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     The Yadava dynasty (1189-1320 AD), which adopted Marathi as the court language and patronised Marathi learned men, contributed greatly towards the origin and growth of Marathi literature. The Marathi literature can be grouped into two ages: Ancient or Old Marathi literature (1000-1800 AD) and Modern Marathi Literature (1800 onwards). (a) The Old Marathi Literature consisted mainly of poetry composed in metres and was devotional and narrative in content.  Its pioneers were the saints Mukunda Raj, Jnandeva and Namdeo (1270-1350 AD). Mukunda Raj's Viveka Sindhu is considered as the first major work in Marathi. Jnanadeva's Bhavartha Dipika or Jnaneshwari and Amritinabhava are two other great works in Marathi. The two new religious sects known as Mahanubhav Panth and Warkari Panth, which adopted Marathi as the medium for preaching their doctrines, are considered as the pioneers of Marathi prose and poetry. The most important works of the Mahanubhava writers are Lila Caritra (1273), Govinda Prabhu Caritra and Siddhanta Sutra Patha.

     The great saint-poet Eknath's Ekanathi Bhagavata is a literary masterpiece of Marathi literature. Eknath is considered as the founder of secular poetry in Marathi, a trend that was carried forward by Mukteshwar (1574-1645) in his version of the Mahabharata. Christapurana, a work composed by the Christian missionary Father Stephens (1549-1619) is another masterpiece of Marathi literature. Tukaram (1608-1651) was the greatest saint-poet of Marathi, who wrote over 3000 abhangas. His associate Ramdas (1608-1681) also composed an inspiring literary work in Marathi called Dasabodha.  Vaman Pandit (Yathartha Dipika), Raghunath Pandit (Nala Damayanti Swayamvara) and Shridhar Pandit (Pandavpratap, Harivijay and Ramvijay) were the other prominent poets of the 18th century.

     The Old Marathi literature is represented by both prose and poetry. The prose section contained the Bakharas while the poetry section contained the Povadas and the Lavanis of the Senvis. The period from 1794 to 1818 is regarded as the closing period of the Old Marathi literature and the beginning of the Modern Marathi literature. Mahipati Buva Tahrabadkar (1715-1790), Niranjana Madhava (1703-1790) and Moropant (1729-1794) were the great writers of this period. Moropant's Mahabharata was the first epic poem in Marathi.  His Arya Bharata, Kekavali and Samsaya Ratnamala are other works of great literary merit.

(b) The Modern Period can be divided into four ages. The first period starts from 1800 to 1885, the second from 1885 to 1920, the third from 1921 to 1945, and the last from 1946 to the present. This period witnessed the development of all forms of prose and poetry, including scientific and technical literature. Several attempts were made to translate English works into Marathi. Chhatre, Bal Shastri Jambhekar (1810-1846), Lokahitawadi, Krishna Hari Chiplunkar and Jyotiba Phule wrote on various topics in Marathi. The first Marathi dictionary and the first Marathi grammar appeared in 1829, while the first Marathi newspaper was started in 1835. The starting of the newspaper Kesari in 1880-81 gave a boost to the development of Modern Marathi Literature.

     Keshavasuta (1866-1905) is credited with the launching of the Modern Marathi poetry movement in 1885.  Around 1923 a group of poets led by Madhav Julian (1894-1939) formed a group called Ravikiran Mandali, which soon became eminent on the Marathi literary scene. Madhav Julian's poetic tale Virahatarang is a noteworthy work. B.R.Tambe (1874-1941), Chandra Shekar Gorhe (1871-1937), Manorambai Ranade (1896-1926) were the prominent poets outside the Ravikiran Mandali. The Mandali was challenged by modern poets like Anil (1901-1982) and Anant Kanekar (1905-1980), whose works Phulwata and Chandarat signalled the advent of a new form of poetry in Marathi. Among the nationalist poets were Bal Gangadhar Tilak, V.D.Savarkar, G.T.Davekar (1874-1956), S.N.Ranade (1892-1984) and N G Deshpande. B S Mardhekar, P S Rage, N.C.Kelkar (1872-1947), S.K.Kolhatkar, C.V.Joshi, Vinda Karandikar, Vasant Bapat and Shanta Shelke are some of other the well-known names of the last phase of the Modern Period of Marathi literature.

     Vishnudas Bhave was the pioneer of Marathi drama movement. Other great Marathi dramatists were B P. Kirloskar (Saubhadra, Sakuntala and Ramarajaya-Viyoga), G B Deval (Sharada), R G Gadkari (Ekach Pyala), Mama Warerkar (Apporva Bangal) and P L Deshpande (Amaldar). Vijay Tendulkar (Srimant, Gidhade, Sakharam Binder, Shantala! Court Chalu Ahe and Ghashiram Kotwal) and C.T.Dhanolkar are well-known playwrights in Marathi.

     Hari Narayan Apte's (1864-1919) Madhali Sthiti was the first novel to be published in Marathi. His other important novels are Ushankala, Mi and Pan Lakshat Kon Gheto. Baba Padamji’s Yamuna Paryatan (1857) was the first Marathi novel written on social reform. Natha Madhav, C.V.Vaidya, Prof V.M. Joshi, V.S. Khandekar (Yayati, Don Dhruv, Ulka and Krounchwadh), Sane Guruji, Kusumvati Deshpande, Kamalabai Tilak are the prominent novelists of the Marathi language. Diwakar Krishna, H N Apte and V S Gurjar are the renowned short story writers while S.M. Mate, Durga Bhagwat, N.S. Phadke are well-known essayists in Marathi. Daya Pawar's  Baluta is one of the first Dalit autobiographies in Marathi.


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