“Once Indian writers got going, they kept going”
No wonder The Mahabharata is the longest known epic poem and has been described as “the longest poem ever written”. Its longest version consists of over 100,000 shlokas(“song”, from the root śru)or over 200,000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), and long prose passages.
Undeniably India has great Epics and scriptures for ages in oodles. It is utterly my frame of reference to consider these 10 Epics stood without exception of all the time great –
The Mahabharata or Mahabharata or Mahābhāratam, is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. The Mahabharata is an important source of information on development of Hinduism between 400 BCE and 200 CE and is regarded by Hindus as both test about Dharma (Hindu Moral Law) and history. Appearing in its present from about 400 CE, the Mahabharata mass of mythological and didactic materiel arranged around central heroic narratives that tells of the struggle for the sovereignty between two groups of cousins, the Kauravs and Pandavas. The poem is made up almost 100, 000 couplets about seven times the length of Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey combined.
Author : Sage Valmiki
The Ramayana plays an important role in Hindu literature. It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king. The name Ramayana is a tatpurusha compound of Rāma and ayana (“going, advancing”), translating to “Rama’s Journey“. The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven books and 500 cantos and tells the story of Rama (the seventh avatar of the Hindu supreme-god Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka (current day Sri Lanka). Incidentally the first letter of every 1000 verses (total 24) make the Gayatri mantra. Thematically, the Ramayana explores human values and the concept of dharma (Hindu moral Law)
Verses in the Ramayana are written in a 32-syllable meter called anustubh. The Ramayana was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Hindu life and culture. Like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana is not just a story: it presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages in narrative allegory, interspersing philosophical and devotional elements. The characters Rama, Sita,Lakshman, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, Nepal and many south-east Asian countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.
“She was surrounded in the solitude of the wilderness by śakuntas,
therefore, hath she been named by me Shakuntala (Shakunta-protected)”
In the first book of the vast epic poem Mahabharata, Kalidasa found the story of Shakuntala. The story has a natural place there, for Bharata, Shakuntala’s son, is the eponymous ancestor of the princes who play the leading part in the epic.is a well-known Sanskrit play by Kalidas.
King Dushyanta first encountered Shakuntala while travelling through the forest with his army. He was pursuing a male deer wounded by his weapon. Shakuntala and Dushyanta fell in love with each other and got married as per Gandharva marriage system. Dushyanta, offered his personal royal ring to the girl as a token of his love, and left for his kingdom, promising to come back soon and take Shakuntala with him.
Shakuntala spent much time dreaming of her new husband and was often distracted by her daydreams. One day, a powerful rishi, Durvasa, came to the ashrama but, lost in her thoughts about Dushyanta, Shakuntala failed to greet him properly. Incensed by this slight, the rishi cursed Shakuntala, saying that the person she was dreaming of would forget about her altogether. As he departed in a rage, one of Shakuntala’s friends quickly explained to him the reason for her friend’s distraction. The rishi, realizing that his extreme wrath was not warranted, modified his curse saying that the person who had forgotten Shakuntala would remember everything again if she showed him a personal token that had been given to her.
The Kama Sutra is the oldest and most notable of a group of texts known generically as Kama Shastra (Sanskrit: Kāma Śāstra).
Historians attribute Kamasutra to be composed between 400 BCE and 200 CE. John Keay says that the Kama Sutra is a compendium that was collected into its present form in the 2nd century CE.
It is largely in prose, with many inserted anustubh poetry verses. “Kāma” which is one of the fourgoals of Hindu life, means desire including sexual desire the latter being the subject of the textbook, and “sūtra” literally means a thread or line that holds things together, and more metaphorically refers to an aphorism (or line, rule, formula), or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Contrary to popular perception, especially in the western world, Kama sutra is not exclusively a sex manual; it presents itself as a guide to a virtuous and gracious living that discusses the nature of love, family life and other aspects pertaining to pleasure oriented faculties of human life. Kama Sutra, in parts of the world, is presumed or depicted as a synonym for creative sexual positions; in reality, only 20% of Kama Sutra is about sexual positions. The majority of the book, notes Jacob Levy, is about the philosophy and theory of love, what triggers desire, what sustains it, how and when it is good or bad.
Author: Nobel Prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore
Gitanjali is a collection of poems by the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. The original Bengali collection of 157 poems was published on August 14, 1910.
