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Sanskrit (Samskritam) Literature

* 21 Nov 2022

Asvaghosa's Buddhacarita

is the life history of Gautama Buddha - a detailed study of the life and the acts of the Buddha from his birth to his demise is recorded and a reflection of the Indian society of that period. Asvaghosa the Buddhist poet-philosopher is supposed to have been a contemporary of King Kaniska of the early 2nd century A.D.
The Buddhacarita has two parts and each part is divided into 14 cantos. In the first part, the life of Buddha since his enlightenment is dealt with and the part two is devoted to the description of his return to Kapilavastu. Unfortunately out of a total of 28 cantos, the Sanskrit text of this invaluable work comprises 17 cantos only. E.H.Johnston has composed the remaining cantos from English translations of Buddhacarita based on Chinese and Tibetan sources.
It is generally supposed in the Chinese, Tibetan and other traditions that Asvaghosa was a Brahmin by birth and a Saiva by faith. Later on after converted into Buddhism he tried to establish a faith with the noble and peaceful Laws of Buddha and this difficult task was done by him with his writings. As he was a Brahmin by birth, he had an intimate knowledge of the Vedas, Brahmanical tenants, Hindu scriptures, Epics etc.
Source: Buddhacarita of Asvaghosa: A Critical Study, Parananda Nath,

Ashvaghosha was a Sarvastivada Buddhist philosopher and poet.
He was born is Saketa in Northern India.
Though Pali language literature was popular in Buddhism, Ashvaghosha wrote in Classical Sanskrit.
He also wrote Saundarananda, with the theme of conversion of Nanda, Buddha's half brother, so that he might reach salvation.
He is also thought to the the author of the Sutralankara.

* 21 Nov 2022


The term Kavya means literature as a form of art. Kavya is composed by Kavis, so the word Kavya in its widest sense connotes all that is the work of a poet. In that sense Kavya or poetry is the subject of classical Sanskrit literature and it not only means metrical compositions but signifies any literary peace which is highly sentimental. The science of poetics is known as Alamkara-sastra in Sanskrit which shows the importance laid by the rhetoricians on the Alamkaras or figures of speech.

* 31 Oct 2022
Nataraja's Damaru, a fascinating symbol is a small double-sided drum played with one hand, believed to be the source of the sound that creates-and recreates-the universe. It is also the source of the cosmic rhythm which influences the movement of energy in the universe. Shiva is said to have played the damaru twice; the first time nine sounds emerged while the second time five emerged, making a total of fourteen. Each one of these sounds was developed into a sutra upon which Sanskrit grammar is based, leading to the whole magnificent edifice of Sanskrit language and literature.
Source: The dancing lord: Nataraja, lord of the cosmic dance - Excerpted from Shiva: Lord of the Cosmic Dance, An Anthology edited by Karan Singh,, 3 Jul 2022

* 18 Oct 2022
Ashtadhyayi and Amarakosha are extremely useful tools for those who wish to gain a mastery of Sanskrit language and the shastras. In olden times, it was a common practice to teach children to memorise these two texts at a very young age, even before formal learning began. Equipped with these fixed in memory, as they studied the language and shastras, the children learnt to apply the sutras easily, and had a phenomenal vocabulary.
Amarakosha, the Sanskrit thesaurus developed by Amarasinha in 4th CE is also called as Namalinganushasanam. It contains 3 kandas with 26 vargas and over 3000 lines. Amarakosha collects words with similar meanings, along with providing information about their linga, which is very important for using them in the language. Knowing the Amarakosha is a huge advantage in the study of literature and in enhancing Sanskrit vocabulary.

Amarakosa, Amarasinha's Sanskrit thesaurus well-known to every Sanskrit student, is the oldest work of the kind now extant. According to tradition Amarasimha was one of the nine distinguished men (nava ratna) of the court of King Vikramaditya (4th Century CE).
The Amarakosha consists of verses that can be easily memorized. It is divided into three khandas or chapters. The first, svargadi-khanda (“heaven and others”) has words pertaining to gods and heavens. The second, bhuvargadi-khanda (“earth and others”) deals with words about earth, towns, animals and humans. The third, samanyadi-khanda (“common”) has words related to grammar and other miscellaneous words.
It is of great interest to note that, though the production of a Buddhist, it has been universally accepted as an authority by the Brahmans and the Jainas alike. The fact that it has been commented upon by Buddhists like Subhutichandra, by Jainas like Asadharapandita and Nachiraja,and by Brahmans like Kshirasvamin, Mallinatha and Appayyadikshita testifies to its usefulness to every class of Sanskrit students. It is a well-known fact that translations of the Amarakosha into Chinese and Thibetan have been recently discovered.

