Indian Languages and Literature-I


  • Sanskrit is the mother of many Indian languages. The Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and Dharmasutras are all written in Sanskrit.
  • The great grammarian Panini, analysed Sanskrit and its word formation in his unrivalled descriptive grammar Ashtadhyayi.
  • The Buddhist Sanskrit literature includes the rich literature of the Mahayana school and the Hinayana school also.
  • The most important work of the Hinayana school is the Mahavastu which is a storehouse of stories.
  • While the Lalitavistara is the most sacred Mahayana text which supplied literary material for the Buddhacarita of Asvaghosa.
  • Kalhan’s Rajatarangini gives a detailed account of the kings of Kashmir whereas with Jonaraja we share the glory of Prithviraj.
  • Other great literacy works: ‘Abhijanam Shakuntalam’ and ‘Meghdoot’ by Kalidasa, ‘Mricchakatika’ by Shudraka, ‘Swapna Vasavadattam’ by Bhasa, and ‘Ratnavali’ by Sri Harsha, Chanakya’s ‘Arthashastra’ and Vatsyayana’s “Kamasutra’


  • Written in Sanskrit
  • Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda
  • Each Veda consists of the Brahmanas, the Upanishads and the Aranyakas
  • Rig Veda, Sama Veda and the Yajur Veda are collectively known an Traji
  • Rig Veda
    • 1028 hymns
    • recitations are the natural outpouring of Vedic rishis experiencing a mentally transcendental stage
    • Well-known rishis : Vasistha, Gautama, Gritasamada, Vamadeva, Vishvamitra and Atri
    • God: Indra, Agni, Varun, Rudra, Aditya, Vayu, Aditi and the Ashwini twins
  • Yajur Veda
    • sacrifice or worship
    • rites and mantras of different sacrifices.
    • gives directions for the performance of the yajnas
    • both poetic and prose renderings
    • Shukla and Krishna Yajur Veda i.e. Vajasaneyi Samhita and Taitriya Samhita
  • Sama Veda
    • melody or songs
    • 16,000 ragas and raginis or musical notes
    • prescribes the tunes for the recitation of the hymns of the Rig Veda
    • book of Chants (Saman)
  • Atharva Veda
    • Brahma Veda
    • treatment for ninety-nine diseases
    • traced to two rishis called Atharvah and Angiras
    • represents the religious ideas at an early period of civilization
    • two branches, the Paippalada and the Saunaka
    • family, social and political life of later Vedic period

Brahmanas and Aranyakas

  • Detailed explanation of Vedic rituals and instructions and deal with the science of sacrifice.
  • Latter portions of the Brahmanas were called the Aranyakas while the final parts of the Aranyakas are philosophic books named Upanishads
  • Each of the four Vedas have their own Brahmana books.
  • Rig Veda had Kaushitaki and Aitreya.
  • Taitteriya belongs to Krishna Yajur Veda and Shatpath belongs to Shukla Yajur Veda.
  • Tandav, Panchvish and Jaimaniya belongs to Atharva Veda.
  • Arayankas deal with soul, birth and death and life beyond it. These were studied and taught by men in Vanprastha
  • Max Muller says that the Rig Veda was composed before 1000 B.C. While according to Lokmanya Tilak it appeared before 6000 B.C.


  • Derived from upa (nearby), and nishad (to sit-down), that is, “sitting down near”
  • End of Vedas
  • Contain abstract and difficult discussions of ultimate philosophical problems, they were taught to the pupils at the end
  • More than 200 known Upanishads, one of which, the Muktika, gives a list of 108 Upanishads
  • The earliest Upanishads are the Brihadaranyaka which belongs to the Sukla Yajur Veda and Chand yogya which belongs to the Sama Veda.
  • Some of the other important Upanishads are the Aitareya, Kena, Katha Upanishad.


