Sanskrit literature

Sanskrit literature

Overview
Literature
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

 in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

begins with the Vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

, and continues with the Sanskrit Epics of Iron Age India
Iron Age India
Iron Age India, the Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent, succeeds the Late Harappan culture, also known as the last phase of the Indus Valley Tradition...

; the golden age of Classical Sanskrit literature dates to late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 (roughly the 3rd to 8th centuries AD). Literary production saw a late bloom in the 11th century before declining after 1100 AD. There are contemporary efforts towards revival
Sanskrit revival
Sanskrit revival is the accumulation of attempts at reviving the Sanskrit language that have been undertaken.-History:In 1891 there was organized activity among the Theosophists in India promoting and participating in the revival of Sanskrit...

, with events like the "All-India Sanskrit Festival" (since 2002) holding composition contests.

Given its extensive use in religious literature, primarily in Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, and the fact that most modern Indian languages
Languages of India
The languages of India belong to several language families, the major ones being the Indo-European languages—Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian languages...

 have been directly derived from or strongly influenced by Sanskrit, the language and its literature is of great importance in Indian culture
Culture of India
India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

 akin to that of Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 in European culture
Culture of Europe
The culture of Europe might better be described as a series of overlapping cultures. Whether it is a question of North as opposed to South; West as opposed to East; Orthodoxism as opposed to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism as opposed to Secularism; many have claimed to identify cultural...

.
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Encyclopedia
Literature
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

 in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

begins with the Vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

, and continues with the Sanskrit Epics of Iron Age India
Iron Age India
Iron Age India, the Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent, succeeds the Late Harappan culture, also known as the last phase of the Indus Valley Tradition...

; the golden age of Classical Sanskrit literature dates to late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 (roughly the 3rd to 8th centuries AD). Literary production saw a late bloom in the 11th century before declining after 1100 AD. There are contemporary efforts towards revival
Sanskrit revival
Sanskrit revival is the accumulation of attempts at reviving the Sanskrit language that have been undertaken.-History:In 1891 there was organized activity among the Theosophists in India promoting and participating in the revival of Sanskrit...

, with events like the "All-India Sanskrit Festival" (since 2002) holding composition contests.

Given its extensive use in religious literature, primarily in Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, and the fact that most modern Indian languages
Languages of India
The languages of India belong to several language families, the major ones being the Indo-European languages—Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian languages...

 have been directly derived from or strongly influenced by Sanskrit, the language and its literature is of great importance in Indian culture
Culture of India
India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

 akin to that of Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 in European culture
Culture of Europe
The culture of Europe might better be described as a series of overlapping cultures. Whether it is a question of North as opposed to South; West as opposed to East; Orthodoxism as opposed to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism as opposed to Secularism; many have claimed to identify cultural...

. Some Sanskrit literature such as the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali and the Upanishads were translated into Arabic and Persian. The Panchatantra was also translated into Persian.

The Vedas



Composed between approximately 1500 BC and 600 BC (the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age) in pre-classical Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit is an old Indo-Aryan language. It is an archaic form of Sanskrit, an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It is closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language...

, Vedic literature forms the basis for the further development of Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

. There are four Vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

 - Rig
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

, Yajur
Yajurveda
The Yajurveda, a tatpurusha compound of "sacrificial formula', + ) is the third of the four canonical texts of Hinduism, the Vedas. By some, it is estimated to have been composed between 1400 and 1000 BC, the Yajurveda 'Samhita', or 'compilation', contains the liturgy needed to perform the...

, Sāma
Samaveda
The Sama veda , is second of the four Vedas, the ancient core Hindu scriptures. Its earliest parts are believed to date from 1700 BC and it ranks next in sanctity and liturgical importance to the Rigveda...

 and Atharva
Atharvaveda
The Atharvaveda is a sacred text of Hinduism and one of the four Vedas, often called the "fourth Veda"....

, each with a main Samhita
Samhita
Samhita may refer to"*the basic metrical text of each of the Vedas**specifically, these texts with sandhi applied *post-Vedic texts known as Samhitas:** Ashtavakra Gita...

 and a number of circum-vedic genres, including Brahmanas, Aranyaka
Aranyaka
The Aranyakas are part of the Hindu śruti, the four Vedas; they were composed in late Vedic Sanskrit typical of the Brahmanas and early Upanishads; indeed, they frequently form part of either the Brahmanas or the Upanishads....

s,Vedang i.e. Grhyasutras and Shrautasutras and Dharmasutras. The main period of Vedic literary activity falls into ca. the 9th to 7th centuries when the various shakha
Shakha
A shakha , is a Hindu theological school that specializes in learning certain Vedic texts, or else the traditional texts followed by such a school. An individual follower of a particular school or recension is called a ...

s (schools) compiled and memorized their respective corpora.

The older Upanishads (BAU, ChU, JUB
Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana
The Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana or the Talavakara Upanishad Brahmana is a Vedic text associated with the Jaiminiya or the Talavakara shakha of the Samaveda. It is considered as an Aranyaka. A part of this text forms the Kena Upanishad...

, KathU
Katha
Katha may refer to:* The Sanskrit for "speech, narration, story, fable", see Katha * The Kaṭha or Caraka-Katha school of the Black Yajurveda** Katha Upanishad, a Hindu text associated with the Katha school...

, MaitrU) belong to the Vedic period, but the larger part of the Muktika canon is post-Vedic. The Aranyakas form part of both the Brahmana and Upanishad corpus.

Sutra literature


Continuing the tradition of the late Vedic Shrautasutra literature, Late Iron Age scholarship (ca. 500 to 100 BCE) organized knowledge into Sutra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

 treatises, including the Vedanga
Vedanga
The Vedanga are six auxiliary disciplines traditionally associated with the study and understanding of the Vedas.#Shiksha : phonetics, phonology and morphophonology #Kalpa : ritual#Vyakarana : grammar...

 and the religious or philosophical Brahma Sutras
Brahma Sutras
The Brahma sūtras , also known as Vedānta Sūtras , are one of the three canonical texts of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy. A thorough study of Vedānta requires a close examination of these three texts, known in Sanskrit as the Prasthanatrayi, or the three starting points...

, Yoga Sutras, Nyaya Sutras
Nyaya Sutras
The Nyāya Sūtras are an ancient Indian text on of philosophy composed by ' . The sutras contain five chapters, each with two sections...

.

In the Vedanga disciplines of grammar
Vyakarana
The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, ...

 and phonetics
Shiksha
Shiksha is one of the six Vedangas, treating the traditional Hindu science of phonetics and phonology of Sanskrit.Its aim is the teaching of the correct pronunciation of the Vedic hymns and mantras...

, no author had greater influence than with his (ca. 5th century BC). In the tradition of Sutra literature exposing the full grammar of Sanskrit in extreme brevity, Panini's brilliance lies in the nature of his work of a prescriptive generative grammar
Generative grammar
In theoretical linguistics, generative grammar refers to a particular approach to the study of syntax. A generative grammar of a language attempts to give a set of rules that will correctly predict which combinations of words will form grammatical sentences...

, involving metarules, transformation
Transformation (mathematics)
In mathematics, a transformation could be any function mapping a set X on to another set or on to itself. However, often the set X has some additional algebraic or geometric structure and the term "transformation" refers to a function from X to itself that preserves this structure.Examples include...

s and recursion
Recursion
Recursion is the process of repeating items in a self-similar way. For instance, when the surfaces of two mirrors are exactly parallel with each other the nested images that occur are a form of infinite recursion. The term has a variety of meanings specific to a variety of disciplines ranging from...

. Being prescriptive for all later grammatical works, such as Patanjali
Patañjali
Patañjali is the compiler of the Yoga Sūtras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. According to tradition, the same Patañjali was also the author of the Mahābhāṣya, a commentary on Kātyāyana's vārttikas on Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī as well as an unspecified work of medicine .In...

's , 's grammar effectively fixed the grammar of Classical Sanskrit. The Backus-Naur Form or BNF grammars used to describe modern programming languages have significant similarities with Panini's grammar rules.

The Epics


The period between approximately the 6th to 1st centuries BC saw the composition and redaction of the two great epics, the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

and the Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

, with subsequent redaction progressing down to the 4th century AD. They are known as itihasa
Itihasa
Itihasa as defined by Amarakosha refers to purvavritta, i.e. events of the past. In the Vedic age, those portions of the Brahmanas which narrated events of bygone days were known as itihasa and had some ritualistic importance...

, or "that which occurred".

