Various Yugas (Kals) of Hindi Literature

The history of Hindi poetry, extends over a period of almost one thousand years. Hindi verse literature as a whole can be divided into four yugas (kal) or stages:

  • Adikal (the Early Period)
  • Bhaktikal (the Devotional Period)
  • Ritikal (the Scholastic Period)
  • Adhunikkal (the Modern Period)


Adikal Literature of Hindi belong to the period between 10th to 14th centuries.

The poetry of this period either highlights certain religious ideologies or praises the heroic deeds of the Rajput rulers and warriors in the form of verse-narratives (raso-kavyas). Thus the era is noted for heroic poems of eulogies which include Chandbardai’s Prithviraj Raso, Dalpativijay’s Khuman Raso, Narpati Nalha’s Visaldev Raso and Jagnik’s Parmal Raso

The earliest poetry of this period is represented by the Apabhramsha poetry, which includes the Siddha literature, Nath literature and the Jain literature.

  • Siddha literature was written in the popular language and this echoed devotional themes combined with a strong erotic feeling.
  • The Nath literature represents the mystico-devotional poetry, written between the 7th and the 14th century by the poet Gorakhnath and his followers, using the doha and the chaupai styles.
  • Jain poets like Swayambhu, Som Datt Suri, Sharang Dhar and Nalla Singh composed the Charit Kavyas, which propagate moral tenets and portrayals of nature.

Bhakti Kal

Bhakti Kal refers to the period between the 14th and the 17th century. This period saw the rise of the Bhakti Kavyas (devotional poetry).

The Bhakti Kal poetry is divided into Nirguna and Saguna Schools depending upon the devotional attitude of the poets towards the Lord.

The Nirgunas believed in a formless god, while the Sagunas believed in a human incarnation of god.

The Nirgunas have been further divided into two groups on the basis of the different sadhanas (disciplines) followed by them.

  • One group includes Kabir, Guru Nanak, Dharma Das, Maluk Das, Dadudayal, Sunder Das etc, who emphasised on monotheism through their Sakhis (couplets) and Padas (songs).
  • Another group of the Nirguna poets was of the Sufi poets, who believed that love was the path of realising God. These included Jayasi, Manjhan, Kutuban and Usman.

The Saguna poets are either the followers of Rama or Krishna. Tulsi Das depicted Rama as the Ideal Man in his classical works Ramacharitamanasa, Gitavali, Kavitavali and Vinay Patrika. Surdas was greatest among the Krishna followers. His Sur Sagar and Sur Saravali are the masterpieces of devotional Hindi poetry. Other poets of this category included Parmananda and Meera Bai.

  • Meera Bai is the most celebrated of the women poets of medieval times. She was one of the most significant figures Sant of the Vaishnava bhakti movement. Some 1,300 pads (poems) commonly known as bhajans (sacred songs) are attributed to her.
  • Malik Mohammad Jayasi and Abdur Rahim Khankhana were among the important Saguna poets of this period.


  • Ritikal of Hindi literature was between 17th to 19th century in which the Sanskrit rhetorical tradition was emulated on several aspects such as rasa, alankara and nayak-nayika bheda etc.
  • However, it is not true for all, the poets who were bound to the Sanskrit rhetoric were called Riti-Baddha, while those who did not bind were called Riti-mukta.
  • Brajbhasha was used in poetry predominantly.

Adhunik Kal

The Adhunik kal or the Modern Period in Hindi literature begins in the midth of the 19th century. The Hindi prose evolved in this period. There was a proliferation of the use of Khariboli in poetry in place of Brajbhasha. This period is divided into four phases as follows:

  • Bharatendu Yug or the Renaissance (1868-1893)
  • Dwivedi Yug (1893-1918)
  • Chhayavada Yug (1918-1937)
  • Contemporary Period (1937 onwards).

Bhartendu Yug

  • Bharatendu Harishchandra (1849-1882) is known to have brought in a modern outlook in Hindi literature. He is described as “Father of Modern Hindi Literature”.
  • Other writers of this period include Radhakrishna Das, Pratapnarayan Mishra, Balkrishna Bhatta, Badrinarayan Chaudhuri and Sudhakar Dwivedi

Dwivedi Yug

  • Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi (1868-1938) is regarded as the architect of modern Hindi prose. He brought in the refined prose writing. Dwivedi Yug is known for portrayel of various social, political and economic problems in Hindi Literature.
  • Other important writers of this period are Nathuram Sharma Shankar, Ayodhya Sinha Upadhyay , Maithalisharan Gupt, Ram Naresh Tripathi etc.
  • Maithalisharan Gupt is known to have revived the epic tradition with his long narrative poems such as Jayadrath Vadh, Panchavati, Saket, Yashodhara etc. He also translated Madhusudan Dutt’s Meghnadvadh-kavya into Hindi.

Chhayavad (Shadowism) Kal

  • Chhayavad refers to the romantic upsurge in poetry, in which emphasis was laid on aesthetic and romantic subject matter instead of the formalism and didacticism
  • Important poets of this era include Makhanlal Chaturvedi, Jayashankar Prasad, Surya Kant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Sumitranandan Pant, Mahadevi Verma and Subhadrakumari Chauhan.

Adhunuk Kal

  • The decline of the Chayavad movement saw the emergence of several different styles in Hindi poetry such as Pragativada (progressive poetry), Hridayavad (poetry of passion) and Prayogavad (Poetry of experiments).
  • The important poets among the Pragativadis were Bhagvati Charan Varma, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar and Narendra Sharma.
  • Important poet of Hridayavad was Harivansh Rai Bachchan, who wrote Madhushala, Madhubala and Madhukalas.
  • The experimental movement or Prayogavada was called later the ‘Nai Kavita’. Important poets of this genre included S.H.Vatsyayan ‘Agyeya’, Shivmangal Singh ‘Suman’, Girija Kumar Mathur, Dharamvir Bharati etc.

The development of Hindi prose has been classified into three periods:

  • Early Phase: (1868-1918): This includes the prose literature of the Bhartendu and Dwivedi. This phase is known for the development of drama, novel, essay, short story etc.
  • Phase of growth (1918-1937): The period of growth is represented by Premchand, Jayshankar Prasad and Mahadevi Verma. The period of growth is represented by Jayshankar Prasad (Chaya, Akash Deep), Rai Krishna Das and Mahadevi Varma. Munshi Premchand was the greatest of all among the fiction writers.
  • Present phase (1938 onwards). The important fiction writers of the contemporary period include S H Agyeya, Dharamvir Bharati, Rahi Masoom Raza etc.

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