By Nithin Sridhar
Sanskrit is a very rich and colorful language. It is the mother of most of the Indian languages. William Jones once said: “The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either.” The corpus of literature written in Sanskrit is huge and vast in content and very rich in their depth.
Here is a list of eight authors whose works have enriched the language beyond measure and without whom Sanskrit would never be the same.
Valmiki is the famous author of Ramayana. Ramayana is considered as Mahakavya (great poem) as well as Itihasa (history). The story of Rama, which was first captured by Valmiki in his sublime poetry, has seen hundreds of renderings and re-tellings by others who wrote prose, composed poetry, and performed plays on Lord Rama.
The idea and ideal of Rama- the ideal human- has ruled over Indian hearts and mind for many centuries now, thanks to Valmiki. Valmiki is considered as ‘Adi-Kavi’ the first poet because it is he who introduced the literature format of Sloka.
Just as Valmiki is famous for the Ramayana, Vyasa is famous for Mahabharata- the Itihasa, which tells the story of the great Kurukshetra war. Vyasa’s contribution towards Indian culture and life is beyond measure.
Mahabharata is not just a record of history. It is a book of knowledge and wisdom. It is a book of life, which will always resonate with the reader. The life lessons hidden in its pages are not only valuable today, but will remain valuable till eternity.
Vyasa is called Veda Vyasa because he codified and divided the Vedas into four divisions. It is to his credit that Vedic knowledge and literature is still surviving. Vyasa also wrote 18 major Puranas that have become inseparable part of Indian religious life.
Panini is the most famous grammarian of Sanskrit language and it is to his credit that Vedic Sanskrit completely transformed into Classical Sanskrit. His work on Grammar- Ashtadhyayi– forms the very basis of the language today. Ashtadhyayi is usually dated to 4 century BCE.
Bharata Muni is the father of Indian theatrical art forms. He was a musicologist and theatrologist who is believed to have lived between 3rd and 1st century BCE. His Natyashastra is a thesis on Indian music, dance, theater, and aesthetics. Even today, Natyashastra continues to remain one of the foundational texts of performing arts.
Vishnu Sharma was an ancient Indian scholar who wrote the famous Panchatantra– the most famous collection of fables. Panchatantra is unique in the sense that it not only provides entertainment to the reader, but also imparts important lessons in administration, diplomacy, politics, and human relationships.
Panchatantra is among the most widely translated works and has been Persian, Arabic, Greek, Latin, and other European languages. Its popularity has not reduced even today, with many re-tellings of its stories continues to happen.
Kalidasa is considered as the tallest and most influential poet and dramatist of all times. He not only inspired the authors of his next generation, but his influence is clearly visible even on modern authors like Rabindranath Tagore. He is believed to have lived in 5th century CE.
His poems are in simple but exquisite language. He was the master of Sringara rasa (the aesthetics of love and romance) and used it most beautifully in his works. His most important plays include Malavikagnimitra (Malavika and Agnimitra), Abhijnanashaakuntala (Of Shakuntala recognized by a token), and Vikramorvashiyam (Pertaining to Vikrama and Urvashi).
Raghuvamsha (Lineage of King Raghu) and Kumarasambhava (the birth of Kumara) were his epic poems and minor poems included Meghadoota (The cloud messenger) and Ritusamhara (Season).
Amarasimha was a Sanskrit scholar and grammarian. He is believed to have lived in 7th century CE. Though, some dates him back to 3rd century BCE. Though most of his works were destroyed, one work on vocabulary on Sanskrit roots titled ‘Amarakosha’ has survived. This is the oldest available lexicon of Sanskrit language and is very widely used even today.
Adi Shankaracharya was a poet, philosopher, yogi, and a visionary. He wrote the celebrated Bhashyas (commentaries) on the Upanishads, Brahma-Sutra, and Bhagavad Gita. He was a poet par excellence and had composed many Bhakti poems that are sung even today. His Bhaja Govindam has captured people’s hearts for ages.
He travelled the length and breadth of the country and revived Sanatana Dharma. His depth and width of writings has enriched both Sanskrit and Sanskriti (culture) of India.