Classical Sanskrit Literature

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Guptas | Administration | Hinduism | Sanskrit | Higher Education | Art & Architecture | Science | Vakatakas

The Sanskrit language, once ignored under the Buddhist and Jain influence, was patronised during the Gupta period. It was recognised as the court language and was used in their inscriptions. Gradually it became the lingua franca of India. Even Buddhist scholars, especially the followers of the Mahayana cult, began writing their scriptures in Sanskrit. The Jain writers too, who had been writing in Pali and Prakrit, switched over to Sanskrit, which gradually became the literary language of northern India.

Great poets, dramatists, grammarians and playwrights lived in the period. Some of the well-known scholars who flourished during this period are mentioned below:

Kalidasa. He was the greatest Sanskrit poet and playwright of this age. Meghadutta and Ritu Samhara are his lyrical poems, while Kumara Sambhava and Raghuvamsa are great epic poems. Among his plays, Abhijyanam Shakuntalam is known for its fine characters, imagery and choice of words. Among his other plays the most important are Vikramorvashi and Malvikagnimitram.

Vishakhadutta was a great poet and playwright of the Gupta period. His two great historical plays are Mudra-Rakshasa and Devi Chandra Gupta. Mudra-Rakshasa (seal of Rakshasa) was the story of how Chandragupta Maurya managed to get the throne of Magadha. Devi Chandra Gupta is a historical play dealing with the early life of Chandragupta II.

Shudraka wrote the famous play Mrichchakatika which throws light on the socio-cultural conditions of the Gupta period.

Harisena was court poet of Samudragupta. He wrote a famous poem praising the valour of Samudraguta. The poem is inscribed on the Allahabad Pillar.

Bharavi wrote the great epic Kiratarjuniya. In this epic he describes the battle between Arjuna and Lord Shiva disguised as 'Kirata'.

Dandin was a versatile writer. His Dash Kumara Charita (Tales of the Ten Princes) describes the adventures of ten princes. These adventures give us information on the socio-cultural conditions of that period.

Subandhu was a prose writer. In his famous Vasavadatta, he narrates the story of the heroine Vasavadatta and prince Kandarpaketu. During the Gupta period the Sanskrit grammar was systematically written by such grammarians as Panini and Patanjali.

Panchatantra It was during the Gupta period that the Panchatantra, a collection of fables, was written. It is said that these stories were written to teach statecraft to disinterested princes. In these stories, animals and birds play the part of king's ministers and common men, These animal stories were a help in instructing children in moral values. The famous work Hitopadesa is based on Panchatantra. The Panchatantra has been translated into many languages and no other book except the Bible has been translated into so many languages as this famous book. The book is a treasure-house of people's feelings and emotions in human relations. The stories contain wisdom and common sense needed for daily living.

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