Sanskrit is an ancient and classical language of
Panini (500 B.C.) was a great landmark in the development of Sanskrit language. He, concising about ten grammar schools prevalent during his time, wrote the master book of grammar named Ashtadhyayi which served as beacon for the later period. Literary Sanskrit and spoken Sanskrit both followed Panini’s system of language. Today the correctness of Sanskrit language is tested upon the touchstone of Panini’s Ashtadhyayee.
Sanskrit is said to belong to Indo – Aryan or Indo
Germanic family of languages which includes Greek, Latin and other alike
languages. William Jones, who was
already familiar with Greek and Latin, when came in contact with Sanskrit,
remarked that Sanskrit is more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin and
more refined than either. He said –
“Sanskrit is a wonderful language”. It
is noteworthy that though ancient and classical, Sanskrit is still used as
medium of expression by scholars throughout
As per the Indian tradition Sanskrit Language has no beginning and no ending. It is eternal. Self-born God has created it. It is divine. It is everlasting. It was first used in Vedas and thereafter it has been the means of expression in other fields.
Sanskrit has been the source of later languages and
Hindi, the official language of
Sanskrit literature is as vast as the human life. There are four aims of human life which are called Purusharthas. They are Dharma, Artha,
Valmiki was first to write the worldly poetry; Loka – Kavya. He wrote the Ramayana the great-epic which had the great impact on the later literature. Even today the latest poetry is written on the line of Valmiki. The Ramayana was written in 500BC.
The second epic Mahabharata was written by Krishanadwaipayana Vyasa which is known as encyclopedia of knowledge.
Later the Poets like Kalidasa, Ashvaghosa contributed considerably during the Gupta period. Bharavi, Bhatti, Kumardasa and Magha – all wrote Mahakaavyas. Harishena and Vatsabhatti were also prominent writers. Some other divisions of the classical literature and some names of the classical writers are: Kalhan and Bilhan in the field of historical Kavyas :Bhartrihari, Amaruka, Bilhana, Jayadeva, Somadeva etc. are famous as lyric poets. The Brihatkatha, Romantic and Didactic Fables, erotic poetry, champu kavyas, works on poetics and anthologies, gnomic and didactic poetry etc. form an unparalled part of Sanskrit literature.
The Scientific Literature covers Lexicography, Metrics, Grammar, Law, Science of Politics, Love, Philosophy and Religion, Medicine, Astronomy, Astrology and mathematics etc.
Though lots of Sanskrit literature has seen the light of the day but still much more Sanskrit literature is lying in the form of manuscripts and waiting for publication. These MSS are kept in general Sanskrit libraries and in houses of Sanskrit Scholars whose successors may know or not know the value of the MSS. This is a huge work to be done.
§ Eminent Sanskrit Authors
· Adikavi Valmiki
Valmiki is a sage of an excellent power of pen and wisdom. He is called Adikavi since the moment he cursed an hunter on killing Kraunch bird in a totally original chhandas. Narada advised Valmiki to write in the same poetic meter the life and deeds of Rama. Accordingly Valmiki wrote Ramayana, the Adikavya, in seven sections and 24000 couplets full of the most compelling imagery, idioms and metaphors, wisdom and nobility. He gave birth to a unique literary and philosophical masterpiece, one of the greatest works in world literature. Valmiki loved and respected life in all its splendor and diversity, the birds, the trees, the rivers, the seasons, forests and even scientific inventions.
Very little is known about the personal life of this sage except that before becoming a saint he was earning his livelihood as a decoit. One day Rishi Agastya met him and asked him why he committed such crimes. ‘To support my family’ replied Mrigavyadha the decoit. ‘Will they be sharing your sins also?’ questioned Agastya’ Mrigvyadha was deeply disappointed when he received the reply in negative by his parents, his wife and the other members of his family. Shocked and under deep sense of remorse, he started meditating and went into Samadhi. Ants built their nests around him and his body took the shape of an ant-hill. God Varuna feeling very much moved by his condition and his austere penance, washed off the mud and cured his wounds. Thereafter he was called Valmiki – arising out a Valmika - an ant hill. God blessed him and called him a sage. The fundamental teaching of the Ramayana is the sanctity of the institution of the family which is society in miniature.
Ramayana is the source of many other works in other Indian Languages like Ramacharitamanasa of Tulsidas in Hindi, the Ramayana in Assamese by Madhava Kandali, Ramayana in Bengali by Krittibas, Ramayana in Marathi by Eknath, Kamba Ramayana in Tamil by Kamban, Mulla – Ramayana in Telugu by Mulla, Adhyatma Ramayana in Malaylam by Ramanuja Edutachhan and also in many other Indian and foreign languages.
· Maharishi Veda Vyasa
Maharishi Vedavyasa is that famous a personality who
outstands as a representative of extreme human intelligence and vast ocean like
knowledge. He is known to be the
grandson of the sage Vasistha and son of Rishi Parashar. He spent his life on Badri fruits only in
Badrikashram and thus came to be known as Badarayan. He was born in an island and hence was called
Dvaipayana. He was dark in colour and thus acquired the
Vyas not only compiled the Samhitas but also the eighteen Puranas. He also wrote Brahma Sutras and the Bhagwat Puranam – the touch-stone of human knowledge. He wrote Mahabharata – the great epic which is known as the encyclopedia of knowledge. It has been written in Mahabharata itself that one who knows the Vedas with all its Vedangas and Upanishads but does not know Mahabharata cannot be called a learned scholar (Mahabharata, Adiparvan, 2.235). This epic is not only a story of the battle between two groups of cousins but is an excellent code of moral conduct. It is a treasure house of anecdotes, subhashitas and a grand treatise on conflict management.
It is said that Vyas dictated the script of Mahabharata to Ganesh who wrote it on bark leaves by breaking one of his tusks. Vyas is also a prominent figure in the Mahabharata. He was the father of Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura.
Vyas was born on Shukla Purnima of Ashadha month which is worshipped even today in Indian homes as Guru Purnima. He is worshipped as Guru because of his greatness and vastness of knowledge. It is said that this whole world is pervaded by Vyasa (Vyasochchhishtam Jagat Sarvam) and there could definitely be no better an adjective for him.
Kalidasa has been the national poet of
There are about 41 works which are attributed to Kalidasa but the following seven world famous works are undoubtedly composed by him: two Lyric Poems: Ritusamhara and Meghaduta; two Mahakavyas : Kumarasambhavam and Raghuvamsham;. Three Plays: Malavikagnimitram, Vikramorvashiyam and abhijnanashakuntalam.
Ritusamhara, a lyrical poem appears to be the first work of the young poet.
Here, the natural, scenic and floral beauty of six seasons, viz., the grishma (summer), varsha (rainy), sharad (autumn), hemanta (dewy), shishira (winter) and vasanta (spring) is picturesquely described.
Kalidasa has introduced a new genre of lyrical poetry by composing Meghaduta in Mandakranta meter, wherein an exiled love - lorn yaksha at mountain Ramagiri delivers his sandesha-message to his beloved darling residing in Alakapuri (in mountain Kailasa) through a cloud – messenger. On the pattern and imitation of Meghaduta more than one hundred Sandesha-Kavyas have been composed mostly in Mandakranta metre but none equals Meghaduta.
In Kumarasambhava, the poet has described the penance of Parvati to win Shiva’s love, their wedlock finally resulting in the birth of Kumara Karttikeya, the warrior god who killed demon Taraka.
In Raghuvamsha, the poet has dealt with the heroic deeds of the solar dynasty of the ancient Indian barons in 19 cantos. It begins with the description of King Dilipa and ends with the narrative of Agnivarna. It abounds in beautiful descriptions and narratives, to name a few, go-seva by Dilipa, Raghu’s digvijaya, Indumati-svayamvara, Aja-vilapa, etc.
Malavikagnimitram is an intrigue drama which is based on the love-story of Malavika and King Agnimitra. Vikramorvashiyam is based on the love story of the celestial nymph Urvashi and King Pururavas. Abhijnana-shakuntalam is the best amongst all the plays written in Sanskrit till today. Its plot has been taken from Mahabharata and Padmapurana. Kalidasa through his fancy and adeptness in introducing new elements in the main plot, adds the episode of the curse on Shakuntala by sage Durvasas which lends additional charm to the love-story of Shakuntala and King Dushyanta. This also elevates the character of the hero.
Kalidasa, a peerless poet par excellence, was acquainted with and affluent in various systems of Philosophy, several schools of religious beliefs Law and Polity, Economics, Dramaturgy, Erotics, sixty-four arts including music and fine arts, Zoology and Plant-science too. Numerous references to all the aforementioned vidyas are so efficiently included in his works that they bring forth the high expertise of the poet.
Kalidasa’s poetic genius has brought Sanskrit poetry to the highest elegance and refinement. His style is pure and chaste. It is unartificial and marked by brevity, simplicity of expression and easy flowing language characterise his works. His writings are adorned with similies unparalleled for their charm and appropriateness. He is a poet of Nature. He has delineated everything related to culture and society prevalent in his times. According to one eulogy while once the poets were being counted, Kalidasa (as being the first) occupied the last finger. But the ring-finger remained true to its name (anamika = nameless), since his equal has not yet been found (by whom it could be occupied).
This truly testifies his
popularity and sovereignty. Numerous
honours and titles have been conferred upon him, viz. Kavikulaguru,
Kavikulashiromani, Dipashikha Kalidasa, the Shakespeare of India, etc. Kalidasa
is capable of winning the heart of any connoisseur of literary taste on
earth. He, through his writings is a
true representative of
Bhasa was the first great dramatist whose complete dramas are now available to the world. In the year 1910, Mahamahopadhyaya T. Ganapathi Shastri of Travancore discovered a collection of 13 plays with a similarity of expression and construction and declared them as the compositions of one single author, Bhasa. It is certain that this well known dramatist was a predecessor of Kalidasa. The greatest Sanskrit poet Kalidasa mentions his name with respect in the prelude to his first drama, the Malavikagnimitram. Some scholars place him in 2nd or 3rd century A.D. between Ashwaghosha and Kalidasa. Probably Bhasa was a devotee of Lord vishnu.
Bhasa derives his plots from the great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, from the Purana Shrimadbhagavata and most probably from Brihatkatha of Gunadhya. The thirteen plays of Bhasa are as follows:
The one act plays, based on Mahabharata are – Pancharatram, Dootavakyam, Madhyamavyayogam, Dutaghatotkacham, Karnabharam and Urubhangam.
Dramas, based on Ramayana are - Praitimanatakam and Abhishekanatakam, one is based on Shrimadbhagavatam is Balacaritam and the others based on Brihatkatha are Pratijnayaugandharayanam and Svapnavasavadattam. Avimarakam and Daridracharudattam are based on Lokakathas.
Bhasa was a born-dramatist. He has presented various models of Sanskrit drama, such as Prakarana and Bhana (one act play) etc. In all his small dramas, the poet has succeeded in making them extraordinarily dramatic.
Bhasa's Svapnavasavadattam is a masterpiece of Sanskrit literature. According to Acharya Rajashekhara, Svapnavasavadattam was the only drama which proved itself non-combustible in the fire of criticism. Svapnavasavdattam, means 'the Dream of Vasavadatta who meets her husband Udayana in a dream'. The plot has probably been taken from the Brihatkatha of Gunadhya. From the point of view of stage-performance, Bhasa’s plays are magnificent.
Harsha, also known as
Harshavardhana, the second son of Prabhakarvardhana and younger brother of
Rajyavardhana ruled a large empire in
Harsha is the composer of three Sanskrit works : Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarshika. The first one is a nataka whereas the remaining two are natikas.
The Nagananda is a play in five acts which describes the self-sacrifice of Jimutavahana, prince of Vidyadharas. Besides the main theme, there is an interesting sub-plot in the drama in which hero's love for Malayavati has been depicted.
The Ratnavali, Harsha's
masterpiece is a natika in four acts which deals with the story of the
union of king Udayana and Ratnavali, daughter of the king of
Later dramaturgists like Dhananjaya etc. regard Ratnavali and Priyadarshika as standard Sanskrit dramas.
The Priyadarshika is also a natika in four acts, having for its theme the union of Udayana and Priyadarshika, daughter of King Dridhavarman. In both these dramas, there is not only a similarity of subject matter and form but also a reminiscence of Kalidasa's Malvikagnimitram. The noteworthy feature of the Priyadarshika is the effective introduction of a play which is technically called garbhanka, as an integral part of the action.
Numerous illustrations from both the natikas Ratnavali and Priyadarshika have been amply cited by later dramaturgists and are popular amongst teachers and students of drama and dramaturgy.
Panini is, today, recognised all over the world as the greatest model of human intelligence. Though India had a long tradition of grammarians but the final codification of Sanskrit language is ascribed to Panini only whose grammar has remained normative for its correct usage ever since. Panini's Ashtadhyayi is the oldest complete grammar available but the maturity, depth, and brevity, as found in it, is a proof in itself that this work is a link in the long chain of grammatical works. Panini himself has mentioned the names of ten grammarians – Apishali, Kashyapa, Gargya, Galava, Chakraverman, Bharadwaj, Shakatayana, Shakalya, Shonaka and Sphotayana.
Panini's Ashtadhyayi contains 4000 sutras presented in eight chapters of four quarters each. It is remarkable that the text has come down to us intact without any interpolation. Ashtadhyayi is written in sutra style. A sutra has to be brief, precise and unambiguous. The sutras have to be interpreted within their shared context. Thus sutra is not an independent statement. Panini's many sutras contain references to a living speech. He has discussed the peculiarities in the usage of the language by easterners and northerners.
