History of Sanskrit Compiled by Sanjeev Nayyar March 2002
My interest in the origin - development of languages is of recent origin. I must give credit to Khushwant Singh for arousing my interest in languages by saying that Punjabis were responsible for the killing of Urdu in Punjab. I found the article on Urdu very enlightening (go to the History section if you like to read about it). Every time I have got down to compiling an essay have learnt much more than I had ever dreamt of. In this case I wanted to start with Hindi because I felt that Sanskrit would be too much of effort. As I browsed through books I realized that if I were to write about Hindi first it would be akin to writing about a child’s life before the mother’s birth.
The article is verbatim from the History and Culture of Indian People after that I compared notes with The Cultural Heritage of India by the Ramakrishna Mission. The first chapter is self-explanatory, the second is an overview on the development of all Indian languages – simply and sequentially given – the third tells you scientific literature in S after which developments are taken period wise. The article is divided into the following chapters –
1. Importance of Sanskrit language – quote Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. 2. Introduction on Development of Indian languages by Shri K M Munshi. 3. Scientific Literature in Sanskrit 4. The Vedic Age Upto 600 BC. 5. The Age of Imperial Unity includes development of Prakrit - 600 bc to 320 ad. 6. The Classical Age 320 to 750. 7. The Age of Imperial Kannauj also has development of Apabhramsa - 750 to 1000. 8. The Struggle for Empire 1000 – 1300. 9. The Delhi Sultanate 1300 to 1526. 10. The Mughal Period 1526 to 1707. 11 Maratha Supremacy 1707 to 1818. 12. British Period 1818 to 1905.
13. Struggle for Freedom 1905 to 1947
Importance of Sanskrit Language, Words of Sri Aurobindo & the Mother Chapter 1 ..Each language is the sign and power of the soul of the people, which naturally speaks it. Each develops therefore its own peculiar spirit, thought-temperament, and way of dealing with life and knowledge and experience…. Therefore it is of the utmost value to a nation a human group-soul, to preserve its language and to make of it a strong and living culture instrument. A nation, race or a person, which loses its language, cannot live its whole life or its real life.
Indian’s nature, her mission, the work that she has to do, her part in the earth’s destiny, the peculiar power for which she stands is written there in her past history and is the secret purpose behind her present sufferings and ordeals. A reshaping of the forms of our spirit will have to take place; but it is the spirit itself behind past forms that we have to disengage and preserve and to give to it new and powerful thought-significances, culture-values, a new instrumentation, greater figure. And so long as we recognize these essential things and are faithful to their spirit, it will not hurt us to make even the most drastic mental or physical adaptations and the most extreme cultural and social changes. But these changes themselves must be cast in the spirit and mould of India and not in any other, not in the spirit of America or Europe, not in the mould of Japan or Russia.
India is destined to work out her own independent life and civilization, to stand in the forefront of the world and solve the political, social, economic and moral problems which Europe has failed to solve, yet the pursuit of which and the feverish passage in that pursuit from experiment to experiment, from failure to failure she calls her progress. Our means must be as great as our ends and the strength to discover and use the means so as to attain the end can only be found by seeking the eternal source of strength in ourselves.
The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendor, depth and fullness is its [India’s] first, most essential work; the flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge is the second; an original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavor to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualized society is the third and most difficult Its success on these three lines will be the measure of its help to the future of humanity.
…what constitutes this higher or highest existence to which our evolution is tending? In order to answer the question we have to deal with a class of supreme experiences, a class of unusual conceptions, which it is difficult to represent accurately in any other language than the ancient Sanskrit tongue in which alone they have been to some extent systematized.
The [Sanskrit} language itself, as has been universally recognized by those competent to form a judgment, is one of the most magnificent, the most perfect and wonderfully sufficient literary instruments developed by the human mind, at once majestic and sweet and flexible, strong and clearly-formed and full and vibrant and subtle, and its quality and character would be of itself a sufficient evidence of the character and quality of the race whose mind it expressed and the culture of which it was the reflecting medium.
The Sanskrit language is the devabhasa or original language spoken by men in Uttara Meru at the beginning of the Manwantara; but in its purity it is not the Sanskrit of the Dwapara or the Kali, it is the language of the Satya Yuga based on the true and perfect relation of vak and artha. Every one of its vowels and consonants has a particular and inalienable force which exists by the nature of things and not by development or human choice; these are the fundamental sounds which lie at the basis of the Tantric bijamantras and constitute the efficacy of the mantra itself. Every vowel and every consonant in the original language had certain primary meanings, which arose out of this essential Shakti or force and were the basis of other derivative meanings. By combination with the vowels, the consonants, and without any combination, the vowels themselves formed a number of primary roots, out of which secondary roots were developed by the addition of other consonants. All words were formed from these roots, simple words by the addition again of pure or mixed vowel and consonant terminations with or without modification of the root and more complex words by the principle of composition.
This language increasingly corrupted in sense and sound becomes the later Sanskrit of the Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yuga, being sometimes partly purified and again corrupted and again partly purified so that it never loses all apparent relation to its original from and structure. Every other language, however remote, is a corruption formed by detritions and perversion of the original language into a Prakrit or the Prakrit of a Prakrit and so on to increasing stages of impurity. The superior purity of the Indian language is the reason of its being called the Sanskrit and not given any local name, its basis being universal and eternal; and it is always a rediscovery of the Sanskrit tongue as the primary language that prepares first for a true understanding of human language and, secondly for a fresh purification of Sanskrit itself.
Everyone should learn that [Sanskrit]……
Not Sanskrit from the point of view of scholarship, but Sanskrit, a Sanskrit – how to put it? – That opens the door to all the languages of India. I think that is indispensable. The ideal would be, in a few years, to have a rejuvenated Sanskrit as the representative language of India, that is, a Sanskrit spoken in such a way that Sanskrit is behind all the languages of India and it should be that. This was Sri Aurobindo’s idea, when we spoke about it. Because now English is the language of the whole country, but that is abnormal. It is very helpful for relations with the rest of the world, but just as each country has its own language, there should…. And so here, as soon as one begins to want a national language, everyone starts quarrelling. Each one wants it to be his own, and that is foolish. But no one could object to Sanskrit. It is a more ancient language than the others and it contains the sound, the root-sounds of many words……
Every child born in India should know it, just as every child born in France has to know French. He does not speak properly, he does not know it thoroughly, but he has to know French a little; and in all the countries of the world it is the same thing. He has to know the national language. And then, when he learns, he learns as many languages as he likes…
So I would like to have a simple Sanskrit taught…., as simple as possible, but not “simplified” – simple by going back to its origin…. all these sounds, the sounds that are the roots of the words which were formed afterwards.”
Introduction on Development of Indian Languages by Kulapati Freedom Fighter Founder of the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan respected Shri K M Munshi Chapter 2
“Indian culture has an organic unity, and this has been largely brought out by language movements, shaped and molded by the S language. Vedic Language The early hymns of the Vedas were chanted with meticulous regard for the proper pronunciation of the words in sounds and forms as well as in accent, and the hymns had acquired a remarkable sanctity for themselves. The priests who studied and chanted the hymns were the Brahmanas and were dedicated to preserving the hymns through oral tradition.
The tenth and last book (mandala) of the Rig Veda and a considerable part of the Atharva Veda show a later phase of Vedic S, and the later exegetical and philosophical works, the Brahmanas and the earlier Upanishads, have preserved considerable relics of the old Vedic language.
This vast literature of Vedic exegesis and Vedic speculation in philosophy, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads relating to each Veda, was connected by tradition with one or the other of four Vedas. These works were composed through centuries, and indicate the continuous and gradual evolution of the Vedic Sanskrit into its later phase, Classical S. Classical Sanskrit (CS) CS received its first serious study and formulation with Panini in the 5th century BC. Before him, the S language was in a fluid state. His great S grammar in some 4,000 aphorisms in eight chapters, called the Astadhyaya, ushered in quite a linguistic revolution by stabilizing the norms of the language, leaving enough scope for incorporation of later forms and modifications within the framework of the principles laid down by him.
A great many works in CS like the Mahabharat, Ramayana, Puranas and other works like the Dharma-sastras acquired almost the same sanctity as the Vedic texts. Thus S with its expanding literature became a dynamic force to dominate, absorb, and direct most of the cultural and linguistic movements in the following centuries.
Panini’s great influence standardized S language firmly. The later forms of speech like the Prakrits (Pali and the rest) were taken up by the heterodox sects, the Buddhists and the Jains and their teachers, who created great literature in these forms. But from the beginning the prestige and importance of S almost overwhelmed them. The Efflorescence of Sanskrit During the Gupta Age, from the 4th to the 7th century a.d S attained a creative efflorescence. During this period the Mahabharata emerged as the 5th Veda. The older Puranas, such as the Vayu, Matsya, and perhaps the Visnu and the Markhandeya, were composed or revised during the Gupta Age. The study of the Dharma-sastras and science, astronomy, medicine received a great impetus while architecture, sculpture, painting reached the highest levels of artistic expression.
