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Marathi literature is the body of literature of Marathi, an Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly in the Indian state of Maharashtra and written in the Devanagari and Modi script.

History

Ancient Era

Maharashtri Prakrit was the southern Prakrit that was spoken in the banks of Narmada and Godavari. Maharashtri was an offshoot of Vedic Sanskrit. The earliest example of Maharashtri as a separate language dates to approximately 3rd century BCE: a stone inscription found in a cave at Naneghat, Junnar in Pune district had been written in Maharashtri using Brahmi script. A committee appointed by the Maharashtra State Government to get the Classical status for Marathi has claimed that Marathi existed at least 2300 years ago.[1] Marathi, a derivative of Maharashtri, is probably first attested in a 739 CE copper-plate inscription found in Satara. Several inscriptions dated to the second half of the 11th century feature Marathi, which is usually appended to Sanskrit or prakrit in these inscriptions.The Quotidian Revolution: Vernacularization, Religion, and the Premodern Public Sphere in India. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-54241-8.</ref> The earliest Marathi-only inscriptions are the ones issued during the Shilahara rule, including a c. 1012 CE stone inscription from Akshi taluka of Raigad district, and a 1060 or 1086 CE copper-plate inscription from Dive that records a land grant (agrahara) to a Brahmin.[2] A 2-line 1118 CE Marathi inscription at Shravanabelagola records a grant by the Hoysalas. These inscriptions suggest that Marathi was a standard written language by the 12th century. However, there is no record of any actual literature produced in Marathi until the late 13th century.[2]

Yadava period

Dnyaneshwar as imagined by the Ravi Varma press

Epigraphic evidence suggests that Marathi was a standard written language by the 12th century. However, the earliest records of actual literature in Marathi appear only in the late 13th century.[3] The early Marathi literature emerged during the Seuna (Yadava) rule, because of which some scholars have theorized that it was produced with support from the Yadava rulers.Vedic Sanskrit. The earliest example of Maharashtri as a separate language dates to approximately 3rd century BCE: a stone inscription found in a cave at Naneghat, Junnar in Pune district had been written in Maharashtri using Brahmi script. A committee appointed by the Maharashtra State Government to get the Classical status for Marathi has claimed that Marathi existed at least 2300 years ago.[1] Marathi, a derivative of Maharashtri, is probably first attested in a 739 CE copper-plate inscription found in Satara. Several inscriptions dated to the second half of the 11th century feature Marathi, which is usually appended to Sanskrit or prakrit in these inscriptions.The Quotidian Revolution: Vernacularization, Religion, and the Premodern Public Sphere in India. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-54241-8.</ref> The earliest Marathi-only inscriptions are the ones issued during the Shilahara rule, including a c. 1012 CE stone inscription from Akshi taluka of Raigad district, and a 1060 or 1086 CE copper-plate inscription from Dive that records a land grant (agrahara) to a Brahmin.[2] A 2-line 1118 CE Marathi inscription at Shravanabelagola records a grant by the Hoysalas. These inscriptions suggest that Marathi was a standard written language by the 12th century. However, there is no record of any actual literature produced in Marathi until the late 13th century.[2]

Yadava period

Dnyaneshwar as imagined by the Ravi Varma press

Epigraphic evidence suggests that Marathi was a standard written language by the 12th century. However, the earliest records of actual literature in Marathi appear only in the late 13th century.[3] The early Marathi literature emerged during the Seuna (Yadava) rule, because of which some scholars have theorized that it was produced with support from the Yadava rulers.[4] The Yadavas did regard Marathi as a significant language for connecting with the general public,[5] and Marathi replaced Kannada and Sanskrit as the dominant language of the inscriptions during the last half century of the Yadava rule.[6] However, there is no evidence that the Yadava royal court directly supported the production of Marathi literature with state funds.[7]

The early Marathi literature was mostly religious and philosophical in nature,[8] and was composed by the saint-poets belonging to Mahanubhava and Warkari sects. During the reign of the last three Yadava kings, a great deal of literature in verse and prose, on astrology, medicine, Puranas, Vedanta, kings and courtiers were created. Nalopakhyan, Rukmini Swayamvar and Shripati's Jyotishratnamala (1039) are a few examples.