The starting points of this great work are the famous Maheshwara Sutras in which the sounds have been broadly divided into three categories – Swara, Antastha and Vyanjana. These sounds have been presented in a remarkably scientific system.
Panini's contribution towards
formation of words is superb. He
catagories the words in two main groups i.e. 'Subanta' and 'tinganta', and bases the verb forms on ten lakaras,
three persons and three numbers, Thus every root can be conjugated into ninety
inflectional forms and could take care of almost all the modes, aspects and
voices. Similarly every Subanta
could have theoretically twenty four forms based on eight cases and three
numbers. The roots are grouped into
ganas and the members of a particular gana constitute similar forms. The nouns are declined according to the last
As regards the personal life of Panini, it has been gathered from various external sources that the names of his parents were Panin and Dakshi. He was
born at Shalatur village near
The word Patanjali has been explained as Patantyah Anjalaya yasmai i.e. one for whom the hands are folded as a mark of respect. Patanjali has been regarded as a great sage and referred to by many names such as Gonardiya, Phani, Adhipati, Sheshraja etc. According to a legend, he is considered to be an incarnation of Sheshanaga. Patanjali was an expert of at least three branches of Sanskrit studies namely yoga, vyakarana, and ayurveda. An ancient verse regards him as a sage who cleansed dirtiness of mind with yoga, of speech with grammar and of the body with ayurveda. Thus Patanjali contributed immensely towards the science of meditation, science of language and science of medicines.
Patanjali’s Yogasutra is the main basic work of Ashtangayoga Philosophy. The eight angas are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. ‘Yoga’ is the control of the senses and the states of chitta. When the mind becomes pure, the chances of its being ruffled by external disturbances are generally reduced.
Patanjali’s Mahabhashya is yet another milestone. It is the first and oldest existing commentary on the Ashtadhyayi of Panini. Dealing with 1228 rules of Panini, it has remained supremely authoritative and furnishes the last and final word in all cases of serious doubts ever raised over grammatical issues. Katyayana wrote a number of vartikas to supplement Paninian rules but Patanjali proved their futility and supported Panini. In short, it is an encyclopedic work of this branch. In addition to this, it is flooded with brilliant quotations the number of which may exceed 700. The whole discussion is presented in conversational style of question – answer or objection – refutation etc. It is quite evident that Sanskrit was the spoken language at that time. The theory of gravitation has first been explained in Mahabhashya only.
The work on medicines Nidan sutras or Samvediya-Nidan Sutras is also accepted as the real contribution of Patanjali to the science of medicines.
Some other works attributed to him are Mahanada, Charak – parishkara, Siddhanta – sarawali, paramartha – sar and lok shastra.
Patanjali belonged to a place called Gonarda which could
be Gonda Pradesh of U.P.or a part of
· Adi Shankaracharya
Adi Shankaracharya was not just a philosopher or a scholar. In fact he was a man of amazing energy combining in him a mystic, a saint, a scholar, a poet and above all a practical reformer and an able organizer.
Shankara was born in Kalady village in Kerala. Various
evidences prove his date as 509 BC to 477 BC. His mother Aryamba was a pious
devotee of Lord Shiva. His father Shiv
Guru left him when he was only three years old. At the age of five only he had
studied all the Vedas and Vedangas. Staying at Gurukul, he went to beg alms
from a house. The lady was so poor that
she could only give a dry Amla and she felt very sorry for it. Shankara prayed to Goddess Lakshmi who
showered gold coins in the shape of Amla.
This stotra a known as Kanakadhara stotra. At the age of seven he returned from Gurukul
and wanted to renounce the world, but his mother denied. He entered a river and shouted that a
crocodile had caught him and would only release him if he is permitted to
renounce the world. The helpless mother
granted him the permission for renunciation with the promise that he would
perform her last rites. Thus Shankara
left and on the way crossed rivers, hills, forests, towns, meeting varied
personalities and limitless varieties of the creation experiencing the
Brahman-the ultimate reality in every tiny living and non-living creature. He came across a cave in which Govinda
Bhagwadpad was deeply engrossed in Samadhi.
The cave was on the bank of the river
From here he visited Kashi and from there went to Badari
Dham and wrote the Brahmasutra
Bhashya. From here he was proceeding
towards Kedar – ashram where he saw Kumarila Bhatt trying to immolate himself
in fire as a revenge for his own act of denying the existence of God. Kumarila requested Shankar to meet Mandan
Mishra and make him his disciple who will propogate the philosophy of
Vedanta. Unable to save Kumarila,
Shankara went to Mandana Mishra’s house and defeated him and his wife Sharda in
Shastrartha. Acharya Mandan Mishra got
engrossed in the propagation of Vedanta.
From here Shankar proceeded towards Shri Shailam. Here he got the news of his mother’s death
and true to his promise, he went and
performed her last rites. To establish
geographical, historical and spiritual integrity in
Shankara in the short span of his life (only 32 years), wrote Bhashya on Upanishad and Gita. He also composed 240 stotras, prakaran granthas, introductory books such as Upadesh Sahasri, Vivek Chudamani, Aparokshanubhuti etc., in all eighty books in number.
He spent his last moments in the worship of Bhagwati Kamakshi at Kanchipuram and left his body at the young age of thirty two only.
Not only the land of India but also the entire world
today bows before Adi Shankara’s wisdom, intellect and the principles that he
enunciated and the empire of spirit that he established. In fact, he is the
brightest luminary in the galaxy of ancient Indian thinkers. In fact he was the first torch-bearer of
national integration functioning on the intellectual, philosophical and
religious plans, trying to bring about a perfect unity of thought all over
Kalhana is one poet who composed the first and the best
historical Kavya Rajatarangini which portrays the history of
Rajatarangini contains eight tarangas (wave). He has
surveyed the royal collections with the kings, puranas, various inscriptions,
anthologies, seals and coins to make his work more and authentic. The Kavya starts with one King Govinda of
1300 BC and contains the most authentic chronological descriptions of various
prominent incidents. He has not only
mentioned the qualities of the kings but also their immoral acts as well. The main objective of this work is the
propagation of morality. He has
appreciated the prevalent religious tolerance in the various sects of
This poetic work contains beautiful figures of speech and is written mostly in Anushtubh meter.
Kalhana was a resident of
Kalhana was a Shaiva but also appreciated Buddhism. He started writing this work in 1148 AD and completed it in nearly three years.
He has spared no pains in collecting the precious material and evidences. He deserves all credit for being the composer of such an excellent historical Mahakavya.
Jaideva is an extremely popular lyric poet and his famous
Geeti Kavya Geeta Govinda has influenced the later poets, painters and dancers
to base their performances on this beautiful work. This Kavya describes the pious love of Radha
Jaideva was a poet in the court of Raja Laxman Sen of
§ Well-Known Literary works
Fables are the tales written for innocent children to
impart knowledge of politics, economics, worldly wisdom and other day today
gimmicks. Their theme is the attainment of three ends of life i.e. Dharma,
Panchatantra is the oldest work available in its original form. On the basis of internal and external clues its time can be fixed as 300 BC. It has been largely influenced by the Arthashastra of Kautilya.
Vishnusharma is the author of Panchatantra. It was written by him to instruct the three dull Princes of King amarkirti of Mahilaranya. As the name itself denotes Panchatantra is divided into five chapters – ‘Tantra’. ‘Tantra’ means the secrets. Five secrets of good administration, kingship and worldly wisdom have been expounded with the help of the animal fables. There is a quaint humour in these fables because the animals are made to discuss dharma, gods, myths, legends, politics, economics, ethics etc.
These five tantras are Mitrabheda (separation of friends), Mitrasamprapti (union of friends), Kokolukiya (peace and war), Labdhapranasha (loss of what is gained). And aparikshitkarakam (doing things without pre-examination). Each division of Panchatantra has its main story but many others have been interwoven to prove the main one. The whole story of Panchatantra is in prose but the moral of the story has been given in the form of verses.
The language of Panchatantra is very easy and simple. The sentences are very small and easy to understand. The figures of speech used are Anuprasa, Upama, Rupaka, Utpreksha etc.
The truth of life given here is true for all places and for all times.
The Panchatantra is very popular not only in
The most important of all the editions of the
Panchatantra is Hitopadesha. It is full
of good advice imparted through stories.
It has been written by Narayan Pandit in about 1400 AD. under the patronage of King Dhawalchandra of
Panchatantra has five ‘Tantras’ but Hitopdesha has only four – Mitralabha (wining of friends), suhridbheda (loss of friends), vigraha (war) and sandhi (peace). Here the order of the first two chapters has been reversed and third chapter of Panchatantra has been divided into two and in these two chapters the contents of the Vth chapter have been inserted. Out of forty three stories in Hitopadesha twenty five have been drawn from Panchatantra.
Hitopadesha is a manual of politics for Kings in internal and foreign policy. It has many portions which are an embodiment of deep rooted political knowledge. Here the influence of Kamandaka’s Nitisara is evident.
The language of Hitopadesha is simple end easy flowing without any embellishment yet it is forceful and effective.
Hitopadesha has been much more popular in
Drama or 'Naatya' is considered
as a most beautiful part of Sanskrit literature. The earliest forms of dramatic literature in
Bharatmuni and his disciples brought this art on the earth from heaven.
'Rupaka' is the general term in Sanskrit for all dramatic compositions. 'Natya' is another wider term for the drama. Sanskrit dramaturgy has classified dramas into two types the major and the minor ones (uparupaka). The rupak is divided into ten classes – Natak, Prakarana, Bhana, Prahasana, Dima, Vyayoga, Samavakara, Vithi, Anka, and Ihamriga. There are eighteen classes of uparupakas. Most important of them are Natika, Sattaka and Trotaka.
Vastu (the plot), neta (the hero) and rasa (the sentiments) are the essential constituents of a drama or rupak. The plot of a rupak may be borrowed from history or tradition, or may be fictitious or mixed. The characteristic features of the Sanskrit drama, are –
(i) Absance of tragedy – Sanskrit drama never has a sad ending. It is a mixed composition, in which joy is mingled with sorrow. Love is the main theme of most of the dramas and vidushak is the constant companion of the hero in his love affairs.
(ii) The interchange of lyrical stanzas with prose dialogue.
(iii) The use of Sanskrit and prakrit languages. Sanskrit is employed by the heroes, kings, Brahmanas and men of high rank, Prakrit by all women and men of the lower classes.
(iv) Every Sanskrit play begins with a prologue or introduction, which opens with a prayer – nandi and ends with Bharata – vakya.
The best productions of the Sanskrit are the compositions of the great dramatists – Bhasa, Kalidasa, Bhavabhuti, Shudrak, Vishakhadatta and Rajeshekhar.
Sanskrit is the oldest language of the world. Since Sanskrit literature has come down to us through oral tradition called the Shruti Parampara, the maximum number of works are in poetry only. Starting from the Rigveda, the earliest document in world literature, there is a continuous flow of Sanskrit works in poetry. The three Vedas – Rik, Sama and the Atharva are composed in verses. The Upanishads are all written in poetry form. Our great epics Ramayana in 24000 couplets and Mahabarata in one lakh couplets are in verses only. All the eighteen Puranas, Vishnu, Bhagwatam, Narad, Garud, Padma, Varah, Brahma, Brahmanda, Brahma Vaivarta, Markandeya, Bhavishya and Vaman, Shiva, Linga, Skanda, Agni, Matsya and Kurma are composed in verses.
The puranas are followed by the great Mahakavyas. Buddacharitam and Saunderananda are earliest in this line written by Ashvaghasha. Kalidasa’s Raghuvansham and Kumarsambhavam are the great works of world fame. Bharavi’s (6th cent. A.D.) Kiratarjuniyam in eighteen cantos is famous for its depth of expression. Bhatti’s Ravanavadham (6th cent. A.D.) in 22 cantos excels in the use of grammar rules. Kumardasa’s Janaki Haranam in 20 cantos is based on Ramayana.
Magha’s Shishupal-vadham has influenced all the later poets by his excellent usage of words. He flourished in 7th century A.D. Shriharsha’s Naishadhiyacharitam is based on a story from Mahabharata. It is said that the glow of stars like Bhairavi and Magha faded down on the rise of the sun like Naishadha Kavya.
There is a long series of other Kavyas like Ratnakar’s Harivijaya, Kshemendra’s Dashavataracharitam, Shrikanthacharitam by Mankha and many others.
The historical works also are available in verses. The famous ones are Vikramankadevacharitam by Bilhan, Rajatarangini by Kalhan, Kumarpalacharitam by Hemchandra and many others.
A huge amount of literature exists in the form of Khanda Kavyas, Giti Kavyas, Muktakas and stotra – kavyas. The famous ones are Ritusamhar and Meghadootam by world famous poet Kalidasa, Geeta Govinda by Jaideva, Bilhana’s Chaur-panchashika, Bhartrihari’s Shatakatrayam, Amaru-shatakam, and stotras by Adi Shankaracharya and Pushpadanta.
Even in ancient times there was a long tradition of story telling. There are voluminous works in the form of collection of stories written in verses. In Panchatantra and Hitopadesha, the morals of the stories have been written in verses.
The most popular works are Brihat Katha Manjari by Kshemendra containing 7500 verses, Kathasaritasagara by Somadeva written in 24000 couplets, Vaitala-pancha-vimshtika available in both the forms i.e. poetry and prose.
A third form of literature came into existence known as champu kavyas written in mixed style of prose and poetry. Some of the works are Yashastilakchampu, Bharata champu etc. More than 500 champu kavyas are available till date. The greatest speciality of Sanskrit Literature is that topics like law, medicine, astronomy, grammar, poetics, politics, mathematics, philosophy etc have also been written in verses only. Some of the renowned works are the various Smrities (law), Charaka-samhita, Sushruta Samhita (medicines), Aryabhatiyam(astronomy), Arthashastra (political economy), Sahitya-darpanam, Rasagangadhara, Dhvanyaloka (poetics) and Natyashastra (dramaturgy) etc.
