1857and the 'Renaissance' in Hindi Literature
Broadly speaking, scholars use the term 'Renaissance' in two senses, first, rather loosly to denote any resurgence of civilisation after a period of political, economic stagnation and intellectual stagnation; secondly, to describe developments of a specific kind in the history of ideas, literature and art, broadly comparable in context to the humanistic and rational elements of the European "Renaissance" of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is hard to prevent "one sense from becoming confused with the other."1
The term 'Renaissance' was used first by Vasari in 1550 to denote the revival of art and literature which began in 14th century Italy. The term became widely current only in 1860 when the Swiss historian Jacob Burchard published The Civilisation of Renaissance in Italy. Today, it is used to refer not only to the revival in art but also to "a total change in outlook which influenced science, economics and philosophy as well".2
There is no suggestion implicit or explicit in all the accepted difinitions of Renaissance that the source or the fountain head of ideas that invigorate or regenerate a particular society or culture must be inevitably indigenous. Rather, the term 'Renaissance' when used first for the West European phenomenon bore the very particular sense of "rebirth" of classical (Greek and Roman, pre-Christian), which could by no means be said to be indigenous to Western Europe.
In much of the writing on the so called 'Renaissance' in Hindi literature, however, indigenousness has been made an essential criterion. It has been argued that the phenomenon of modernisation in 19th-century Hindi literature (identified with the Renaissance in the European sense by Hindi scholars and academicians) was the result of the Revolt
Department of Hindi, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
Social Scientist, Vol. 26, Nos. 1 - 4, Jan. - Apr. 1998