  • The Ramayana of Valmiki is the original Ramayana. It is called Adikavya and Maharishi Valmiki is known as Adi Kavi.
  • The other epic, the Mahabharata, was written by Ved Vyas.
  • The final compilation brought the verses to 100,000, which came to be known as the Mahabharata or the Satasahasri Samhita.
  • The Mahabharata contains the famous Bhagavad Gita which contains the essence of divine wisdom and is truly a universal gospel


  • Brahma, Bhagvat, Padma, Vishnu, Vayu, Agni, Matsya and Garuda.
  • Mythological works which propagate religious and spiritual messages through parables and fables
  • Earliest Puranas were compiled in the Gupta period
  • Amarasimha the Sanskrit Lexicographer, states that a Purana should describe five topics; (1) Sarga (Creation) (2) Pratisarga (Secondary creation) (3) Vemsa (Geneology) (4) Manvantara (Manu periods) and (5) Vamsanucarita (dynastic history)


  • The earliest Buddhist works were written in Pali, which was spoken in Magadha and South Bihar.
  • The Buddhist works can be divided into the canonical and the non-canonical.
  • The canonical literature is best represented by the “Tripitakas”, that is, three baskets – Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka.
    • Vinaya Pitaka deals with rules and regulations of daily life
    • Sutta Pitaka contains dialogues and discourses on morality and deals with Dharma
    • Abhidhamma Pitaka deals with philosophy and metaphysics.
  • The non-canonical literature is best represented by the Jatakas.
  • The Jain texts were written in Prakrit and were finally compiled in the sixth century AD in Valabhi in Gujarat.
    • The important works are known as Angas, Upangas, Prakirnas, Chhedab Sutras and Malasutras.
    • Important Jain scholars, reference may be made to Haribhadra Suri, (eighth century AD) and Hemchandra Suri, (twelfth century AD)


  • Dharmashastras compiled between 500 and 200 BC lay down duties for different varnas as well as for the kings and their officials
  • Manusmriti tells us about the role of man and woman in society, their code of conduct and relationship with each other.
  • Kautilya’s Arthashastra is an important treatise of the Mauryan times
  • The works of Bhasa, Shudraka, Kalidasa and Banabhatta provided us with glimpses of the social and cultural life of northern and central India in times of the Guptas and Harsha.
  • The Gupta period also saw the development of Sanskrit grammar based on the works of Panini and Patanjali.
  • Famous Sanskrit Authors of the Gupta Period
    • Kalidas:
      • Poem-Meghaduta, Ritusambara. Kumar Sambhavam and Raghuvamsha
      • Plays- Abhijan Shakuntalam, Vikramorvashi and Malvikaganimithram
    • Vishakhdutta:
      • Mudra Rakshas and Dev Chandra Gupta
    • Shudraka:
      • Mrichchha Katikam or the Toy Cart
    • Harisena:
      • wrote poems praising the valour of Samudra Gupta
      • Allahabad pillar
    • The Kushana kings patronised Sanskrit scholars.
    • Ashvaghosha wrote the Buddhacharitra which is the biography of the Buddha. He also wrote Saundarananda, which is a fine example of Sanskrit poetry
    • The post-medieval period in northern India saw the rise of Sanskrit literature in Kashmir.
      • Somadeva’s Katha-sarit-sagar and Kalhan’s Rajatarangini are of historical importance.
      • It gives a vivid account of the Kings of Kashmir. The Geet Govinda of Jaidev is the finest poem of Sanskrit literature of this period


Telugu Literature

  • The Vijayanagara period was the golden age of Telugu literature.
  • Nachana Somanatha, a court poet of Bukka I, produced a poetical work titled Uttaraharivamsam.
  • Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529), the greatest of the Vijayanagara emperors, was a poet of great merit.
    • His work Amukta Malyada is regarded as an excellent prabandha in Telugu literature.
  • Eight Telugu literary luminaries, popularly known as ashtadiggajas adorned his court.
    • Among them, Allasani Peddana, the author of Manucharitram, was the greatest.
    • He was known as Andhra kavitapitamaha.
    • The other seven poets of the group were Nandi Timmana, the author of Parijathapaharanam, Madayagari Mallana, Dhurjati, Ayyalaraju Ramabhadra Kavi, Pingali Surana, Ramaraja Bhushana and Tenali Ramakrishna.
  • Dhurjati, a devotee of Shiva, composed two poetical works of great merit known as Kalahasteeswara Mahatmayam and Kalahasteeswara Satakam, Pingali Surana composed two works Raghavapandaviyam and Kalapuranodayam.
  • Tenali Ramakrishna, the court jester, was an interesting figure of the Krishnadevaraya’s court.
    • Ramakrishna was the author of Panduranga Mahatmayam
  • Ramarajabhushana was the author of Vasucharitram.
    • He was also known as Bhattumurti. His other works include Narasabhupaliyam and Harishchandra Nalopakhyanam.
    • It is a poetical work on the model of Raghavapandaviyam.
    • One can read in it stories of Nala as well as Harishchandra. Madayagari Mallana’s work Rajashekharacharitra is a prabandha dealing with the wars and loves of Rajashekhara, king of Avanti.
    • Ayyalaraju Ramabhadra was the author of two works Ramabhyudayam and Sakalakathasara Sangraham.