Gitanjali” is one of Rabindranath Tagore’s best known works for which he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.
Many of the verses in Gitanjali are beautiful prayers written after a gut-wrenchingly painful period in Rabindranath Tagore’s life, during which he lost his father, wife, daughter and a son in quick succession. His unfathomable pain and unshaken devotion to God are captured in the moving prose-verses of Gitanjali, which Tagore dedicated as “Song Offerings”.
For a reader uninitiated in Tagore, it is my humble recommendation that they read the prose-verses of Gitanjali only after gaining familiarity with some of his other works.
When one reads the works of Tagore, one detects a clear stream of spirituality and an intense love for Nature that flows through most of his books. It is no exaggeration that the more works of Tagore one reads, the more one falls in love with this simple and beautiful poet.
He shone forth brightly his lamp of timeless wisdom of the East – that this Universe has been created out of pure love, and it is only our love for each other together with peace, justice and freedom that will sustain it. It is no wonder that in India, Rabindranath Tagore is revered as “Gurudev” – “a teacher embodying God-like knowledge”, a title conferred upon him by Mahatma Gandhi.
Author: Vishnu Sharma
The Panchatantra is a series of inter-woven fables, many of which involve animals exhibiting animal stereotypes. According to its own narrative, it illustrates, for the benefit of three ignorant princes, the central Hindu principles of nīti( Ethics).While nīti is hard to translate, it roughly means prudent worldly conduct, or “the wise conduct of life”. The Panchatantra discusses varied topics like philosophy, psychology, politics, music, astronomy, human relationship, etc., in a simple yet elegant style. This makes it a rare piece of literature, and a unique book. It attempts to illustrate how to understand others, how to choose reliable and trustworthy friends, how to overcome difficulties and problems through tact and wisdom. Moreover, it illustrates how to live in peace and harmony even in the midst of deceit, hypocrisy and other pitfalls in life.
These are the very objectives that the composer of Panchatantra, Pandit Vishnu Sharma, wanted to accomplish in order to provide maximum knowledge to three young princes through stories and examples. In fact, not just the princes, this most unique book has enlightened millions of readers and listeners for centuries.
It is “certainly the most frequently translated literary product of India”, and these stories are among the most widely known in the world. To quote Edgerton (1924).
there are recorded over two hundred different versions known to exist in more than fifty languages, and three-quarters of these languages are extra-Indian. As early as the eleventh century this work reached Europe, and before 1600 it existed in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, German, English, Old Slavonic, Czech, and perhaps other Slavonic languages. Its range has extended from Java to Iceland… [In India,] it has been worked over and over again, expanded, abstracted, turned into verse, retold in prose, translated into medieval and modern vernaculars, and re-translated into Sanskrit. And most of the stories contained in it have “gone down” into the folklore of the story-loving Hindus, whence they reappear in the collections of oral tales gathered by modern students of folk-stories.
7. Anand Math:
Author: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
“In mild breeze, by the bank of the river,
In the forest, resides a respectable lady.”
Anandamath (first English publication title: The Abbey of Bliss) is a Bengali novel, written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and published in 1882. Set in the background of the Sannyasi Rebellion in the late 18th century, it is considered one of the most important novels in the history of Bengali and Indian literature. Its importance is heightened by the fact that it became synonymous with the struggle for Indian independence from the British Empire. The novel was banned by the British. The ban was lifted later by the Government of India after independence.
The book is set in 1771, during famine in Bengal Book starts with introduction to a couple- Mahendra and Kalyani, who are stuck at their village Padchinha without food and water in the times of famine. They decide to leave their village and move to the next closest city where there is a better chance of survival. During the course of events, the couple got separated and Kalyani had to run through the forest with her infant, to avoid getting caught by man-hunters. After a long chase, she loses consciousness at the bank of a river. A Hindu monk, Satyananda, stumbles upon her and the baby, and takes care of her till she reunites with her husband again.
Mahendra at this point is more inclined towards joining the brotherhood of the monks and serving the Mother Nation. Kalyani wants to help him in attaining his dreams by trying to kill herself, thereby relieving him of worldly duties. At this point, Satyananda joins her but before he can help her, he is arrested by the British soldiers, because other monks were fuelling revolt against the British rule. While being dragged away he spots another monk who is not wearing his distinctive robes and sings,
“In mild breeze, by the bank of the river,
In the forest, resides a respectable lady.”
