Strategy for Hindi Literature Optional for UPSC

Among the optional subjects offered by the UPSC for the civil services mains exam, there is about 20 literature of languages. One among them is Hindi, one of the 22 official languages of India. Hindi is the most popular language optional among UPSC candidates. It has also seen good success rate with many toppers in the past couple of exams securing good marks in the Hindi literature optional subject. In this article, we discuss the Hindi Literature optional subject – how to prepare, syllabus, toppers’ information, past performance, etc.

How many take Hindi Literature optional?

The number of candidates who take up Hindi literature optional hovers around the 400 on an average. The following table gives you the number of people who appeared and cleared the IAS exam with Hindi optional.

Hindi Literature Optional Success Rate

Year No. of candidates appeared No. of candidates cleared Success Rate (%)
2017 267 19 7.1
2016 974 56 5.7
2015 428 12 2.8
2014 407 22 5.4
2013 284 12 4.2
2012 505 59 11.7
2011 406 53 13.1
2010 955 37 3.9

In the next table, we take a look at a few toppers who secured good ranks in the UPSC exam with the Hindi Literature optional.

Hindi Optional Toppers

Name Year Rank
Nishant Jain 2014 13
Pavan Agrawal 2014 49
Ganga Singh Rajpurohit 2016 33
Keshav Kumar 2016 222
Ratan Deep Gupta 2017 767
Asheesh Kumar 2017 817
Pradeep Kumar Dwivedi 2018 74

Hindi Literature Optional Pros and Cons

As is the case with any optional subject, the Hindi literature optional also has its share of benefits and drawbacks for the UPSC mains. They are mentioned below. If you are in doubt about which optional subject to choose, you should go through the pros and cons of the optionals you are considering, and then evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses before coming to a decision. Choose wisely as the optional papers account for 500 marks of your final tally.

Hindi Literature Optional Pros

  • If you are a graduate or postgraduate in Hindi, or have a great interest in the language and are comfortable writing in it, you should definitely consider Hindi as an optional. This is because it is considered scoring if you are good at it. People wonder how a language can be scoring, but this is precisely the point in Hindi or English literature. If you can write well and love the subject, you can prepare thoroughly as the syllabus is limited and static.
  • There is no limit to how well you can write answers here. The better your command over the language, the more chances are there of scoring pretty good marks with minimum effort. The trick here is that for candidates who love to read and write and love writing for its own sake, the hard work required of this exam will look like a cakewalk. It would also be interesting and fun to read the subject.
  • Having a language like Hindi for your optional can definitely take the steam of your GS preparation. This will help you beat stress (which is most likely to occur) during your IAS preparation.
  • You will have to face less competition in Hindi optional unlike some of the more popular subjects like pub ad or geography.
  • You can finish the subject in 3 – 4 months.
  • If your medium of the mains written exam is Hindi,

Hindi Literature Optional Cons

  • Go for this subject only if you are comfortable reading and writing in it. Writing, especially, should be fast enough to finish the paper, without which you cannot hope to get decent marks.
  • The paper is subjective, unlike the sciences or engineering subjects.
  • Coaching and a good test series are difficult to come by in the Hindi optional.
  • There is virtually no overlap with the general studies papers.

Hindi Literature UPSC Syllabus

Let us take a look at the syllabus for Hindi Literature for the UPSC mains exam.

There are two optional papers in the UPSC exam pattern. Both the papers are for a total of 250 marks making the total optional marks to 500.

Download the Hindi Literature syllabus PDF:-Download PDF Here

Hindi Literature UPSC Strategy

There are two papers in the UPSC mains pattern. The schema of the papers are given below:

Paper A

First section:

History of Hindi language and Nagari script

Second section:

History of Hindi literature

Paper B

First section:


Second section:


General tips for Hindi Literature optional

  • It is important to cover the entire syllabus.
  • Read the texts in its original fully.
  • About the languages (Braj, Awadhi, Apbhransh, etc.) section, you don’t have to learn everything by rote. This is a very scoring portion of the syllabus. With minimum effort, you can rake in maximum marks here. You only have to learn 6 – 7 points under each. There is no time to write entire histories in the exam either. But, study this portion very well since every year, many questions are asked from this section.
  • The topics Rajbhasha, Rashtrabhasha, Sampark Bhasha, should be learnt thoroughly.
  • Take care to avoid grammatical errors in your answers.
  • Also, take care to keep the language simple and clear. There is no need for flowery language. Keep it simple! Though, it shouldn’t be colloquial.
  • To develop the right kind of language fit for writing answers, you have to practice lots of questions.
  • The history of Hindi literature section is very important and should be dealt with thoroughly. This will aid you paper I and II also.

