Maharashtra is situated on a plateau where a large number of local dialects were in use. Marathi grew out of these these local dialects. The Portuguese missionaries started using Marathi for preaching their gospel.
The earliest Marathi poetry and prose is by Saint Jnaneshwar (Gyaneshwar) who lived in the thirteenth century. He wrote a long commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. He was the one who started the kirtan tradition in Maharashtra. He was followed by Namdev (l 270- 1350), Gora, Sena and Janabai. All these sang and popularised the Marathi language. Their songs are sung even today by the Verkari pilgrirns on their way to Pandharpur pilgrimage. Almost two centuries later, Eknath (l 533-99) came on the scene. He wrote the commentaries on the Ramayana and the Bhagawat Purana. His songs are very popular all over Maharashtra.
Then came Tukarama (1598-1650). He is supposed to be the greatest Bhakti poet of them all. Ramdas (1608-81), who was the guru of Shivaji, is the last of these hymn writers. He was the devotee of Rama. He inspired Shivaji. The closing years of the nineteenth century saw an upsurge in the Marathi literature. It was a nationalist movement that made Marathi prose popular and prominent. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (l 857-1920) started his Journal Kesari in Marathi. This helped the growth of Marathi literature. But the role of Keshav Sut and V.S. Chiplunkar was no less. Hari Narayan Apte and Agarkar wrote novels which became very popular. All these prose writers made great contribution to the development of Marathi literature. The name of H.G Salgaokar is remembered for writing inspirational poetry. Besides, the names of M.G. Ranade, K.T. Telang, G.T. Madholkar (poet and novelist) are no less important.