Secular literature – poems, dramas etc reached its climax in the kavyas (epics) and natakas (dramas). S became the great unifying force, the source and inspiration of culture in its manifold aspects. S along with some its younger forms of speech like Prakrit spread outside India in the wake of Indian commerce and expansion, all over Asia actually. Thus S found new homes in Central Asia, Tibet, Indo-China and Indonesia. It was also studied in China, Korea and Japan and round about 500-800 a.d. It was the great cultural language binding India with the greater part of Asia. A man knowing S could travel from Central Asia to Java and Bali without having any difficulty in language.
Inspite of the Prakrits coming into use among the Buddhists and Jains S continued not only as a medium of Brahmanical (even Buddhist and Jaina) religious ritual, but it was established as the language of the elite at the royal courts and the medium of all higher studies in the various branches of philosophy and science.
However, S was never static. It absorbed and assimilated many words, terms of expression from regional dialects too. The Prakrits, Apabhramsas and the Bhasas Pali and the Prakrits represent the Middle period i.e. from after 600 b.c. to 1000 a.d. These dialects came into existence as the result of certain phonetic changes and grammatical modifications, which had naturally come in with the passage of time.
Vararuci’s Prakrta-prakasa 5th century a.d. and Hemchandra’s Prakrit grammar (12th century) are two of the most famous Prakrit grammars. In the course of time Prakrits were transformed into what are known as Apabhramsa dialects, which began to use in literature after 500 a.d. As a medium for folk as well as bardic poetry they were used in Bengal in the east to Saurashtra in the west. Its regional verities are seen in the rasas in western India and in works such as those of poets like Vidyapati in the east – 15th century.
We can trace the origin and development of Indo-Aryan languages like Bengali, Gujarati i.e. the Bhasas to Aprabhramsa. The evolution followed a pattern of its own. The dialects – desabhasas or local speeches or forms of patois – standardized and enriched under the influence of S, developed their literature. While the spoken forms of these languages had their own development, but at every stage S remained the perennial source of inspiration, ready to come to the rescue of the desabhasas, whenever they moved too far away from the old Indo-Aryan. Sanskrit and Dravidian languages As I typed the word Dravidian let me state that I do not believe in the Aryan Invasion theory, following Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo’s words. To read about it go to the history section and read ‘Debunking the Aryan Invasion Theory’ by David Frawley.
When the South received the impact of S, it developed a devotional literature of supreme quality first in Tamil, and then in Telegu and Kannada. Although there was an earlier tradition of literature in Tamil – the Sangam literature – but this literature from the very beginning received strong Sanskritic influence and learning through sages, writers and grammarians like Agastya and Tolkappiyan. A song by Kari-kizhar addressed to an early Pandyan king attests to the influence of early Vedic ages. The song runs ‘May your head bend low before the upraised hands of the Vedic sages when they bless you’. The Jain and Buddhists too brought North Indian influence to the South.
The Sangam literature was overlaid by that of the Saiva and Vaishnava saints, the Nayanmars and the Alvars. Thus, Tamil literature became saturated with the spirit of the Puranas and Sanskrit, as happened in all other languages, the various versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata became works in the south as they had in the north.
The S literature of the South through Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva and other philosophers, saints contributed to S literature of India as much as Kalidasa, Rajasekhara and Bhavabhuti. By 1000 a.d. the modern day Indo-Aryan languages came into being.
To read about how S got intertwined with Telegu and Malayalam please read the essays on these languages. Bhakti Movement and Regional Languages A new attitude in religion, that of bhakti, an abandon of faith in God – came in, and very largely dominated Indian religious life and literature. This was faith in some aspect of Divinity – either Siva or the Great Mother in Sakti – Parvati or Vishnu in the incarnation of Rama or Krishna or in some other gods like Ganesh, Surya. Later Bhakti also permeated Buddhism and Jainism.
Through Bhakti the great religious leaders played a notable part in the development of regional languages. Among them was Jnanesvara, Namadeva, Basava, Narsi Mehta, Guru Nanak, Mirabai. Great stimulus was given by the bhakti movement to Brajabhasa, a Western Hindi dialect, and also to Awadhi or Kosala, an eastern Hindi speech. The followers of Chaitanya, through their writings influenced the development of Bengali.
Sacred cities like Kashi, Mathura, Amritsar, Mathura, Vrindavan became centers of bhakti literature. Tulsidasa’s Rama-carita-manasa, an early Awadhi version of the Ramayana, became a classic in its own right, and for the greater part of Northern India, provided the gospel of righteous living in a language of perfect beauty. Suradasa and Mirabai wrote their lyrics on Krishna in Braja-bhasa and Rajasthani.
The Modern Renaissance The three universities established by the British in India in 1857 adopted English as the medium of instruction, but at the same time prescribed Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian as classical languages besides Greek and Latin, one of which students preparing for the Entrance Examination had to take as a compulsory subject.
The study of English began seriously first in Bengal and then spread to other parts of India. The college-educated elite came under the spell of Shakespeare etc and then began under the joint influence of S and English, the modern literary renaissance of India.
Enriched by S and leavened by the expressive vigor of English, the modern Indian languages acquired wider horizons and higher ranges of expression. Indian literary forms were inspired by the West; the two were interwoven to produce a rich expressiveness, a new technique. While Bengali was the first to fall in line with English and European literature it retained its native character and preserved fully the great heritage of S and of the spirit of the Indian civilization.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Bengali had a large Persian vocabulary due to its Muslim rulers who had Persian as their official language. However, from the first decades of the 19th century, it retrieved its genius and its Sanskritic character. In Bengali writings Raja Rammohan Roy used a highly Sanskritized style.
In the hands of Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Bengali prose took its final shape. After him the tendency was continued by the three great literary figures Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Rabindranath Tagore with a host of other writers. (Please read the essay on Bengali to know more).
Modern Hindi also, during the last one hundred years, had acquired great expressiveness by drawing upon the vocabulary and other resources of S. The first great writer in modern Hindi was Bharatendu Harishchandra of Kashi 1850-1883, it was he who gave the tone to modern literary Hindi. In various forms, the two most important of which are Braja and Awadhi, it has one of the richest medieval literatures of India.
The history of other great Indian languages like Gujarati, Marathi, and Telegu etc follow the pattern of Bengali.” End of K M Munshi’s words.
Scientific Literature in Sanskrit Chapter 3
There is a general impression that Indians in ancient times made progress in art, literature, philosophy etc but not in science. Recent evidence proves that in the fields of scientific and technical knowledge the contribution of ancient India was by no means negligible.
In the Rig Veda reference to the artificial thigh made of iron given to Visapala by the Asvins must be regarded as an astonishing feat of medical science and metallurgy. Even the iron pillar of Delhi 4th century a.d. which is 23 feet high and nine tons in weight and two other pillars found in Dhar and Mount Abu are no less striking. In the Rig Veda and Vajasaneyi Samhita there are references to mechanical devices or yantras. The Mahabharat and Ramayana also speak about them.
Modern scholars cannot find answers to how ancient Indians discovered them thus they tend to dismiss these discoveries compounded due to non-availability of ancient works. Nonetheless scientific literature in S is quite extensive and elaborate on a variety of subjects. I will take each subject briefly –
Alchemy - Man’s craving for gold is universal. In India alchemy appears to have been associated with the Tantrik religion but the ancient works dealing with it are now lost, only a trail of this tract survived in the forms of Kakacandesvari-mata Tantra and Svarna Tantra mentioned by Alberuni. The earliest available work is perhaps Rasa-ratnakara 7th or 8th century a.d. In the 14th century Madhava refers to past ancient masters such as Acharya Sarvajna and Ramesvara Bhattaraka amongst others.
Chemistry - Literary sources prove that the knowledge of chemistry existed in India at a very early period. Yet due to lack of evidence it is very difficult to say when chemistry was first recognized as a separate discipline in India.
The names of ancient masters are Patanjali, Vyadi, Vasudeva, Caraka, Susruta, and Harita amongst others. The earliest work Rasaratnakara ascribed to Nagarjuna belongs to the 8th century a.d. A modern chemist P C Ray in his History of Hindu Chemistry gives an account of some fifty works of chemistry e.g. Rasendra-cudamani by Somadeva 12 or the 13th century a.d., Rasa-kaumudi by Madhava 15th century amongst others.
Chemistry was seriously studied in Tibet and there was close contact between Tibet and Indian chemists. It is curious to note that though preparation of diverse mineral acids and various medicines by the use of metals are recorded in the works on chemistry and medical science, no work dealing with metallurgy has come down to us.
Medical science - On this subject there is a flourishing literature in S. It is divided into eight main branches – satya-tantra or major surgery, salakya-tantra or minor surgery, kaya-cikitsa or therapeutics, bhuta-vidya or demonology, kaumara-bhrtya or pediatrics, aganda-tantra or toxicology, rasayana or elixirs and vaji-karana or aphrodisiacs. Anatomy, embryology and hygiene were known from Vedic times. Various Gods like Siva are mentioned as ancient masters of medical science and various books written on medicine with them as curers.
