Facts about Ancient Indian Literature

Date: December 10, 2014

                                     Facts About Ancient Indian Literature


  1. First text of Sanskrit Grammer is Panini’s Asthadhyayi (500 B.C.). There are 8 chapters and 400 sutras in it. In 200 B.C. Patanjali wrote the Mahabhashya on the grammar of Panini.
  2. The explanation of the difficult words of vedas are in Nirukta written by Yask.
  3. Vedang Jyotish was the earliest text on astrology written by Magadhmuni.
  4. Panchtantra, the book of Gupta period, compiled by Vishnu Sharma, is the earliest story collection. It was written to educate the foolish sons of Amarkirti.
  5. Hitopadesh was written by Narayan, is second famous collection of Indian stories.
  6. Brihatkatha is also a book of tales written by Gunadhaya (language – Paichashi)
  7. Katha Sarit Sagar written by Somdev is the translation of Brihatkatha in Sanskrit.
  8. In Brihatkathamanjari (Kshemendra) there is a mockery of hypocrates of that period.
  9. Texts of Kalidas – Ritusamhar, Meghdoot, Raghuvansha, Kumarsambhav (epic), Vikramoravashi, Malvikagnimitram, Abhigyanshakuntalam (plays)
  10. Bhasa wrote 13 plays, important ones- Swapnavasavdatta
  11. Two famous plays of Vishakhdatta are Mudrarakshash (description of Chandra Gupt Maurya) and Devichandraguptam (description of Gupta Ruler- Ram Gupt)
  12. Shudrak wrote it gives a detailed account about common men life – Mrichchkatikam, it contains the love story of Brahmin Charudatta and the famous courtesan of Vijayni Vasantseva.
  13. Maltimadhav, Mahavircharita & Uttar Ramcharita these three plays written by Bhavbhuti.
  14. Raj Shekhar wrote – Karpurmanjari, Bal Ramayana & Bal Bharat.
  15. Dandi wrote –Kavyadarsh, Dash Kumar Charit and Avantisundarikatha.
  16. Factors about Mahabharata –
  1. initially 8800 verses – known as Jayasamhita b. (Expanded) 24000 verses – Bharata
  2. 1,00,000 verses Satsahastri Samhita or Mahabharat.
  1. Facts about Ramayana –  a. initially 6000 verses – expanded to 12000 verses at last 24000 verses
  1. Harishena was a great prashasti writter –
  2. he was son of Dhruvbhuti b. he wrote prayag prashasti in Champu (prose, poetry mixed) style
  3. Another prashasti writer was virsena, he wrote inscription of Udaigiri cava of Chandragupta II.
  4. Vatsbhatti wrote the Mandsor Prashasti of the reign of Kumargupta I.
  5. Vasul wrote Mandsour Praslasti of Yashodharman.
  6. Amar Singh of Gupta period wrote-Amarkosha/Namlinganushashan.
  7. Aryabhatta, who belonged to Patliputra, wrote Aryabhattiyam
  8. Varahmihir wrote Laghujatak, Brihajatak Vivahpatal, Yogmaya, Brihatsamhita and Panchsidhantika
  9. Kamandak wrote Kamandikiya Nitishastra.
  10. Dignaga wrote Nyayshastra, Pramanvarnuchaya
  11. Harshcharita was written by Banabhatta

Important Inscriptions –

  1. Bohghazkoi Inscription –
  2. a. gives information about the movements of Aryans.
  3. gives references of peace treaty between Nittani & Hittites (1400 B.C.).
  4. c. gives names of vedic gods – Indra, Varun, Mitra & Nasatyas.
  5. Situation – Cilcia in Asia Minor
  6. Hathigumpha Inscription –
  7. of Cheti King Kharvela (King of Kalinga)
  8. b. situated at Udaigiri hills
  9. gives the information that he defeated the Shunga king Brihaspatimitra and brought back the image (Jain Tirthankar’s) which was taken by Mahopadmananda around 300 B.C.
  10. Nauaghat Inscription – of Naganika, the wife of Satvahana king Satkarni
  11. Nasik Inscription – of Gautami Balasari, mother of Satvahana king Gautmiputra Satkarni.
  12. Besnagar/Vidisha/Bhilsa Inscription – We get information about Vaishnavism, Greek ambassador Heliodorus, who calls himself Parambhagvat – he dedicates the pillar erected by him to the God of Gods – Vasudev.
  13. Ayodhya Inscription of Dhondev, throws light on the achievement of Pushyamitra Shunga.
  14. Uttarmerur Inscription of the Chola ruler Parantaka-I, throw lights on the local self government (village administration) during the Chola period.
  15. Chaturbhuj Inscription – situated at Gwalior, King Bhoja is called Adi-Varah.
  16. Banskheda Inscription –
  17. Throws light on reign of Harshvardhana b. Makes mention of killing of Rajyavardhan by Sasank
  18. Signature of Harsha found
  19. Mathura Pillar Inscription of Chandragupta-II.
  20. Junagarh Inscription – of Skand Gupta