The Mahabharata




The Mahabharata (Great Bharata) is one of the longest poetic works in the world. While it is clearly a poetic epic, it contains large tracts of Hindu mythology
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

, philosophy
Indian philosophy
India has a rich and diverse philosophical tradition dating back to ancient times. According to Radhakrishnan, the earlier Upanisads constitute "...the earliest philosophical compositions of the world."...

 and religious tracts. Traditionally, authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to the sage Vyasa
Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

.According to the Adi-parva of the Mahabharata (81, 101-102), the text was originally 8,800 verses when it was composed by Vyasa and was known as the Jaya (Victory), which later became 24,000 verses in the Bharata recited by Vaisampayana.

The broad sweep of the story of the Mahabharata chronicles the story of the conflict between two families for control of Hastinapur, a city in Ancient India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.

The impact of the Mahabharata on India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Hinduism cannot be stressed enough. Having been molded by Indian culture, it has in turn molded the development of Indian culture. Thousands of later writers would draw freely from the story and sub-stories of the Mahabharata.

The Ramayana



While not as long as the Mahabharata, the Ramayana is still twice as long as the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

and Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

put together. Traditionally, the authorship is attribued to the Hindu sage Valmiki, who is referred to as Adikavi, or "first poet." Valmiki in the Ramayana introduced the Anushtubh meter for the first time.
Like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana was also handed down orally and evolved through several centuries before being transferred into writing. It includes tales that form the basis for modern Hindu festivals and even contains a description of the same marriage practice still observed in contemporary times by people of Hindu persuasion.

The story deals with Prince Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

 (Hindi: Rām), his exile and the abduction of his wife by the Rakshasa
Rakshasa
A Rakshasa or alternatively rakshas, is a race of mythological humanoid beings or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist religion...

 king Ravana
Ravana
' is the primary antagonist character of the Hindu legend, the Ramayana; who is the great king of Lanka. In the classic text, he is mainly depicted negatively, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita, to claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister...

, and the Lanka
Lanka
Sri Lanka is the name given in Hindu mythology to the island fortress capital of the legendary king Ravana in the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata...

n war. Similar to the Mahabharata, the Ramayana also has several full-fledged stories appearing as sub-plots.

The Ramayana has also played a similar and equally important role in the development of Indian culture as the Mahabharata.

The Ramayana is also extant in Ramayana: Southeast Asian versions

Classical Sanskrit literature


The classical period of Sanskrit literature dates to the Gupta period and the successive pre-Islamic Middle kingdoms of India
Middle kingdoms of India
Middle kingdoms of India refers to the political entities in India from the 3rd century BC after the decline of the Maurya Empire, and the corresponding rise of the Satavahana dynasty, beginning with Simuka, from 230 BC...

, spanning roughly the 3rd to 8th centuries CE.

Drama



Drama as a distinct genre of Sanskrit literature emerges in the final centuries BC, influenced partly by Vedic mythology
Vedic mythology
Vedic mythology refers to the mythological aspects of the historical Vedic religion and Vedic literature, most notably alluded to in the hymns of the Rigveda...

 and partly by Hellenistic drama. It reaches its peak between the 4th and 7th centuries before declining together with Sanskrit literature as a whole.

Famous Sanskrit dramatists include Śhudraka, Bhasa
Bhasa
Bhāsa is one of the earliest and most celebrated Indian playwrights in Sanskrit. However, very little is known about him.Kālidāsa in the introduction to his first play Malavikagnimitram writes -...

, Asvaghosa
Asvaghosa
' was an Indian philosopher-poet, born in Saketa in northern India to a Brahmin family. He is believed to have been the first Sanskrit dramatist, and is considered the greatest Indian poet prior to Kālidāsa. He was the most famous in a group of Buddhist court writers, whose epics rivaled the...

 and Kālidāsa
Kalidasa
Kālidāsa was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language...

. Though numerous plays written by these playwrights are still available, little is known about the authors themselves.

One of the earliest known Sanskrit plays is the Mrichakatika, thought to have been composed by Śhudraka in the 2nd century BC. The Natya Shastra (ca. 2nd century AD, literally "Scripture of Dance," though it sometimes translated as "Science of Theatre'") is a keystone work in Sanskrit literature on the subject of stagecraft. Bhasa
Bhasa
Bhāsa is one of the earliest and most celebrated Indian playwrights in Sanskrit. However, very little is known about him.Kālidāsa in the introduction to his first play Malavikagnimitram writes -...

 and Kālidāsa
Kalidasa
Kālidāsa was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language...

 are major early authors of the first centuries AD, Kālidāsa qualifying easily as the greatest poet and playwright in Sanskrit He deals primarily with famous Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 legends and themes; three famous plays by Kālidāsa are Vikramōrvaśīyam
Vikramorvasiyam
Vikramōrvaśīyam is a Sanskrit play by medieval Indian poet Kalidasa who fluorished in the 4th Century CE, on the Vedic love story of king Pururavas and celestial nymph Urvashi...

(Vikrama and Urvashi), Mālavikāgnimitram
Malavikagnimitram
Mālavikāgnimitram is a Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. It is his first play.The play tells the story of the love of King Agnimitra, the Shunga king of Vidisha , for the beautiful hand-maiden of his chief queen. He falls in love with the picture of an exiled servant girl named Mālavikā...

(Malavika and Agnimitra), and the play that he is most known for: Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānashākuntala or Abhijñānaśākuntalam) , is a well-known Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. Its date is uncertain, but Kalidasa is often placed in the period between the 1st century BCE and 4th century CE....

(The Recognition of Shakuntala).

Late (post 6th century) dramatists include Dandin
Dandin
Dandin can refer to:* Daṇḍin, 6th-7th century Sanskrit writer* The Dandin Group, a wireless internet thinktank* Dandin the Sword Carrier, a character appearing in Mariel of Redwall and The Bellmaker, two books from the fictional Redwall series by Brian Jacques....

 and Sriharsha. The only surviving ancient Sanskrit drama theatre is Koodiyattam
Koodiyattam
Koodiyattam or Kutiyattam is a form of Sanskrit theatre traditionally performed in the state of Kerala, India. Performed in the Sanskrit language in Hindu temples, it is believed to be 2,000 years old...

. Which is being preserved in Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

 by the Chakyar
Chakyar
Chakyar is a Brahmin caste coming under the Ambalavasi community of Hindus in the Kerala state of South India. The women in this caste are called Illotammas....

 community.

Scholarly treatises


The earliest surviving treatise on astrology is the Yavanajataka
Yavanajataka
The Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja is an ancient text in Indian astrology....

 "sayings of the Greeks" (3rd century). Classical Hindu astrology is based on early medieval compilations, notably the
{{Citations missing|date=December 2007}}
{{History of literature2}}
Literature
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

 in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

begins with the Vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

, and continues with the Sanskrit Epics of Iron Age India
Iron Age India
Iron Age India, the Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent, succeeds the Late Harappan culture, also known as the last phase of the Indus Valley Tradition...

; the golden age of Classical Sanskrit literature dates to late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 (roughly the 3rd to 8th centuries AD). Literary production saw a late bloom in the 11th century before declining after 1100 AD. There are contemporary efforts towards revival
Sanskrit revival
Sanskrit revival is the accumulation of attempts at reviving the Sanskrit language that have been undertaken.-History:In 1891 there was organized activity among the Theosophists in India promoting and participating in the revival of Sanskrit...

, with events like the "All-India Sanskrit Festival" (since 2002) holding composition contests.

Given its extensive use in religious literature, primarily in Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, and the fact that most modern Indian languages
Languages of India
The languages of India belong to several language families, the major ones being the Indo-European languages—Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian languages...

 have been directly derived from or strongly influenced by Sanskrit, the language and its literature is of great importance in Indian culture
Culture of India
India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

 akin to that of Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 in European culture
Culture of Europe
The culture of Europe might better be described as a series of overlapping cultures. Whether it is a question of North as opposed to South; West as opposed to East; Orthodoxism as opposed to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism as opposed to Secularism; many have claimed to identify cultural...

. Some Sanskrit literature such as the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali and the Upanishads were translated into Arabic and Persian. The Panchatantra was also translated into Persian.

The Vedas


{{Main|Vedas}}
Composed between approximately 1500 BC and 600 BC (the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age) in pre-classical Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit is an old Indo-Aryan language. It is an archaic form of Sanskrit, an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It is closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language...