The earliest extant work on medicine is the Charaka Samhita by Charaka in the 1st century a.d. It was translated into Persian / Arabic in the 8th century a.d. In elegant S prose interspersed with verse, the book deals with anatomy, embryology, dietetics, pathology and many other medical topics.
Another great name is Susruta. The Mahabharata speaks of him as the son of Visvamitra and his work was known in Cambodia and Arab countries in the 9/10th centuries a.d. The next great writer on medical subjects is Vagbhata whose work covers all the eight sections of Ayurveda. His work was translated into Tibetan.
Anatomy and physiology - Human anatomy is referred to in the Atharva-Veda and Satapatha Brahmana.
Pathology - The earliest work is Rug-viniscaya by Madhavakara 7th century, was translated into Arabic in the 8th century.
Pediatrics - well-known work is Kumara Tantra ascribed to Ravana.
The Science of the Pulse - The study of the pulse forms an important part of a diagnosis in Ayurveda. This science has been treated as a separate discipline in Nadi-vijnama by Kanada and a work Nadi-pariksa ascribed to Ravana.
Veterinary Science - The Puranas associate the names of Salihotra, Nakula and Palakapya with its ancient masters of its various branches. It is concerned with the treatment of elephants, horses and cattle.
Cosmetics and aromatics - An early work on collyrium, Anjana-nidana is attributed to Agnivesa. Navanitaka 2nd century a.d. gives a formula for hair dye, while Sarngadhara Paddhati preserves instructions for the preparation of cosmetics including hair-dye and scented oil.
The science of Gems - Among the many books are Ratna-sastra by Agastya, the Garuda Purana cites Vyadi as an authority. There was Ratna-pariksa by Buddhabhatta 6th century a.d. amongst many books on the subject.
Astronomy - Observation of heavenly bodies was closely associated with Vedic rituals. Vedanga Jyotisa indicates that considerable progress was made in this science. It is related to the Rig and Yajur Veda while there is a separate text named Atharvana Jyotisa related to the Atharva Veda.
The famous astrologer Aryabhatta 5th century a.d was the first to assert that the earth is a sphere and that it rotates round the sun. His works include Aryabhatiya, Dasagitika-Sutra with numerical notations and Aryastasata. The last work contains three sections namely maths, measurement of time and astronomy. In 550 a.d. another great name was Varahamhira. Brahmagupta 598 a.d. is another luminary in this field. The next great name is Bhaskaracarya 12th century a.d.
Mathematics - India’s achievements may briefly be summed up in the words of Macdonnel “The Indians invented the numerical figures all over the world. The influence, which the decimal system of reckoning dependant on those figures has had not only on maths but on the progress of civilization as general, can hardly be overestimated. During the 8th and 9th centuries the Indians became teachers to the Arabs in arithmetic and algebra and through them to the nations of the West”.
The Vedic Sutras are probably far earlier than the Alexandrian geometry of Hero 215 b.c. The earliest work on maths that has reached the authors is probably the Bakshali Manuscript (3rd or 4th century a.d.). It is in sutra form with examples mixed in verse written in mixed S. From references in Jaina works we learn that Indians had made much progress in 4th century B.C. in the process of permutation and combination.
Astrology - The list of old masters includes Satyacarya, Vishnugupta, Siddhasena to name a few. The best treatise is perhaps Brhat Samhita by Varahamihira whose opening section called tantra deals with astronomy and maths, second section hora deals with horoscopes and the third with natural astrology. It is a masterly work written in elegant S in kavya style and covers almost all the sciences that in ancient India were associated with man’s life on earth. There were many other books too.
Physiognomy and palmistry - In the Visnudharmottara, the Agni and a number of other Puranas, and also in the Brhat Samhita, physiognomy has been dealt with. It aims at predicting the nature, character traits and fate based on certain peculiarities of character. In the course of time it came to be treated as an ancillary science of astrology known as samudrika-sastra. Palmistry was originally part of this book but due to its popularity it was elevated to the position of a major science.
In the Bhavisyottara Purana there is a chapter on palmistry. In India this science is ascribed to Narada. There are many other works too.
There were also numerous works on mechanical devices eg Bhoja’s principle of making a machine to lift a heavy weight, on art and architecture like Visnudhamottara, on drama like Narya-sastra by Bharata, on music and dance there are endless number of books referred to in the Cultural Heritage of India.
The Vedic Age – Upto 600 BC Chapter 4
Quote eminent freedom fighter K M Munshi and founder of the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan “The multiplicity of languages and communities is widely advertised, but little emphasis is laid on certain facts which make India what she is. Throughout the last two millennia, there was linguistic unity. Some sort of a lingua franca was used by a very large past of the country, and Sanskrit (S), for a thousands years the language of the royal courts and at all times the language of culture, was predominant, influencing life, language and literature in most provinces. For over 3,000 years, social and family life has been molded or influenced by the Dharma-Sastra texts, containing a comprehensive code of personal law, which though adapted from time to time to suit every age, province, provided a continuous unifying force. Aryan (Arya means cultured) drew its inspiration in every successive generation from Sanskrit works on religion, philosophy, ritual, law and science, and particularly the two epics Ramayana and Mahabharat”.
It appears, therefore, that not only the Indo-European vowl-system has been fundamentally transformed in Sanskrit, as is universally recognized today, but also that, atleast in one respect, namely in respect of spirants, S consonantism has innovated no less. And this holds good for the oldest recorded form of Sanskrit, namely the language of the Rigveda. ‘In the days of Panini, app 500 BC, Sanskrit was still a living language of some sort. But in the days of grammarian Patanjali it must have become more or less like Latin in mediaeval Italy. In any case S had long ceased to be a living language before the days of Asoka’. Keith HSL. The basic language of the Atharvaveda is however, not too unlike, say the S of grammarian Patanjali, and is on the whole not difficult to understand except in a few cases.
The Brahmana texts, together with prose parts of the Atharveda and Yajurveda, are perhaps the only genuine prose works, which the Sanskrit, as a popular language, has produced.
The language of the Upanishads is more akin to the Classical than to the Vedic Sanskrit.
The Age of Imperial Unity - 600bc to 320 ad Chapter 5
This period produced Panini, the renowned grammarian, who stabilized Sanskrit and indirectly influenced the growth of languages of India, Katyayanna - Patanjali, the grammarian who stylized Sanskrit. The drama and kavya in S literature, traceable to the Rigveda and the Mahabharata provided this cohesive force.
In the continuous development of Sanskrit the period that came after the Brahmanas - early Upanishads was marked by the development of classical Sanskrit. The Brahmanas have no doubt done away with some of the Vedic terminations, the variety of infinitives yet their richness is the use of different verbal forms taught by Panini gives them a pre-classical character. The language of the epics show a popular tinge in it for it contains more solecisms than are to be met in any other form of literature. The language of the epics esp of the Mahabharata does not show any clear uniformity and we cannot speak of the epic dialect except in a general way. The language however conforms to the standard Sanskrit of that period.
But the language that Panini aims to describe was strictly the spoken language, at any rate akin to it, among the hieratic classes. No one doubts that the bhasha of Panini was the spoken language of his days. The differences that are noticed in the language of the Vedas and the bhasha of Panini are clearly due to the process that normally governs the development of any language. After the period of Panini and his followers, Sanskrit became more and more of a literary language and its sphere as a spoken language decreased with the result that at the beginning of the Christian era, Classical Sanskrit ceased to develop as a language and assumed a stylized form. This was also done, to an extent due to the celebrity almost religious status granted to these three great grammarians.
As we come to Katyayana we find that the different verbal forms though taught in grammar were actually not used. Thus the way was being prepared for the later nominal or attributive style in place of the earlier verbal style. The Maahabhasya of Patanjali gives us the earliest extant specimen of a somewhat developed style. So far as the development in the language itself is concerned Patanjali does not show any great advance over the stage arrived at in the days of Katyanana. It is significant to note that Patanjali ascribes the usage of Sanskrit to the Sishtas of his times, who are described as Brahmanas staying in Aryavarta. They could speak correct S, even without studying Panini’s grammar, in fact it was the use of these Sishtas that decided the correctness or otherwise of a particular form. Other people spoke S but made certain mistakes due to the influence of Prakrits.
Later classical writers strictly conformed to the norm set up by Panini, revised by his two followers referred to above. But the real change that affected the later writers was not in language but in style. In vocabulary Classical S lost many Vedic words and roots, and this loss has hardly been compensated for by a few borrowings from Prakirts and the language of later invaders.
