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Mains Answer Writing

28-November-2023

Q1) Sanskrit literature in general and particularly in the Guptan age set a high watermark for the literary history of ancient India. Discuss.

ANSWER

  • Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in India and many of India’s finest literary works are written in Sanskrit starting from Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas. Sanskrit literature enjoyed a golden phase, particularly in the Guptan period due to royal patronage given by the rulers and the transformative socio-cultural and economic changes that happened in this era.

SANSKRIT LITERATURE: HIGH WATERMARK OF LITERARY HISTORY OF ANCIENT INDIA

  1. Vedic Literature (1500 BCE – 500 BCE):
  2. Rigveda: The oldest sacred text of Hinduism, consisting of hymns praising various deities and exploring philosophical concepts.
  3. Upanishads: Philosophical treatises that delve into metaphysical and spiritual themes.
  4. Epics and Puranas
  5. Mahabharata: An epic poem attributed to Sage Vyasa, which narrates the story of the Kurukshetra war and includes the Bhagavad Gita.
  6. Ramayana: An epic poem authored by Sage Valmiki, depicting the life of Lord Rama and his adventures.
  7. Drama and Theatre:
  8. Natyashastra: A comprehensive treatise on dramaturgy and the performing arts, written by Bharata Muni.
  9. Abhijnanasakuntalam: A renowned play by Kalidasa, showcasing the love story of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala.
  10. Poetry and Lyrics:
  11. Kumarasambhava: An epic poem by Kalidasa, depicting the birth and marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati.
  12. Meghaduta: A lyrical poem by Kalidasa, where a celestial being sends a message to his beloved through a cloud.
  13. Itihas (History) works
  14. Rajatarangini by Kalhana: A comprehensive chronicle of Kashmiri rulers, spanning from mythical kings to the 12th century CE.
  15. Harsha Charita by Bana: An account of Emperor Harsha Vardhana’s life and reign, providing insights into northern India’s political and cultural landscape.
  16. Prose and Philosophy:
  17. Arthashastra: A political treatise attributed to Kautilya (Chanakya), providing guidance on governance, economics, and statecraft.
  18. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A foundational text on the philosophy and practice of yoga.
  19. Scientific and Technical Literature:
  20. Charaka Samhita: A renowned Ayurvedic text, attributed to Charaka, focusing on diagnosis, treatment, and herbal medicine.
  21. Sushruta Samhita: A seminal text on surgery and medicine, attributed to Sushruta, detailing surgical procedures and practices.

GUPTA PERIOD: HIGH WATERMARK FOR SANSKRIT LITERATURE

The Gupta period (4th to 6th century CE) in ancient India is considered a golden age for Sanskrit literature, characterized by a remarkable flourishing of literary excellence.

  1. Patronage of Literature: The Gupta rulers, particularly Emperor Chandragupta II provided generous patronage to scholars, poets, and artists, fostering an environment conducive to the growth and development of Sanskrit literature.
  2. Classical Sanskrit: it witnessed the refinement and standardization of Classical Sanskrit as a literary language therefore it became the medium of expression for poets, scholars, and intellectuals, allowing for the preservation and dissemination of literary works.
  3. Mahakavyas (Epic Poetry): These epics combined mythology, history, and moral teachings, showcasing the creative genius of Sanskrit poets. e.g. Shishupala Vadha by Magha, Kumarasambhava by Kalidasa.
  4. Kavyas: These poems showcased artistic brilliance and profound philosophical insights. E.g. Raghuvamsha by Kalidasa, Meghaduta by Kalidasa
  5. Plays and Dramas: For example Vishakhadatta in His play Mudrarakshasa portrays the political intrigues and power struggles during the reign of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya.
  6. Scientific and Technical Literature: Sanskrit literature during the Gupta period extended beyond the realm of poetry and drama. Scholars produced scientific treatises, philosophical works, and works on various disciplines. Aryabhatiya by Aryabhata, Nyaya Sutras by Gautama.

Sanskrit literature since ancient times especially during the Gupta period captured not only the great poetic culture of that time but also gives a unique account of the socio- political life of these periods.

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