, Vedic literature forms the basis for the further development of Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

. There are four Vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

 - Rig
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

, Yajur
Yajurveda
The Yajurveda, a tatpurusha compound of "sacrificial formula', + ) is the third of the four canonical texts of Hinduism, the Vedas. By some, it is estimated to have been composed between 1400 and 1000 BC, the Yajurveda 'Samhita', or 'compilation', contains the liturgy needed to perform the...

, Sāma
Samaveda
The Sama veda , is second of the four Vedas, the ancient core Hindu scriptures. Its earliest parts are believed to date from 1700 BC and it ranks next in sanctity and liturgical importance to the Rigveda...

 and Atharva
Atharvaveda
The Atharvaveda is a sacred text of Hinduism and one of the four Vedas, often called the "fourth Veda"....

, each with a main Samhita
Samhita
Samhita may refer to"*the basic metrical text of each of the Vedas**specifically, these texts with sandhi applied *post-Vedic texts known as Samhitas:** Ashtavakra Gita...

 and a number of circum-vedic genres, including Brahmanas, Aranyaka
Aranyaka
The Aranyakas are part of the Hindu śruti, the four Vedas; they were composed in late Vedic Sanskrit typical of the Brahmanas and early Upanishads; indeed, they frequently form part of either the Brahmanas or the Upanishads....

s,Vedang i.e. Grhyasutras and Shrautasutras and Dharmasutras. The main period of Vedic literary activity falls into ca. the 9th to 7th centuries when the various shakha
Shakha
A shakha , is a Hindu theological school that specializes in learning certain Vedic texts, or else the traditional texts followed by such a school. An individual follower of a particular school or recension is called a ...

s (schools) compiled and memorized their respective corpora.

The older Upanishads (BAU, ChU, JUB
Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana
The Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana or the Talavakara Upanishad Brahmana is a Vedic text associated with the Jaiminiya or the Talavakara shakha of the Samaveda. It is considered as an Aranyaka. A part of this text forms the Kena Upanishad...

, KathU
Katha
Katha may refer to:* The Sanskrit for "speech, narration, story, fable", see Katha * The Kaṭha or Caraka-Katha school of the Black Yajurveda** Katha Upanishad, a Hindu text associated with the Katha school...

, MaitrU) belong to the Vedic period, but the larger part of the Muktika canon is post-Vedic. The Aranyakas form part of both the Brahmana and Upanishad corpus.

Sutra literature


{{Main|Sutra}}
{{See also|Shulba Sutras|Kalpa Sutras|Dharma Sutras|Shastra}}
Continuing the tradition of the late Vedic Shrautasutra literature, Late Iron Age scholarship (ca. 500 to 100 BCE) organized knowledge into Sutra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

 treatises, including the Vedanga
Vedanga
The Vedanga are six auxiliary disciplines traditionally associated with the study and understanding of the Vedas.#Shiksha : phonetics, phonology and morphophonology #Kalpa : ritual#Vyakarana : grammar...

 and the religious or philosophical Brahma Sutras
Brahma Sutras
The Brahma sūtras , also known as Vedānta Sūtras , are one of the three canonical texts of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy. A thorough study of Vedānta requires a close examination of these three texts, known in Sanskrit as the Prasthanatrayi, or the three starting points...

, Yoga Sutras, Nyaya Sutras
Nyaya Sutras
The Nyāya Sūtras are an ancient Indian text on of philosophy composed by ' . The sutras contain five chapters, each with two sections...

.

In the Vedanga disciplines of grammar
Vyakarana
The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, ...

 and phonetics
Shiksha
Shiksha is one of the six Vedangas, treating the traditional Hindu science of phonetics and phonology of Sanskrit.Its aim is the teaching of the correct pronunciation of the Vedic hymns and mantras...

, no author had greater influence than {{IAST|Pāṇini}} with his {{IAST|Aṣṭādhyāyī}} (ca. 5th century BC). In the tradition of Sutra literature exposing the full grammar of Sanskrit in extreme brevity, Panini's brilliance lies in the nature of his work of a prescriptive generative grammar
Generative grammar
In theoretical linguistics, generative grammar refers to a particular approach to the study of syntax. A generative grammar of a language attempts to give a set of rules that will correctly predict which combinations of words will form grammatical sentences...

, involving metarules, transformation
Transformation (mathematics)
In mathematics, a transformation could be any function mapping a set X on to another set or on to itself. However, often the set X has some additional algebraic or geometric structure and the term "transformation" refers to a function from X to itself that preserves this structure.Examples include...

s and recursion
Recursion
Recursion is the process of repeating items in a self-similar way. For instance, when the surfaces of two mirrors are exactly parallel with each other the nested images that occur are a form of infinite recursion. The term has a variety of meanings specific to a variety of disciplines ranging from...

. Being prescriptive for all later grammatical works, such as Patanjali
Patañjali
Patañjali is the compiler of the Yoga Sūtras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. According to tradition, the same Patañjali was also the author of the Mahābhāṣya, a commentary on Kātyāyana's vārttikas on Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī as well as an unspecified work of medicine .In...

's {{IAST|Mahābhāṣya}}, {{IAST|Pāṇini}}'s grammar effectively fixed the grammar of Classical Sanskrit. The Backus-Naur Form or BNF grammars used to describe modern programming languages have significant similarities with Panini's grammar rules.

The Epics


{{Main|Indian epic poetry}}

The period between approximately the 6th to 1st centuries BC saw the composition and redaction of the two great epics, the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

and the Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

, with subsequent redaction progressing down to the 4th century AD. They are known as itihasa
Itihasa
Itihasa as defined by Amarakosha refers to purvavritta, i.e. events of the past. In the Vedic age, those portions of the Brahmanas which narrated events of bygone days were known as itihasa and had some ritualistic importance...

, or "that which occurred".

The Mahabharata



{{Main|Mahabharata}}
The Mahabharata (Great Bharata) is one of the longest poetic works in the world. While it is clearly a poetic epic, it contains large tracts of Hindu mythology
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

, philosophy
Indian philosophy
India has a rich and diverse philosophical tradition dating back to ancient times. According to Radhakrishnan, the earlier Upanisads constitute "...the earliest philosophical compositions of the world."...

 and religious tracts. Traditionally, authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to the sage Vyasa
Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

.According to the Adi-parva of the Mahabharata (81, 101-102), the text was originally 8,800 verses when it was composed by Vyasa and was known as the Jaya (Victory), which later became 24,000 verses in the Bharata recited by Vaisampayana.

The broad sweep of the story of the Mahabharata chronicles the story of the conflict between two families for control of Hastinapur, a city in Ancient India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.

The impact of the Mahabharata on India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Hinduism cannot be stressed enough. Having been molded by Indian culture, it has in turn molded the development of Indian culture. Thousands of later writers would draw freely from the story and sub-stories of the Mahabharata.

The Ramayana


{{Main|Ramayana}}
While not as long as the Mahabharata, the Ramayana is still twice as long as the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

and Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

put together. Traditionally, the authorship is attribued to the Hindu sage Valmiki, who is referred to as Adikavi, or "first poet." Valmiki in the Ramayana introduced the Anushtubh meter for the first time.
Like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana was also handed down orally and evolved through several centuries before being transferred into writing. It includes tales that form the basis for modern Hindu festivals and even contains a description of the same marriage practice still observed in contemporary times by people of Hindu persuasion.

The story deals with Prince Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

 (Hindi: Rām), his exile and the abduction of his wife by the Rakshasa
Rakshasa
A Rakshasa or alternatively rakshas, is a race of mythological humanoid beings or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist religion...

 king Ravana
Ravana
' is the primary antagonist character of the Hindu legend, the Ramayana; who is the great king of Lanka. In the classic text, he is mainly depicted negatively, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita, to claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister...

, and the Lanka
Lanka
Sri Lanka is the name given in Hindu mythology to the island fortress capital of the legendary king Ravana in the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata...

n war. Similar to the Mahabharata, the Ramayana also has several full-fledged stories appearing as sub-plots.

The Ramayana has also played a similar and equally important role in the development of Indian culture as the Mahabharata.

The Ramayana is also extant in Ramayana: Southeast Asian versions
{{See also|Hikayat Seri Rama|Kakawin Rāmâyaṇa|Phra Lak Phra Lam|Ramakien|Reamker|Yama Zatdaw}}

Classical Sanskrit literature


The classical period of Sanskrit literature dates to the Gupta period and the successive pre-Islamic Middle kingdoms of India
Middle kingdoms of India
Middle kingdoms of India refers to the political entities in India from the 3rd century BC after the decline of the Maurya Empire, and the corresponding rise of the Satavahana dynasty, beginning with Simuka, from 230 BC...

