Welcome to the website of the Karmendu Shishir Shodhagar (Karmendu Shishir Literary Archive) at the Department of Indology and Comparative Religion, Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, University of Tuebingen, Germany.
Karmendu Shishir Shodhagar is an archival collection primarily of modern Hindi literary journals of the period between 1883 and 2009. A part of the collection containing Urdu, Persian, Sanskrit and Hindi publications from 1870 to 1968 of Munshi Naval Kishore Press, Lucknow, was contributed by Prof. Dr. Vasudha Dalmia, University of California, Berkeley.
The Shodhagar, with its major emphasis on Hindi Laghupatrikās (literary little magazines), tries to reflect the linguistic, cultural and regional diversities within the Urdu-Hindi speaking region. Demographically, after the English and Chinese speaking communities, the Urdu-Hindi region is the third most important social-cultural zone in the world. At the same time, it is also home to one of the oldest continuous river-valley civilizations of the world. Equally, it is home to one of the oldest discontents from civilization that found its expression in different spheres of life including art, religion, culture and literature.
Modern Urdu and Hindi, as literary languages with different scripts (Perso-Arabic and Devanagari), were constructed during the rise and establishment of the printing press in South Asia. Different dialects were melted together in the process to produce standard Urdu and Hindi, two languages for literary, scientific and administrative purposes. Oral and manuscript traditions were slowly overwhelmed by the arrival of printed literature. This phase continued until the revival of the oral phase in its new avatar, i.e. radio, film, television and internet in the 20th century. This is rapidly paving the way for weakening of the boundaries produced by different script systems during the era of printing press.
The Shodhagar contains the voices in the new form of written and spoken ‘Hindi’, produced in a particular socio-historical context, interacting and co-existing simultaneously with other media, for example, oral traditions, printing press, film, television and literary web-magazines etc. Secondly, it interacts at various levels with other linguistic groups and communities.
The printed literature produced in the newly constructed language happens to be the most recent phase of more than three thousand years of literatures from South Asia: the great imaginary archive of unforgettable utterances by the peoples of this region in hundreds of languages.
In order to have a general overview, we have categorized the different zones of interaction, very often overlapping, under four different groups.
(i) at the global-regional level with English in India, Pakistan and the West, with Dutch in Surinam in South America, with French in Mauritius and with Fijian in the Fiji Islands of the Pacific Ocean etc.
(ii) at the South Asian level with other language-regions within South Asia, for example with Tamil, Malayalam, Bangla, Punjabi, Gujarati, Balochi, Seraiki and Pashto etc.
(iii) within the Urdu-Hindi region with the ‘dialects’, e.g. with Braj, Chhattisgarhi, Avadhi etc.
(iv) finally, at the societal level, with Bhili, Mundari, Khasi or Andamanese etc., i.e. languages belonging to more egalitarian social systems.
A sizeable number of authors writing in different languages simultaneously, i.e. in Hindi, Urdu, Panjabi, Rajasthani or Maithili, makes it clear that the language/dialect-boundaries in modern sense are recent constructs. In northern South Asia language/dialect-boundaries shown on the political and administrative maps are often misleading. Historically, the necessity of interaction and its changing patterns were so overlapping that the boundaries are in fact more flowing transitional zones between two "core-areas" than sharp dividing lines between two separate language zones. Lamentably, rapid expansion and imposition of the new norms of standardised Urdu and Hindi towards "peripheral" dialects and languages led to their assilimation, distortion or outright disappearances.
The Shodhagar endeavours to represent the historical and contemporary changes in the literary worlds which are expressions of the cultural life of different social hierarchies and formations within the boundaries of the Urdu-Hindi linguistic zone. It reflects a variety of social and geographical landscapes, ranging from non-mainstream social institutions of the lower Himalayas and Himachal Pradesh to the deserts of Rajasthan, from the tribal worlds of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to the old centres of civilization of the Indo-Gangetic river plains; from the 19th century indentured labour migrations to the regions and islands of the West Indies, Surinam, Mauritius and Fiji to the Urdu-Hindi speaking diasporas in the Western megalopolises of today.
Not unlike many other languages Urdu-Hindi function/s as language/s of hegemony and counter-hegemony at the same time and of various other shades in between. However, the worlds of Hindi Laghupatrikās reflect more often the subaltern aspirations and struggle for recognition, autonomy and independence against pre-modern and modern hierarchies of South Asia. Almost all significant trends, ideas and protest movements of women, peasants, dalits, adivasis, religious and linguistic minorities, ecological discourses and diaspora experiences of various phases and different expressions thereof, have been represented here.
The whole collection, from its conception up to its realization as Shodhagar, would have been unthinkable without the commitment and the groundwork undertaken by the renowned Hindi literary critic and writer Karmendu Shishir and his team of close friends and well-wishers in India and Germany. We hope that the archive will prove to be a valuable reference and research apparatus for students and scholars of Modern South Asia.
The homepage of Karmendu Shishir Shodhagar website is open for suggestions and ideas from the community of scholars and students and those interested in Modern South Asian Studies.
With best compliments,
Divyaraj Amiya, M. Phil.
Dr. Martin Christof-Füchsle
Rainer Kimmig, M. A.
Ajmal Kamal, B.Sc., MBA (Karachi, Pakistan)
Raghib Akhtar, M. Phil. (Delhi, India)
Sanjay Joshi, M. A. (Delhi, India)
Neeti Singh, M. Phil.
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15 December 2015, University of Tuebingen, Germany.