The flow of Sanskrit poetry continues till date. Some of the famous poets of the 21st
century are Srinivas Ratha, Ramakant Shukla, Satyavrata Shastri, Bhaskaracharya
Tripathi, Shrikrishna Semwal, Om Prakash Thakur, Ganesh Dutt Sharma and many
others. Annual Kavi Sammalens are
organized by Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan and the various other
‘Vedas’ are the most ancient literary compositions in the world literature. They are the treasure-house of Indian civilization, culture and philosophy. The word ‘Veda’ means ‘knowledge’. It has been derived from root vid ‘to know’ to exist, to gain, to think etc.’ It is through the Vedas that we learn about the extra-ordinary ways to attain the desired ends to avoid the undesirable ones. The Vedas are the treasure chest of knowledge in which each and every subject has been dealt with extensively be it philosophy, theosophy, ecology, astrology, astronomy, science or poetics. That is why it has been rightly said ‘sarvjnanamayo hi sah’.
Vedas approach nature not as an object of enjoyment and exploitation but as ‘Mother Goddess’ Vedic seers believed in universal brotherhood and fraternity. According to the vedic thought, the entire cosmos is teleological, purposive and goal oriented. The built in Rita sustains controls and directs the entire world. The Vedas emphasize participatory living in a community. Move together. Speak with one voice. Try to understand each others mind-advise the Vedas . Vedic messages are universal in nature.
The most important texts are the four collections which are called the ‘vedas’ or the ‘samhitas’. They are four – Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda respectively.
The Rigveda Samhita is the oldest and the most important one in Vedic Literature. As is evident from its name itself, it comprises the glorification of various gods. These gods represent natural and cosmic phenomena which have been idolized as Gods.
The priest of Rigveda is known as ‘Hota’ because his main function is the invocation of these deities. These invocations are known as hymns, mantras or richas.
Rigveda is globally accepted to be the oldest literary work yet no definite date has been ascribed to its scripting. According to some scholars it has been scripted between 1200 and 1000 B.C. while according to others, this period is between 4000 and 2500 B.C.
Although twenty one recensions of Rigveda have been mentioned yet only five are more popular – Shakala, Vashkala, Ashvalayana, Sankhyayana and Mandukayana. Out of these five also, only Shakala is available. According to Shakala recension, 10600 hymns of the Rigveda have been divided into 1028 suktas which further have been divided in ten mandalas. II to VII mandalas are the oldest ones and are similar in many ways. They have been named as ‘Family Books (Parivarika Pustakas)’ because they are attributed each one to a family of seers. They are Gritsamada, Vishwamitra, Vamdeva, Atri, Bhardwaja and Vasistha. Both I and VIII mandalas have some similarities and some dissimilarities also. Hence the first mandala has been put just before the ‘Family Books’ and the VIII just after them. In IX mandala all the suktas have been offered to soma. The X mandala is relatively later. ‘Who is the creator of this creation, how was it created, what was the material out of which it was created, what becomes of us after leaving this mundane world’ all these philosophical queries have been dealt with here. There are some suktas which throw ample light on the beliefs, traditions and customs of the Vedic Aryans.
The Rigvedic religion was originally polytheistic but gradually it became monotheistic. Indra being the god of power, rain and also the synonym of the sun was the most important. Next comes Agni who is the priest and the mediator between men and gods. Some of the other gods and goddesses who have been eulogized are Soma, Savitr, Surya, Rudra, Mitra, Varuna, Vishnu, Ushas, Vak etc. In fact these were the divine manifestations of one great power only.
Vedic Aryans had very practical and optimistic approach towards life. There was no idol worship in those days.
‘E-kam sad viprah bahudha vadanti’ i.e. the truth is one but is called by many names.
Yajurveda is the veda of ‘yajush’. Yajush means worship and sacrifice. It contains sacrificial formulas in prose . This Samhita was meant for ‘Adhvaryuh’, the priest who was responsible for the sacrificial fire and carrying out of the ceremonies.
Just as the main function of ‘Hota’ the priest of Rigveda is to invoke various gods similarly to perform ritual ceremonies practically for those gods was the sole responsibility of ‘Adhvaryuh’ the priest of the Yajurveda. If the Rigveda is theory, Yajurveda is practical. If the Rigveda is related to knowledge, the Yajurveda is related to action. ‘Which mantras should be chanted for achieving the desired object, what type of offering should be offered, how big and of what shape should be the altar, all this practical knowledge is the subject matter of Yajurveda .
The Vedic yajna has both an inner and outer form. The outer form involved the priests and offerings. The inner rituals proceeded through speech, mind-breath, and soul and thus was a matter of yogic practice and meditation. Yajna was considered to be the naval of the universe, the central point of the whole cosmos.
In fact all the three Vedas are complementary and interdependent. The Rigveda contains the mantras offered to various gods, the Samveda teaches how to chant them correctly with proper high & low notes while the Yarjurveda explains the sacrificial acts accompanying the same . Thus Rigveda is related to knowledge, the Samveda to devotional sentiments and the Yajurveda to action.
Patanjali , the author of Mahabhashya has made a mention of one hundred recensions of Yajurveda but presently only six are available. Yajurveda has two divisions -krishna (Black) and shukla (White). Taittiriya, Maitrayani, Kathaka & Kapishthala belong to Black Yajurveda while Kanva and Madhyandina are related to the white Yajurveda.
White (shukla) Yajurveda is
mostly used in northern part of
It is noteworthy that the main theme of Yaujrveda is to expound different sacrificial acts. The mantras are mainly from the Rigveda but the explanations pertaining to sacrifices are in prose. Moreover , the whole mantra has not been drawn, only a part of it has been taken like ‘Agnaye Swaha’ ‘Indraya Swaha’. From the Shataraudriya of Shukla Yajurveda started the tradition of eulogizing one god by different names. Yajurveda emphasizes the moral and the social responsibilities for a human being and from here starts the ecology .
Thus the place of Yajurveda is very important in Vedic literature.
Samveda means ‘Veda of chants’ . It is a collection of hymns largely drawn from the Rigveda which have been given a musical mode. Hence Samveda is a system of melodious chanting of vedic hymns . The vedic hymns are fruitful only when chanted in rhythm with proper high and low notes called ‘swara’ It is the vibrations created that give value to the hymns. It has been rightly said that musicology is synonymous to sama ‘gitishu samakhaya’ moreover, the priest of Samveda is called ‘Udgatri’ a singer, who pleases the gods with melodious hymns of Samveda. The use of ‘Jagati ’ & ‘Gayatri’ metres derived from the root gai-to sing also justify the conclusion.
Samveda is said to have one thousand recessions ‘Sahsravartma Samvedah’ but today only three- Kauthum, Jaiminiya & Ranayaniya recessions are available out of which the ‘Kauthum’ is the most popular.
Samveda has two divisions- purvarchika and Uttararchika. Total mantras are 1875. Except seventy five mantras all have been taken from the Rigveda. There are 650 mantras in Purvarchika divided in six ‘Prapathkas’. The first five ‘ Prapathakas’ are called ‘Gramgana’ while the last and the sixth is called ‘Aranyagana.
Uttararchika has 1225 mantras divided in four hundred songs. Each song has three mantras in average. According to the other division ‘Uttararchika’ has been divided in nine ‘ Prapathakas’ which have twenty one chapters. Each sukta further has 2-3 mantras.
Mantras are uttered together with their swaras. Each
swara of each letter in the veda is fixed and maintained. Thus the text could be preserved for
generations together. For all swaras,
the basis is sound (nada) which can be characterized with variance – high, low
and middle tone. The pronunciation of
the letters are based on six factors -
There are seven musical notes- Shadaja (Sa), Rishabha (Re), Gandhara (Ga), Madhyama ( Ma), Panchama (Pa), Dhaiwata (Dha), and Nishada (Ni)
To convert the hymns of the Rigveda into melodious melodies of the Samveda, some changes are made called ‘Samavikara’
The importance of Samveda is immense. It is the main origin of musicology. In fact gandharvaveda which has given birth to about sixteen thousand musical notes and their modifications has been deduced from Samveda only. In fact music is the living symbol of Vedic civilization.
Atharvaveda is the fourth and the last Veda. It stands apart from other Vedas in as much it lays more emphasis on expounding the means essential for making the life comfortable and happy.
Atharvaveda contains a collection of hymns, magic spells and incantations that represent the beliefs, faiths, traditions, conservations and customs of the masses. It contains a very high level of scientific knowledge also. Love for the country and mother earth is reflected in many suktas.
The Atharvaveda means the Veda of the Atharvas or the knowledge of magic formulas. ‘Atharvangirasa’ is the oldest name for Atharvaveda which means the veda of Atharvas and Angirasas. The hymns of the first part relate to prevention and cure of diseases warding off natural and supernatural ills, gaining of health, strength and success while the other part relates to subjugation, seduction, eradication etc.
Atharvaveda is mentioned to have nine recensions by Acharya Patanjali but today only two are available- Shaunaka and pippalada. The former is more popular for all practical purposes.
The Atharvaveda consists of about 6000 mantras divided in 730 Suktas which further have been arranged in twenty ‘Kandas’. About 1200 mantras have been taken from the Rigveda. All the hymns of twentieth ‘Kanda’ have been picked from the Rigveda.
Some of the special Suktas of this Veda are ‘Bhaishajyani Suktas’ in which number of diseases, their signs and symptoms and treatments have been given. The ‘Aayushya Suktas’ contain prayers for long life and sound health. In ‘Paushtika Suktas’ there are prayers for the welfare and prosperity of farmers, businessmen, cattle grazers, labourers etc. and for the safety of the animals also. In fact the Veda contains medicinal treatment, surgery, yajna-therapy, naturopathy, mantra and tantra therapy and mani-bandhan therapy.
‘Shringara Suktas’ also called the ‘Prasada Suktas’ are prayers for providing safety from fear, thwarting evils and having the blessings and happiness. In ‘Prayashchita Suktas’ are the mantras for expiation of evils, mistakes committed in ‘Yajnas’ and festivals while ‘Strikarmani suktas’ have the mantras for developing the love and affection between husband and wife, ensnaring the beloved with the help of herbs and mantras and for destroying the co-wife. These are called ‘Premsuktas’ also .
In ‘Rajkarmani suktas’, as the name itself denotes, are the hymns for the victory of Kings . They describe their duties, law and judiciary, warship, weapons etc. The ‘Philosophical Suktas’ mention ‘Brahma, Virat Brahma, Maya, Ishwara, monotheism, rebirth etc.
In the Atharvaveda for the first time the earth has been honoured and praised as mother ‘Mata Bhumih putroham Prithivyah’. It expounds the social institutions like celibacy, household austerity etc.
Thus Atharvaveda Samhita being related with the practical life of human beings is very much significant. Atharva Veda is rightly called the Bhishag veda and Ayurveda has been regarded as a sub system of Atharvaveda only.
Brahamana Granthas occupy an important place in Vedic literature. They are indispensable for understanding Vedic culture, religion and philosophy. Their importance can be realised by the very fact that like the Vedic Samhitas, ‘Brahmanas’ also have been termed as Veda- ‘Mantra brahamanatmako vedah’.
‘Brahman’ this word has been derived from Brihu – vardhane – to increase. These are the books that explain in great details the significance and importance of the rituals given in the Vedas. Although there are cosmological myths, tales, legends still ‘yajna’ is the sole theme. They deal with the science of ‘yajna’ describing its ceremonies, discussing its values and speculating on its origin and significance. Geometry and mathematics had a ritual origin where the earth was represented by a circular altar and the heavens were represented by a square alter. The rituals consisted on conversions of the circle into square of identical area.
Like the Vedas, no definite date can be assigned to Brahmanas also. However, it can be said that they were composed before the rise of Buddhism i.e. 500 B.C. as Buddhism is the reaction to the ills in ritual practices. Hence all the Brahmanas must have been composed much before 600 B.C.
All the four Vedic Samhitas have their own
Brahmanas. Two Brahmana Granthas
Aitareya and Kaushitaki or Sankhyayana are attached to Rigveda. Tandya
Mahabrahman or Panchvinsha, Shadvinsha, Adbhuta and Jaiminiya belong to Samveda. In fact Shadvinsha Brahman is only a
completion of Panchavinsha which consists of 25 chapters while the last part of
Shadvinsha Brahmana is called Adbhuta Brahmana.
Shatpatha Brahmana belongs to white (shukla) yajurveda while Taittiriya
is attached to Black (
The essential contents of all the Brahmanas are almost the same. There are two main divisions of the contents of these –vidhi and arthavada. Vidhi means rule, regulations. This part describes the rituals and the fruit received therefrom while Arthvada is the explanatory portion and recommends the rituals. Deep rooted symbolical meaning of the mantras has been expounded with the help of myths and legends.
The most special feature of the Brahmanas is the utmost emphasis laid by them on ‘Yajna’. Yajna is supposed to be the most important action, ‘yajno vai shreshthatamam karma’. The beauty and the greatness of these ‘granthas’ lies in connecting the sacrificial formulas with the sacrificial rite by pointing out on one hand their direct relation and on the other their symbolical connection with each other.
The society was divided into four castes – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra Brahmins signified the academicians were respected as equivalent to gods because of their functions as teacher, philosopher and seeker of knowledge. The Kshatriyas were the defendants, the Vaishyas were traders and earned money for the country while shudras have been described as ‘Tapas’ which perhaps symbolizes the physical labour.
The etymologies given by the Brahmana granthas are very important and significant from the point of view of Philology and Grammar.
