Essayists are the writers who produce essays. Essays are the literary pieces of work in which the author presents their own arguments and reflections. Since essays convey the author’s individual views, they make for compelling and interesting reading. Essayists may write on a number of topics like politics, education, social issues, literary criticisms, environment, human rights, etc. Even though essays are primarily written in prose, essayists like Alexander Pope have taken the liberty to compose their essays in verse. Essayists, like writers of other genres, do not always believe in conforming to traditions. John Locke was one such essayist who chose to ignore the brevity element in composing his voluminous essays like ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’. The French author Michel de Montaigne who lived during the 16th century is often hailed as the first essayist, though he himself claimed to have been influenced by the writings of Plutarch and Seneca. Essayists like Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson flourished during the Age of Enlightenment when essays became the preferred literary form for convincing people of their position. Scroll down further for more information on famous essayists from all over the world who enriched literature with their writings.
India is renowned as one of the richest culture and literary heritages in the world. Rationally, a considerable portion of the huge reputation that our country enjoys should be accredited to our scholarly essayists and poets. Had these Indian essayists not underlined the ancient Indian literature through their work, the nation would have never got such widespread recognition on the global front!
7. Hazari Prasad Dwivedi (August 19, 1907 – May 19, 1979)
Born in Ballia District of Uttar Pradesh, Hazari Prasad Dwivedi was everything from a leading essayist and novelist to a literary historian and critic. He penned a huge collection of essays, novels, and also accumulated a wealth of research on Hindi literature and its historical outlines. Hazari had not only mastered Hindi and Sanskrit, but was also well-versed in several other languages such as Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi and Pali.
6. Ramavriksha Benipuri (1899–1968)
Born in Benipur village of Muzaffarpur district in the state of Bihar, Ramavriksha Benipuri was one of the most well-known Hindi writers of his time. He was also a leading journalist of Hindi Literature and is still recognized for spreading the sentiment of nationalism and independence during the British rule.
Benipuri founded many revolutionary newspapers like ‘Yuvak’ and played an active role in the great Indian freedom movement. He was a creative writer of big essays and stories like ‘Amipure,’ a touching story of a famous courtesan who adopted Buddhism after seeing Buddha.
5. Rahul Sankrityayan (April 9, 1893 – April 14, 1963)
Famous as the creator of Hindi travel literature, Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan was an extensively-traveled Indian Scholar. He devoted over 45 years of his life to traveling away from home and shared his experience with people in several languages including Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada and several foreign languages such as French, Arabic, Russian and Persian.
Sankrityayan was an Indian nationalist too and was arrested and jailed several times for making anti-English speeches. Eventually, he decided to follow Marxist Socialism and ended up becoming a Buddhist monk. Both a polyglot and a polymath, Rahul Sankrityayan is recognized as Mahapandit or the ‘Greatest Scholar’ for his vast wisdom and versatility.
4. Amrita Pritam (August 31, 1919 – October 31, 2005)
A Punjabi by origin, Amrita was the first prominent Indian essayist, novelist and poet. She was also recognized as an outstanding poet and writer of the Punjabi language from the 20th century. Amrita’s career as an essayist and poet spanned more than six glorious decades wherein she gave the Indian literature over a hundred books on essays, fiction, biographies and poetry. Amrita Pritam was probably the only writer from India who was, and is still, equally admired by people from India and Pakistan!
Also Read: Top 10 Hindi Novelists of All Time
3. Khushwant Singh (2 February 1915)
A classical essayist with a great sense of humor, an abiding bent towards poetry and an incisive taste of secularism, Khushwant Singh is widely renowned for having a bold approach when it comes to jotting down human feelings in black and white. Throughout his career as editor in 70s and 80s, he served many news and literary magazines and broadsheet newspapers.
Singh has a number of highly admired as well as criticized literary masterpieces associated with his name; Train to Pakistan, We Indians, The Sikhs Today, I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale and Truth and his autobiography Love and a Little Malice to name a few. Khushwant Singh is a recipient of several honors and awards including Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest Indian civil award.
2. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (June 27, 1838 – April 8, 1894)
A Bengali essayist, poet, novelist and journalist, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was the scholarly composer of Vande Mataram, the national song of India. In his career as an essayist, he wrote 13 novels and many other scientific, satirical, serio-comic, critical and serious treaties in Bengali. Later, most of his literary work was translated into English and several Indian regional languages.
1. Prem Chand (31 July 1880 – 8 October 1936)
The founder of the modern Indian literature, Premchand’s original name was Dhanpat Rai Srivastava and was extremely popular as Munshi Premchand in the literary world. He is still recognized for his unparalleled contribution to the enormously vast Indian literature through his writings in Urdu and Hindi languages. Later, widely-liked masterpieces like Kafan, Nirmala and Karmabhoomi made almost all major Hindi writers title this legendary essayist from India as “Upanyas Samrat”.
Also Read: Top 10 Larger than Life Writings of Munshi Premchand
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