Hindi literature is broadly divided into four prominent forms or styles, being Bhakti (devotional – Kabir, Raskhan); Shringar (beauty – Keshav, Bihari); Veer-Gatha (extolling brave warriors); and Adhunik (modern).
Medieval Hindi literature is marked by the influence of Bhakti movement and the composition of long, epic poems. It was not written in the current dialect but in other Hindi languages, particularly in Avadhi and Braj Bhasha, but later also in Khariboli. During the British Raj, Hindustani became the prestige dialect. Hindustani with heavily Sanskritized vocabulary or Sahityik Hindi (Literary Hindi) was popularized by the writings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Bhartendu Harishchandra and others. The rising numbers of newspapers and magazines made Hindustani popular among the educated people. Chandrakanta, written by Devaki Nandan Khatri, is considered the first authentic work of prose in modern Hindi. The person who brought realism in the Hindi prose literature was Munshi Premchand, who is considered as the most revered figure in the world of Hindi fiction and progressive movement.
The Dwivedi Yug (“Age of Dwivedi”) in Hindi literature lasted from 1900 to 1918. It is named after Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi, who played a major role in establishing the Modern Hindi language in poetry and broadening the acceptable subjects of Hindi poetry from the traditional ones of religion and romantic love.
In the 20th century, Hindi literature saw a romantic upsurge. This is known as Chhayavaad (shadowism) and the literary figures belonging to this school are known as Chhayavaadi. Jaishankar Prasad, Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Mahadevi Varma and Sumitranandan Pant, are the four major Chhayavaadi poets.
Uttar Adhunik is the post-modernist period of Hindi literature, marked by a questioning of early trends that copied the West as well as the excessive ornamentation of the Chhayavaadi movement, and by a return to simple language and natural themes.