Because of the numerous myths and legends having marvellous poetic beauty the Brahmana granthas occupy a unique place in Vedic Literature. The Philosophical thought and cosmological knowledge of these books is significant.
Thus the Brahmana Granthas are important not only for understanding the Vedas but are indispensable from theological, geographical, cultural, philosophical, political, historical and social point of view as well.
The four Vedic Samhitas, Brahmana Granthas, Aranyakas and Upanishads are the integral part of Vedic Literature. They are interdependent and complimentary to each other. Aranyakas are the links between the Brahmanas and the Upanishads. Here the subject matter of Brahmanas has been explained in the style of the Upanishads meaning thereby that the rituals have a spiritual basis. Thus a perfect co-ordination has been established by the Aranyakas between the path of action (Karmamarg) and the path of knowledge (Jnanamarg). They are representative of transitory period as they gave a philosophical and spiritual explanation of yajna and all the things related to that.
Aranyakas were read and taught in the forests away from the villages. Just as the Brahmanas contain and explain the rituals and ceremonies for a householder (grihastha) similarly the Aranyakas explain the laws and rituals for those who have gone into Vanaprastha - the third ‘ashrama’ according to the Indian culture. Here the secrets and mysticism of the yajnas have been elaborated tastefully. They throw light on the duties of the priests also.
Sometimes it becomes quite difficult to differentiate between Aranyakas and the Upanishads because of their very close similarity.
Just as the Vedas have the Brahmana Granthas attached to
them, similarly the Aranyakas are also attached to the Vedas. Undoubtedly Arnyaka literature must have been
very large but today only eight Aranyakas are available. Aitereya and Sankhyayana belong to
Rigveda. Samveda also has two Aranyakas
–Jaiminiyopanishadaranyaka and chhandogyaranyaka. Brihaddaranyaka, Kanva Brihadaranyaka and
Madhyandin Brihadaranyaka are that of white (shukla) Yajurveda and the
Taittariyaranyaka is that of Black (
Thus the Aranyakas are the basis of the philosophy that developed later in the Upanishads in the form of expounding monotheism, Brahman, Atman, knowledge etc.
The four Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the Upanishads
all together constitute the sacred revealed literature of
The works which have been written in sutra style proved to be very useful in understanding the Vedas. That is why they were named as ‘Vedangas’ also i.e. the studies accessory to the Vedas. Thus the Vedangas are representative of Sutra literature. They are six – Shiksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Channdas and Jyotish.
Shiksha (Phonetics) explains the proper articulation and pronunciation of vedic texts. There are six parts of Shiksha – letters (varnas), accent (swara), time consumed in articulating vowel (matra), effort (bala) Melodius chanting of mantras (sama) and conjugation of letters (sandhi). If some mistake is committed in any of the above six, instead of giving the desired result it can prove to be disastrous as well.
Pratishakhyas are the oldest representatives of the Vedangas. Different recensions of the four Vedas had different ways of pronouncing the Vedic texts and these variations were recorded in pratishakhyas. Some of the other Shiksha granthas are Narada Shiksha, Yajnavalkya Shiksha, Vyas Shiksha etc. but Panini Shiksha is the most perfect grantha of Shiksha.
These are the rules for the sacrificial rituals in a concised, perspicuous and connected manner. The theme of this Vedanga is to study the correct ways of performing rituals. There are four components of Kalpa Sutra (i) Shrauta Sutras are related to the yajnas propounded in the Vedas (shruti) (ii) Grihya Sutras contain not only the rituals of a householder but also the ceremonies starting from conception upto the funeral rites (iii) Dharmasutras provde rules for the conduct of life. They are mainly concerned with the duties of people (iv) Shulva sutras - Shulva means a measuring rope. The sutras are related to the making of the geometrical calculations necessary for the proper construction of the altar. There are six shulva sutras available but the oldest is Baudhayana Shulva sutras which contain the so-called Pythogorean theorem. It was necessary that the areas of various alters must match with the standard shyenchiti altar.
The analysis and the determination of the Vedic words is the main function of this Vedanga. Hence it is very important since it clarifies and helps in understanding the difficult hymns of the Vedas and safeguards them from distortions.
The words have been classified into four categories – Nama (nouns and pronouns), Akhyata (verb), Upasarga (prefix) and Nipata (indeclinable).
The words which could not come within the reach of grammar have been discussed and explained by Nirukta. Thus it is complementary to grammar.
The Nirukta of Yaskacharya is the most important. In fact Nirukta is a commentary on Nighantu, a collection of difficult words occurring in the Vedas but it is not available today.
The main and the most significant contribution of Nirukta is to give the etymological meaning of every word.
Chhandas is important for the purity and the melodious chanting of the Vedic hymns. According to Acharya Katyayana a fixed number of letters is called – Chhandas.
In Vedas there are seven meters – gayatri, anushtubh, pankti, jagati, Brihati, Ushnik and Trishtubh. Further there are many divisions and sub divisions of these meters depending on the increase and decrease of letters.
The chhandashastra of Pingala is the oldest and most perfect grantha on meters which deals with both vedic and the classical meters.
To get the desired results of a yajna it is very important that it should be performed at auspicious time on auspicious day, paksha, month etc. Jyotish determines the right time for rituals. It is called the eye of Vedas. It contains useful information about the movements of various planets, their sizes, the eclipses and their effect on human beings.
Today only one book called Vedang Jyotish is available. Lagadha is supposed to be its author. Later quite a few commentaries were written on this book.
The Upanishadas are the
fountain heads of Indian. Philosophy, the treasury of the highest
knowledge. They are called the 'Vedanta'
which means the conclusion (anta) of the Vedas because with the
Upanishads concludes the earliest sacred literature of
The word Upanishad means to sit near the teacher and attain knowledge. The Upanishad vidya destroys the ignorance, perverts the miseries and leads to union with Brahma i.e. the freedom from the vicious circles of birth and rebirth.
The Upanishads were not composed at one particular date, but in any case their composition was completed before 600 B.C. They are regarded as the record and outcome of academic disputations and transactions of the great sages of the upanishadic period. The entire teaching of the rishis, kings, philosophers have been made available to us through various samvadas. These dialogues were held at the celebrations of great sacrifices, at the samiti or Parishads arranged by King – philosohers such as Janak. The ashramas also served as the philosophical laboratories to discover the spiritual and the highest truth of life.
Like Brahmanas and the Aranyakas,
Upanishads are also attached to the four vedas. There is a large number of Upanishads
but eleven of them are
masterpieces. They are Aitreyopanishad of
the Rigveda, Kena and Chhandogya of the Samveda, Isha and
Brihadaranyaka of white (Shukla) Yajurveda, Katha, Taittiriya
and Shvetashwatara of the Black (
In the Upanishads Brahma has been described not as an object or human being but as all powerful, eternal, endless divine power which is within everybody and is known as Atman. Atman can not be achieved by sense organs or mind. It can be realised only and that too within oneself. Various allegories, parables, and analogies have been profusely utilized to unravel the mysteries of the Highest Self i.e. the famous allegory of yaksha has been used in Kenopanishad to illustrate the superiority of Brahman to all its manifestations. Atman can be known by controlling the mind and the sense organs through continuous meditation over a period of time. This Atman is identical with Paramatman. 'Aham Brahma Asmi, Tat Tvam Asi, Jivaiv Brahm Naparah' are boldest expressions (Mahavakyas) of the Upanishads.
Brahma is all pervasive ' Ishavasyamidam Sarvam'. He creates, supports and withdraws all again into itself. That is why it is that from which everything is born, by whom everything is supported and in when everything merges back. Brahma becomes known to one who knows one's own self. But to know one's own self one has to get detached from all worldly pleasures because both of these are diametrically opposed and can never meet like two parallel lines. One more point which has been emphasised in the Upanishads is that a man gets birth according to the 'Karma' done by him in previous births.
Undoubtedly, the Upanishads lay much emphasis on morality. One has to fulfil his social responsibilities towards parents, teachers, gods and guests. The 'Yajna' is not the end (Sadhya) but means (Sadhan) to attain Brahma. Austerity (Tapa), control over oneself (Dama) and good actions (Karma) have been said to be the means to self realization and the truth is its abode.
The sole purpose of the Upanishads is to attain Liberation (Moksha) – the freedom from death and birth but this is achieved through knowledge only -'Vidyayamritamashnute' one attains knowledge when one realises that one's body and sense organs are different from the Atman as they are perishable but the Atman is not. After knowing this one becomes free from all bondages. Upanishads are thus the most valuable gems of Indian Philosophy which would live for all times and provide solace to soul and mind in the wilderness of the advancing cultures and civilizations.
Ramayana (the path of Rama) is both a work of art and the mirror of a perfect human soul. This unique piece of poetry flowed from the pen of Valmiki at a time when no kavya had yet been written in any form. Hence it is called Adikavya and its author Valmiki the Adikavi. Ramayana starts with the outburst of a curse against a hunter for killing a male bird while it was courting its partner. This outburst is considered by the creator as an indication of the power of the poet to create a poem of deep human compassion for the fullness of life. This epic played the role of guide for the poets and artists of later periods. The characters of Ramayana deserve individual study in view of their varied natures. Rama is a personification of Dharma because of the perfection of his human qualities and self sacrificing nature, never violating the laws of truth and merit.
Ramayana was composed in Sanskrit by the poet Valmiki and its present form consists of 24,000 couplets divided into seven kandas. The epic enjoys such great popularity that its recitation is considered an act of great merit. Many of its translations are themselves great works of literary merit including the Ramcharit Manas of Tulsidas, Tamil version of Kamban, Bengali version of Krittibas etc. Throughout north India, the events of this story are enacted in the form of Ram Leela. In South India both the epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata even today make up the story of Kathakali dance – drama of Malabar. Ramayana events are favourite subject of Mughal, Rajasthani and Pahari paintings.
The story also spread in various forms throughout Southeast Asia especially Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand, being chosen as themes of traditional Japanese, Balinese Theatre, dance and shadow play. Incidents from Ramayana are carved on many Indonesian monuments. In Thailand even today the king is called King Rama and the main highways as King Rama Roads.
Ramayana also provides glimpses of the great scientific inventions in the form of bridges which were lifted up and dropped when needed. Many descriptions are examples of excellent town-planning, engineering, building of bridge over the sea, aeroplanes in the form of Pushpaka Vimana in which Rama came to Ayodhya alongwith Sita, Hanuman and other war heroes. Researches are being conducted on the composition of Jrimbhaka – astra which could make the whole army fall into a deep slumber.
Ramayana displays a code of ideal human rights. Rama does not believe in capturing Lanka but infact makes Vibhishana take over the power. Rama believes in removing enmity and establishing virtues. Hence, it is said that Ramayana Katha will flourish in this world till the existence of mountains and rivers on earth.
Mahabharata, the largest epic in the history of mankind is one of the two major epics of India, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is termed as vishvakosha i.e. encyclopedia of wisdom because of its high literary merit and religious inspiration. It is an exposition on Dharma – a code of conduct including the proper conduct of a king, a warrior, of a man living in times of calamity and also of a person seeking to attain emancipation from rebirth.
This epic contains one lakh couplets (1,00,000) devided into 18 parvans to which a supplement has been added called Harivamsha (Geneology of God Hari i.e. Vishnu). The traditional author is the sage Vyasa who perhaps compiled the existing material that reached its present form about 400 A.D.
The epic describes events that took place in Bharata around 5000 BC. The story revolves around the five Pandavas, sons of deceased king Pandu and one hundred sons of blind king Dhritarashtra. Due to blindness Dhritrashtra was passed over as King, on his father’s death, in favour of his brother Pandu. This feeling of jealousy further sprouted in innumerable forms although he was made the king when Pandu renounced the kingship to become a hermit. Enmity forced Pandavas to leave the kingdom at the time of their father’s death. They returned to some years of prosperity in a divided kingdom but were again forced to return to the forest for 12 years when Yudhishthira lost his kingdom in a game of dice with Duryodhana – the eldest of Kauravas. The feud culminated in a great battle in the field of Kurukshetra (north of modern Delhi in Haryana State) in which only five Pnadavas, Draupadi and Lord Krishna survived.
The main story covering about one fifth of the total work is interwoven with many other famous episodes like Nala-Damayanti, Savitri – Satyawan, Shakuntala – Dushyanta etc., descriptions of places of pilgrimages, myths, moral precepts, geneological accounts of ruling dynasties and a notional history of creation. There is a totality of life as it is lived here and now and yet there is a firm human will to transcend it and enter the realm of eternity.
The epic contains references to invaluable war strategies and missiles which are being researched in modern times. The description of Brahmastra and its after – effects match the description of modern deadly nuclear weapons. It is said that it does not rain for twelve years at the place where Brahmastra is used. Modern researchers have found that the radio-activity of Kurukshetra is still two and a half times greater than that of other areas. Technology in architecture, construction -engineering, tunneling and construction of highways was astonishingly advanced as we read about laksha-griha, tunnel from palace to the forest, royal palace built by Mayasur and the layout of town Indraprastha.
Some of the sections of this epic have become famous as separate texts such as Narayaniyam (Book XIII), the Bhagvadgita (Both VI), the Anugita (Book XIV), Vidur Niti and Harivamsha in which Krishna is identified with Lord Vishnu and other avataras are also described.
This gem of our cultural heritage has been further carried over not only in works after works in Sanskrit but also in all the other Indian languages, languages of Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, Combodia, laos and many others. The story gained such immense popularity that its various incidents have been portrayed in stone, notably in sculptured reliefs at Angkorwat and Angkor Thom in Combodia and by many Indian miniature painters.