, spanning roughly the 3rd to 8th centuries CE.

Drama


{{Main|Sanskrit drama}}
Drama as a distinct genre of Sanskrit literature emerges in the final centuries BC, influenced partly by Vedic mythology
Vedic mythology
Vedic mythology refers to the mythological aspects of the historical Vedic religion and Vedic literature, most notably alluded to in the hymns of the Rigveda...

 and partly by Hellenistic drama. It reaches its peak between the 4th and 7th centuries before declining together with Sanskrit literature as a whole.

Famous Sanskrit dramatists include Śhudraka, Bhasa
Bhasa
Bhāsa is one of the earliest and most celebrated Indian playwrights in Sanskrit. However, very little is known about him.Kālidāsa in the introduction to his first play Malavikagnimitram writes -...

, Asvaghosa
Asvaghosa
' was an Indian philosopher-poet, born in Saketa in northern India to a Brahmin family. He is believed to have been the first Sanskrit dramatist, and is considered the greatest Indian poet prior to Kālidāsa. He was the most famous in a group of Buddhist court writers, whose epics rivaled the...

 and Kālidāsa
Kalidasa
Kālidāsa was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language...

. Though numerous plays written by these playwrights are still available, little is known about the authors themselves.

One of the earliest known Sanskrit plays is the Mrichakatika, thought to have been composed by Śhudraka in the 2nd century BC. The Natya Shastra (ca. 2nd century AD, literally "Scripture of Dance," though it sometimes translated as "Science of Theatre'") is a keystone work in Sanskrit literature on the subject of stagecraft. Bhasa
Bhasa
Bhāsa is one of the earliest and most celebrated Indian playwrights in Sanskrit. However, very little is known about him.Kālidāsa in the introduction to his first play Malavikagnimitram writes -...

 and Kālidāsa
Kalidasa
Kālidāsa was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language...

 are major early authors of the first centuries AD, Kālidāsa qualifying easily as the greatest poet and playwright in Sanskrit He deals primarily with famous Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 legends and themes; three famous plays by Kālidāsa are Vikramōrvaśīyam
Vikramorvasiyam
Vikramōrvaśīyam is a Sanskrit play by medieval Indian poet Kalidasa who fluorished in the 4th Century CE, on the Vedic love story of king Pururavas and celestial nymph Urvashi...

(Vikrama and Urvashi), Mālavikāgnimitram
Malavikagnimitram
Mālavikāgnimitram is a Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. It is his first play.The play tells the story of the love of King Agnimitra, the Shunga king of Vidisha , for the beautiful hand-maiden of his chief queen. He falls in love with the picture of an exiled servant girl named Mālavikā...

(Malavika and Agnimitra), and the play that he is most known for: Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānashākuntala or Abhijñānaśākuntalam) , is a well-known Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. Its date is uncertain, but Kalidasa is often placed in the period between the 1st century BCE and 4th century CE....

(The Recognition of Shakuntala).

Late (post 6th century) dramatists include Dandin
Dandin
Dandin can refer to:* Daṇḍin, 6th-7th century Sanskrit writer* The Dandin Group, a wireless internet thinktank* Dandin the Sword Carrier, a character appearing in Mariel of Redwall and The Bellmaker, two books from the fictional Redwall series by Brian Jacques....

 and Sriharsha. The only surviving ancient Sanskrit drama theatre is Koodiyattam
Koodiyattam
Koodiyattam or Kutiyattam is a form of Sanskrit theatre traditionally performed in the state of Kerala, India. Performed in the Sanskrit language in Hindu temples, it is believed to be 2,000 years old...

. Which is being preserved in Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

 by the Chakyar
Chakyar
Chakyar is a Brahmin caste coming under the Ambalavasi community of Hindus in the Kerala state of South India. The women in this caste are called Illotammas....

 community.

Scholarly treatises


{{History of literature5}}
{{Main|Tantras|Shastra|Siddhanta|Jataka}}
{{See|Jyotihshastra}}

The earliest surviving treatise on astrology is the Yavanajataka
Yavanajataka
The Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja is an ancient text in Indian astrology....

 "sayings of the Greeks" (3rd century). Classical Hindu astrology is based on early medieval compilations, notably the
{{Citations missing|date=December 2007}}
{{History of literature2}}
Literature
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

 in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

begins with the Vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

, and continues with the Sanskrit Epics of Iron Age India
Iron Age India
Iron Age India, the Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent, succeeds the Late Harappan culture, also known as the last phase of the Indus Valley Tradition...

; the golden age of Classical Sanskrit literature dates to late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 (roughly the 3rd to 8th centuries AD). Literary production saw a late bloom in the 11th century before declining after 1100 AD. There are contemporary efforts towards revival
Sanskrit revival
Sanskrit revival is the accumulation of attempts at reviving the Sanskrit language that have been undertaken.-History:In 1891 there was organized activity among the Theosophists in India promoting and participating in the revival of Sanskrit...

, with events like the "All-India Sanskrit Festival" (since 2002) holding composition contests.

Given its extensive use in religious literature, primarily in Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, and the fact that most modern Indian languages
Languages of India
The languages of India belong to several language families, the major ones being the Indo-European languages—Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian languages...

 have been directly derived from or strongly influenced by Sanskrit, the language and its literature is of great importance in Indian culture
Culture of India
India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

 akin to that of Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 in European culture
Culture of Europe
The culture of Europe might better be described as a series of overlapping cultures. Whether it is a question of North as opposed to South; West as opposed to East; Orthodoxism as opposed to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism as opposed to Secularism; many have claimed to identify cultural...

. Some Sanskrit literature such as the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali and the Upanishads were translated into Arabic and Persian. The Panchatantra was also translated into Persian.

The Vedas


{{Main|Vedas}}
Composed between approximately 1500 BC and 600 BC (the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age) in pre-classical Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit is an old Indo-Aryan language. It is an archaic form of Sanskrit, an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It is closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language...

, Vedic literature forms the basis for the further development of Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

. There are four Vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

 - Rig
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

, Yajur
Yajurveda
The Yajurveda, a tatpurusha compound of "sacrificial formula', + ) is the third of the four canonical texts of Hinduism, the Vedas. By some, it is estimated to have been composed between 1400 and 1000 BC, the Yajurveda 'Samhita', or 'compilation', contains the liturgy needed to perform the...

, Sāma
Samaveda
The Sama veda , is second of the four Vedas, the ancient core Hindu scriptures. Its earliest parts are believed to date from 1700 BC and it ranks next in sanctity and liturgical importance to the Rigveda...

 and Atharva
Atharvaveda
The Atharvaveda is a sacred text of Hinduism and one of the four Vedas, often called the "fourth Veda"....

, each with a main Samhita
Samhita
Samhita may refer to"*the basic metrical text of each of the Vedas**specifically, these texts with sandhi applied *post-Vedic texts known as Samhitas:** Ashtavakra Gita...

 and a number of circum-vedic genres, including Brahmanas, Aranyaka
Aranyaka
The Aranyakas are part of the Hindu śruti, the four Vedas; they were composed in late Vedic Sanskrit typical of the Brahmanas and early Upanishads; indeed, they frequently form part of either the Brahmanas or the Upanishads....

s,Vedang i.e. Grhyasutras and Shrautasutras and Dharmasutras. The main period of Vedic literary activity falls into ca. the 9th to 7th centuries when the various shakha
Shakha
A shakha , is a Hindu theological school that specializes in learning certain Vedic texts, or else the traditional texts followed by such a school. An individual follower of a particular school or recension is called a ...

s (schools) compiled and memorized their respective corpora.

The older Upanishads (BAU, ChU, JUB
Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana
The Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana or the Talavakara Upanishad Brahmana is a Vedic text associated with the Jaiminiya or the Talavakara shakha of the Samaveda. It is considered as an Aranyaka. A part of this text forms the Kena Upanishad...

, KathU
Katha
Katha may refer to:* The Sanskrit for "speech, narration, story, fable", see Katha * The Kaṭha or Caraka-Katha school of the Black Yajurveda** Katha Upanishad, a Hindu text associated with the Katha school...

, MaitrU) belong to the Vedic period, but the larger part of the Muktika canon is post-Vedic. The Aranyakas form part of both the Brahmana and Upanishad corpus.