* 18 Oct 2022
Ashtadhyayi, a Sanskrit treatise on grammar was written in the 6th to 5th century bce by the Indian grammarian Panini. Panini was an ancient Sanskrit philologist, grammarian, and a revered scholar in ancient India, considered "the father of linguistics". It contains 4,000 sutras - the science of phonetics and grammar that had evolved in the Vedic religion.

* 6 Sep 2022
In Samskṛta language, sandeśa means 'message' and kāvya means 'poem' or 'poetry'. Sandeśa Kāvya deals with the sending of a message through the agency of a messenger. The idea of sending of a message, through a messenger, from one person to another was taken up as an independent theme for a poem first by Ghatakarpara and later on by Kālidāsa, Dhoyī, Udaya, Bhavabhūti and many other poets of note. There are about fifty five Sandeśa Kāvya-s (also known as Dūta Kāvya-s). Sandeśa Kāvya belongs to the category of Khanḍa Kāvya. (Kāvya consisting one section or Khaṇda is called a Khaṇda Kāvya. It is different from a series of stanzas, or what is called as a Samghata. Khaṇda can employ themes much more freely and it usually narrates a story; or it might sometimes provide a background to the narrative. The classic examples are: Kālidāsa's Méghadútam having about just over one hundred stanzas and Bilhaṇa's Chauri-surata-pañcāshikā.
The fore-runner of Sandeśa Kāvya-s is a small poem bearing the title 'Poem of the broken jug' which is a poem by Ghatakarpara on the message sent to the husband by a wife who was in grief on account of separation. It deals with the lamentation of the abandoned wife who does not address her lamentation to one person alone but to the monsoon clouds, her confidante, her distant husband and some trees but none of them entrusted with the task of carrying her message. The poem is of twenty four stanzas in five different metres.
Source: Sandeśa Kāvya by Seema KS,

* 5 Sep 2021
The Mānasollāsa, also known as Abhilashitartha Chintamani, is an early 12th-century Sanskrit text composed by the Kalyani Chalukya king Someshvara III, who ruled in present-day South India. It is an encyclopedic work covering topics such as polity, governance, ethics, economics, astronomy, astrology, rhetoric, veterinary medicine, horticulture, perfumes, food, architecture, games, painting, poetry and music. The text is a valuable source of socio-cultural information on 11th- and 12th-century India.

Abhilashitartha Chintamani dedicated a complete chapter to the techniques and making of mural paintings (bhitti chitra).

It is said Someshvara commenced compiling the Manasollasa, while he was a Prince; and completed it during 1129 (1051 Saka Samvatsara), which is about two-three years after he ascended the throne. The Manasollasa covering a wide variety of subjects ranging from the means of acquiring a kingdom, methods of establishing it, to medicine, magic, veterinary science, valuation of precious stones , fortifications, painting , art, games , amusements , culinary art , dance , music and so on , is a monumental work of encyclopedic nature. The text, in general, provides valuable information on the life of those times. It is also of historical importance as it gives the geographical description of Karnataka of 12th century; as also of the contemporary socio-cultural and economic conditions; and of the varied occupations of its people.
The entire work of the Manasollasa extends to about 8000 Granthas or verse-stanzas; and, it is composed in the Anustubh Chhandas (metre), with few prose passages interspersed in between. Its Sanskrit is simple and graceful; making it one among the elegant works of Sanskrit literature that reflect the life and culture of medieval India.

