelists in Gujarati whose
famous novels are Karana Ghelo (1866) and Sarswati
Chandra respectively. The
Gujarati novel was also popularised by G.G.Joshi ('Dhumaketu'),
Chunilal V. Shah, Gunvantrai Acharya, Jhaverchand Meghani,
Pannalal Patel and Manubhai Pancholi.
Ranchhodbhai Udayaram (1837-1923) pioneered the art of
play-writing in Gujarati with his Lalita
Dukha Darsaka Nataka. The
other important dramatists were Dalpat Ram, Naval Ram (Bhat
B.K.Thakore, Chandravadan Mehta, Jayanti Dalal and Chunilal Madia.
Among the important essayists, mention may be made of Kaka
Kalelkar, Ratilal Trivedi, Lilavati Munshi, Jyotindra Dave,
Jayendrarai Durkal and Ramnarayan Pathak.