Today when were are made to believe that Buddhism is a different religion devoid of Sanathan Dharam, Sanskrit I would like to share with you what I saw at the Dalai Lama Temple in Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh, the house of the Tibetans in exile. Behind Dalai Lama’s spiritual throne in the main temple there are two huge cupboards some twenty feet high that are full of holy Tibetan scriptures. A board on the cupboards read “This cupboard has a collection of texts called Kagyur, translations of the actual teachings of Buddha. These 100 volumes translated from Sanskrit are the authentic teachings of Buddha himself and contain the whole collection of sutras and tantras. Another cupboard has a collection of texts called Tangyur, translation of the commentaries of Buddha by late Indian Masters. The 225 volumes translated mostly from Sanskrit, contains work on Buddhist philosophy, grammar, logic, poetry, art, astronomy, medicine etc”. You can see pictures of these cupboards by going to the photographs section, click on Himachal Pradesh, Mecleodganj.
Prakrit – The grammarians leave no doubt in our mind as regards the use of S as a spoken language in their days. But at the same time there appeared many corrupt forms and uses because of which it became essential to turn to the Sishtas, cultured people of society for knowledge of correct Sanskrit. This plus the fact that the founders of Buddhism and Jainism propagated their faiths not in S but in Prakrit made S loose its position as the medium of expression among all classes of society and was restricted only to the highly educated.
Although philologists have traced in detail successive stages of this linguistic revolution, will refer it briefly. The old Indo-Aryan stage of Aryan speech, as typified by Vedic and early S, altered perceptibly and got transformed into Middle Indo-Aryan and Prakrit. The rate of this change was not uniformed throughout India. The language was more conservative in the Northwest and more advanced in the east. Long before Buddha in the period of the Brahmanas there are indications of atleast three distinct dialectical types in North India just when the middle Indo-Aryan took its rise – Udichya (north western), Madhyadesya (middle) and Prachya (eastern). The classical S which came to be established as a literary language after Panini was based primarily on Udichya (his own dialect) and Madhyadesiya dialects. The gap between these S and these dialects increased more so in the east, house to Buddha and Mahavir where the anti-Vedic / Brahman feelings were high. Thanks to these two preachers the Prakrits (vernaculars) grew and became powerful rivals to S.
The dramas of Asvaghosha (100 ad) show the next important stage of development when we can distinguish the older forms of the three well known Prakrit dialects of later date i.e. Ardha Magadhi, Magadhi, Sauraseni and Maharashtri. It is probable that Buddha and Mahavir preached in Ardha Magadhi though the earliest Jain scriptures show a strong influence of Maharashtri Prakrit. As regards the Buddhist cannon the best-preserved one is in Pali. But the dialect from which Pali was originated in under dispute among scholars. Some say it is from Magadhi while others say it is from Madhyadesa.
The Buddha asked his disciples that his teachings should be studied by the people in their own dialect and there is definite evidence that the Buddhist Cannon was redacted wholly or in part in some four different forms of speech i.e. Eastern Prakrit, N-W Prakrit, Buddhist (Gilgit and Nepal) and Pali.
There is no doubt that the growing popularity of vernacular scripts gave a temporary setback to S. The fact that not more than a dozen prescriptions were written in S during this period indicate that Prakrit continued to be the dominant language in popular use up to the beginning of the 4th century ad. In the literary field however, starting the 2nd century ad even Buddhist and Jain writers showed their preference for S to the neglect of prakrits. It must be admitted that non-canonical literature of the Buddhists and jains continued to be written in Pali and Jaina-Maharashtra till a very late date.
The Prakrit language was employed by the S dramatists for their female and secondary characters.
Language and Literature – The period succeeding that of the Upanishads and Sutras gave followed by an outburst of literary activity in both north and south India. The process of evolution of S gave rise to various forms of Prakrit that had a distinctive literature of its own. Besides Buddhist and Jainic literature the most important works during this period were the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Dharma-sastras or Smritis.
The earliest forms of Sanskrit drama may be discerned in the dialogue hymns of the Rigveda. Some of the Vedic rituals like mahavrata ceremony that involved dance and dialogue, may have directly contributed to the development of drama. S drama in all probability came into being shortly after, if not before, the middle of the second century BC and that it was evoked by the combination of epic recitations with the dramatic moment of Krishna. The S dramas were meant to be enacted, usually in honor of a deity, festival, and royal celebrations. For this the quadrangle of a temple or the courtyard of a king’s palace was used.
The seeds for the growth of S kavya were sown in the Rigvedic period. We owe to the Arya Sura the S version of Jataka tales in the form of Jatakamala. These were translated into Chinese in 434 a.d.
Though the beginnings of grammatical studies in India can be traced back to the period of the Brahmanas, the first important treaty on the subject is Yasaka’s Nirukta. The earliest work dealing with the grammar of the contemporary spoken language is Panini’s Ashtadhaya. The author refers to his seniors like Saunaka, which indicates the existence of a long tradition of grammatical studies before the days of Panini. Panini was a native of a village Salatura in North West Frontier Province and is believed to have lived about the 5th century BC.
Next was Katyayana referred to above who flourished about the 3rd century BC? The object of his work was to explain and support the Sutras of Panini and also to amend and supplement them wherever necessary. Next was Patanjali in the 2nd century BC whose Mahabhashya is a more extensive work explaining and sometimes correcting Panini’s sutras. It is perhaps the earliest specimen of a commentary, a mode of writing that came to be extensively employed in later days.
The art of writing was fully developed during this period. The oldest alphabet known as Brahmi was employed in the majority of records of Asoka and from it have been derived the various scripts used all over India.
The Classical Age 320 to 750 AD Chapter 6
Quote K M Munshi “Sanskrit, a living language in structure and rich in expression, possessing a rich, varied and beautiful literary achievement, was the living embodiment of Dharma and a powerful integrating force. Inscriptions began to be written in S even in the South. A new thought or a new literary masterpiece in the language attracted the attention of all the intellectual centers. For instance the works of Kalidasa, a contemporary of Chandra-gupta II Vikramaditya, became the models of literary beauty throughout the country within a few years of his death. S continued to be the language of religion and ritual, of statecraft, learning and science, of the law texts, which regulated social conduct, and of literature, thought poetry and drama. It was the national medium of course. The S speaking world was one, all Indian. In North India, the dialects, which the higher classes spoke was not far from S. But in the South Dravidian languages continued to develop on their own lines, no doubt influenced and enriched by Sanskrit. Cultural influences were spread not only through S, but percolated to the masses through the medium of growing dialects that acknowledged the supremacy of S and became subsidiary forces of integration”.
During this period was founded the Gupta Empire, ruled Harsha, the Huns / Arabs invaded India, ruled the Chalukyas and Pallavas in South India.
The political unity and prosperity of India under the Guptas, combined with the staunch patronage they extended to S learning, resulted in the flourishing of S literature in all its branches including sciences like Astronomy and Mathematics. This is evident from the fact that dramatists and poets like Kalidasa, Bharavi and Magha, prose writers like Dandin, Subandhu, rhetoricians like Bhamaha, grammarians like Chandra, Vamana, lexicographers like Amara, philosophers like Gaudapada, Kumarila and astronomers like Aryabhata, Varahamihira, all flourished during this period. That was undoubtedly called an efflorescence of S literature during the Gupta Age.
This period saw the full development of the Puranas but why are they important to us? Quote Winternitz “They afford us far grater insight into all aspects and phases of Hinduism – its mythology, idol-worship, its theism and pantheism, its love of God, its philosophy and superstitions, its festivals and ceremonies, and its ethics, than in any other works”.
Through his works Kalidasa shed lustre on the whole of S literature. The best-known work is his drama Shakuntla. His two Mahakavyas, Raghuvamsa and Kumarasambhava, and the lyrical poem Meghaduta are universally regarded as gems of S poetry. The Kiratarjuniya and the Sisupalavadha, two of the famous Mahakavyas belong to this period. Although examples of fables and romances existed in India from an earlier period, no earlier examples in S are known than Panchatantra. This work became highly popular and was translated into most languages of the world.
The rise of Chandra and Jainendra – two of the several systems of S grammar marks this age (Systems of Sanskrit grammar by Dr S K Belvalkar). Chandra was not only a close student of one of the Acharyas of the school of Panini but has fully utilized their works in an attempt to evolve a system of grammar free from the traditional Brahmanical element.
Summary – The broad and running survey of S literature produced in the Classical Age clearly shows that great advance was made in literature on every side and in every branch. Some of the important sciences like Grammar, Maths, Astronomy and Astrology reached their fullest development in this age. So also this age produced great writers like Kalidasa, Bharavi and Magha. Although this age produced the best towards its close artificiality was slowly but steadily creeping into the domain of literature and was destined to eclipse and stifle all real art. There was a tendency among Jain scholars to prefer S more and more to Prakrit, as being of greater value in their discussions with other schools of thought and of greater prestige. The older commentaries in Prakrit soon gave place to S Tikas eg the Jain scholar Haribhadra composed in S. Amongst the Digambara Jains of the South too there was a preference for S over Prakrit esp. in philosophical works.
Prakrit – The Svetambara Jain Canon and its exegetic literature in the Ardha-Magadhi Prakrit, the few religious texts of the Digambara Jains of the south in the Maharashtri and Sauraseni Prakrits, and the commentaries on Buddhist texts written in Pali constitute the most important Prakrit and Pali literature during this period. Comprehensive works on Jain logic and philosophy were composed in Prakrit during this period.