Sutra literature


{{Main|Sutra}}
{{See also|Shulba Sutras|Kalpa Sutras|Dharma Sutras|Shastra}}
Continuing the tradition of the late Vedic Shrautasutra literature, Late Iron Age scholarship (ca. 500 to 100 BCE) organized knowledge into Sutra
Sutra
Sūtra is an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew , as does the medical term...

 treatises, including the Vedanga
Vedanga
The Vedanga are six auxiliary disciplines traditionally associated with the study and understanding of the Vedas.#Shiksha : phonetics, phonology and morphophonology #Kalpa : ritual#Vyakarana : grammar...

 and the religious or philosophical Brahma Sutras
Brahma Sutras
The Brahma sūtras , also known as Vedānta Sūtras , are one of the three canonical texts of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy. A thorough study of Vedānta requires a close examination of these three texts, known in Sanskrit as the Prasthanatrayi, or the three starting points...

, Yoga Sutras, Nyaya Sutras
Nyaya Sutras
The Nyāya Sūtras are an ancient Indian text on of philosophy composed by ' . The sutras contain five chapters, each with two sections...

.

In the Vedanga disciplines of grammar
Vyakarana
The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, ...

 and phonetics
Shiksha
Shiksha is one of the six Vedangas, treating the traditional Hindu science of phonetics and phonology of Sanskrit.Its aim is the teaching of the correct pronunciation of the Vedic hymns and mantras...

, no author had greater influence than {{IAST|Pāṇini}} with his {{IAST|Aṣṭādhyāyī}} (ca. 5th century BC). In the tradition of Sutra literature exposing the full grammar of Sanskrit in extreme brevity, Panini's brilliance lies in the nature of his work of a prescriptive generative grammar
Generative grammar
In theoretical linguistics, generative grammar refers to a particular approach to the study of syntax. A generative grammar of a language attempts to give a set of rules that will correctly predict which combinations of words will form grammatical sentences...

, involving metarules, transformation
Transformation (mathematics)
In mathematics, a transformation could be any function mapping a set X on to another set or on to itself. However, often the set X has some additional algebraic or geometric structure and the term "transformation" refers to a function from X to itself that preserves this structure.Examples include...

s and recursion
Recursion
Recursion is the process of repeating items in a self-similar way. For instance, when the surfaces of two mirrors are exactly parallel with each other the nested images that occur are a form of infinite recursion. The term has a variety of meanings specific to a variety of disciplines ranging from...

. Being prescriptive for all later grammatical works, such as Patanjali
Patañjali
Patañjali is the compiler of the Yoga Sūtras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. According to tradition, the same Patañjali was also the author of the Mahābhāṣya, a commentary on Kātyāyana's vārttikas on Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī as well as an unspecified work of medicine .In...

's {{IAST|Mahābhāṣya}}, {{IAST|Pāṇini}}'s grammar effectively fixed the grammar of Classical Sanskrit. The Backus-Naur Form or BNF grammars used to describe modern programming languages have significant similarities with Panini's grammar rules.

The Epics


{{Main|Indian epic poetry}}

The period between approximately the 6th to 1st centuries BC saw the composition and redaction of the two great epics, the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

and the Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

, with subsequent redaction progressing down to the 4th century AD. They are known as itihasa
Itihasa
Itihasa as defined by Amarakosha refers to purvavritta, i.e. events of the past. In the Vedic age, those portions of the Brahmanas which narrated events of bygone days were known as itihasa and had some ritualistic importance...

, or "that which occurred".

The Mahabharata



{{Main|Mahabharata}}
The Mahabharata (Great Bharata) is one of the longest poetic works in the world. While it is clearly a poetic epic, it contains large tracts of Hindu mythology
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

, philosophy
Indian philosophy
India has a rich and diverse philosophical tradition dating back to ancient times. According to Radhakrishnan, the earlier Upanisads constitute "...the earliest philosophical compositions of the world."...

 and religious tracts. Traditionally, authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to the sage Vyasa
Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

.According to the Adi-parva of the Mahabharata (81, 101-102), the text was originally 8,800 verses when it was composed by Vyasa and was known as the Jaya (Victory), which later became 24,000 verses in the Bharata recited by Vaisampayana.

The broad sweep of the story of the Mahabharata chronicles the story of the conflict between two families for control of Hastinapur, a city in Ancient India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.

The impact of the Mahabharata on India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Hinduism cannot be stressed enough. Having been molded by Indian culture, it has in turn molded the development of Indian culture. Thousands of later writers would draw freely from the story and sub-stories of the Mahabharata.

The Ramayana


{{Main|Ramayana}}
While not as long as the Mahabharata, the Ramayana is still twice as long as the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

and Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

put together. Traditionally, the authorship is attribued to the Hindu sage Valmiki, who is referred to as Adikavi, or "first poet." Valmiki in the Ramayana introduced the Anushtubh meter for the first time.
Like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana was also handed down orally and evolved through several centuries before being transferred into writing. It includes tales that form the basis for modern Hindu festivals and even contains a description of the same marriage practice still observed in contemporary times by people of Hindu persuasion.

The story deals with Prince Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

 (Hindi: Rām), his exile and the abduction of his wife by the Rakshasa
Rakshasa
A Rakshasa or alternatively rakshas, is a race of mythological humanoid beings or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist religion...

 king Ravana
Ravana
' is the primary antagonist character of the Hindu legend, the Ramayana; who is the great king of Lanka. In the classic text, he is mainly depicted negatively, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita, to claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister...

, and the Lanka
Lanka
Sri Lanka is the name given in Hindu mythology to the island fortress capital of the legendary king Ravana in the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata...

n war. Similar to the Mahabharata, the Ramayana also has several full-fledged stories appearing as sub-plots.

The Ramayana has also played a similar and equally important role in the development of Indian culture as the Mahabharata.

The Ramayana is also extant in Ramayana: Southeast Asian versions
{{See also|Hikayat Seri Rama|Kakawin Rāmâyaṇa|Phra Lak Phra Lam|Ramakien|Reamker|Yama Zatdaw}}

Classical Sanskrit literature


The classical period of Sanskrit literature dates to the Gupta period and the successive pre-Islamic Middle kingdoms of India
Middle kingdoms of India
Middle kingdoms of India refers to the political entities in India from the 3rd century BC after the decline of the Maurya Empire, and the corresponding rise of the Satavahana dynasty, beginning with Simuka, from 230 BC...

, spanning roughly the 3rd to 8th centuries CE.

Drama


{{Main|Sanskrit drama}}
Drama as a distinct genre of Sanskrit literature emerges in the final centuries BC, influenced partly by Vedic mythology
Vedic mythology
Vedic mythology refers to the mythological aspects of the historical Vedic religion and Vedic literature, most notably alluded to in the hymns of the Rigveda...

 and partly by Hellenistic drama. It reaches its peak between the 4th and 7th centuries before declining together with Sanskrit literature as a whole.

Famous Sanskrit dramatists include Śhudraka, Bhasa
Bhasa
Bhāsa is one of the earliest and most celebrated Indian playwrights in Sanskrit. However, very little is known about him.Kālidāsa in the introduction to his first play Malavikagnimitram writes -...

, Asvaghosa
Asvaghosa
' was an Indian philosopher-poet, born in Saketa in northern India to a Brahmin family. He is believed to have been the first Sanskrit dramatist, and is considered the greatest Indian poet prior to Kālidāsa. He was the most famous in a group of Buddhist court writers, whose epics rivaled the...

 and Kālidāsa
Kalidasa
Kālidāsa was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language...

. Though numerous plays written by these playwrights are still available, little is known about the authors themselves.

One of the earliest known Sanskrit plays is the Mrichakatika, thought to have been composed by Śhudraka in the 2nd century BC. The Natya Shastra (ca. 2nd century AD, literally "Scripture of Dance," though it sometimes translated as "Science of Theatre'") is a keystone work in Sanskrit literature on the subject of stagecraft. Bhasa
Bhasa
Bhāsa is one of the earliest and most celebrated Indian playwrights in Sanskrit. However, very little is known about him.Kālidāsa in the introduction to his first play Malavikagnimitram writes -...

 and Kālidāsa
Kalidasa
Kālidāsa was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language...

 are major early authors of the first centuries AD, Kālidāsa qualifying easily as the greatest poet and playwright in Sanskrit He deals primarily with famous Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 legends and themes; three famous plays by Kālidāsa are Vikramōrvaśīyam
Vikramorvasiyam
Vikramōrvaśīyam is a Sanskrit play by medieval Indian poet Kalidasa who fluorished in the 4th Century CE, on the Vedic love story of king Pururavas and celestial nymph Urvashi...