Thus it has served as a thematic source for many a poems, dramas, novels and even Television serials. It is said that in Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, whatever is written here may be found elsewhere but that which is not here cannot be found any where else.
Ø The Bhagwadgita
The Bhagwadgita is an immensely important religious philosophical treatise of universal wisdom. Its central message is to call for the development of all that is potential in human personality. It forms a part of the Bhishma Parva of Mahabharata. It comprises of only 700 shlokas but the range of its content is enormous. Gita goes far beyond the ethical question with which it begins, to consider broadly the nature of God and the means by which man can know him. It beautifully harmonizes the philosophy of action, devotion and knowledge. A familiar verse compares the Upanishad to a cow and Krishna to the milkman who milks the nectar in the form of this Gita with the calf Arjuna beside him.
Gita teaches us to do selfless service to all without consideration of their religion. The truly learned person looks upon all with equanimity, whether it be a saint, or evil doer or even an animal. He wants us to be active and not passive and idle.
Krishna talks of general paths to the divine such as those of knowledge, meditation, good deeds, renunciation of attachment and love and surrender to God. Gita is above religion. Gita is for the whole mankind. In fact Gita is the science of managing one’s self.
Its popularity is evident from the number of commentaries, glossaries and expository books written on it in both ancient and modern times. The earliest commentary is that of the great philosopher Shankara. Other important commentaries of ancient times are those of Bhaskar, Ramanuj, Madhva, Nilkanth, Shridhar, Madhusudan etc. In outstanding modern commentaries are those of B.G. Tilak, Aurobindo, Gandhi, Radhakrishnan. It has been translated in almost all the languages of the world.
In fact Gita with its eternal values can serve the whole mankind as a path finder forever.
§ Sanskrit and Other Classical Languages
Sanskrit is one of the languages of Indo-European family. Indo-European is the name given to the family of languages to which Sanskrit belongs. The name is based on the fact that this family covers most of Europe and extends eastward as far as northern India, with a total body of speakers of nearly one and a half billion. Indo-Germanic is a synonymous term preferred by German linguists based on the fact that it includes the easternmost and western most members of the family.
Sanskrit has its close relationship with other classical Languages of Indo-European group like, Latin Greek, French, German etc,. For Example the numerals from one to ten are mostly similar in these languages. In Italian Sie- six, settle- seven, otto- eight, nove- nine, etc. The words of closes family relationship like father, mother, sister, brother, etc. as well as a number of other fundamental words of Sanskrit resemble with other classical languages of this family. For example: Bhratr in the Sanskrit, Brother in the German, bhratheir in the Irish brat in the Russian, beradar in the Persian. Pitr in the Sanskrit, Frater in the Latin Pharater in Greek.
Some other similarities can be found between Sanskrit and other classical Languages.
Sanskrit German Greek Latin English
Matri Mutter Mateera Mater mother
Sunus Sohn Yas Natus Son
Svasri Schwester altheffee sorror sister
Apas, jalam wasser neero acqua water
Dvi zwei theeo duo two
Ashta acht okta Octo eight
The verbal system of Avestan so clearly resembles with that of Sanskrit, that a student of Sanskrit after mastering Avestan phonology can easily understand Sanskrit. The Slavic language which is one of the chief languages of Satam group of Indo-Uropean languages outside Asia, has many resemblances. Not only in the languages but similarities can be found between Slavic and Indian Culture.
Curiously enough, the Sanskrit Imperative Ending -u seems to be preserved in some Gothic imperative forms of the third person singular and plural like at-steigadau, lingandau. It is evidently the same- au which is evident in all the quotable forms of passive optative in Gothic.
The peculiar perfect endings in Sanskrit veda, vettha, veda have their exact counter parts in Greek, oida, oistha, oide. The endings of reduplicating perfects are not so easily reconcilable, but see, Greek.: gegona, and in Sanskrit yajna.
In perfect tense, Latin has generalized the medial endings. Thus tutudi, though in meaning identical with Sanskrit tutoda, agrees in form more with Sanskrit tutude, tutudai.
From the above illustrations, it is clear that the Sanskrit language has many resemblances with other classical languages of Indo-European group like, Latin, Greek, German, Iranian, Slavic etc.
§ Sanskrit and Modern Indian Languages
Languages spoken in India belong to various language families like (i) Indo- European Family, (ii) Dravidian Family (iii) Austric, (iv) Sino-Tibetan etc, which include 179 languages and about 544 dialects. The languages spoken in North India are called Indo-Aryan Languages and come under Indo- European Family. The languages spoken in South India belong to Dravidian family. The Languages of Kashmir and Assam belong to Sino-Tibetan Family. Some dialects of Andaman and Nikobar Islands, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Orissa belong to Austric Family.
The geographical position of a language has very often had a great deal of positive influence upon its development. So Sanskrit being the oldest language of India has influenced all other languages of India, even those, which have not directly originated from it. There are ample evidences that all the languages of Indo-Aryan Group are the offsprings of Sanskrit Languages. Sanskrit is considered to be the mother of most of Indian Languages except Dravidian Family.
All the Modern Indian Languages, like, Hindi, Marathi, Gujrati, Oriya, Bengali, Sindhi, Maithili, Kashmiri, Assamese, Konkani, Rajsthani, Manipuri, Punjabi etc., have been enriched with the words of Sanskrit. Sanskrit has influenced other languages also which have not originated from it, like Urdu and the Dravidian languages like Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam.
Another Evidence of the influence of Sanskrit on the Modern Indian Languages is its literary component. The Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the two oldest epics of Sanskrit are the sources of many other literatures the Ramacaritamanasa in Hindi by Tulasidas, the Adhyatmaramayana in Malayalam by Ramanuja Eutachh, the Kambaramayana in Tamil by Kamban, the Mullaramayana in Telugu and the Krttibasaramayana on Bangla by Krttivasab. The notable evidence of the influences of Sanskrit language on modern Indian languages is the literary heritage of it.
§ Sanskrit and the Sciences
Astronomy was called ‘Nakshatravidya’, ‘Jyotirvijnyanam’ or Jyotish in ancient India. The word ‘Nakshatradrashta’ is used for an Astronomer in Shuklayajurveda (30/10) and ‘Nakshatravidya’ for Astronomy in Chhandogya Upanishad (7/1/2).
The earliest references of Astronomy are found in the Rigveda. The Vedic Seers always appreicated the appearance of the light in the sky. Many stars are mentioned in Atharvaveda. We also find natural scientific observations regarding the course of the planets. The Aitareya Brahmana (3/44) says that the sun actually neither rises nor sets but through it’s revolution round the earth, causes day and night.
To perform the Vedic rituals and sacrifices, calculation of appropriate time was necessary and this need introduced The Vedang - ‘Jyotish’ in the history of Indian Astronomy.
‘Vedanga Jyotish’ of Lagadha the first treatise on Astronomy, contains two parts: Arch Jyotish in 36 shlokas and Yajush Jyotish in 43 shlokas.
It is exclusively devoted to calculation of time. An attempt to cast a calander is also found in this vedang.
‘Panchasiddhantika’ of Varahmihira mentions five siddhantas of earliar Astronomy in which a complete system of Astronomy is presented. They are – Pitamaha siddhanta, Vashistha siddhant, Paulisha siddhanta, Surya siddhanta and Romaka siddhanta.
Surya Siddhanta is the most prominent treatise of Siddhant period. According to the introductory verses Surya the Sun God disclosed it to Asura Maya in the city of Romaka. The cosmological timecycles and the Solar Planetary cycles are described here. The average length of the Sideral year (the length of the Earth’s revolution round the sun) is 365.2563627 days which is only 1.4 seconds longer than the modern value of 365.2563627 days.
The following works and the authors have an eminent place in the history of Astronomy:
i. Aryabhatiyam of Aryabhata also called the Arya siddhanta, consist of four parts – the Dashagitika sutra, Ganita Pada, Kalkriyapada and Golapada. The first and second part are related to Mathematics. The Third part, in 25 verses contains the basic principals of astronomical time – calculations. The fourth part, in 50 verses deals with the celestial sphere.
ii. Arya Siddhanta of Aryabhata IInd, is a voluminous work on astronomy.
iii. Brahma-sphuta-siddhant of Brahmagupta, treats the astronomy more elaborately and more methodically.
iv. Siddhantshiromani of Bhaskaracharya is divided into four parts – Lilavati, the Bijganita, the Grahaganitadhyaya and the Goladhyaya. Goladhyaya contains a section, in which difficult austronomico – mathematical problems are posed and solved. It also deals with astronomical instruments and description of the seasons.
v. Rajmriganka of Bhoja
vi. Bhasvati of Shatananda
vii. Grahalaghava or the siddhantrahasya of Ganesha
viii. Siddhantatattva viveka of Kamalakara
ix. Karanapaddhati of Nilakantha somayaji.
The Indian Astronomy is closely associated with astrology. According to Varahmihira there are three branches of jyotish shastra –
‘Ganita’ the term used in Sanskrit for mathematics; is derived from the root ‘gana’, which means to count or to enumerate. Mathematics in India has been cultivated in connection with Astronomy. Like the other streams of knowledge, the early references of mathematics, are also found in the vedic literature. The word ‘Rashividya’ is used for mathematics in Chhandogya Upanishad (7.1.2). Some hymns of Shuklayajureda reveal the knowledge of odd numbers and tables (18/24,25). The Brahmana texts like ; ‘ekaya svaha, dvabhyam svaha, tribhyah svaha’ reflect the vedic concept of arithmetical progressions. In Pingal sutra there is a discourse on the calculation of squares and square roots.
The Indians; earlier than other nations; became familiar with the system of place value of numerals. Undoubtedly the Europian system of enumeration is of Indian origin. India is the birth place of several mathematical concepts including zero, the decimal system, algebra, algorithm, square root and cube root etc. The origin of calculus was in India, even more than three centuries before Leibnitz and Newton introduced their own theorems.
The concept of zero, i.e. shunya, which means ‘void’, a figure to indicate the absence of a position of number is virtually void. A round figure, symbol for zero, i.e. ‘0’ had emerged to represent the philosophical concept of void.
Mathematics in India might have started more than five thousand years ago. Since 1000 B.C. almost for a period of two thousand years, many a number of mathematical works were produced in India. Since the 5th centruay A.D., the method of graduated calculation had been introduced in India. By that time, the geometric theories were known to the Indians. We may see some displays of motifs on the walls of ancient temples. Those motifs ideally reflect the patterns available in Indian architecture, as we see the admixture of floral and wall pattern of geometric method. These concepts, were collected and developed further by the mathematicians like Aryabhata who flourished in the 5th Century A.D. His work Aryabhatiyam is equally important for Mathematics and Astronomy. The first part of the book explains the special system of writing numerals that was introduced by Aryabhata alone. The Second part gives a small anthology of mathematical teachings of Aryabhatta. He deals in his work with evolution and revolution, area and volumes, progressions and algebraic identities.
Brahmagupta’s work ‘Brahma-sphuta-siddhanta’ covers very briefly the arithmetical operations, square and cube roots, interest, progressions, geometry and simple algebraic identities.
Bhaskaracharya the great astronomer, enjoys high reputation as a mathematician also. His work Lilavati, in which a lovely maiden is addressed and problems set to her, is a famous book on mathematics. The second book Bijaganita, is the fullest and most systematic account of Indian algebra.
Ganitasarasangraha of Mahaviracharya, Trishati of Shridhara, Bijaganita of Narayan are some prominent Sanskrit treatises on Indian Mathematics.
Chemistry is the branch of science, which deals with the study of elements of organic as well as inorganic nature. In India the knowledge of chemistry was current since the Vedic era, praising Agni (The fire), as we see in the first sukta of the Rigveda. It is believed that the basic idea of smelting reached India since the Rigvedic period. Metallurgy, one of the main branches of chemistry has remained as the central key to all the civilizations from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age.
Ancient India's advanced chemical science was distinct feature in the Vedic contents like the Brahmanas. The chemical action was known as the pakaprakriya. The science of chemistry, due to its Vedic antiquity might have been first recognized in India, as a separate discipline. Alchemy and the science of medicine gave rise to the study of chemistry in India. The ancient masters as mentioned in connection with chemistry are: Patanjali,Bhavya Dattadeva, Vyadi, Svacchanda, Damodara, Vasudeva, Caraka, Sushruta, Harita and Vagbhata. Ancient Sanskrit documents about the advanced chemical science find the expression in activities like distillation of perfumes and fragrant ointments. It is also found in activities like manufacturing of dyes and chemical preparation of pigments and colours and polishing of mirrors. In India itself, certain objects testify to the high level of metallurgy.
There are around fifty Sanskrit works in original found on chemistry. A few of them are as follows:
Work Author Date
v The Rasaratnakara Nagarjun - 8th century A.D.
v The Rasarajamriganka Bhoja – 11th century A.D.
v The Rasendracudamani Somadeva —12th century A.D.
v The Rasaprakasa-sudhakara Yasodhara —13th century A.D.
v The Rasasara Govindacarya —14th century A.D.
v The Rasarajalaksmi Vishnudeva —14th century A.D.
v The Sharngadharasamhita Sharngadhara —14th century A.D.
v The Rasendrasarasangraha Gopalakrishna —14th Century A.D.
v The Arkaprakasha by Ravana; Arka is the Sanskritized form of the Persian word arrak meaning tincture. Distillation of liquor is mentioned in the Sanskrit work called Madirarnava.
The Carakasamhita mentions about the Ancient Indians who knew how to prepare sulphuric acid, nitric acid, the oxides of copper tin and zinc, the sulphate of copper, zinc and iron and the carbonates of lead and iron. The weapons mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana were actually the products of Chemistry.
