From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The earliest works of Indian literature were orally transmitted. Sanskrit literature begins with the Rig Veda a collection of sacred hymns dating to the period 1500–1200 BCE. The Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata appeared towards the end of the first millennium BCE. Classical Sanskrit literature flourished in the first few centuries of the first millennium CE, as did the Tamil Sangam literature, and the Pāli Canon.
In the medieval period, literature in Kannada and Telugu appears in the 9th and 11th centuries respectively. Later, literature in Marathi, Bengali, various dialects of Hindi, Persian and Urdu began to appear as well. Early in the 20th century, Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore became India's first Nobel laureate. In contemporary Indian literature, there are two major literary awards; these are the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship and the Jnanpith Award. Seven Jnanpith awards each have been awarded in Hindi and Kannada, followed by five in Bengali, four in Malayalam and three in Gujurati,Marathi and Urdu.