[Ancient History] Literature in Ancient India

Important Ancient Sanskrit Literature :
 
Work
Category
Author
(date)
Notes
Mahabharata
Epic
Vyasa
Ramayana
Epic
Valmiki
Ashtadhyayi
Treatise on grammar
Panini
(5th -4th c. BCE)
One of the earliest known grammars of Sanskrit
Nirukta
Treatise on grammar
Yaksa
Mrichakatika
Play
Shudraka
(2nd c. BCE)
Set in Pataliputra
Hindi film Utsav was based on this
Karnabhara, Charudatta
Play
Bhasa
(1st BCE – 4thCE)
Bhasa wrote about 13 plays
He is considered to be one of most important Sanskrit authors (after Kalidasa)
Urubhanga
Play
Bhasa
Based on Mahabharata
Depicts story of Duryodhana after fight with Bhima
Madhyamavyayoga
Play
Bhasa
Based on the Mahabharata
Malavikagnimitram
Play
Kalidasa
(4th -5th CE)
Gupta period
Tells the story of King Agnimitra falling in love with servant girl Malavika
Agnimitra was the son and successor to Pushyamitra Sunga
Abhijanasakuntalam
Play
Kalidasa
Tells story of king Dushyanta and his marriage to Shankuntala
Considered to be Kalidasa’s most popular play
Vikramaorvasiyam
Play
Kalidasa
Story of king Pururavas in love with celestial Urvashi
Raghuvamsa
Poetry
Kalidasa
Kings of Raghu dynasty
Kumarasambhava
Poetry
Kalidasa
Story of birth of Karthikeya
Rtusamhara
Poetry
Kalidasa
Describes six seasons using context of love
Meghaduta
Poetry
Kalidasa
Story of a Yaksha sending a message to his lover through a cloud
One of Kalidasa’s most popular poems
Ratnavali
Play
Harshavardhana
(590-647 CE)
Story of king Udayana and princess Ratnavali
Contains one of the earliest references to festival Holi
Nagananda
Play
Harshavardhana
Describes prince Jimutavahana’s self-sacrifice to save serpents
Priyadarsika
Play
Harshavardhana
Kiratarjuniya
Poetry
Bharavi
Describes contest b/w Arjuna and lord Shiva
Shishupala Vadha
Poetry
Magha

Important Ancient Literature in Tamil :
Note that Sangam literature itself contains about 2400 poems by more than 470 poets. For obvious reasons, not all of them can be listed here
Work
Category
Author
Notes
Ettuthokai
Poetry
Various
(600 BCE-
300 BCE)
Part of Sangam literature
Ettuthokai contains 8 anthologies:
Ainkurunuru, Akananuru, Purananuru, Kalittokai, Kuruntokai, Narrinai, Paripatal, Patirrupattu
Each of these anthologies in turn contain hundreds of poems by multiple authors
Deals with two themes: Akam (personal life) and Puram (war, politics)
Pathupattu
Poetry
Various
Part of Sangam literature
Pathupattu contains 10 idylls (mid length books):
Tirumurugattruppatai, Kurinjipattu, Malaipatukatam, Maturaikkanji, Mullaipattu, Netunalvatai, Pattinappalai, Perumpanatrupatai, Porunaratruppatai, Sirupanatrupatai
Deals mainly with themes of nature
Tolkappiyam
Grammar
Tolkappiyar
Earliest available work of Tamil literature
Aimperumkappiyam
Epics
Various
Collection of five large narrative epics
The five epics were: Silappadhigaram, Manimegalai, Sivaka Chintamani, Valayapathi and Kundalakesi
Specific epics described below
Silappadhigaram
Epic
Ilango Adigal
(1st c. CE)
Describes story of Kannagi in her quest to save husband Kovalan
Describes in detail life, politics, trade, settlements of Greeks etc
Story evolves in themes of three: three kingdoms, three heroes, three heroines etc
Considered one of most important ancient Tamil literature
Manimegalai
Epic
Seethalai Sathanar
(1st-2nd c. CE)
Story of Manimegalai, daughter of Kovalan
Sequel to Silappadhigaram
Sivaka Chintamani
Epic
Tirutakkatevar
Story of man who becomes king and then renounces throne
Valayapathi
Epic
Unknown
Work lost
Kundalakesi
Epic
Nagakuthanar
Original work lost, only fragments survive
Supposedly describes story of Buddhist monk Kundalakesi
Tirukkural
Ethics
Thiruvalluvar
Couplets of ethics
Contains 1330 couplets
Thirukkural remains the book translated into most number of languages in the world

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