Indian chemists knew the production of gunpowder and it was called as aurbagni, which was attributed to Aurba, the preceptor of Sagara. The work called Niticintamani discusses about the ingredients and power of fire of Aurba. It says; " combining burnt wood, saltpeter and sulphur by parts gradually lessened, a terrible fire is produced by which even water and others are burnt."
Architecture the Vastu vidya or Sthapatya is one of the basic Arts of ancient India. The word ‘vastu’ is derived from ‘vas’ to ‘reside’. Thus ‘vastu’ denotes all sorts of buildings – religious, residential and military like – Prasada, mandapa, sabha, shala, prapa, ranga, skandhawara and fort. It also implies town planning, planning of commercial cities, laying out gardens, making roads, bridges, dams, tanks etc. Thus architecture includes the complete science of Civil Engineering.
There are innumerable references in Rigveda which indicate a very advanced Vastushilpa in Rigvedic age. The Vedic deities Mitra and Varuna are described as residing in a great palace with thousand pillars and thousand gates.
The chief development of the Indian Architecture centres round the Hindu Temple. Specimen of different styles of Temple Architecture particularly, the Northern and Dravidian are found in the two parts of India, north and south. The Temple Architecture reflects the spiritual ideals of India. Temples are the abode of gods and goddesses on earth.
The main Sanskrit treatises on Architecture are the Mayamata, Manasara, Vishvakarma - VastuShastra, Samaranganasutradhara, Aparajita - Priccha, Manasollasa, Prasadamandana, Shilparatnam etc.
Mechanical Engineering is known as ‘Yantra Vidya’ in Sanskrit Shastras. There are many references in Sanskrit literature which speak of the mechanical skills of Indians. The samarangana-sutradhara describes three classes of yantras (i) yana yantra – conveyances like vimanas and chariots, (ii) udakayantra – water machines – variyantra and dharayantra, (iii) sangramayantra – like Agneyastra, Varunastra, bhushundi, shataghni and sahasraghni etc.
Indian the medical science is popularly known as ‘Ayurveda’ which means ‘the Veda for lengthening of the span of life’. The beginning of Medical Science goes back to the age of Vedas. The Vedic Indians, who wanted to live for hundred full years with prosperity and good health, developed a holistic approach in the field of healthcare and medical systems, which emphasizes the physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual aspects of a human being.
‘Bhaishajya-suktani’ of Atharvaveda reveal the knowledge of medical science in ancient India. Atanomy, embryology and hygiene were also known from the Vedic times.
Ayurveda is considered as an ‘Upanga’ (subsidiary) to the Atharvaveda. It is inclusive of Achar (the life style), vichar (the thinking process) and ahar (the dietetics).
Ayurveda is divided into eight main branches such as : shalya –tantra (major surgery), shalakyatantra (minor surgery), kaya chikitsa (treatment of diseases of the body), bhutavidya (demonology), kumarbhritya (paediatrics), agad tantra(toxicology), rasayana (elixir) and vajikaran (aphrodisiaca).
Physiology, Pathology, Materia-Medica, therapeutics, Pediatrics, Hygiene, Dietetics, the science of pulse, veterinary science, the treatments of elephants horses, cattle, ornithology etc. were the different branches of Ayurveda developed in ancient India.
Atreya, Harita, Kashyapa, Agnivesha, Bhela and jivaka are the ancient scholars, who are named by traditions.
The earliest work on the Indian medicine is the Charakasamhita of Charaka in the first century A.D. It consists of eight chapters: 1)Sutrasthan, that in general describes means of healing, diet, duities of a physician etc. 2)Nidansthan, on the eight principal ailments 3)Vimansthan, on tastes, food, general pathology, and medical stadium 4)Sharirsthana, on anatomy and embryology 5) Indriyasthan, on diagnosis and prognosis 6)Chikitsasthan, on special therapy 7) Kalp and 8)Siddhant sthan, on general therapy.
Charaka, Sushruta and Vagbhata are prominent contributors to the Ayurvedic Literautre. Sushrutasamhita, of Sushruta, Ashtangsangraha of Vagbhata, Madhavanidan of Madhava, Ayurvedadipika of chakrapanidatta are some other important works in this field.
Ayurveda has a well developed school of surgery. Sushruta was most probably the first surgeon in the world to deal systematically, exhaustively and elaborately with the entire subject of surgery including gynaecology, obstetrics, eye-diseases, plastic surgery, artificial limbs etc. Surgical instruments are also described, 101 kinds of blunt instruments and 21kinds of sharp instruments. Vagbhata had classified diseases into seven distinct groups. He has given a complete list of various diseases. He has enlisted 94 eye diseases, 29 ear disorders, 18 diseases related to nose and 75 diseases related to mouth cavity.
§ Sanskrit and Metaphysical Subjects
a. What is Metaphysics?
Metaphysics is the science that investigates into the first principles of nature and thought. It is that part of philosophy, which is concerned with the study of things and their ultimate causes and their underlying but unseen nature, often called philosophy. Philosophy is the study of the nature of knowledge. Philosophy is a covered system of thoughts, backed by logic as reason and arguments and manifests itself as a cream or essence of spirituality.
b. Metaphysical subjects in Sanskrit:
In Sanskrit literature the branch of Metaphysics is called darshana, i.e. sight or vision. The vision of real nature of the substance may be called philosophy.
b.i. The schools of philosophy in Sanskrit:
The philosophy in Sanskrit is divided into two broad groups: the school of Astika (theist) and the school of Nastika (atheist). The Astika system is one, which accepts the authority of the Vedas. They are six in number: i.e. Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. On the contrary another system called Nastika Darsana does not believe in the authority of the Vedas. It has also three main groups – Buddhism, Jainisam and Charvak philosophy.
The School of Astika Darsana
b ii. 1. Nyaya and Vaisheshika Systems:
In the school of Astika Philosophy, the first twin systems are the Nyaya and the Vaisheshika systems. The two systems are allied together. The Vaisheshika system outlines the scheme of the ontological categories and describes their nature, the origination and the dissolution of the world. The Nyaya System examines the logical explanation, apparatus of human knowledge, the criterion of truth and falsehood, the nature and function of knowledge, its instruments, their limits defects and problems relating to the validity or knowledge. Rishi Gautam wrote the famous Nyayasutra on which an excellent commentary was written by Vatsyayan followed by many othrs. The initiator of Vaisheshika darshan was Kanada whose Vaisheshika sutras were followed by many other explanatory works like Bhasha – Parichcheda by Vishwanatha.
b. ii.2. Sankhya System:
The Sankhya System is considered to be the oldest Indian Philosophical system. There are references to this system in the Upanishads, the Gita, and the Mahabharata. The word Sankhya has two meanings; the knowledge and number. Maharshi Kapila is the originator of the system. The two important source books for the system are Isvara Krishna's Sankhyakarika and the Vachaspati’s -Tattva- Kaumudi. This system contains elaborate discussions on Purush and Prakriti.
b. ii.3. The Yoga System:
Amongst all the systems of Astika school, the Yoga System of Maharshi Patanjali is the most widely known and popularly appreciated system of thought. The system of Yoga is a psychosomatic process for training the mind and keeping the body under control. The source and significantly single inspiration for Indian psychology is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The date assigned to Patanjali is the second century B.C. The Yoga system is considered to be complementary to the Sankhya. If Sankhya is the theory; yoga is its practical side. The Yoga System enables one to realize kaivalya (liberation), i.e., his true nature.
b. ii. 4. The Mimamsa System:
Among the philosophical systems, the Mimamsa and the Vedanta are exclusively based on the authority of the Vedas. The word Mimamsa means an enquiry. This system holds that the Vedas issue commands and have ritual actions for the purport. This also prescribes certain actions and prohibits certain others. The prime purport of the Vedas is to command duties and prohibit some acts. It is a list of do’s and don'ts. The System is pragmatic in approach.
b. ii. 5. The Vedanta System:
What is living and vital in Indian Philosophy today is the Vedanta system in its various forms. The Vedanta is the crowning edifice of all the systems. The other philosophical systems are mainly studied as accessories to the study of Vedanta and not as ends in themselves. There are different branches of Vedanta which have grown from the interpretation of the triple text: (i) the Upanishads, (ii) the Gita, (iii) the Vedantasutras. All the commentators claim alike that the systems of philosophy, they have built, are in complete accord with the total unitary import of the three texts, that these texts should have lent themselves to a variety of interpretations even contradictory to one another, is the most amazing nature of these scriptures and their inexhaustible significance. The branches of this system are, the system of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) of Shankara, the system of Dvaita Vedanta (dualism) of Madhva, the Dvaitadvaita Vedanta of Nimbarkacharya and Vishistadvaita (qualified non-dualism) of Ramanujacharya.
The Nastika Darhsanas
b.iii.1. The Charvaka System:
The Charvaka School of Philosophy represents the Indian Pattern of atheism and materialism. It is not a dogmatic statement of opinions. It is an argued and reasoned system of materialism. It has a special attraction and glamour for those who believe in uninhibited sensuous living. The superficially reflective and sense -bound vision of man easily accepts the Charvaka philosophy. Scientific empiricism and hedonistic ethics are the foundations of the system.
b.iii.2. The System of Buddhism:
The sayings of Buddhas were gathered into three baskets (pitakas), namely (i) Abhidhammapitaka, (ii) Vinayapitaka and (iii) Suttapitaka. The Abhidhammapitaka sets forth the metaphysical views of the Buddha, the Vinayapitaka sets fourth the rules of discipline i.e., the Sadhana aspects of the religion. Suttas contain the stories, parables and the teachings. They are the utterances of Buddha himself.
b.iii. 3. The system of Jainism:
Jainism is an independent non-Vedic school of philosophy originating from the
views of some twenty-three saints before Mahavira. The 23rd is Parsvanatha and the first is Rishsabhadeva. The saints who had the spiritual experience and could attain kaivalyaajnana are called Tirthankaras. They are worshipped by the Jains. Its literature is in ardhamagadhi and Sanskrit. The special features of the Jainism are logic and ethics. The Jaina conception of Reality is not like that of the Buddhists, nor like the unchanging Brahman of the Advaita. It admits both, permanence and change. It is a complex concept. Their classification of philosophical categories goes into two broad divisions: non-spirit (ajiva) and, spirit (jiva). The souls are infinite in number. Their essential properties are omniscience and blissfulness. They are eternal. The second category of reality is non-spirit (ajiva). This category comprises time, akasa (space) and matter. All these items have no consciousness.
§ Sanskrit and Humanities
History is the discipline that studies the chronological record of events. In Sanskrit it is known by the name of Itihasa which means ‘Iti +Ha+As i.e. it was definitely like this.
The recording of History in Sanskrit starts from the Vedas which contain a list of teachers. The documents, biographies, artifacts, currencies etc. are the main sources of History.
Though innumerable books are of historical value but four of them deserve special mention. They are Harshacharitam, Navsahasankcharitam, Vikramankadevacharitam and Rajtarangini.
The Harshacharita of Banabhatta is the first historical Kavya written in prose in 7th Century A.D. It has eight chapters called ‘Uchchhavas’. In the first three chapters the poet has given autobiographical account of himself. This kavya gives insight into the administration and reign of king Harshavardhan who ruled from 606-647 AD the Historical details given in Harshacharita are similar to those of Hieun Tsang, a Chinese travellor.
Navsahasankcharita is the record historical Kavya written by Padmagupta in 1005 AD. Navsashasankcharita was the nick name of King Sindhuraja the younger brother of King Munja.
Written in 18 cantos, it relates the winning of Shashiprabha, the daughter of Naga King by Sindhuraja or Navasahsank. In the 12th canto all the former kings of Parmara dynasty have been mentioned in chronological order. These have been confirmed by the records inscribed on inscriptions.
The Vikramankdevacharitam written by a Kashmiri Poet Bilhana in 1085 AD delineates the history of Chalukya Kings. The birth of the founder of Chalukya Dynasty has been traced from the chuluk (kamandala) of Brahma.
The Kavya gives the life of Vikramaditya VI who ruled from 1076 -1127 AD the historical description of the Chalukya Kings given by the poet was proved by many other Chalukya inscriptions also.
The most important work written on History in Sanskrit literature is the Rajatarangini of Kalhana. It was completed by the poet in 1148 AD after a long research. 7826 verses have been divided into eight books called ‘Tarangas’. Rajtarangini itself means ‘the river of kings’. In this, the poet has tried to trace the history of Kashmir starting from very ancient time upto 12th Cent. AD. It starts with the description of the kings of Govinda Dynasty. The first date mentioned here is 813-814 AD. Starting from here upto 1150 AD all the facts given are historical.
Like a true historian the poet has not hesitated in penning down even the tyrannies and the atrocities of his pattron King Harsha of Kashmir.
The Rajtarangini can be called a historical Kavya in the true sense.
It is a branch of social science which later developed into economics but in India it means the theories and the manuals taken together that deal with practical life, domestic economy , administration and particularly politics.
Kautilya’s Arthashastra in 15 Adkikaranas and 180 Prakaranas, represents an important tradition in Indian intellectual history. This valuable work was apparently composed and written somewhere around 320 B.C. since Kautilya is regarded as the master teacher Chanakya – the strategist, responsible for the rise of Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan dynasty. Kautilya laid the first cornerstones of the Indian state. The text is mainly in prose form but intermingled with aphorisms and rhythmic verses, Kautilya’s saintly king provides a model of Vedic political leadership. His Arthashastra gives us a sense of early thought on realism in domestic policy and in international relations. He emphasizes the importance of Artha – i.e. the material wellbeing as the gateway to Dharma -the basis of Kingdom. Kautilya refers to the Vedas, Manu, various systems of Philosophy and to tribal and republican politics. Kautilya has a conception of distributive justice under the umbrella of a political community. He speaks of state as a creator of order out of anarchy. He lays special emphasis on moral goals. He shows a great commitment to political economy and public administration, encouraging activity and productivity. Without productivity in agriculture, other functions can begin to crumble. The Agricultural division of labour is complemented with manufacturing and the work of skilled artisans. His conception of work ethics includes quality control by the state and punishment of dishonesty and theft. Consumer protection measures are described in great details. The State governed standards should govern fraud in materials, their production and in office transactions. Kautilya goes far beyond in developing an extensive theory of international relations. The three components of power – enthusiasm, military might and the power of counsel are mentioned in ascending order of importance.