Manasollasa defines chaste Music as that which educates (Shikshartham), entertains (Vinodartham), delights (Moda-Sadanam) and liberates (Moksha Sadanam).
Source: The texts of the Indian Dance traditions - Part Sixteen - Lakshana Granthas - 11. Sangita-ratnakara of Sarangadeva, sreenivasarao's blogs

* 4 Aug 2021
Classical Sanskrit literature
Works by
Kalidasa (Meghaduta, Abhijnanashakuntalam, Kumrasambhava, Raghuvamsa)
Jayadeva (Gita Govinda, Madala Panji)
Chanakya (Arthashastra)
Banabhatta (Kadambari, Harshacharitra)
Bhavabhuti (Uttar Ramayana, Mahaviracharita, Malatimadhava)

Sanskrit literature can be classified under six orthodox heads and four secular heads. The six orthodox sections form the authoritative scriptures of the Hindus. The four secular sections embody the later developments in classical Sanskrit literature.
The six scriptures are: (i) Srutis, (ii) Smritis, (iii) Itihasas, (iv) Puranas, (v) Agamas and (vi) Darsanas.
The four secular writings are: (i) Subhashitas, (ii) Kavyas, (iii) Natakas and (iv) Alankaras.
References: Excerpt from All About Hinduism by Sri Swami Sivananda,

* Jul 2021
Abhigyana Shakuntalam
abhijnana means an identifying token; a keep sake ; an identity card ; a letter of introduction.
The story of Shakuntala and King Dushyanta appears in the Aadi Parva of The Indian Great epic Mahabharata. Kalidas adapted the story for his play Abhigyana Shakuntalam. Mahakavi Kalidasa, India's greatest Sanskrit poet and dramatist, has authored severalmaster pieces including Raghuvamsham, Meghasandesham (Meghdhootam), Kumarasambhavam, Ritu Samaharam, Malavikaagnimitram and others.

* Jul 2021
Kalidasa (Kaalidhaasaa)
Mahakavi Kalidasa, India's greatest Sanskrit poet and dramatist, has authored severalmaster pieces - The plays Maalavikaagnimitram, Abhijnaanashaakuntalam, Vikramoervasiyam, the epic poems Raghuvamsam, Kumarasambhavam, and the Khanda Kayvas Ritusamhaara, Meghadootha or Meghasandesa.
The play was the first Indian drama to be translated into a Western language, by Sir William Jones in 1789. In the next 100 years, there were at least 46 translations in twelve European languages.
English translations include:
Sacontalá or The Fatal Ring: an Indian drama (1789) by Sir William Jones
Śakoontalá or The Lost Ring: an Indian drama (1855) by Sir Monier Monier-Williams
Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works (1914) by Arthur W. Ryder
Bengali translations include:
Shakuntala (1854) by Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar
Shakuntala (1895) by Abanindranath Tagore
References: Translations of Shakuntala, and Other Works by Arthur W. Ryder (1914), ; ;
Shakuntala, painting by Raja Ravi Varma
Image courtesy:

* Jul 2021
Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages of the world. Among the current languages which possess a hoary antiquity like Latin or Greek, Sanskrit is the only language which has retained its pristine purity. It has maintained its structure and vocabulary even today as it was in the past.

Sanskrit is a language for humanity and not merely a means for communication within a society. The oldest surviving literature of the world, viz. the Vedas, encompass knowledge in virtually every sphere of human activity.

The grammar of Sanskrit has attracted scholars world over. It is very precise and upto date and remains well defined even today. Of late, several persons have expressed the opinion that Sanskrit is the best language for use with computers. Sanskrit, the vocabulary of which is derived from root syllables, is ideal for coining new scientific and technological terms. The need to borrow words or special scientific terms does not arise.

Sanskrit comprises fifty one letters or aksharas. In other languages, we refer to the letters of the alphabet of the language. We know that the word alphabet is derived from the names of the first two letters of Greek. The term alphabet has no other meaning except to denote the set of letters in the language. In contrast, the word "akshara" in Sanskrit denotes something fundamental and significant. One of the direct meanings of the word is that it denotes the set of letters of Sanskrit from the first to the last. The word also means that the sound of the letter does not ever get destroyed and thus signifies the eternal quality of the sound of the letters. The consequence of this meaning is that the sound of a word is essentially the sounds of the aksharas in the word, a concept which will help simplify text to speech applications with computers.
Source: Learn Sanskrit through self study,