History of Sanskrit Literature



Sanskrit literature is as vast as the human life. There are four aims of human life which are called Purusharthas. They are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Dharma stands for the duties and responsibilities of man. Artha communicates the monetary necessities, Karma stands for the human desires of all types and Moksha is freedom from birth and re-birth and worldly involvement. Any and every literature surrounds these four aims of human life. Sanskrit literature first of all presents Vedas which are the basis for Dharma. Vedas are the root of Dharma. There are four Vedas Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samveda, and Atharvaveda. Brahman granthas explain the Vedic literature and give the detailed process to perform the Yajnas. Aranyakas and Upanishads discuss the internal meaning of the Vedas and the path of renunciation – Moksha Purushartha. Pratishakhyas explain the grammatical issues of the Vedas. Six Vedangas i.e. Shiksha, Vyakarana, Kalpa, Chhandas, Nirukta, and Jyotish help to understand the Vedas. As per the Indian tradition the Veda is not written by any author but in fact it is the respiration of God. Veda has been seen by the seers, the Rishis. Later it was diversified into four Samhitas by the great seer Vyasa. Some Scholars hold that the Vedas were written by different seers and they estimated the time of these writings from 6500 BC to 1500 BC. The rest of the Vedic literature might have been completed before 600 BC.
Valmiki was first to write the worldly poetry; Loka – Kavya. He wrote the Ramayana the great-epic which had the great impact on the later literature. Even today the latest poetry is written on the line of Valmiki. The Ramayana was written in 500BC.
The second epic Mahabharata was written by Krishanadwaipayana Vyasa which is known as encyclopedia of knowledge.
Later the Poets like Kalidasa, Ashvaghosa contributed considerably during the Gupta period. Bharavi, Bhatti, Kumardasa and Magha – all wrote Mahakaavyas. Harishena and Vatsabhatti were also prominent writers. Some other divisions of the classical literature and some names of the classical writers are: Kalhan and Bilhan in the field of historical Kavyas :Bhartrihari, Amaruka, Bilhana, Jayadeva, Somadeva etc. are famous as lyric poets. The Brihatkatha, Romantic and Didactic Fables, erotic poetry, champu kavyas, works on poetics and anthologies, gnomic and didactic poetry etc. form an unparalled part of Sanskrit literature.
The Scientific Literature covers Lexicography, Metrics, Grammar, Law, Science of Politics, Love, Philosophy and Religion, Medicine, Astronomy, Astrology and mathematics etc.
Though lots of Sanskrit literature has seen the light of the day but still much more Sanskrit literature is lying in the form of manuscripts and waiting for publication. These MSS are kept in general Sanskrit libraries and in houses of Sanskrit Scholars whose successors may know or not know the value of the MSS. This is a huge work to be done.