While Pali and Prakrit languages came to be progressively used for literary purposes, there was a tendency to preserve them in their purer form and so there arose grammars of Prakrit and Pali. Vararuchi’s and Chanda’s are possibly the oldest works in grammar, were composed in S and molded on the pattern of Panini. While the grammar of Pali was written in Pali itself.
The Age of Imperial Kannauj 750 to 1000 a.d. Chapter 7
Quote K M Munshi “The Huns incursions had a devastating effect. The Classical Age lost its vitality. The tottering Gupta Empire was dissolved. Vast social and cultural changes followed. Naturally S, though a still powerful integrating force, instead of being the language of the educated throughout the land, developed a learned character, removed still further from the spoken dialects of the North. In the South the dialects were alien in structure and vocabulary to S. S, therefore, was the language of the learned only influencing the development of the dialects. This age cannot be compared to the classical age in the field of literature. Literary activity in S abounded even in the South. Rigarthadipika by V Madhava, in the reign of the Chola King Paarantaka I, is one of the earliest of its kind in S literature. Literature was also cultivated in Prakrit, Haribhadra being the greatest master of this period”.
During this period ruled the Rashtrakutas, Pratiharas, Palas, Chalukyas and the Pallavas amongst others.
The famous poets of the 6th/7th centuries such as Bharavi / Magha combined real poetic merit with artificiality. During this period artificiality was the found amongst most of the literature. However, it would be incorrect to say that this age had nothing to add to S literature. It saw the rise of a special prose composition-the Champu. Great importance is attached to a politico-historic play Mudrarakshasa of Visakhadatta. It is a play without a heroine, deals with the astute maneuvers of Chanakya to win over Rakshasa, the faithful, clever home minister of the Nandas. To the 10th century belongs the Mahanataka, which holds the unique position in S literature in more ways than one. The Bengali version has fourteen acts while the Devanagari one which is given the name Hanumanataka has only ten.
In Kavya notable contributions were made during this period by Buddhist and Jain authors. In the field of romance there are two notable works, Madhavanala-Kamakandala Katha and Tilakamanjari.
Whatever may be said to be the origin of Champu, it is the most elaborate and artificial form of S literature, calculated to afford to the poet the amplest opportunities to display not only his erudition but also his command over prose as well as verse in one and the same composition. The yearning amongst poets to show their mastery over both prose and verse was responsible for an altogether new form in S literature.
Greater and more fruitful activity was evinced during this age in the field of poetics. It is this age that saw the rise and growth of the various theories of poetics laying stress respectively on factors like Alamkara (ornament or poetic figures), Riti (style), Dhvani (tone, suggestion) and Vakrokti (crooked speech) as the essence of poetry. This may be said to be the golden age of S poetics. To this age belonged great rhetoricians like Udbhata, Vamana, Rudrata, Anandvardhana and Kuntala.
As regards Metrics, the only imp writer during this period was Utpala. Utpala also quotes illustrations from Prakrit which shows that Prakrit metricians too had begun to compose their won illustrations like the S ones. Though the principal Samhitas of medicine had already been composed it was left to this age to bring to perfection the branch of pathology in the masterly work called Rugvinischaya, also known as Madhava-nidana after its author or simply Nidana. This work treats all diseases together. The Siddhiyoga is another interesting work of this period. Interesting is the Nighantu of Dhanvantari, the oldest form of medico-botanical dictionary that we have at present. Another imp branch that kept cropping up is the one dealing with preparations of quick silver and other metals. Importance of quick silver grew because they were deemed to give perpetual youth, life for thousand years, invincibility, and invulnerability. The earliest work on this topic was Rasaratnakara by Nagarjuna. Maths – Astronomy –Astrology - The most important writer of this age was Aryabhata II, the author of Aryasiddhanta.
Summary – One was that S was generally loosing its position as a spoken language due to the growth of canonical languages of the Buddhists and Jains and various other Desabhashas. S however, continued to used for literature resulting in a growing distance between what was written and easily understood by the common man. The readers of these works namely Panditas did not care for the theme as much but for extraneous factors such as sound, vocabulary, theme. It resulted in the Kavyas becoming more artificial. It increased the distance between the Panditas and the common man, admiration for knowledge of the Panditas but hardly any love for them. All these weaknesses in belle’s letters were more than compensated by the theory of the poetics, which saw its fullest development in this age at the hands of these very Panditas.
It is now agreed that large additions were made to the Puranas during the period under review. The age of the original literature in Dharmasastras is now over and that commentators / writers of digests have taken up the field. Another great name is that of Medhatithi who is the oldest commentator of the Manu-smriti. The greatest name in philosophy is that of Vachaspatimisra. There are three works in Yoga too e.g. Rajamartanda – an excellent commentary on Patanjali’s Yogasutra.
S seems to have influenced even the pronunciation of the Kannada language, and certain old Dravidian sounds like l and strong r are no longer current in Kannada. The chief reason for the differences between Tamil and Kannada alphabets says R Narasimhacharya ‘is to be found in the fact that the grammar of the Tamil language was, to a great extent, systematized independently, and that S modes of pronunciations were almost unknown to the Tamilians, their alphabet though derived from the same source, was greatly altered so as to suit their peculiar phonetic system. The same independence of S influence cannot be claimed to the alphabet of the Kannada language, which has almost adhered to the alphabetical system of S. The same is the case with grammar. Nevertheless, the grammatical structure of Tamil and Kannada will be found to be essentially similar’. From this it is natural to conclude, that not only are Tamil and Kannada sister languages, but also that Kannada was less developed than Tamil when it received the impact of Sanskrit.
Prakrit – During this period, the Prakrits had already passed beyond the stage of a spoken language on the one hand, and were being supplanted by S on the other, both in the field of exigencies and enlightenment, among the learned of all classes and sects. The result was their comparative negligence even amongst the Jains. The Jains respected Prakrit as their holy language, since their Agamas were composed in them. Any new religion, school of thought, spiritual experiment had, if it wanted to gain acceptance, be discussed threadbare – subject to reasoning by the learned of the land. What the wise men of Jainism saw that the wise men would not touch their theories if it were not expressed in Sanskrit. So they took to writing in S to establish their place in the midst of the respectable philosophers of the land. They not only explained their Agamas in S but also wrote treatise in the same language. Siddhasena Divakara was probably the first among the Jain Paanditas to do so. However, the inherent beauty of the Prakrit languages and the sense of sanctity attached to them by the Jains prevented them from falling into obvilion. An important work is Samaraditya-katha a religious tale is written in simple and fluent narrative prose rarely interspersed with long descriptive passages in the ornate style of S writers. Another important work is Kuvalayamala, a religious tale narrated in Prakrit prose and verse on the pattern of the S Champu-kavya. The Prakrit used in this work is Maharashtri.
Apabhramsa Language and Literature The lst stage of the Prakrit languages is represented by Apabhramsa (A) which has considerable importance on account of the fact that modern languages like Hindi, Gujarathi, Marathi and Bengali have evolved from it. The earliest reference to A is found in the Mahabhashya of Patanjali. It appears that A was not the name of any particular language but was used to denote all deviations from the normal S. Probably Pali and Prakrit were probably known as A about 150 BC.
In the Natyasastra of Bharata we find a lot of information about the languages of that time. It tells us of two languages i.e. S and Prakrit, the latter being only the corrupted or unfinished form of the former. Prakrit again has 3 types, similar – corrupt (vibhrashta) and local (desi). The Desi bhashas mentioned are seven in number namely Magadhi, Avanti, Prachya, Sauraseni, Ardhamagadhi, Balhika and Dakshinatya. In addition there were languages used by the Sabaras, Abhiras, Chandalas, Sacharas, Dravidas, Odras and Vanacharas, which are of an inferior type known as Vibhasha. Northwestern India appears, to have been the original home of the Apabhramas.
But the A known to Bharata was only a dialect not fully developed into a language. The exact date of the Natyasastra is not known but there is no doubt it belonged to the earlier centuries of the Christain era. By the 6th century A had developed to an extent that rhetoricians like Bhamaha and Dandin had to recognize it as a vehicle of poetic literature almost as exalted as S and Prakrit. As the Abhiras referred to in the para above moved from from the Northwest to central / south India the language of the Abhiras must have grown.
The earliest poetry in pure A appears to have been produced in the Doha metre i.e. couplets of varying measure. The Doha verses are more universal and less grammatically regulated than the other forms of poetic compositions. This metre has been adopted by almost all the modern languages of North India, where the medieval saints used it as their favorite vehicles of expression. The Doha compositions fall into two classes according to their subject matter, the romantic and the ascetic. The former is represented by single verses depicting the sentiment of love, pathos or heroism. They appear to be mostly the composition of Bards. The latter is represented by a large number of works composed by Jain and Buddhist saints.
The earliest epics available in A are the Pauma-chariu and Harivamsa Purana of Svayambhudeva, which are the Jain versions of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata respectively.
