History of English language and literature in India starts with the advent of East India Company in India. It all started in the summers of 1608 when Emperor Jahangir, in the courts of Moguls, welcomed Captain William Hawkins, Commander of British Naval Expedition Hector. It was India's first tryst with an Englishman and English. Jahangir later allowed Britain to open a permanent port and factory on the special request of King James IV that was conveyed by his ambassador Sir Thomas Roe. English were here to stay.
As East India Company spread its wing in southern peninsula, English
language started to get newer pockets of influence. But it was still
time for the first English book to capitalize. Late 17th century saw the
coming of printing press in India but the publication were largely
confined to either printing Bible or government decrees. Then came
newspapers. It was in 1779 that the first English Newspaper named
Hickey's Bengal Gazette was published in India. The breakthrough in
Indian English literature came in 1793 A.D. when a person by the name of
Sake Dean Mahomet published a book in London titled Travels of Dean
Mahomet. This was essentially Mahomet's travel narrative that can be put
somewhere between a Non-Fiction and a Travelogue.
In its early stages, the Indian writings in English were heavily
influenced by the Western art form of the novel. It was typical for the
early Indian English language writers to use English unadulterated by
Indian words to convey experiences that were primarily Indian. The core
reason behind this step was the fact that most of the readers were
either British or British educated Indians. In the coming century, the
writings were largely confined to writing history chronicles and
In the early 20th century, when the British conquest of India was
achieved, a new breed of writers started to emerge on the block. These
writers were essentially British who were born or brought up or both in
India. Their writing consisted of Indian themes and sentiments but the
way of storytelling was primarily western. They had no reservation in
using native words, though, to signify the context. This group consisted
likes of Rudyard Kipling, Jim Corbett and George Orwell among others.
Books such as Kim, The Jungle Book, 1984, Animal Farm and The man-eaters
of Kumaon etc were liked and read all over the English-speaking world.
In fact, some of the writings of that era are still considered to be the
masterpieces of English Literature. In those periods, natives were
represented by the likes of Rabindra Nath Tagore and Sarojini Naidu. In
fact, Geetanjali helped Tagore win Nobel Prize for Literature in the
There was a lull for more than 3 decades when India was passing through
the era of aspiration and reconstruction. Some sporadic works such as 'A
Passage to India' by E M Foster, 'The Wonder that was India' by E L.
Basham and ' Autobiography of an unknown Indian' by Nirad C Chaudhuri
though set the stage on fire but were unsuccessful in catalyzing and
It was in late seventies that a new breed of Convent, boarding school
educated and elite class of novelists and writers started to come on
block. The likes of Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Amitabh Ghosh and
Dominique Lepierre set the literature world on fire. Rushdie' s '
Midnight Children' won Booker in 1981 and send the message loud and
clear that Indians are here to stay. Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai
repeated the feat when they won Man Booker in the year 1997 and 2006
respectively. In the mean time, a new crop of authors such as Pankaj
Misra, Chetan Bhagat, Jhumpa Lahiri, William Dalrymple, Hari Kunzuru
have arrived on the international scene and their writings are being
appreciated round the globe.
India became independent from Britain in 1947, and the English language
was supposed to be phased out by 1965. However, today English and Hindi
are the official languages. Indian English is characterized by treating
mass nouns as count nouns, frequent use of the "isn't it?"
tag, use of more compounds, and a different use of prepositions. With
its distinct flavor, Indian English writings are there to stay. With he
surge of English speaking population, the future looks anything but