Progressive Literature

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Aurobindo GhoshThe progressive movement brought together Gandhian and Marxist ideas about society. The three major influences on modern Indian literature were Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), Rabindranath Tagore, and Mohandas Gandhi. Their writings marked the movement of Indian romanticism. Sri Aurobindo wrote mainly in English. His poetry and the philosophical treatise The Life Divine express his search for the divine in man. Tagore's quest for beauty leads him to the conclusion that service to humanity is the best form of contact with God. Tagore was a novelist, poet, playwright, composer, and painter of great renown. His collection of poetry Gitanjali (Song Offerings) won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913.

Tagore inspired writers of romantic poetry in many Indian languages. Indian romantic poetry contains a strong element of mysticism. The greatest Urdu poet of this era is Muhammad Iqbal (1873-1938). His best-known collection of poetry is Baan-e-Daraa (Song of Eternity) (1932).

In 1936, Mulk Raj Anand and other Indian writers living in London established the Progressive Writers' Association. The movement soon spread throughout India. Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu, and Malayalam were the main languages of the progressive movement.

The principal Hindi poet of the progressive group was Nagarjun. The first Indian novelist of social realism was the Oriya writer Fakir Mohan Senapati (1893-1918). The movement also attracted such eminent Urdu poets as Josh Malihabadi and Fiaz Ahmad Fiaz.

The search for modernity.  In the period leading up to independence, Indian writers tried to find a personal expression of their place in history. Many writers of this time reflect a sense of despair and helplessness in society. The most important Bengali poet after Tagore is Jibananda Das (1899-1954). In Gujarati, Uma Shankar Joshi initiated a new, experimental poetry. Poets writing in other languages include Amrita Pritam (Punjabi), B. S. Mardekhar (Marathi), and Gopal Krishna Adija (Kannada). All these poets developed their own personal idioms to reflect the problems of contemporary life.

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