His description of elaborate administrative machinery is superb. National administration is divided into thirty four departments, each with a chief and an appropriate number of subordinates. Forestry, mining, mint, state trading, weights and measures, surveying, shipping, passports, textiles, jails and other major functions are minutely discussed alongwith job descriptions and qualifications. There are long lists of administrative procedures, codes of ethics and sanctions for stealing gems from the treasury, if found guilty the sanction is death. Kautilya also outlines a system of jurisprudence including codification of offences, role of judges, a policy manual for prisons and rules of evidence and other procedures.
The study of Kautilya can add a lot to cross cultural Intellectual history and early political realism in diplomacy.
Even the great Sanskrit poets like Bhasa, Kalidasa, Banabhatta, Vishnusharma etc. have paid their respects to Kautilya and Arthashastra.
The Nitisara of Kamandaka written in about 700 A.D. is based on Arthashastra. It is in the form of poetry and is in 20 cantos. It preaches about morality and describes policy also.
Nitivakyamrita of Somadevasuri throws light on the duties of Kings. Nitirantnakara of Chandreswara, Shukraniti of Shukra also deserve special mention.
The law in Sanskrit is known by the name of Dharmashastra i.e. the science of ordinance but the scope of Dharmashastra is more extensive than what is denoted by ‘law’. Dharma can be defined as ordinance, duty, right, justice, morality, virtue, religion, good actions etc. Kalpasutras are the Primary source of ‘dharma’. These ‘Dharmashastras’ contain rules of conduct and rituals, duties of people at various stages of life. They discuss purification rites, forms of hospitality, daily oblations and judicial matters.
After Dharmashastra, smrities define ‘dharma’. Although there is mention of eighteen smrities yet Manusmriti compiled by Manu in about 200-300 BC is the most authentic and popular. It has 2694 verses divided into twelve chapters. It deals with various topics such as cosmogony, dharma, initiation and Vedic study, the eight forms of marriage, hospitality, dietary, law, rights and duties of four castes and four stages of life (varnashramas) etc. Its influence has been enormous. Medhatithi Govindraja and Kulluka Bhatta wrote their commentaries on Manusmriti which are very popular.
After Manusmriti comes the Yajnavalkya Smriti. It is related to the Paraskara Grihya Sutra of white (Shukla) Yajurveda. It has 1013 verses which have been distributed under the three headings of good conduct (achara), Law (vyavahara) and Repentence (pryashchitta). As compared to Manusmriti it is more progressive in thoughts and has been written in more systematic manner. Of all the commentaries, the commentary of Vignaneshwara written by the name of Mitakshara became more accepted.
Besides these two smrities, the smritis of Narada, Brihaspati, Ushna, Harita, Katyayana, Parashara, Gautama etc. are also well-known. The Mahabharata is one of the accepted texts of Dharmashastra. It is to be noted that the Smriti texts have been binding the Indians together till date.
§ Sanskrit and Religion
Hindu religion owes its origin to the Vedas. They are the Rgveda, the Yajurveda, the Samveda and the Atharvaveda. Its full development appears in the Puranas.
The two important constituents of Vedic Religion were prayer and sacrifice. The Rgvedic seers ask Gods to bestow wealth and victory on them and to favour them with heroic sons. They also pray for long life, health and comfort. The Vedas were followed by the Brahmana-literature to interpret Vedic ritual consisting of different Yajnas (Sacrifice). In the Upanisad-books the definition of Sacrifices has been changed. Upanisads (the Chhandogya and the Mundaka) declare that man himself is Yajna (Sacrifice) Special importance is now attached to knowledge (i.e. the Kena Upanisad ). Later on, the devotional creeds centre largely around the two deities, Vishnu and Siva. Vasudeva or Vishnu became the foundation of the Bhagavata religion. In contradiction to Vedic emphasis of Sacrifice and Upanishadic emphasis on knowledge, the Bhagavata religion lays emphasis on devotion and grace as the desirable forms of relationship between man and God.
In short, some of the most prominent features of Hinduism are—
1. The general recognition of the Vedas.
2. The conception of God. It is elaborated into two forms—Absolute (Nirguna Brahman) and God in Human form (Saguna Brahman). God in figure is worshipped under three main forms—Shiva, Shakti and Vishnu.
3. Human life is submitted to the law of retribution and rebirth. Man wanders from life to life carrying with him the consequences of the actions of his previous existence.
4. Liberation (Moksa) consists in escaping from the cycle of rebirth. The way of knowledge, or devotion or ritual works (Jnana, Bhakti, Karman) purifies man’s activity and gives the true goal of human liberation.
5. In the way of Bhakti, the appearance of God (Avatara) is fully established.
In the practical conduct of human life, the system of castes, of the four stages of life, the four aims (Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksa) have become the established frame- work in earthly existence.
Buddhism arose in 6th century B.C. in the wake of the Upanishadic speculation. Its originator Gautama Buddha was one of religious ferment. He was largely influenced by the liberal thinking of the Upanishadic sages, the prevailing ideas of knowledge and Yoga practices, leading to mental concentration, the theory of Karman and the Value of a mendicant life. Karman or one's own deeds influence the destiny of a being, but he denied the authority of the Vedas and Vedic sacrifices. From his spiritual experience, Buddha became convinced of the four noble truths, that there is suffering (Duhkha), that it has a cause (Samudaya), that it can be suppressed (Nirodha) and that there is a way to accomplish this (Marga). He accepts that birth is painful, decay is painful, disease is painful, death is painful, union with the unpleasant and separation from the pleasant and dissatisfaction are painful. There is sorrow because all things are transient. They vanish as soon as they occur. Ignorance is the main cause, out of which false desire springs. When knowledge is attained, suffering ends. Life is nothing but a series of manifestations of becoming and destruction. There is nothing that is permanent.
That which breaks the series of sufferings is called eightfold path (Astangamarga) or middle path (Madhyamamarga). They are Samyagdrishti, Samyaksankalpa, Samyagvak, Samyakkarma, Samyakajiva, Samyag-vyayama, Samyaksmriti and Samyaksamadhi.
The oldest of all the Buddhist literatures are Tripitakas (the Collection of Three Baskets). The Tripitakas consist of the Vinayapitaka, the Suttapitaka and the Abhidhammapitaka. The Vinayapitaka includes the Suttavibhaga, the Khandhakas and the Parivaras. The Suttapitaka consists the Digghanikya, the Majjhimanikaya, the Samyuttanikaya, the Anguttaranikaya and the Khuddakanikaya.
The Abhidhammapitaka has seven books, The Dhammasangani, the Vibhanga, the Dhatukatha, the Puggalapannatti, the Katthavatthu, the Yamaka and the Patthana. Other books are Milindapanha, The Mahavastu, the Lalitvistara etc.
Jainism is closely associated with the name of Mahavira. Jainas regard him as the 24th in the long line of Tirthankaras and the Jina. Jainism is, therefore, the religion of those who aim at conquering the Karman—rebirth—cycle under the guiding influence of the lives and teachings of the Tirthankaras as systematized by Mahavira Jina.
In Jainism, there are two main streams, Digambara (Space clothed) and Svetambara (clothed in white). Mahvira's community has remained a well- knit organization comprising four Tirthas (orders) called Muni (monks), Sadhvi (nuns) Sravaka (Laymen) and Sarvika (Lay Women).
According to Jainism the universe is made of four living (jiva) and five non-living (ajiva) kinds of substances. They all are eternal and uncreated. Karman is the link between Jiva, and Ajiva. Accumulated Karman follows the soul after death through all its transmigrations. To achieve liberation from them, two tactics should be employed. The first is to check the inflow of new Karman (Samvara). The second is to cause Karman from past to fall off (Nirjara). This is achieved through mortification. Twelve types of such austerities (tapas) are usually recommended. When the soul is completely purged of all burdens, it takes the form of straight line and then develops into its natural form, obtains perfection and puts an end to all the miseries.
The Jiva ascends to that Nirvana (liberation) by ladder of fourteen steps. The five great rules of conduct are Ahimsa, (Non Violence), Satya (Truth), Asteya (not to steel), Brahmacharya (celibacy)and Aparigrarha (non worldly possessions). The three restraints (three Guptis) are Manogupti (control of mind), Vacanagupti (control of speech), Kayagupti (control of bodily Movements) and ten pious duties are also the part of Jainism. Dravyasangraha, Nayachakra etc. are the source books of Jainism.
§ Sanskrit and the Arts
Prosperity of Sanskrit related theatre is unmatched for its creatively written plays and disciplinary science of Art of Theatrical performance.
Accomplished dramatist Bhasa wrote 13 plays among them the Svapnavasavadatta, the Pratijnayaugandharayana, and the Pratimanataka are well-known, Abhijnanasakuntala of Kalidasa is a much celebrated work and is in UNESCO’S world heritage. Mricchakatika of Sudraka is regarded as the most important play of world literature by international critics. Bhavabhuti's Uttararamacharitam is known for its all inclusiveness of tragic sentiment Karuna. The Mudraraksasa of Vishakhadatta is a great drama of political intrigue, in which, interest in the action never ceases, Ratnavali of Harsha and the Venisamhara of Bhattanarayana are inexhaustible mines of illustrations of the theories of dramaturgy.
The above-mentioned works are a few to be named. There is a long list of Sanskrit plays, which can provide subjects or plots with varied aura and spectra of senses.
As a disciplinary science of stagecraft, Sanskrit keeps inexhaustible treasury of dramaturgical works, whose exploitation for the present day theatre is yet to be made. The Natyashastra of Bharata is encyclopaedic in its content. Other than this, relevant parts of Puranas, the Natyasarvasvadipika of Adi Bharata, the Abhinayadarpana and the Bharatarnava of Nandikesvara, the Dasharupaka of Dhananjaya, the Natyadarpana of Ramachandra and Gunachandra, etc., are a few dramaturgical works to be named here. These treatises discuss minutest of the details and throw light on remotest of areas.
As far as present day scenario is concerned, Sanskrit theatre is living and vibrant. Sanskrit plays are staged in national and International drama festivals and competitions. Annual drama competitions of Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi, Kalidasa Academy, Ujjain, and Delhi Sanskrit Akademi are famous ones. Koodiyattam—the age old ritualistic Sanskrit theatre of Kerala is recognized by UNESCO, as one of the masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.
Dance or Dancing is for the creation of rasa (sentiment) through particular suggestions, by suitable movements of different parts of the body, as per the tradition of Sanskrit. There are three main components, Natya, Nritta and Nritya, which together with their subsidiaries make up the classical dance. Natya is the dramatic element of a stage performance. Nritta is the rythmic movement of body in dance. It virtualizes and reproduces beat (tala) and rythm (laya) by means of abstract gestures of the body and hands and extensive and precise use of footwork. On the otherside, Nritya is that element of dance which suggests rasa (sentiment) and bhava (mood), conveyed by facial expressions and appropriate gestures. The object of both, Nritta and Nritya, is to depict ideas, themes, moods and sentiments by using abhinaya (acting). The practice of abhinaya involves four techniques; angika (of gestures), vachika (of speech), sattvika (representation of feelings), and aharya (of costumes, makeup etc).
In Sanskrit, many treatises on art of dancing are available. The Natyashastra of Bharata and the Abhinayadarpana of Nandikesvara have been authoritative sources of instruction for Indian classical dances. The Dasharupaka of Dhananjaya, the Sangitaratnakara of Sarngadeva, the Sangitaraja of Kumbhakarna, the Nrityanirnaya of Pundarika Vitthala, the Nrityaratnavali of Jayasenapati, the Sangitasaramrita of Tulajaraja, the Balaramabharata of Balaramavarman, etc. are few other works from a long list of rich treatises on the art of dance in Sanskrit.
At present, all the chief schools of Classical dance in India are based essentially upon the Natyashastra. The Bharatanatyam, which means dance according to the principles of Bharata, follows most closely the Natyashastra. Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohiniattam, Manipuri, Odissi, etc. accept the Natyashastra as their authority. Apart from art and technique of dance, Sanskrit has been the main source of stories and subject matter of dance-dramas. Stories from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas have been most sought after themes for Indian classical dances. Yakshagana, a dance-drama of Mysore, has about fifty plays based on both the great epics of Sanskrit for its subject matter. Rasalila of Brija and Manipuri dance of Manipur owes much to the Bhagavata Purana and the Gitagovinda. The Gitagovinda of Jayadeva was composed for dancing and its verses and themes are amply used in Indian classical dances. Thus, Sanskrit is the most important source of technique and subject-matter for Indian Classical dances.