In this section, you can make notes regarding the timeline of Hindi literature, an example is given below. You can make similar notes for other topics like important poets, etc.

Time Period (CE) Name Alternate Name
1000 – 1350 Aadi Kal Veergatha Kal
1350 – 1650 Purvamadhyam Kal Bhakti Kal
1650 – 1850 Uttarmadhyam Kal Reeti Kal
1850 – Present Adhunik Kal Gadya Kal
  • In your answers, you should write quotations and examples of various poets and writers. This will help you annotate points and arguments in the answers.
  • The examples should be relevant and apt for the context.
  • You can also talk about what other writers or critics talked about a particular piece of writing.
  • When you study about various writers and poets, you should make short notes on each of them. For instance, what Kabir talked about Bhakti, what Premchand wrote about certain things, etc. This will help in revision and also help you compare different writers/poets.

As an example, we are giving you a table of the various poets/writers and their chief compositions from each time period of Hindi literature:

Aadi Kal

Poet Remark Chief Works
Amir Khusro (1253 – 1325) First poet of Khari Boli
  • Khaliq Bari
  • Haalat e Kanhaiya
  • Nazraan e Hind
Chand Bardai (1149 – 1192) Composer of the first Mahakaavya in Hindi Prithviraj Raso
Vidyapati (1360 – 1448) “Maithil Kokil”
  • Padaavali
  • Keertilata
  • Keertipataaka
Narpati Naalha Bisaldev Raso
Jagnik Parmal Raso

Bhakti Kal

Kabir (1398 – 1518) Bijak – Saakhi, Sabad, Ramaini
Surdas (1483 – 1563) Father of Vatsalya Ras
  • Sursagar
  • Sursaravali
  • Sahitya Lahari
Malik Muhammad Jayasi Poet of the Sufi order
  • Padmavat
  • Akhravat
  • Aakhri Kalaam
  • Narsi Ji Ka Mayra
  • Geet Govind Teeka
  • Raag Govind
  • Raag Sorath Ke Pad
  • Rahim Dohavali
  • Rahim Soratha
  • Barvai Nayika
Raidas Guru of Meeraba, his work is included in the Guru Granth Sahib
  • Premvatika
  • Sujan Raskhan
Tulsidas Most important
  • Ram Charit Manas
  • Barvai Ramayan
  • Ram Lalla Nachhau
  • Dohavali
  • Kavitavali
  • Geetavali
  • Shrikrishna Geetavali
  • Parvatimangal
  • Jankimangal
  • Vairagya Sandeepani
  • Vinay Patrika

Similarly, you can create tables for the other time periods as well and make revision a lot easier.

  • You can also talk about the relevance of certain topics in the current times. For example, consider the following verse by Kabir:

“Guru Gobind dou khade, Kaake laagun paanye
Balihaari Guru aapne Gobind deeyo bataaye”

Here, you can write the ‘Sandarb’, ‘Prasang’, ‘Vishesh’ and its ‘Vyakhya’. Then you talk about its style, Alankar, Chhand (metre), etc. After that, you should relate it to contemporary times. In this verse, Saint Kabir equates a teacher to Gobind (God). How is this couplet relevant today when education has become an industry and when there are many incidents in society when teachers and Gurus are accused of many wrongdoings?

  • Another example, in the case of questions, if you are asked about the Dalit-consciousness of Premchand, you can talk about the current socio-political climate also regarding Dalits. This will show the examiner that you have read not just Hindi literature, but can also articulate viewpoints in a holistic manner.
  • Enrol for mock test series since it is very important for understanding the demands of time management in the IAS mains exam. The feedback that you receive after the mock tests will help you immensely because whatever mistakes you committed or shortcomings you showcased in these practice mock tests, it is natural that you will not repeat those mistakes.

Hindi Literature Optional Books for UPSC

  • NCERT Class XI – Sahitya Shastra Parichay
  • Hindi Sahitya Ka Saral Itihas – Dr. Vishwanath Tripathi
  • Hindi Sahitya Ka Itihas – Dr. Nagendra
  • Hindi Bhasha – Dr. Hardev Bahri
  • Chhayavad – Dr. Namvar Singh
  • Kabir – Hazari Prasad Dwivedi
  • Kavita Ke Naye Pratiman – Dr. Namvar Singh
  • Hindi Sahitya Aur Samvedna Ka Vikas – Dr. Ramswaroop Chaturvedi

Related Links:


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