(Vikrama and Urvashi), Mālavikāgnimitram
Malavikagnimitram
Mālavikāgnimitram is a Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. It is his first play.The play tells the story of the love of King Agnimitra, the Shunga king of Vidisha , for the beautiful hand-maiden of his chief queen. He falls in love with the picture of an exiled servant girl named Mālavikā...

(Malavika and Agnimitra), and the play that he is most known for: Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānashākuntala or Abhijñānaśākuntalam) , is a well-known Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. Its date is uncertain, but Kalidasa is often placed in the period between the 1st century BCE and 4th century CE....

(The Recognition of Shakuntala).

Late (post 6th century) dramatists include Dandin
Dandin
Dandin can refer to:* Daṇḍin, 6th-7th century Sanskrit writer* The Dandin Group, a wireless internet thinktank* Dandin the Sword Carrier, a character appearing in Mariel of Redwall and The Bellmaker, two books from the fictional Redwall series by Brian Jacques....

 and Sriharsha. The only surviving ancient Sanskrit drama theatre is Koodiyattam
Koodiyattam
Koodiyattam or Kutiyattam is a form of Sanskrit theatre traditionally performed in the state of Kerala, India. Performed in the Sanskrit language in Hindu temples, it is believed to be 2,000 years old...

. Which is being preserved in Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

 by the Chakyar
Chakyar
Chakyar is a Brahmin caste coming under the Ambalavasi community of Hindus in the Kerala state of South India. The women in this caste are called Illotammas....

 community.

Scholarly treatises


{{History of literature5}}
{{Main|Tantras|Shastra|Siddhanta|Jataka}}
{{See|Jyotihshastra}}

The earliest surviving treatise on astrology is the Yavanajataka
Yavanajataka
The Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja is an ancient text in Indian astrology....

 "sayings of the Greeks" (3rd century). Classical Hindu astrology is based on early medieval compilations, notably the {{IAST and Sārāvalī
Saravali
Saravali is a community located 6 km SE of the centre and a suburb of Patras, Greece, north of Ovrya, northeast of Mintilogi and 9 km W of the Iera Moni Omplou/Omplos Monastery. Saravali is in the northern part of the municipal unit of Messatida...

 (7th to 8th century). The earliest surviving treatise on (non-divinatory) Indian astronomy predates the Yavanajataka: the Vedanga Jyotisha
Vedanga Jyotisha
The ' is an Indian text on Jyotisha, redacted by Lagadha .The text is foundational to the Vedanga discipline of Jyotisha. It is dated to the final centuries BCE...

 of Ladaga documents the state of in the Maurya period. The astronomy of the classical Gupta period, the centuries following Indo-Greek contact, is documented in treatises known as Siddhanta
Siddhanta
Siddhanta, a Sanskrit term, roughly translates as the Doctrine or the Tradition. It denotes the established and accepted view of a particular school within Indian philosophy.-Hindu philosophy:...

s (which means "established conclusions" ). Varahamihira
Varahamihira
Varāhamihira , also called Varaha or Mihira, was an Indian astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer who lived in Ujjain...

 in his Pancha-Siddhantika contrasts five of these: The Surya Siddhanta
Surya Siddhanta
The Surya Siddhanta is one of the earliest siddhanta in archeo-astronomy of the Hindus by an unknown author. It describes the archeo-astronomy theories, principles and methods of the ancient Hindus. This siddhanta is supposed to be the knowledge that the Sun god gave to an Asura called Maya. Asuras...

 besides the Paitamaha Siddhantas (which is more similar to the "classical" Vedanga Jyotisha
Vedanga Jyotisha
The ' is an Indian text on Jyotisha, redacted by Lagadha .The text is foundational to the Vedanga discipline of Jyotisha. It is dated to the final centuries BCE...

), the Paulisha and Romaka
Romaka Siddhanta
The Romaka Siddhanta is an Indian astronomical treatise, based on the astronomical learning of Byzantine Rome...

 Siddhantas (directly based on Hellenistic astronomy) and the Vasishta Siddhanta.

The earliest treatise in Indian mathematics
Indian mathematics
Indian mathematics emerged in the Indian subcontinent from 1200 BCE until the end of the 18th century. In the classical period of Indian mathematics , important contributions were made by scholars like Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, and Bhaskara II. The decimal number system in use today was first...


is the {{IAST
Aryabhatiya
Āryabhaṭīya or Āryabhaṭīyaṃ, a Sanskrit astronomical treatise, is the magnum opus and only extant work of the 5th century Indian mathematician, Āryabhaṭa.- Structure and style:...

(written ca. 500 CE), a work on astronomy and mathematics. The mathematical portion of the {{IAST|Āryabhaṭīya}} was composed of 33 sūtras (in verse form) consisting of mathematical statements or rules, but without any proofs. However, according to {{Harv|Hayashi|2003|p=123}}, "this does not necessarily mean that their authors did not prove them. It was probably a matter of style of exposition." From the time of Bhaskara I
Bhaskara I
Bhāskara was a 7th century Indian mathematician, who was apparently the first to write numbers in the Hindu-Arabic decimal system with a circle for the zero, and who gave a unique and remarkable rational approximation of the sine function in his commentary on Aryabhata's work...

 (600 CE onwards), prose commentaries increasingly began to include some derivations (upapatti).

"Tantra" is a general term for a scientific, magical or mystical treatise and mystical texts both Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 and Buddhist said to concern themselves with five subjects, 1. the creation, 2. the destruction of the world, 3. the worship of the gods, 4. the attainment of all objects, 5. the four modes of union with the supreme spirit by meditation. These texts date to the entire lifespan of Classical Sanskrit literature.

Stories


{{Main|Panchatantra|Hitopadesha}}
Sanskrit fairy tales and fables are chiefly characterised by ethical reflections and proverbial philosophy. A peculiar style, marked by the insertion of a number of different stories within the framework of a single narrative, made its way to Persian and Arabic literatures, exerting a major influence on works such as One Thousand and One Nights.

The two most important collections are Panchatantra
Panchatantra
The Panchatantra is an ancient Indian inter-related collection of animal fables in verse and prose, in a frame story format. The original Sanskrit work, which some scholars believe was composed in the 3rd century BCE, is attributed to Vishnu Sharma...

 and Hitopadesha
Hitopadesha
Hitopadesha is a collection of Sanskrit fables in prose and verse written in the 12 century C.E. It is an independent treatment of the Panchatantra...

; originally intended as manuals for the instruction of kings in domestic and foreign policy, they belong to the class of literature which the Hindus call nīti-śāstra, or "Science of Political Ethics".

Other notable prose works include a collection of pretty and ingenious fairy tales, with a highly Oriental colouring, the Vetāla-panchaviṃśati or "Twenty-five Tales of the Vetāla" (a demon supposed to occupy corpses), the Siṃhāsana-dvātriṃçikā or "Thirty-two Stories of the Lion-seat" (i.e. throne), which also goes by the name of Vikrama-charita, or "Adventures of Vikrama" and the Śuka-saptati, or "Seventy Stories of a Parrot". These three collections of fairy tales are all written in prose and are comparatively short.

Somadeva's Kathā-sarit-sāgara
Kathāsaritsāgara
Kathasaritsagara is a famous 11th-century collection of Indian legends, fairy tales and folk tales as retold by a Saivite Brahmin named Somadeva....

 or "Ocean of Rivers of Stories" is a work of special importance: composed in verse and is of very considerable length. It contains more than 22,000 shlokas, equal to nearly one-fourth of the Mahābhārata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

.

Somadeva's Kathā-sarit-sāgara
Kathāsaritsāgara
Kathasaritsagara is a famous 11th-century collection of Indian legends, fairy tales and folk tales as retold by a Saivite Brahmin named Somadeva....

 is derived from Gunadhya's Brhat-Katha of which there is a Thirteenth Century Fragment The Travels Of Pandit Ganja Deen The Sadhaka
Fable collections, originally serving as the handbooks of practical moral philosophy, provided an abundant reservoir of ethical maxims that become so popular that works consisting exclusively of poetical aphorisms started to appear. The most important are the two collections by the highly-gifted Bhartṛhari, entitled respectively Nīti-śataka, or "Century of Conduct," and Vairāgya-śataka, or "Century of Renunciation." The keynote prevailing in this new ethical poetry style is the doctrine of the vanity of human life, which was developed before the rise of Buddhism in the sixth century B.C., and has dominated Indian thought ever since.

Classical poetry


This refers to the poetry produced from the approximately the 3rd to 8th centuries. Kālidāsa
Kalidasa
Kālidāsa was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language...

 is the foremost example of a classical poet.