Kannada Literature

  • Many Jain scholars contributed to the growth of Kannada literature.
  • Madhava wrote Dharmanathapurana on the fifteenth tirthankara.
  • Jain scholar, Uritta Vilasa, wrote Dharma Parikshe.
  • The Sanskrit works of the period include Yadavabhyudayam by Vedanatha Desika and Parasara Smriti Vyakhya of Madhavacharya.
  • Earliest known literary work in Kannada is Kavirajamang written by the Rashtrakuta King, Nripatunga Amoghavarsha I.
  • Pampa, known as the father of Kannada wrote his great poetic works Adi Purana and Vïkramarjiva Vijaya in the tenth century AD.
    • Pampa lived in the court of Chalukya Arikesari.
    • Together Pampa, Ponna and Ranna earned the title ratnatraya (the three gems).
  • Harishvara wrote Harishchandra Kavya and Somanatha Charita whereas Bandhuvarma wrote Harivamshabhyudaya and Jiva Sambodhana.
  • Under the patronage of later Hoysala rulers, several literary works were produced. Rudra Bhata wrote Jagannathavijaya.
  • Andayya’s Madana Vijaya or Kabbïgara Kava is a work of special interest in pure Kannada without the mixture of Sanskrit words.
  • Mallikarjuna’s Suktisudharnava, the first anthology in Kannada and Kesirja’s Shabdamanidarpana on grammar are two other standard works in the Kannada language.
  • Kunura Vyasa wrote Bharata and Narahari wrote Tarave Ramayana.
  • Lakshamisha who lived in the seventeenth century wrote Jaïmini Bharata and earned the titled of Kamata-Karicutavana-Chaitra (the spring of the Karnataka mango grove).
  • Sarvajna, popularly known as the people’s poet. His aphoristictripadi(three-lined) compositions serve as a source of wisdom and ethics
  • Honnamma, perhaps the first outstanding poetess in Kannada. Her Hadibadeya Dharma (Duty of a Devout Wife) is a compendium of ethics.

Malayalam Literature

  • Bhasa Kautilya, a commentary on Arthashastra and Kokasandisan are two great works
  • Rama Panikkar and Ramanuj an Ezhuthachan are well known authors


  • Compiled by 600 AD.
  • Sangama literature a collection of long and short poems composed by various poets in praise of numerous heroes and heroines
  • There are about 30,000 lines of poetry, which are arranged in eight anthologies called Ettuttokoi. There are two main groups – the Patinenkil Kanakku (the eighteen lower collections) and Pattupattu (the ten songs).
    • The former is generally assumed to be older than the latter, and considered to be of more historical importance.
    • Thiruvallurar’s work ‘Kural’ is divided into three parts.
    • The first part deals with the epics, the second part with polity and government and the third part with love.
  • Tolkkappiyam, which deals with grammar and poetry.
  • Epics: Silappadikaram (brightest gem of Tamil literature and deals with a love story) and Manimekalai (written by a grain merchant of Madurai)
  • From the 6th to 12th century AD, the Tamil devotional poems written by Nayanmars (saints who sang in praise of Shaivism) and Alvars herald the great Bhakti movement which engulfed the entire Indian sub-continent.
  • During this period, Kambaramayanam and Periya Puranam were two Tamil literary classic writers.

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