The Struggle for Empire 1000 – 1300 A.D. Chapter 8
Quote Shri K M Munshi “S had been placed on a pedestal of scholarship and sanctity, assuming a more learned character. Prakrit and Apabhramsa had receded in the background. Some of the dialects of the regions – desabhashas – had become vehicles of the living thought and emotions of the people. This Age saw the literary activity in these dialects which laid the foundation of modern Indian languages and their literature, including Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada and Telegu, as also old Gujarati, sometimes called Western Rajasthani, of which modern Gujarati, Jaipuri, Marwari and Malvi are the descendants”.
The close of the last period witnessed the decline of Sanskrit literature. It lost touch with the common man, began to cater for the Pandit and the court. There was an ever-widening breach between the languages of the drama and those in every day life. These characteristics equally marked this period too. The break up of empires into smaller states did encourage S learning but the productions are nothing new but rehashes of earlier works. In short, the creative urge was over.
Muslim invasion cannot be said to the responsible for the decadence of S literature. The decay had set during the earlier period. The tightening up of Smriti rules and the insular tendency it created contributed its bit to stifle the free spirit. With the loss of contact with the outside world our literature became stagnant and lost freshness of outlook. Thus the writers during this period were mere intellectuals trying to reproduce according to a set pattern.
A: Mahakavyas The only outstanding work of this period is the Naishadhacharita of Sriharsha who probably lived in the latter half of the 12th century. It describes the life of Nala up to his marriage with Damayanti. Kshemendra, the 11th century polymath and court-poet of King Ananta of Kashmir, gives us the epitomes of the two great epics in his Bharata-manjari and Ramayana-manjari, his Dasavatara-charita though neither a Mahakavya nor a religious poem describes the ten incarnations of Vishnu.
Some Jain writers have adopted the form and spirit of the Mahakavya for presenting Jain Legends in a poetic garb, as also historical or biographical accounts. Among the Jain epics are Yasodhara-charita and Manikya Suri which are Digambara / Svetambara versions of the narrative. The Jains have made a considerable contribution to Sanskrit Kavya during this period.
Lyrics – To Bengal goes the credit for having produced in Jayadeva a master of Sanskrit diction who in his Gita-govinda has attained very great heights of S lyric poetry. He lived in the 12th century and was a great devotee of Lord Krishna. The Meghaduta of Kalidasa was responsible for the production of numerous Duta-Kavyas in this epoch of imitations and counterfeits.
Anthologies – Of anthologies a literary form which originated shortly before 1000 AD, there are several valuable specimens during this period. The importance of anthologies for a historian of literature cannot be overemphasized. The earliest anthology during this period, the Subhashitavali of Vallabhadeva is prior to 1160 a.d.
Historical Poems – Real history finds no place in S literature, nor is there any conscious historical element in any of the works comprising it” observes Whitney in his introduction to A Sanskrit Grammar. Before Kalhana there does not seem to be any author who took to historical writing with a great degree of seriousness. The Purana works apart even the Harsha-charita smacks more of romance than history.
Why did India fail to produce any historical works in the modern sense? Different reasons are given. It is said that the idea of composing realistic history aiming at objective history is entirely out of harmony with the spirit of S literature and its conception of art with its emphasis on imaginative and impersonalized creations. Also according to the Indian view, as presented in the Mahabharata and other works Truth is not verbal accuracy but that which is beneficial for humanity. Truth is valid so far as it leads to human good. It is also likely that the doctrine of karma prevented them from making any realistic and historical surveys of the events of the past.
There is the celebrated Kashmiri Kalhana –12th century – who gave is the Rajatarangini the chronicles of the kings of Kashmir from the beginning to his own days.
B: Drama Will not get too much of detail but there were legendary plays, court comedies, Prakaranas (which follow the middle class life) and semi-historical plays. Champus is a peculiar stule of literary composition written in different prose and verse, styled as Champu, became popular with authors from the 12th century onwards and was a special favorite of South India.
There was story literature, romantic and didactic tales fables too. The earliest work on fables in S is the Panchatantra, its purpose being to give instructions to some princes in morals and rules of worldly life. It is written in mixed prose and poetry, the former being employed for the narrations of the story and the latter for summing up its moral and also for incorporating certain verses of didactic support.
C: Grammar The period after 1000 ad marks the stage of progressive deterioration in the study of grammar. There is a rise in the number of schools intended to simplify the science for the enlightment of the laity. There are numerous recasts of the Ashtadhyaya of which may be mentioned the Dhatuvritti of Kshirasvamin. Among the non-Panian systems, the Chandra school disappeared but it is still studied in Tibet and Ceylon thanks to the Balavabodha, a popular recast of the Chandra grammar by Kasyapa, a Ceylonese Buddhist monk.
Chakrapanidatta – 11th century from Bengal wrote commentaries on Charaka and Susruta called Ayurvedadipika and Bhanumati. He also wrote Sabdachandrika, a vocabulary on vegetable as well as mineral substances and Dravyagunasamgraha, a work on dietetics. Sarangadhara’s Samhita mentions the use of opium and quicksilver, and stresses the importance of pulse in diagnosis. These are some major works during this period.
E: Mathematics and Astronomy First in point of time comes the Trisati of Sridhara – 11th century but the most imp treatise on maths are the two chapters titled Lilavati and Bijaganita in the Siddhantasiromani of Bhaskaracharya – 12th century. Two chapters in this work i.e. Gola and Grahaganita are the most valuable writings on astronomy.
F: Music The Sangitamakarana attributed to Narada perhaps belongs to the 11th century. It deals with music and dance in two parts. In seven chapters, it not only embraces the views of all ancient writers but also contributes to original discussion and definition. It deals with musical notes, melodies, technical terms, and measures of time, musical instruments and dancing.
The corpus of the Puranas was complete in the Gupta Age and additional matter incorporated in the subsequent period. Dr Hazra’s researches on chronology of the Smriti chapters in the Puranas reveal that the bulk of the major Puranas, was we have them was finalized by the end of the 9th century.
Summary - We may conclude by noticing several important contributions to S literature during this period. In kavya there was Naishadhiya, the last of the Mahakavyas. Another watermark mahakavya was Kalhana’s Rajatarangini. In lyrics was Gita-govinda. Under technical and scientific literature some valuable work is found in grammar, poetics and music. Three new grammatical systems were started during this period. Among various lexical works Vaijayanti, Visvaprakasa and works of Hemchandra demand special reference. The most valuable contribution, however, is to the Dharmasastra literature in the shape of commentaries and digests. Among commentators were a galaxy of celebrities like Apararka, Kulluka and Govindraja. Another valuable contribution is the encyclopedic works, which made their first appearance during this period e.g. Manasollasa by king Somesvara. Though the period is not rich in creative art and works of outstanding merit, the general output is prolific and the performance on the whole is creditable, especially when the disturbed political condition is taken into account.
The Delhi Sultanate 1300 to 1526 AD Chapter 9
Despite Muslim domination literary works in S continued to be produced though creativity was a thing of the past. Among the factors influencing the development of S during this period was the Chaitanya Movement of Bengal and Orissa, which produced several works of drama, Champu, grammar. Patronage extended by Hindu rulers of Vijayanagara, Warangal, Gujarat resulted in a concentration of scholars to these regions. Stories of Nala and Yayati seem to have been most popular and number of works appeared based on the story of Kadambari. Jains made a substantial contribution to S during this period. The bulk of the literature came from the South, Bengal, Mithila and Western India.
Kavya - Mahakavya has Udararaghava of Sakalyamalla that relates the entire Ramayana is a highly artificial style. Agastya of Warangal (A.P.) wrote Balabharata, which summarizes the whole story of the Mahabharata in 20 cantos. The Harivilasa of Lolimbaraja narrates the life of Krishna. In historical kavya were Jonaraha and his pupils who wrote the history of Kashmir from1420 to 1586. Hammira-kavya by the Jain writer Nayachandra describes the heroic deeds of Chauhan Hammira who bravely fought with the Muslims at Ranthambore. A number of shorter poems were written during this period.
Nataka - Were written legendary themes, semi-historical plays, allegorical dramas, devotional plays, social dramas and court comedies. Devotional plays like Lalita-madhava by Rupa Goswamin on Krishnabhakti reflect the influence of the Chaitanya Movement.
Prose literature - Were written romantic tales, prose romances, Champu and Prabandhas. The Champu form of literature appears to have been popular and largely cultivated in South India. The Jain writers used Champu for religious propaganda while the Bengal Vaishnava School wrote Champus relating to Krishna. The Bhojaprabandha of Ballalasens (16th century) narrates stories of King Bhoja. The Jain Prabandhas are semi-historical works professing to deal with historical and literary personages, but represent a motley collection of curious legends and anecdotes.