8. The Arthashastra of Kautilya:
Author: Kautilya also known as Chanakya
The title “Arthashastra” is often translated to “the science of politics”,but the book Arthashastra has a broader scope. It includes books on the nature of government, law, civil and criminal court systems, ethics, economics, markets and trade, the methods for screening ministers, diplomacy, theories on war, nature of peace, and the duties and obligations of a king.The text includes ancient economic and cultural details on agriculture, mineralogy, mining and metals, animal husbandry, medicine, forests and wildlife.
Arthashastra remains unique in all of Indian literature because of its total absence of specious reasoning, or its unabashed advocacy of realpolitik, and scholars continued to study it for its clear cut arguments and formal prose till the twelfth century. Espionage and the liberal use of provocative agents is recommended on a large scale. Murder and false accusations were to be used by a king’s secret agents without any thoughts to morals or ethics. There are chapters for kings to help them keep in check the premature ambitions of their sons, and likewise chapters intended to help princes to thwart their fathers’ domineering authority. However, Kautilya ruefully admits that it is just as difficult to detect an official’s dishonesty as it is to discover how much water is drunk by the swimming fish.
Kautilya helped the young Chandragupta Maurya, who was a Vaishya, to ascend to the Nanda throne in 321 BC. Kautilya’s counsel is particularly remarkable because the young Maurya’s supporters were not as well armed as the Nandas. Kautilya continued to help Chandragupta Maurya in his campaigns and his influence was crucial in consolidating the great Mauryan empire. He has often been likened to Machiavelli by political theorists, and the name of Chanakya is still reminiscent of a vastly scheming and clever political adviser. In very recent years, Indian state television, or Doordarshan as it is known, commissioned and screened a television serial on the life and intrigues of Chanakya.
9. Natya Shastra:
Author: Sage Bharata or Bharata Muni
(What is Natya Shastra?
Mostly, perhaps, we go to the theatre looking for some kind of story. We hope to see characters with which we identify doing stuff that we care about. Perhaps we go to the theatre to see a “slice of life” played out in a way that seems familiar. This interest in theatre may be described as an “Aristotelian sensibility”, since Aristotle asserted that we mostly go to the theatre to see the theatre imitate the world we know outside of the theatre.)
The Natya Shastra is an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music. It was written during the period between 200 BCE and 200 CE in classical India and is traditionally attributed to the Sage Bharata.
The Natya Shastra is incredibly wide in its scope. While it primarily deals with stagecraft, it has come to influence music, classical Indian dance, and literature as well. It coversstage design, music, dance, makeup, and virtually every other aspect of stagecraft. It is very important to the history of Indian classical music because it is the only text which gives such detail about the music and instruments of the period. Thus, an argument can be made that the Natya Shastra is the foundation of the fine arts in India. The most authoritative commentary on the Natya Shastra is Abhinavabharati by Abhinavagupta.
Buddhacharita (Acts of the Buddha)is an epic poem in the Sanskrit mahakavya(great epic) style on the life of Gautama Buddha by Asvaghosa composed in the early second century CE. Of the poem’s 28 cantos, the first 14 are extant in Sanskrit complete (cantos 15 to 28 are in incomplete form).
The Buddhacarita is the most famous work of Asvaghosa, the well-known Buddhist poet-philosopher supposed to have been a contemporary of King Kaniska of the early 2nd century A.D., of the twenty-eight cantos of the epic poem a little less than half is now available in the original, but complete translations in Chinese and Tibetan have been preserved. This edition consists of three parts. The first part contains the Sanskrit text and the second the translation of the first fourteen cantos, filling up the lacunae in the Sanskrit from the Tibetan, together with an introduction dealing with various aspects of the poet’s works, with notes which discuss the many difficulties of text and translation and an Index. The third part contains translation of Cantos XV-XXVIII based on the available Tibetan and Chinese versions so as to arrive as near the meaning of Asvaghosa’s original text. The poem falls into four distinct quarters of seven cantos describing birth and youth of the hero, enlightenment after long questing, how the Buddha made his discovery by teaching available to all beings, a mission ending with a universal conquest in which the hero converts the rulers and people in many countries to the new doctrine and the events leading up to the Parinirvana of the Buddha.