Bhaskarbhatta Borikar of the Mahanubhava sect is the first known poet to have composed hymns in Marathi.[3] The early Marathi literature emerged during the Seuna (Yadava) rule, because of which some scholars have theorized that it was produced with support from the Yadava rulers.[4] The Yadavas did regard Marathi as a significant language for connecting with the general public,[5] and Marathi replaced Kannada and Sanskrit as the dominant language of the inscriptions during the last half century of the Yadava rule.[6] However, there is no evidence that the Yadava royal court directly supported the production of Marathi literature with state funds.[7]

The early Marathi literature was mostly religious and philosophical in nature,[8] and was composed by the saint-poets belonging to Mahanubhava and Warkari sects. During the reign of the last three Yadava kings, a great deal of literature in verse and prose, on astrology, medicine, Puranas, Vedanta, kings and courtiers were created. Nalopakhyan, Rukmini Swayamvar and Shripati's Jyotishratnamala (1039) are a few examples.

Bhaskarbhatta Borikar of the Mahanubhava sect is the first known poet to have composed hymns in Marathi.[9]

Dnyaneshwar (1275–1296) was the first Marathi literary figur

The early Marathi literature was mostly religious and philosophical in nature,[8] and was composed by the saint-poets belonging to Mahanubhava and Warkari sects. During the reign of the last three Yadava kings, a great deal of literature in verse and prose, on astrology, medicine, Puranas, Vedanta, kings and courtiers were created. Nalopakhyan, Rukmini Swayamvar and Shripati's Jyotishratnamala (1039) are a few examples.

Bhaskarbhatta Borikar of the Mahanubhava sect is the first known poet to have composed hymns in Marathi.[9]

Dnyaneshwar (1275–1296) was the first Marathi literary figure who had wide readership and profound influence.[8] His major works are Amrutanubhav and Bhavarth Deepika (popularly known as Dnyaneshwari). Bhavarth Deepika is a 9000-couplets long commentary on the Bhagavad Gita.

Namdev, the Bhakti saint and contemporary of Dnyaneshwar is the other significant literary figure from this era. Namdev composed religious songs in Marathi as well as Hindi; some of his Hindi compositions are included in the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.

Another early Marathi writer was Mukundaraja, who wrote Vivekasindhu and Paramamrita. Both the works deal with the Advaita philosophy.[10] Some earlier scholars dated him to the 12th century, and considered Vivekasindhu as the first literary book in Marathi, dating it to 1188. However, most linguistic historians now date Mukundaraja to 14th century or later: the Vivekasindhu was likely written after Lilacharita and Dnyaneshwari.[11]

There was relatively little activity in Marathi in the early days of the Bahmani Sultanate (1347–1527) and the Bijapur Sultanate (1527–1686). The Warkari saint-poet Eknath (1533–1599), the main successor of Dnyaneshwar, was a major Marathi literary figure during this period. He made available an authentic, edited version of Dnyaneshwari, which had been forgotten after the Islamic invasion of Deccan.[8] He also wrote several abhangs (devotional poems), narratives and minor works that dealt with the Bhagavata Purana He wrote Eknathi Bhagwat, Bhavarth Ramayan, Rukmini Swayamwar Hastamalak, and Bharud. Dasopant was another minor but notable poet from this era.[8] Mukteshwar (1574-1645), the grandson of Eknath, too, wrote several works in Marathi including a translation of the epic Mahabharata.

Krista Purana, written by the Goa-based Christian missionary Thomas Stephens, was first published in 1616. It is written in a mix of Marathi and Konkani languages, and the first copy was printed in the Roman scrip

Krista Purana, written by the Goa-based Christian missionary Thomas Stephens, was first published in 1616. It is written in a mix of Marathi and Konkani languages, and the first copy was printed in the Roman script, and tells the story of Jesus Christ.[12]

The Marathas, the Marathi-speaking natives, formed their own kingdom in the 17th century. The development of the Marathi literature accelerated during this period. Although their leader, Shivaji Maharaj, was formally crowned as the king in 1674, he had been the de facto ruler of a large area in Western Maharashtra for some time.[citation needed] Tukaram and Samarth Ramdas, who were contemporaries of Shivaji, were the well-known poets of the early Maratha period.[13] Tukaram (1608–1650) was the most prominent Marathi Varkari spiritual poet identified with the Bhakti movement, and had a great influence on the later Maratha society. His contemporary, Samarth Ramdas composed Dasbodh and Manache Shlok in Marathi.

In the 18th century, several well-known works like Yatharthadeepika (by Vaman Pandit), Naladamayanti Swayamvara (by Raghunath Pandit), Pandava Pratap, Harivijay, Ramvijay (by Shridhar Pandit) and Mahabharata (translation by Moropant) were produced. The historical section of the old Marathi literature contained the Bakhars and the Katavas. Krishna Dayarnava and Sridhar were other leading poets during the Peshwa rule.[8] Mahipati, the author who wrote the biographies of the Bhakti Saints also belonged to this era.

British Period