Dharmasastra - Among the prominent Mithila writers was Chandesvara’s. His Smritiratnakara is an exhaustive digest with seven sections on Kritya (vratas and observances), Dana (gifts), Vyavahara (judicial procedure), Suddhi (impurity and purification), Puja (worship), Vivada (civil and criminal law) and Grihastha (duties of householders). There were other Mithila writers like Harinatha, Rudradhara, Misaru Misra (recognized authority on Hindu law) and Vachaspati Misa the doyen of all. Mithila is in modern day Bihar so note that Bihar of today was not like this always. In Bengal were three great writers Sulapani, Raghunandana and Govindananda. There were writers in North India too. In South India Parasara-Madhaviya is a digest of civil and religious law and is held to be an authority on Hindu Law in South India.
Philosophy - Sarvadarsanasamgraha of Madhava, brother of Sayana, is the most famous of several critical reviews of philosophical systems. It deals with 16 different darsanas (systems).
Grammar - Most of the works of this period are based upon the Ashtadhyyayi of Panini. There was the Hemachandra, Sarasvata and Saupadma schools and a number of books were written during this period.
Music - Work on music may be called the special feature of this period in the north and south. There were two commentaries on Sarngadeva’s Samgitaratanakara during the period. Also Sangitaraja by Kumbha Rana who ruled Chitrakut is a voluminous work containing five chapters relating to music, musical instruments, dressing, gesticulation and dance. There were other authors too.
Astronomy - After the great Bhaskaracharya no one seems to have taken real interest in astronomy.
A treatise on Indian medicine called Madan-ush-Shifa-I-Sikandari was compiled and translated from S by Miyan Bhuvah. Another treatise on the selection and treatment of horses was translated from the original Salihotra, during the reign of the Khalji king 1469 to 1500. It deals with the various breeds of horses, their blemishes, their diseases and cures.
Summary - Some important contributions during this period to S literature are. One is the wonderful galaxy of S commentators like Sayana, Mallinatha and Kataya Vema. Two there were outstanding productions like the Vivadachintamani of V Misra, Parasara-Madhaviya of Madhavacharya and Smrititattava of Raghunandana in the Dharma-sastra literature. Special mention may be made of R Siromani’s Didhiti, the standard work on Navyanyaya and the rise of the system of Vallabha Vedanta in the domain of philosophy. Important contributions were made to grammar, music and poetics. In grammar, the Saupadma system originated during this period. The influence of Chaityana was felt in grammar as well as in poetics. There were several important works on science off music, which may be said to be the outstanding contribution of this period.
The Mughal Period 1526 to 1707 AD Chapter 10
The Muslim conquest of large parts of North India adversely affected the growth of S literature. Akbar did attempt to create an atmosphere of tolerance but by and large the peace, security for the progress of culture was lacking. Kashmir important center of S learning hardly produced any work after the end of Hindu rule. In Bengal, practically Jayadeva’s (12th century a.d.) is the last great name in history. So was the case in Gujarat and Bihar.
The story was different in the South. The vigorous movements initiated by Madhavacharya and Sayanacharya continued to inspire rulers and scholars for centuries. Long after the Vijayanagara empire lost its glory the rulers of Tuluva and Aravidhu dynasties, Nayakas of Travancore, chiefs of Travancore and Cochin kept S alive.
The above paras give you a reason why North India is devoid of culture as compared to the South, not in an absolute sense but in a relative sense.
Mahakavya - Notable contribution was made by Raghunatha Nayaka of Tanjore and his court-poets. Srinivasa Dikshita, a minister of the Nayakas of Gingee is credited with the authorship of 18 dramas and sixty kavyas. Nilakantha Dishita flourished in the first half of the 17th century wrote many poems amongst which Gangavatarana rank very high. It deals in eight cantos with the story of the penance of Bhagiratha and the descent of the celestial Ganga on the earth. Narayana is considered to be one of the greatest scholar poets that Kerala has produced. He wrote amongst others Narayaniyam which can be described as a devotional kavya in praise of god Narayana of Guruvayur.
Historical Kavya - Achyutarayabhyudaya of Dindima is an important work in this respect. The author belonged to the Dindima family that originally belonged to Mathura. It deals with the history of Achyutadevaraya (1530 to 1542). Kavindra Paramananda, a contemporary of Shivaji, composed a narrative poem with the life and achievements of Shivaji. The work is known as Anubharata. The story was further continued with two more compositions collectively known as Paramananda-kavyam and are valuable sources of Maratha history. Another important source of Maratha history is Sambhuraja-charita by Harikavi, is a poetic biography of Shambuji, the son of Shivaji. The Maratha rulers of Tanjore, Ekoji were also great patrons of letters. The Rajatarangini of Kalhana, the famous work of the history of Kashmir was continued by different authors. Karnavatamsa, a eulogistic account of the rule of Karnasimha of Bikaner, mentions names of the Muslim patrons of S.
There were a number of poets who wrote shorter poems like Jagannatha Panditaraja a native of Andhra Pradesh, he wrote poems like Piyulshalahari in praise of the Ganga, Karunalahari in praise of Vishnu etc.
Nataka - Jagajyotimalla of Nepal wrote a drama on the marriage of Siva and Parvati titled Hara-Gauri-vivaha. Amongst the many dramas based on the Ramayana was Adbhutadarpana of Mahadeva. The author employs the device of a magic mirror through which Rama sees the happenings in Lanka. There were historical plays like Kantimati-Parinaya of Chokkanatha whose theme is the marriage of Shahiji with Kantimati, allegorical plays like Chaitanya-chandrodaya deals with the life of Chaitanya, erotic plays like Bhanas – a type of one act play dwelling on an erotic theme.
Technical Literature - Appayya Dikshita, the famous philosopher and Jagannatha, the eminent poet were perhaps the outstanding scholars of this period who contributed to the study of poetics. In the field of grammatical studies Bhattoji Dikshita name stands foremost. His Siddhantakaumudi, an elucidation of the work of Panini, is perhaps more popular than Panini’s work itself. Music - Many scholars in the Vijayanagara Empire wrote works on music. Rama Amatya 1552-65 wrote Svaramelakalanidhi that deals with the different ragas of the Karnataka system of music. Chaturadamaodara who flourished in the court of Jahangir wrote his Sangitadarpana dealing with music and dance. Philosophy - Appaya Dikshita contributed more than 100 scholarly works on the fields of Advaita philosophy and Saiva siddhanta. Madhusudana Sarasvati was another great Advaita scholar. Among the scholars of Madhva philosophy was Vyasaraya 1478 to 1539. Reference must be made to epigraphical literature. Numerous inscriptions on stone and copper plates were written in ornatic poetic style. Outstanding among them is Rajaprasasti at Udaipur composed in 1676. It is a Mahakavya whose author was a Telegu named Ranachhoda.
Maratha Supremacy 1707 to 1818 a.d. Chapter 11
A brief survey of S literature during this period indicates that S continued to flourish along with other regional languages. Under patronage of rulers, temples and pilgrimage centers like Kashi it prospered. Kings in Tanjore, Mysore, Andhra, Peshwas in Maharashtra, Jaipur and Nadia in Bengal invigorated S esp in North India where it suffered because of Muslim rule. Another noteworthy feature was the foundation of S institutions. The Peshwas had set aside funds for Dakshina that was responsible for the present Deccan College. In 1791 was founded the Varanasi S Vishvavidyalaya.
Mahakavya - There were many works on Lord Ram, amongst the more noteworthy one was Raghaviyam 20 cantos composed by the famous poet Ramapanivada of Malabar. Another Maithilian poet Krishnadatta composed Radharahasya 22 cantos depicting the amours of Radha and Krishna. Ghanshyam in his poem Venkateshacharita narrates the story of Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati. Another great poet Ramabhadra Dikshit composed Patanjali-charita 8 cantos describing the life of Patanjali, the well-known author of Vyakarana Mahabhasya. A number of other works for written too.
The Champu literature continued to grow with themes, religious and biographical. Eg the political affairs of contemporary Deccan and Karnataka as well as Anglo-French conflicts form the theme of Anandaranga-champu of Shrinavasa. Shahtranistha-kavya - A few poets illustrated the alamkara through their poems glorifying the royal deeds. One of them was Devashankara’s Purohit’s Alamkaramanjusha praises the achievements of Peshwa Madhav Rao I.
Nataka - The life of patrons was dramatized by many a playwright. Venkata Subramanya wrote Vasulakshmikalyanam dealing with the marriage of his king Ramavarma of Travancore with Vasulakshmi, a Sindhu princess for securing a political alliance. There were a number of nataskas written during this period with similar themes.
Miscellaneous works - The tradition of writing Tikas was vigorously Ghanshyam who wrote commentaries of many works like Shakuntla, Mahaviracharita, Bhojachmpu amongst others. He is said to have written 64 works in S, 20 in Prakrit and 25 in other dialects. Basava Nayak of Ikkeri compiled Shivatattvaratnakara, an encyclopedia giving the essence of different arts and sciences in the Vedas and Agamas.
Technical literature - The distinguished writer Nagojibhatta wrote many books on grammar amongst others a commentary on Kaiyata’s Pradipa, a commentary on Mahabhasya. He is also credited with works on dharmasastras, jyotisha and saddarshanas.
