(approx. 4th century B.C.):
Valmiki is the composer of Ramayana (The Story of Rama).
He was a seer, sage and a literary artist. Ramayana
is the great Indian epic known for the superiority of
culture it projects. Consisting of 24,000 verses arranged
in seven books called khandas, Ramayana is the most
sacred and holy of all the books written in Sanskrit,
next only to the Bhagvad Gita.
(approx. 4th century B.C.): Vyasa, the composer
of Mahabharata (The Battle of the Bharatas) is the Homer
of India. Mahabharata, the largest literary work in
the world, comprises 100,000 slokas (couplets). It is
considered a glorious work with a high literary and
philosophical profoundity. It carries a message of great
moral grandeur and artistic sublimity..Mahabharata is
a protean work which is at once an itahasa (epic), a
purana (legendary history), a kavya (poem), a veda (the
book of sacred knowledge), a Dharmasashtra (a manual
of ethics) and a smriti (work of ancient tradition).
Vyasa, which means the 'editor' of the 'compiler' is
not a personal name but a functional or generic one.
In the epic, however, he is described as the son of
the ascetic Parasara. The age of the epic is unsettled.
(c.100-500): Vishnusharma is known throughout
the world as the composer of the Panchitantra (Five
Strategies). Panchitantra consists of five books of
edifying tales. A large number of fairy tales have migrated
from India to the rest of the world. The collection
has had an influence on the literatures of West Asia
and Medieval Europe.
(2nd century): Asvaghosha, a Buddhist monk
of Saketa (Ayodhya), was a great philosopher, poet and
a debater. He is known for his famous poem Buddhacharita
(The Story of Buddha). Although a Buddhist writer, Asvaghosha
was fully conversant with Brahmanical learning. Buddhacharita
was translated into the Chinese (5th cent.) and the
Tibetan (7th cent.) and was well known to the Chinese
traveller Huan Tsang. The poem has a special importance
in the history of classical Sanskrit literature.
(4th century): Kalidasa was one of the great
Sanskrit poets of ancient India. Not much is known about
Kalidasa, but legend has it that he was an illiterate
shepherd boy initiated into the art of poetic creation
by godess Kali, also known as Durga. The name 'Kalidasa'
implies that he was the devotee of goddess Kali. Kalidasa
wrote many dramas and epic poems all having an unprecedented
poetic excellence, hardly surpassed by anyone later.
Abhijnanasakuntalam (Sakuntala and the Signet Ring)
is considerd Kalidasa's magnum opus. Meghadutam (the
Cloud-Messenger), Raghuvamsa (The Dynasty of Raghu),
Kumarsambhava are the other epic-poems he has written.
Kalidasa's poetry fulfills all the requirements of the
Indian dramatic theory in respect of plot, characters
and rasas. All his poems seve as a model for the Mahakavyas.
Kakidasa has received encomiums from writers and critics
all over the world ( including the German poet Goethe
and Rabindranath Tagore) for the richness of his aesthetic
sensibility, intensity of lyrical emotion, communion
with nature, and his reconciling the earth and heaven,
sensuality and spirituality, fate and free will, etc.
in a vision of cosmic harmony which is the very essence
of Indian culture.
(6th century): Vishakadatta, the son of Maharaja
Bhaskaradatta or Prthu and grandson of Vatesvaradatta,
belonged to a ruling royal family. He hailed, most probably,
from Bihar or Bengal and wrote the famous drama Mudrarakshasa
Rakshasa and the Signet Ring). His two other dramas
are Devichandragupta and Abhisarikavancitaka. Vishakadatta
occupies a significant place in the history of Sanskrit
literature because he started the tradition of writing
purely political plays devoid of the emotions of love
Bhatta (7th century): Bana Bhatta is the
most illustrious of prose-writers in Sanskrit. Early
in his life he won the favour of emperor Harshavardhana
and wrote Harshacharita, the story of his patron, which
has also conspicuous autobiograohical elements. His
greatest work is Kadambari, the celebrated prose-romance.
He, however, left it incomplete to be brought to a conclusion
by his son Bushana Bhatta.
Bhatta (11th century): Somedeva Bhatta was
the court-poet of King Anantha of Kashmir who flourished
in the 11th century. He is known by his famous collection
of short stories Kathasaritsagara (The Ocean of Stories).
It is the largest collection of stories in the world.
It consists of 22,000 stanzas and is divided into 18
books called lambakas (chapters) and subdivided into
124 tarangas. Somedeva was a poet of high imagination
and adept in the art of story-telling. The Kathasaritsagar
abounds in stories of adventurous lovers, of princes
and cities, of political intrigues and battles, of magic
and spells, of treachery and trickery, tales of vampires
and goblins, of animals and birds, of merchants and
ascetics, gamblers and prostitutes - in short, stories
of every imaginable description.
(12th century): Jayadeva is known as the
author of the great laghukavya, Gita Govinda (Krishna's
Song). He was born either in Bengal or in Orissa in
the 12th century. Gita Govinda marks the culmination
of the classical Sanskrit poetry and heralds the advent
of literature and poetry in many regional languages
(12th century): Kalhana was the son of Champaka,
minister of King Harsha (1089-1101). Kalhana's Rajatarangini
or the River of Kings is the first written history of
the world. It is a poetic chronicle of the kings of
Kashmir from prehistoric times to the 12th century.
Kalhana belonged to distinguished family and had also
an intimate acquaintance with the topography and physical
conditions of Kashmir, its political kings and heroes
and the facts of everyday life.