But a striking characteristic of Indian literary tradition is that sometimes poets show off their technical dexterity with highly Oulipian word-games, like stanzas that read the same backwards and forwards, words that can be split in different ways to produce different meanings, sophisticated metaphors, and so on. This style is referred to as Kāvya
Kavya
Kavya refers to the Sanskrit literary style used by Indian court poets flourishing from the first half of the seventh century AD. This literary style is characterised by abundant usage of figures of speech, metaphors, similes, and hyperbole to create its emotional effects...

. A classic example is the poet Bharavi
Bharavi
Bharavi was a Sanskrit poet known for his Mahakavya , the Kirātārjunīya in 18 cantos based on an episode from the Mahabharata.-Time and place:...

 and his magnum opus, the Kiratarjuniya (6th-7th century). Magh is noted for his epic poem (mahAkAvya) Shishupala Vadha, the 20 cantos of which are based on the Mahabharata episode where the defiant king Shishupala is beheaded by Krishna's chakra (disc)

The greatest works of poetry in this period are the five Mahākāvyas, or "great composition"s:
  • Kumārasambhava
    Kumarasambhava
    Kumārasambhava is a Sanskrit epic poem by Kālidāsa; the first eight cantos are accepted as his authorship...

    by Kālidāsa
    Kalidasa
    Kālidāsa was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language...

  • Raghuvamsha by Kālidāsa
  • Kiratarjuniya
    Kirātārjunīya
    Kirātārjunīya is a Sanskrit kavya by Bhāravi, written in the 6th century or earlier. It is an epic poem in eighteen cantos describing the combat between Arjuna and lord Shiva in the guise of a kirāta or mountain-dwelling hunter. Along with the Naiṣadhacarita and the Shishupala Vadha, it is one of...

    by Bharavi
    Bharavi
    Bharavi was a Sanskrit poet known for his Mahakavya , the Kirātārjunīya in 18 cantos based on an episode from the Mahabharata.-Time and place:...

  • Shishupala Vadha
    Shishupala Vadha
    The Shishupala Vadha is a work of classical Sanskrit poetry composed by Māgha in the 7th or 8th century. It is an epic poem in 20 sargas of about 1800 highly ornate stanzas, and is considered one of the six Sanskrit mahakavyas, or "great epics". It is also known as the Māgha-kāvya after its author...

    by Māgha
    Magha (poet)
    Magha was a Sanskrit poet at King Varmalata's court at Srimala, the-then capital of Gujarat . Magha was son of Dattaka Sarvacharya and grandson of Suprabhadeva...

  • Naishadha-Charita by Sriharsha

Some scholars include the Bhattikavya as a sixth Mahākāvya.

Other major literary works from this period are Kadambari
Kadambari
Kādambari is a romantic novel in Sanskrit. It was substantially composed by Bānabhatta in the first half of the 7th century, who did not survive to see it through completion. The novel was completed by Banabhatta's son Bhushanabhatta, according to the plan laid out by his late father...

by Banabhatta
Banabhatta
Bāṇabhaṭṭa , also known as Bāṇa, was a Sanskrit scholar and poet of India. He was the Asthana Kavi in the court of King Harshavardhana, who reigned in the years c. 606–647 CE in north India...

, the first Sanskrit novelist (6th-7th centuries), the Kama Sutra
Kama Sutra
The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian Hindu text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit literature written by Vātsyāyana. A portion of the work consists of practical advice on sexual intercourse. It is largely in prose, with many inserted anustubh poetry verses...

 by Vatsyayana
Vatsyayana
Vātsyāyana is the name of a Hindu philosopher in the Vedic tradition who is believed to have lived during time of the Gupta Empire in India...

, and the three shatakas of {{IAST|Bhartṛhari}}.

Puranas


{{Main|Puranas}}
The corpus of the Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 Puranas
Puranas
The Puranas are a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.Puranas...

 likewise falls into the classical period of Sanskrit literature, dating to between the 5th and 10th centuries, and marks the emergence of the Vaishnava and Shaiva denominations of classical Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

.
The Puranas are classified into a Mahā- ("great") and a Upa- ("lower, additional") corpus.
Traditionally they are said to narrate five subjects, called {{IAST|pañcalakṣaṇa}} ("five distinguishing marks"):

Sargaśca pratisargasca vamśo manvantarāņi ca I

Vamśānucaritam caiva Purāņam pañcalakśaņam II

They are:
  1. Sarga — The creation of the universe.
  2. Pratisarga — Secondary creations, mostly re-creations after dissolution.
  3. Vamśa — Genealogy of royals and sages.
  4. Manvañtara — Various eras.
  5. Vamśānucaritam — Dynastic histories.


A Purana usually gives prominence to a certain deity (Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

, Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 or Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

, Durga
Durga
For the 1985 Hindi Film of Rajesh Khanna see DurgaaIn Hinduism, Durga ; ; meaning "the inaccessible" or "the invincible"; , durga) or Maa Durga "one who can redeem in situations of utmost distress" is a form of Devi, the supremely radiant goddess, depicted as having eighteen arms, riding a lion...

) and depicts the other gods as subservient.

Later Sanskrit literature


The Avadhuta Gita
Avadhuta Gita
Avadhuta Gita is a Hindu text based on the principles of Advaita Vedanta . The singer of the Avadhuta Gita is Dattatreya, an Avadhuta, and according to the Nath Sampradaya, the work was heard and transcribed by two of Dattatreya's disciples—Swami and Kartika...

, an extreme nondual (Sanskrit: advaita) text, is held by Western scholarship to date in its present form from the 9th or 10th centuries.
Some important works from the 11th century include the Katha-sarit-sagara
Kathasaritsagara
Kathasaritsagara is a famous 11th-century collection of Indian legends, fairy tales and folk tales as retold by a Saivite Brahmin named Somadeva....

and the Gita Govinda
Gita Govinda
The Gita Govinda is a work composed by the 12th-century poet, Jayadeva, who was born in Kenduli Sasan near Puri in Orissa. It describes the relationship between Krishna and the gopis of Vrindavana, and in particular one gopi named Radha...

of Jayadeva
Jayadeva
Jayadeva was a Sanskrit poet circa 1200 AD. He is most known for his composition, the epic poem Gita Govinda, which depicts the divine love of Krishna-an avatar of Vishnu and his consort, Radha, and it is mentioned that Radha is greater than Hari, and is considered an important text in the...

. Nagananda
Nagananda
Nagananda is a Sanskrit play attributed to king Harsha .Nagananda is one of the best Sanskrit dramas in five acts dealing with the popular story of Jimutavahana's self-sacrifice to save the Nagas...

, attributed to King Harsha, is an outstanding drama that outlines the story of King Jimutavahana, who sacrifices himself to save the tribe of serpents. It is also unique in that it invokes Lord Buddha in what is a predominantly Hindu drama.

The Katha-sarita-sagara (An Ocean of Stories) by Somadeva was an 11th century poetic adaptation in Sanskrit of Brihat-katha, written in the 5th century BC in the Paishachi dialect. One of the famous series of stories in this work is the Vikrama and Vetāla series, known across India today. On the other side of the spectrum, of the 'Bhana' style of drama, Ubhayabhisarika
Ubhayabhisarika
Ubhayābhisārika is a Sanskrit single-player satirical play formatted as a monologue, written by Vararuchi, who is thought to have lived in the Gupta age...

 is a one-person drama of an endearing lecher who knows every courtesan and her family by name.

The Gita Govinda (The song of Govinda) by the Oriya composer Jayadeva
Works of Jayadeva
Jayadeva was a well known Sanskrit poet and lyricist who was born in Kenduli, Orissa in the 11th century AD. The works of Jayadeva have had a profound influence on Indian culture. It forms the basis of the east Indian classical dance form, Odissi, and has strongly influenced the Bharatanatyam...

 is the story of Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

's love for Radha, and is written in spectacularly lyrical and musical Sanskrit.
A central text for several Hindu sects in eastern India, the Gita Govinda is recited regularly at major Hindu pilgrimage sites such as Jagannath
Jagannath
Jagannath is a transcendental non-anthropotheistic Hindu god worshiped primarily by the people of Indian state of Orissa, and, to a great extent, West Bengal...

 temple at Puri, Orissa
Orissa
Orissa , officially Odisha since Nov 2011, is a state of India, located on the east coast of India, by the Bay of Bengal. It is the modern name of the ancient nation of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Maurya Emperor Ashoka in 261 BC. The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April...