Music - Tulajirao, king of Tanjore wrote the Sangitasaramrita, an extensive work on the southern systems of music. His Natyavedagama deals with dancing. Ahobila Pandit 1750-77 composed Sangitaparijata, which was translated into Persian by Dinanath. With the help of musicians Pratapsimha Deva, the Maharaja of Jaipur compiled the Sangitasagara, an encyclopedia on music. Tyagaraja, the great musician and devotee of Lord Ram, composed songs in S. One of the distinguished writers of this period was Maharaja Bala Rama Varma of Travancore who was also a poet of distinction.
Astronomy - Raghava wrote Khetakriti on astronomy. Ramrarudra wrote three works on the same subject. Dinakar of Pune wrote a number of works on Jyotish-shastra.
Medicine - Under Mahaji Sindia, Jogaraja composed Ashvaphalaprakasha, a work on veterinary science. The Vicharasudhakara of Ranga Jyotirvid of Junnar near Pune deals with Piles.
The field of Dharmasastras was enriched by many works. Kashinath Upadhyaya wrote the Dharmasindhu, Sadacharahasya was compiled by Anantabhatta, Balambhatti by Balambhatta were amongst the many books written.
Philosophy - In the realm of Advaita philosophy, Sadashiva Brahmendra Sarasvati wrote Bramahmatattvaprakashika, a commentary on the Brahmasutras amongst others. He also wrote commentaries on 108 Upanishads. The Shuddhavaita School was also enriched by Dasha-digantavijay Purushottam 1668-1781. He is said to have written more than 67 works comprising nine lacs of slokhas. The Dvaita doctrine was further expounded by Raghunath Tirtha. Sumatindra Tirtha of Raghavendra Mutt was a profilic writer- a doctrinaire, a poet and an Alamkarika. Bhaskarakantha of Kashmir wrote the Bhaskari. A number of other works were written.
After reading all about these great works I wonder where are they today, we convent educated students do not know a word of S, then how are we to read these great works? To us they are lost forever.
British Period 1818 to 1905 Chapter 12
Introduction - Referring to the popular notion about wide diversity of languages in India Dr S.K. Chatterji, eminent philologist observed, “The meticulous and all inclusive information of the languages current in India, as shown in the Linguistic survey of India shows a total number of 179 languages and 544 dialects. Of the above numbers 116, are small tribal speeches that belong to Burma (at that time Burma was politically a part of India). The consideration of dialects is irrelevant when we mention the languages to which they belong to, for it the great literary languages that matter. Dr Chatterji points out that India has only fifteen great literary languages: 1. Hindi. 2. Urdu, which are but two styles of the same Hindustani speech, employing two totally different scripts and borrowing words from two different sources. 3. Bengali. 4. Assamese. 5. Oriya. 6. Marathi. 7. Gujarati. 8. Sindhi. 9. Punjabi. 10. Kashmiri. 11. Nepali.12. Telegu. 13. Tamil.14. Kannada and 15. Tamil. The various dialects spoken across the country all find in one or another of the above fifteen their accepted literary form.
The primary importance of S lies not only in maintaining but also strengthening Indian cultural and political unity. Inspite of the great diversity in India the basic character of India, her great all India background, her Indianism, her Bharata-dharma or Bharatayana is linked with Sanskrit. Apart from this S is a great treasure house for all Indian literary languages to draw their words of higher culture from. Modern Indian languages of the Aryan or Dravidian variety are no longer ‘building languages’ i.e. they do not create words with their own native elements. With S in the background they have all become borrowing languages. The much needed development of a scientific and technological vocabulary will mean a greater place for S in modern Indian intellectual and cultural life”.
The orthodox Pandits kept alife the study of S during the 19th century, and their literary output was significant. They were patronized by the Hindu rulers of Tanjore, Cochin, Travancore, Mysore in the South and Kashmir – Rajput states in the North. The old centers of S learning Kashi, Mithila continued to be so. S works written during this period covered various branches of literature as existed before like religion, poetry, drama, grammar, medicine etc.
V S Vaghela ruler of Rewa is the reputed author of no less than fifty works on Rama Cult. A Tamil scholar Appayacharya wrote a number of works with a view to affecting a synthesis of Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta systems. There was R A Khandekar who flourished at a well-known center of learning Punyastambha and wrote Kosavatamsa, the astronomical works Khetakriti amongst others. Works were also written by A Modak, Gangadhara (two gita govinda imitations). During the rule of Rama Varma Cochin was written the Uttara Naishadha by Arur Bhattatiri. In Kashmir the reigns of Ranavira Singh witnessed a great amount of enthusiasm for S. The King sponsored no less than 32 works in all branches of S literature. His chief pandit Sahibram wrote, amongst others, a commentary on the Panchasayaka on erotics. In Bengal the renowned Ayurvedic physician Gangadhara Kaviraja wrote the commentary Jalpakalpataru on the famous treatise Charaka Samhita. Reference may also be made to some women writers like Triveni (two imitations of Kalidasa’s Meghasandesa) and Sundaravalli (author of Ramayana Champu). There were other authors too.
S literature also felt the impact of Western influence, though it came late in the 19th century and was mainly exhibited in the composition of short stories in prose, translation of poems and plays from English, and publication of journals of modern type. Rajarajavarma composed a drama, which was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello.
Struggle for Freedom 1905 to 1947 Chapter 13
With the dawn of the 20th century, S studies may be said to have become settled in their comparatively modern setting. While Pandits who continued on the traditional lines went on composing commentaries on different traditional Sastras or original plays, there was also the growth of a new literature from Sanskritists who had come into contact with modern knowledge and English literature. The latter produced translations of English poems into S while a considerable number of them turned their creative gifts in S to native themes, with love of the ancient heritage and a national feeling animated their writing.
A notable historical work in S is the account of the First World War Angla-Jarmaniyuddhavarnana by T S Srinivasacharya. In 1913, there appeared from Leipzig, the Jarmanikavya by R S Tagore. From this the Sanskritists turned to writing histories of India in S. S Hasurkar of Indore wrote on individual rulers who had proved especially inspiring by their character and achievements – Prithviraj, Rana Pratap and Shivaji.
The opposition of some Pandits across the country to new social customs and way of life led to the production of a class of polemical S writings on subjects like the age of marriage, sea-travel, widow-remarriage etc. The Pandits of Bengal brought out a number of S texts in grammar, in different sastras, in poetry and drama with their own commentaries. Many of the scholars cooperated in the edition of S texts in the edition of S texts for the Bibliotheca Indica Series started by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1898. In Puri Mm Damodara Sastra wrote the Bharatagaurava on India’s greatness?
In South India different branches of S learning had been strong during the 19th century due to the patronage of the Courts of Mysore, Travancore etc and religious heads of the three main schools of Vedanta. MV Narasimhacharya wrote 114 works in poetry, poetics, hymnology etc. South India was at one time dominated by Mm Tyagaraja Sastri. No less then 75 pandits from different parts of South India who later attained celebrity, sat at his feet, and he himself produced 33 works in Advaita, Siva-bhakti etc. There were some ladies too who were interested in S studies like Kamakshyammal of mayuvaram.
Poetry and drama showed in the Tamil region as rich an output as the Sastras. In addition there were pandits whose contribution was primarily in the field of belles lettres. At the turn of the century S was strong in Kerala, with the Nambudri houses and other upper castes devoted to S studies with support from several Kerala royal families. Works were produced by scholars in the Sringeri Sankara Math too.
There are contributions from Maharashtra too, Vishnu Ramakrishna Athavale wrote Purusharthachintamani. Among the modern S writers in Gujarat was V Kanji Pattani who left a considerable volume of Vedantic writings in prose called Anuchintana. Centering around the palace in Jaipur were some gifted writes like Krishnarama wrote the Jayapuravilasa.
In the fields of sociology, Dharma were produced several types of works – compilations putting forth the duties of Hindus at the time of the first impact of Western ideas and habits, hand books on Hinduism and Hindu practices, and new compositions incorporating modern ideas. The new religious movements like the Arya Samaj movement gave an impetus to the study of the Vedas and S. Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo inspired some S writings.
Of the ancient sciences Ayurveda and Jyotisha continued to flourish. S periodicals like Samskritachandrika and Sahridaya published a series of articles on modern sciences. The editor of the former Appa Sastri wrote on ancient Indian astronomy. On the scientific knowledge of ancient Indians, C Venkataramanayya wrote the short Sanatana-bhautika-vijana. A modern development was that of S journalism. Although started in the 19th century there was a spate of journals during this period. Contact with the outside world gave a need breed of English educated Sanskritists who translated into S poems – plays from western languages. Histories of S literature tracing the chronological development of works in different branches were also produced. The freedom struggle motivated a number of S writers who depicted India’s ancient glory and lamented her present plight in poems and dramas.
After reading all about these great works I wonder whether convent educated types like me and many others would ever get to read them. Such a treasure house of literature is lost to most of the younger generation forever. No wonder eminent scientists Dr Raja Ramanna when asked in a recent interview whether he had any regrets in life said, “Yes I did not learn Sanskrit”.