Marathi has an unbroken literary tradition of over eight centuries, divided conveniently into two distinct periods, classical and modern.
The classical period spans six centuries, remarkable for poetry, devotional and heroic. Jnandev, Namdev, Eknath, Tukaram and Ramdas have become household names throughout India. While Virasaiva, Jain and Muslim poets have enriched the secular and spiritual content, wandering minstrels have sung heroic ballads.
New forms of literature have flowered from the nineteenth century under the impact of English education and western thought. The pioneers include Jambhekar, Chiplunkar, Apte, Anil Deshpande, Phadke, Khandekar, Mardhekar, Rege and Gadgil.
Tracing the earliest reference to Maharashtra in a rock inscription of the fourth century, this history concludes with the formation of the state in 1960.
Kusumawati Deshpande (1904-1961) taught English at Morris College, Nagpur, before joining the All India Radio, where she rose to be Chief Producer, Women's and Children's Programmers. Her works, in Marathi, comprise a History of the Marathi Novel, a collection of critical essays, and three collections of stories, personal essays and sketches. She was honoured with the presidentship of the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan in 1961.
M.V. Rajadhyaksha (b. 1913) taught English at Elphinstone College, Bombay, and at three other government colleges. Most of his work in Marathi appears in eight collections. Two of these fall under literary criticism, one of them getting a State Award, and the rest have light essays, most of them with a satirical slant. He has also done some miscellaneous writing in English.
Professor (Smt.) Kusumawati Deshpande, who had under-taken to write a history of Marathi literature (from the beginnings to 1920) for the Sahitya Akademi, died suddenly in November 1961. The manuscript of the history she left behind was incomplete. It comprised Parts I, II, and III, and the following from Part IV: 'The Growth of Prose' The Growth of the Novel' and only `Keshaysut' (upto para 2) from the sections Weshaysut and the Poetry of His Age', as they appear in this book.
Towards the end of 1975, the Sahitya Akademi assigned to me the work of editing and completing the unfinished manuscript, and of adding a supplement to it to cover the period from 1920 to 1960. The editing has kept the content of the original manuscript mostly undisturbed.
The Supplement-Part V of the book-was not intended to go into great detail, but to give a broad idea of the main currents in the literature of the period, dwelling on the work of the major writers. It has therefore had to leave out several writers and books that would ordinarily find a place in a fuller history.
This history ends at 1960. The year is no more than a convenient point for marking off the period from the next one. It does not seal off the period, for the activity the history record is continuous. Some of the authors treated in Part V produced important works after 1960, but all such works could not be dealt with here. Similarly, several important writers whose Significant works were published after 1960, have not been Included here, though they had started writing before that year. Maybe, this has not been followed very rigidly; but it would be unnatural to be very rigid in a matter like this.
The reader will notice some overlapping in the content of part IV and V. This was unavoidable, with the work of certain authors falling on both sides of the line drawn at 1920.
I took an unconscionably long time in carrying out the assignment. I owe thanks to the sahitya akademi for bearing with the delay
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