In Sanskrit, music is called gana, giti or sangita. The later Sanskrit treatises on music, explained sangita as the combination actually trio of vocal music, instrumental music, and dance (gita, vadya and nritya). On the ground of reality, all the three arts are independent of each other, but in spite of their independence gana subordinates vadya, and vadya subordinates nritya. So, vocal aspect (Gita) is predominant. Gana or gita originates with the succession of tones that produce agreeable and pleasing sensations. Musical sound is impregnated with divine lustre (lavanya), aesthetic sentiment (rasa) and mood (bhava). Melody or melodic form (raga) is soul of music. Sangita is accompanied by pathya or sahitya (text part)
A Brief History
The association of Indian Music with Sanskrit is as old as Sanskrit itself. In the Vedic age, the Samagana method of chanting Vedic verses was in practice. The Samaganas were possessed of different numbers of notes, registers, metres and literary compositions (sahitya). Musicological rules and other relevant details about Samagana are spread all over in different Pratishakhyas, Sikshas and other Sanskrit texts of that age. In the Classical period, Gandharva type of music, was evolved which was a kind of stage song or Natyadharmigiti, possessed of svara, tala and pada. Afterwards, Bharata systematized the form and system of Music in the Natyashastra. The genuine type of raga came into being, with ten determining characteristics (dashalakshanas) and psychological values, with the new names of gitiraga and gramaraga. Jatis are the forerunners of ragas or the parent ragas, which gave birth to all Classical ragas and formalized deshiragas. After Bharata, Kohala, Matanga and other Sanskrit Musicologists made their contributions and hundreds and thousands of ragas developed with their new and novel themes and forms. The ancient gramas were gradually replaced by murcchanas (groupings of upward and downward notes). In the 15th and 16th century A.D., musicologists like—Lochana, Ramamatya etc. represented new trends in music.
Murcchanas, as generators or determining factors of ragas appeared with a new nomenclature of mela or thata. Method of classification of ragas changed from raga-ragini-putra- vargikarana into janya-janaka or genus- species(cause-effect) method, and most of the ragas appeared with their, new tonal forms. Approximately at the same time, Pandita Damodara, etc., presented Ragamurtis (visual pictures) and Dhyanamantras (poetical descriptions and contemplative compositions) of ragas and raginis for their better appreciation and intuitive perception. In 17th-18th centuries, Abohala, Shrinivasa, etc. altered the total bases (Svarasthana) in relation to the microtones (shrutis). Thus, by this way, Sanskrit musicologists produced volumes of authoritative works on Indian music and shaped both Hindustani and Karnataka (Carnatic) Music to their present-day-status. Contribution of Sanskrit towards Indian Music is great. This contributory association can generally be understood from two points of view—
i. Sahitya or Pathya (Literary compositions or texts) for music and
ii. Sanskrit treatises on Musicology.
i. Sahitya or Pathya: Sanskrit was a medium of Music from the very ancient time. It formed the text part (sahitya) of Vedic music samagana. The Ramayana was itself a Geyakavya. In the Mahabharata and the Puranas, we find many references of music with marga or deshi type of songs with Sanskrit text parts. Many gatha-ganas of the Buddhist text Lalitavistara are in Sanskrit pathya. Musicological works in Sanskrit are full of different types of songs with Sanskrit pathya. Classical Sanskrit Literature comprises many references of music with Sanskrit pathya. Sanskrit hymnal literature (stotrasahitya) and many other gathas are Sanskrit pathyas. Padagitis of Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda and Lilashuka-Bilvamangala’s Srikirshnakarnamrita and many other songs are in Sanskrit. Legendary vocalists of present age, like M.S. Subbulakshmi, Pandit Jasrraja and many others have used Sanskrit pathya for their musical renderings.
ii. Sanskrit Treatises on Musicology: Most of the authoritative works on Indian Music are in Sanskrit. Different Siksha, Pratishakhya and other Vedic Texts related to Samagana, the Natyashastra of Bharata, the Bharatarnava of Nandikeshvara, the Brihaddesi of Matanga, the Naradiya Siksa and the Sangitamakaranda of Narada, the Sangitaratnakara of Sarngadeva, the Ragatarangini of Lochana, the Svaramelakalanidhi of Ramamatya, the Sadragachandrodaya, the Ragamala, and the Ragamanjari of Pundarika Vitthala, the Ragavibodha of Somanatha, the Sangitadarpana of Damodara, the Caturdandiprakshika of Venkata makhi, the Sangitaparijata of Ahobala, the Ragatattvavibodha of Shrinivasa, the Sangitasaramirta of Tulajaraja, are few a from a very long list of Sanskrit treatises on Musicology.
The sculpture or the Taksanashilpa is the allied Science of Architecture and other cognate Arts. It is derived from the word “Sculp” or “Taksa” which means to “carve” or to “engrave”. The heavenly architect “Tvashta” was the mythical originator of this Art.
Sculpture in Sanskrit literature may be seen in making images of deities, in decoration of the temples, in making thrones (sinhasanas), royal umbrellas, chariots, couches (paryanka) kalpavriksas (the ornamental trees) beautifully decorated with creepers) colourful jewels, ornaments and garlands.
Iconography or pratima vijnyana is an important branch of sculpture. Pauranic religion, Agams and Tantras, Buddhism and Jainism gave encouragement to this art. The images may be classified into nine broad divisions:
(i) Trimurti (Tri-image), (II) Vaishnava, (iii) Shaiva, (iv) Shakt, (v) Saurya, (vi) Bauddha, (vii) Jain, (viii) Yaksha and (ix) Shalbhanjaka (images).
Eight types of materials were used in making images – the clay, wood, stone, metals, precious stones, ivory and mixed substances.
The images were made according to pratima laksan shastras, Mayamata, Mansara, Samaranganasutradhar, Hayashirsha – Pancharatna, kashyapasamhita, vishnudharmottarpurana (chitra sutra) Brihat Samhita etc. are some prominent treatises on sculpture.
§ Sanskrit hymns and Subhashitas
The land of Bharata is called Deva-bhu and Sanskrit language – a devine language. There is an undercurrent of spirituality in the entire Sanskrit literature, which is primarily based on the achievement of the four-fold objectives called Purushartha – chatushtayam i.e. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Hence there is hardly any work which may be found lacking in the usage of excellent effective sayings, but from ancient times, specific works have been written by poets and scholars to compose beautiful collections of good saying only in order to inculcate moral values in the coming generations. Some of the ancient works in this direction are Raja-niti Samuchchaya, Chanakya-Niti-Darpanam, Nitisara, Niti-Pradeep etc.
Later on, in modern times, efforts have been made to collect such sayings from the entire ocean of Sanskrit literature. Subhashita-ratna-bhandagara is one such popular collection. There is one more Subhashita Sangraha in a number of volumes by Ludwig. Sanskrit Academy has published seventen volumes of Sukti samgraha which contain subhashitas from vedic hymns, puranas, epics, Jain and Bauddha granthas, Mahakavyas, works on various sciences and poetics etc. Prof. Satya Vrata Shastri’s Subhashita Sahasri contains 1000 verses collected subjectwise from various sources. Kapil Deva Dvivedi’s Sukti Sangraha is also very popular. Some private publishers have also come forward to bring out very useful works. Manjula Manjusha and Shiksha Sukti sangraha published by Nita Prakashan, Sanskrit Sukti Sindhu by Madan Lal Verma are excellent efforts in this direction.
Sanskrit works like Panchatantra, Hitopadesha, Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, Bhartihari’s Nitishatakam are excellent encyclopaedias of subhashitas.
§ The Great Personalities Of Sanskrit
From The West
Contribution To Vedic Literature
Sanskrit is considered to be the richest language in the world, due to its literary contents. Some Western scholars may be put on the first rank, to bring it into the light of the world, who translated Sanskrit texts in various foreign languages.
Contributions to Vedic Literature:
i. Fredric Rozane, was a German Scholar, who edited and translated some parts of the Rigveda into German in 1830.
ii. S.A. Longlois, of France, translated the whole text of the Rigveda into French, which was published in Paris, during 1848-51.
iii. Friedrich Max Muller (1823-1900) lived in England, sacrificed his own life in the study of the Vedas, and edited the whole Rigveda with its Sayanabhashya that was published by East-India Company. He published his "Vedic Hymns" on famous Suktas of the Rigveda, under the Sacred Books of the East.
iv. Theodar Benfey (1909-81), translated 130 Suktas of Ist Mandala of the Rigveda into German. He also translated the whole text of the Kauthuma Shakha in German that was published with illustrations and lexicons in the year 1848.
v. Hermann Grassman (1809-77), was a German Scholar, who made a poetic translation of the Rigveda and a Lexicon of the Rigveda in German titled, Worterbruchzum Rgveda.
vi. Alfred Ludwig (1832-1911), belonged to Germany, was a Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Prague. He prepared the German translation of the Rigveda, titled Der Rigveda with 230 important Suktas of the Atharvaveda translated into Germany.
vii. Harace Hymen Wilson of 19th Century A.D. belonged to England and lived in India for a long time. He edited and translated the text of the Rigveda with the Sayana Bhashya into English.
viii. R.T.H. Griffith 1828-1906, was the first and the last after H. H. Wilson, who translated the whole text of the Rigveda into English. He has also published his poetic translation of the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda.
ix. A.Weber 1805-1901, was very famous among those who contributed to Vedic literature. He was a French Missionary. He translated the Shukla Yajurveda Samhita's Ninth and Tenth Chapters into Latin and its 16th chapter into German. He also translated the Atharvaveda into German, published under the title Indische Studien.
x. A.B. Keith, was the student of McDonnell, who translated the Taittiriya Samhita into English, that was published under the Harward Oriental Series in 1914 in America.
Contribution Of Other Western Scholars
Sir William Jones (1746-94 A.D.), British scholar and founder of Royal Asiatic Society, famous institution involved in Indological studies, admired the theme, form, power and beauty of Sanskrit Language and stressed its affinity to Greek and Latin. He translated the Shakuntala in English, the Manusmriti in English and German, and edited the Ritusamhara, which was his first printed work in Sanskrit.
Charles Wilkins (1750-1836), a British scholar translated Hitopadesha and the Bhagavadgita in English. His translation of the Bhagavadgita (London 1785), was first Sanskrit book to be directly translated into an European language. For his book 'Sanskrit Grammar' (1808), Sanskrit type was used for the first time in Europe, a type that the author himself had made. The Shakuntala episode of the Mahabharata (1793) was also his work.
H.T. Colebrooke, a French Scholar (1765-1837) who edited and/or translated. The Shakuntala (1830) the Amarushataka (1831). The Hitopadesa (1804), the Amarakosa (1808), the Shatakatraya of Bhartrihari (1804), Samkhyakarika of Ishvarakrishna (1837) and two treatises on Hindu law of inheritance (1810). His work on algebra with arithmetic and mensuration based on Sanskrit works of Brahmagupta and Bhaskara preceded by a dissertation on the state of science as known to Hindus was published in 1917 in London. His Digest of the Hindu Law on Contracts and Recessions (1997-98) was a translation of composition, prepared by native scholars, on the law of succession and contract, from the Indian law books. He also wrote the 'Grammar of the Sanskrit Language' (1805).
A.W.V. Schlegel (1767-1845), a German scholar, founded a periodical 'Indische Bibliothek' (First Vol. appeared in 1823). He contributed the Ramayana, the Hitopadesha and also first critical edition of the Bhagavadgita with Latin translations (1823).
Max Muller (1823-1900) a German scholar, was associated with The Sacred Books of the East Series. He translated Upanisads and Apastamba-Sutras in English, and edited the Rigveda with Commentary of Sayana (6 Vols.) He also edited the Hitopadesa, the Meghaduta (1847), the Rigveda Pratishakhya (1859-69) with German translations. He wrote many books on Philosophy, Grammar and History related to Sanskrit.
Monier Williams (1819-89) a British scholar wrote An Elementary Grammar of the Sanskrit language (1846), A Practical Grammar of the Sanskrit Language, A Sanskrit Manual for Composition (1862) and composed English- Sanskrit (1851) and Sanskrit-English (1872) Dictionaries. He edited and translated the Shakuntala (1856), the Vikramorvashiyam, the Nalopakhyanam (1879) and wrote many other books like the Hinduism (1877) and the Indian Wisdom (1878).
William Dawight Whitney (1827-94), an American scholar , edited the Atharvaveda (1856) and wrote the Sanskrit Grammar (1879) and The Roots, Verb-forms and Primary Derivations of Sanskrit language (1885). He edited the Atharvaveda Pratishakhya (1862) and the Taittiriya Pratishakhya, with commentary and translation. He also edited and translated the Surya Siddhanta, a treatise on Astronomy and Astrology and produced the Oriental and Linguistic Studies in two volumes (1873-74).
Spake the Great Men
language, as has been universally recognized by those competent to form a
judgment, is one of the most magnificent, the most perfect, the most
prominent and wonderfully sufficient literary instrument developed by the
“Without the study of Samskrit one cannot become a true Indian and a true learned man.”
I was asked what is the greatest treasure which India possesses and what is
her finest heritage, I would answer unhesitatingly that it is the Samskrit
language and literature and all that it contains. This is a
magnificent inheritance and so long as this endures and influences the life
of our people, so long will the basic genius of
“Samskrit has moulded the minds of our people to the extent to which they themselves are not conscious. Samskrit literature is national in one sense, but its purpose has been universal. That was why it commanded the attention of people who were not followers of a particular culture.”
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan
language of Samskrit is of a wonderful structure, more perfect than Greek,
more copious than Latin and more exquisitely refined than either.
Human life would not be sufficient to make oneself acquainted with any
considerable part of Hindu literature.”
Sir William Jones
was at one time the only language of the world. It is more perfect and
copious than Greek and Latin.”
is the origin of modern languages of
Samskrit is the unsurpassed zenith in the whole development of languages yet known to us.”
intellectual debt of
“Samskrit is the greatest language of the world.”
Samskrit would be divorced from the everyday life of the masses of this
country, a light would be gone from the life of the people and the
distinctive features of Hindu culture which have won for it an honoured
place in world-thought would soon be affected to be great disadvantage and
loss both of India and of the world.”
Sir Mirza Ismail