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Amrita Pritam

Punjabi emerged as an independent language in the 11th century from the Suaraseni Apabhramsha, according to many scholars, though Paisachi has also contributed to its development in the modern form. The rise of present day Punjabi has been parallel with the formation of the Gurumukhi script, evolved by the Sikh Gurus.

Punjabi literature was the natural successor to the Vedic and Arabian-Persian literature and Apabhramsha literature which contained dramas, stories and narrative poems. Punjabi poetry dates back to the beginning of the 13th century when Baba Farid composed his shlokas and hymns. Though he was a muslim mystique, he adopted the Indian literary tradition. Guru Nanak period in Punjabi history was, in a way a period of literary renaissance.

Guru Gobind The literature of pre-Nanak period can be linked to the tradition of the Gorakhpanthis who composed Shlokas and padas. Another poetic genre which was popular then is called Var, which sings the praise of great warriors and Kings. Amir Khusrau (1253-1325) has composed a Var on Tughlaq Shah.

The golden period of Punjabi literature extends from the birth of Guru Nanak (1469) to the passing away of Guru Gobind Singh (1708). Most of the religious and mystique poetry of this period is preserved in the Adi Granth, a great anthology of Bhakti poems. In it, a major portion of poetry is arranged in different ragas and is thus meant to be sung. The tradition of Sufi and Qissa poetry had its influence on Punjabi poetry. Bulhe Shah and Varis Shah composed exquisite verses on the above genres. The best in Sanskrit literature was also imbibed through translation spread over 200 years (1600-1800) covering the two epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as also Bhagvat Gita and Upanishads.

When we come to the modern age (1850- ) we have to remember first the contribution of Attar Singh. The Ludhiana Christian mission brought out a translation of the bible in Punjabi in 1852 and a dictionary of Punjabi language in 1854. The Punjabi paper Khalsa Samachar was started from Amritsar. A very important personality of Punjabi renaissance is Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957). His religious epics, lyrics and nature poetry show clear signs of western influence. Puran Singh and Kripa Singh are his distinguished contemporaries.

The leading poets of nationalism in Punjabi are Gurmukh Singh Musafir (1899-1976) and Heera Singh Dard (1889-1964). We have also literature of the progressive trend in ample measure both in poetry and prose. Among the outstanding modern poets there are Mohan Singh (1905-78), Amrita Pritam (1919) and Harbhajan Singh (1920).

Amrita Pritam has won the Jnanpith Award. Gurubaksh Singh Preetladi, Harcharan Singh, Sant Singh Sekhom and Gurudyal Singh Khosla among the playwrights, Bhai Vir Singh, Nanak Singh, S.S.Narula, K.S.Duggal and Amrita Pritam among fiction writers are noteworthy names in Punjabi. There were interesting experiments in intellectual and aesthetic poetry, the former being represented by Pritam Singh Safeer and the latter by Harbhajan Singh. Prabhjot Kaur was Punjab's state poet for many years.

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