The emergence of modern Hindi and its attempt to be accorded the status of India’s national language is deeply enmeshed with the Independence movement in the 1900s. From a variety of dialects, vernaculars and scripts, modern Hindi was given a standardised form by adopting the Khari Boli form written in the Devnagari script for official as well as literary use.
Bharatendu Harishchandra (1850-1885), who played a key role in popularising the use of this new form in literary genres such as poetry, drama, travelogues and essays, is widely regarded as the “father of modern Hindi”.
During his short life, Benaras-born Bharatendu brought to maturity the development of playwriting in modern Hindi, employing satire and humor to comment on society. He also influenced many writers to adopt the newly emerging Hindi language for their novels, an attempt that came to great literary success in the 20th century.
At the time Bharatendu was writing, as the colonial rulers were attempting to impart primary education in India’s native languages, the north-western provinces were debating what the “real” vernacular of the people was. Another important question was that of the script to be used by colonial administration – Nagari or Persian.
Votaries of each side vehemently presented arguments in support of…