. The Ashtapadis of the Gita Govinda also form a staple theme in Bharatanatyam
Bharatanatyam
Bharata Natyam or Chadhir Attam, is a classical dance form from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, practiced predominantly in modern times by women. The dance is usually accompanied by classical Carnatic music...

 and Odissi
Odissi
Odissi, also spelled Orissi , is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It originates from the state of Orissa, in eastern India. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India on the basis of archaeological evidences. The classic treatise of Indian dance, Natya Shastra, refers to it as...

 classical dance recitals.

Beyond the 11th century, the use of Sanskrit for general literature declined, most importantly because of the emergence of literature in vernacular Indian languages (notably Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

, Marathi
Marathi language
Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western and central India. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra. There are over 68 million fluent speakers worldwide. Marathi has the fourth largest number of native speakers in India and is the fifteenth most...

, Telugu
Telugu language
Telugu is a Central Dravidian language primarily spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, where it is an official language. It is also spoken in the neighbouring states of Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa and Tamil Nadu...

, and Kannada). Sanskrit continued to be used, largely for Hindu religious and philosophical literature. Sanskrit literature fueled literature in vernacular languages, and the Sanskrit language itself continued to have a profound influence over the development of Indian literature
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

 in general.

Attempts at revival of Sanskrit
Sanskrit revival
Sanskrit revival is the accumulation of attempts at reviving the Sanskrit language that have been undertaken.-History:In 1891 there was organized activity among the Theosophists in India promoting and participating in the revival of Sanskrit...

 have been undertaken in the Republic of India since its foundation in 1947.

Modern Sanskrit literature


{{expand section|date=December 2010}}
{{see also|Sahitya Akademi Award for Sanskrit}}
Literature in Sanskrit continues to be produced, despite its relative neglect by both Sanskritists and non-Sanskritists. Since 1967, the Sahitya Akademi
Sahitya Akademi
The Sahitya Akademi ', India's National Academy of Letters, is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of literature in the languages of India...

, India's national academy of letters, has had an award for the best creative work written that year in Sanskrit. In 2009, Satyavrat Shastri became the first Sanskrit author to win the Jnanpith Award
Jnanpith Award
The Jnanpith Award is a literary award in India. Along with the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, it is one of the two most prestigious literary honours in the country...

, India's highest literary award. Some other modern Sanskrit composers include Abhiraj Rajendra Mishra
Abhiraj Rajendra Mishra
Abhiraj Rajendra Mishra is a Sanskrit author, poet, lyricist, playwright and the a former Vice-Chancellor of the Sampurnanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi. He has served as the head of department of Sanskrit in Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla...

 (known as Triveṇī Kavi, composer of short stories and several other genres of Sanskrit literature), Jagadguru Rambhadracharya (known as Kavikularatna, composer of two epics, several minor works and commentaries on Prasthānatrayī).

These works, however, have a very small readership. In the introduction to Ṣoḍaśī: An Anthology of Contemporary Sanskrit Poets (1992), Radhavallabh Tripathi writes:
{{quote|Sanskrit is known for its classical literature, even though the creative activity in this language has continued without pause from the medieval age till today. […] Consequently, contemporary Sanskrit writing suffers from a prevailing negligence.}}
However, Tripathi also points out the abundance of contemporary Sanskrit literature:
{{quotes|On the other hand, the number of authors who appear to be very enthusiastic about writing in Sanskrit during these days is not negligible. […] Dr. Ramji Upadhyaya in his treatise on modern Sanskrit drama has discussed more than 400 Sanskrit plays written and published during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In a thesis dealing with Sanskrit mahākāvya
Mahakavya
Mahākāvya , also known as sargabandha, is a genre of Indian epic poetry in classical Sanskrit literature. The genre is characterised by ornate and elaborate descriptions of scenery, love, battles and so on — in short, everything that tests a poet's skill at description...

s written in a single decade, 1961–1970, the researcher has noted 52 Sanskrit mahākāvyas (epic poems) produced in that very decade.}}

Most current Sanskrit poets are employed as teachers, either pandits in pāṭhaśālas or university professors.
Manmohan Acharya
Manmohan Acharya
Manmohan Acharya is a poet and lyricist from India. He is also a researcher and published author. His contribution appears significant by inspiring the classical dance, Odissi, for the first time to enter into Bollywood with his lucid Sanskrit lyrics.-Early life and education:Manmohan Acharya was...

 is a poet and published author in Sanskrit literature. His contribution appears significant by inspiring the classical dance, Odissi
Odissi
Odissi, also spelled Orissi , is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It originates from the state of Orissa, in eastern India. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India on the basis of archaeological evidences. The classic treatise of Indian dance, Natya Shastra, refers to it as...

, for the first time to enter into Bollywood with his Sanskrit lyrics. His Gita-Milindam contains 15 gunjans (songs) in different melodious rhythms. Manomohan Acharya speaks for the common mass. His creative technique suggests his attitude to life. Looking at his off-beat themes, none can deny that he is projecting the voice of the mass and hence is a postmodern poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

. A devotional song from his Gitamohanam
Gitamohanam
Gita-Mohanam,'Spiritual Hymns' is a famous Sanskrit poetry book of Indian Poet Manmohan Acharya.This work has been of great importance in the acceleration of spirituality. The Gita Mohanam is organized Sixteen chapters. Each chapter contains one song...

is included in the 2009 movie, The Desire
The Desire
The Desire-Journey of a Woman is an upcoming Indo-Chinese feature film, directed by R. Sarath. Starring Shilpa Shetty in lead role, the film also stars Chinese actor Xia Yu along with Indian actors and actresses as Jaya Prada, Anupam Kher, Sheetal Menon and Sachin Khedekar...

. He authored many Sanskrit poetry to his credit. Some worth-mentioning are Gita-bhaaratam, Palli-panchaasika (Khandakavya), subhasa-charitam (Mahakavya), Sri Sivananda-Laharika (Philosophical Kavya) and Yati-giti-satakam (Sataka-kavya). As a playwright, Manomohan Acharya has written many dance dramas, including Arjuna-Pratijnaa, Shrita-kamalam, Pada-pallavam, Divya-Jayadevam, Pingalaa, Mrtyu, Sthitaprajnah, Tantram , Purva-sakuntalam and Uttara-sakuntalam.

See also


{{Portal|Literature}}
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  • Early Medieval literature
    Early Medieval literature
    See also: Ancient literature, 10th century in literature, list of years in literature.This is a list of literature dating to the 6th to 9th centuries...

  • Hindu scripture
    Hindu scripture
    The Literature regarded as central to the Vedic and Hindu literary tradition was originally predominantly composed in Sanskrit. Indeed, much of the morphology inherent in the learning of Sanskrit is inextricably linked to study of the Vedas and other early texts....

  • Indian literature
    Indian literature
    Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

  • List of Historic Indian Texts
  • List of Sanskrit poets
  • Sanskrit drama
    Sanskrit drama
    The earliest-surviving fragments of Sanskrit drama date from the 1st century CE. The Mahābhāṣya by Patañjali contains the earliest reference to what may have been the seeds of Sanskrit drama. This treatise on grammar from 140 BCE provides a feasible date for the beginnings of theatre in India.Its...

  • Telugu literature
    Telugu literature
    The Telugu literature or Telugu Sahityam is one of the most precious possessions of the literary products of India. Telugu literature is rich reserve of poems, stories, dramas and puranas. It flowered in the early 16th century under the Vijayanagar empire, of which Telugu was one of the court...

  • Yoga Vasistha
    Yoga Vasistha
    Yoga Vasistha is a Hindu spiritual text traditionally attributed to Valmiki. It recounts a discourse of the sage Vasistha to a young Prince Rama, during a period when the latter is in a dejected state...


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Further reading

  • Arthur Anthony Macdonell
    Arthur Anthony Macdonell
    Arthur Anthony Macdonell , 7th of Lochgarry, was a noted Sanskrit scholar.Macdonell was born in India and educated at Göttingen University, then matriculated in 1876 at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, gaining a classical exhibition and three scholarships...

    , A History of Sanskrit Literature, New York 1900
  • Winternitz, M. A History of Indian Literature. Oriental books, New Delhi, 1927 (1907)
  • J. Gonda (ed.) A History of Indian Literature, Otto Harrasowitz, Wiesbaden.
  • S. Ranganath, Modern Sanskrit Writings in Karnataka, Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan
    Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan
    Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan is an educational organization in New Delhi, India. It was founded in 1970 to propagate, develop and encourage Sanskrit learning and research. It is a deemed university and is fully funded by the government of India...

    , 2009.

External links


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{{Poetry of different cultures and languages}}

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