       K Mention of repair of Sudarshan lake by Chakrapalit son of Parnadutta (Gupta of Saurashtra)

       K Mention of Skandgupta’s victory over Mlechchas (identified as hunas)

       K Mention of Gupta era

  1. Damodarpur Inscription of Kumar Gupt-I

       K reference of Dinar the gold coin during Gupt period

  1. Aihole Inscription - K situated at a Vishnu temple at Ahole

      K written in Sanskrit by Ravikirti, a follower of Jainism and a courtier of Chalukya king (of Badami) Pulkeshein-II

      K make a mention of his victory over Hashvardhana and adoption of the title ‘Parmeshwar’ for this victory

  1. Junagarh Rock Inscription - K of Radradaman, period 150 A.D. (Shaka Ruler)

      K First inscription in chaste sanskrit.

      K Victory of Rudradaman over satvahana king Satkarni.

      K Construction of Sudarshan lake

  • in Reign of Chandragupt Maurya by Pushya Gupta       · in Reign of Ashoka Tussasp (greek governor of Jaurashtra)

      K Mention of repair of the dam without imposing any tax by Rudradaman

      K First mention of Laxmi, with Vishnu

  1. Bhitari Inscription – mention of defeat of hunas by Skandgupta
  2. Mehrauli Iron Pillar Inscription – K accepted as the inscription of Chandragupta-II.

       K description of the king ‘Chandra’                    K pillar was erected as Vishnudhwaj

  1. Eran Inscription - K of Bhanugupta (Gupta king), 510 A.D.

      K conflict between Bhanugupta & Huna invader Toramana

      K Gopraj the feudatory of Bhanugupta was killed in the battle and his wife performed Sati (first epigraphic reference)

Coinage in Ancient India

  1. Coins were introduced in India in 550 B.C.
  2. These early coins were known as Panch marked coins bearing only a variety of symbols.
  3. Indo-Greeks were the first to introduce gold coins, they also initiated the practice of issuing bilingual coins, they were also first to issue coins which could be attributed to particular kings with certainty.
  4. The largest number of copper coins were issued by the Kushanas
  5. Portrait-coinage was introduced by Indo-Greeks.
  6. Kushana Kings issued Dinara like coins.
  7. Kadaphises-I (Kushana) issued copper coins which depicted Herkles (Krishna)
  8. Kadaphises-II Wima (Kushan) issued gold coins which bore the images of Shiva and Nandi Bull.
  9. Karshapana (silver & copper punch marked) was the standard currency during the Mauryas.
  10. The Guptas issued largest number of coins (gold).
  11. Satvahanas issued coins in four metals – silver, copper, potin and lead (the last one being predominant).
  12. The copper coins of the Guptas are extremely rare, the common daily transactions were carried on with couriers.


Development of Education in Ancient India

  1. Budda-Viharas were the important center of education in Ancient India. Disciple was known as Soddhiviharik and the teacher was known as Upadhyaya.
  2. The education institutions of Sompuri, Nonepuri (Bengal), Udantpuri (Patna), Vikrampuri (East Bengal) and Jagdal (Bengal) were popular and were founded by pal kings.


Important Institutions & Centres

  1. Takshila
    • Important centre of education in 600 B.C.
    • Chanakya, Chandra Gupta Maurya, Prasenjit, Jeevak (important Physician of Magadh), Panini, Patanjali got education here.
  2. Nalanda
    • according to Huein Tsang, it was founded by Shakraditya, who is identified as Kumar Gupta I.
    • Mainly buddhist education centre (Mahayan)
    • in order to enter, one had to pass an entrance exam conducted by Dwarpandit.
    • The chancellor was a great scholar Shilabhadra.
    • Donation was given for its maintenance – Dharampal gave 200 villages, Devpal 5 villages, Harshvardhan – 100 villages.
  3. Vallabhi- Founded by Bhattarak of Maitrak Dynasty near the sea of Gujrat Kathiawad
    • Third Jain council was held here.
  4. Vikramshila – founded by Dharampal of the Pal Dynasty of Bengal in 8th century A.D.
    • in 1203 A.D. Bhakhtiyar Khilji ruined
  5. Oduutpuri – founded by Rampal (Bihar)
    • Tantrik Buddhist education centre
  6. Dhara – Capital of Parmaras of Malwa.
    • King Bhoj & Munj were scholar and intelligent Rulers.

Six system of Philosophy

  1. Sankhya – Kapil (founder) 2. Yaga – Patanjali                           3. Vaishesika – Uluka/ Kanabluck/ Kashyap
  2. Nayaya – Akshapad Gautam 5. Mimansa – Jaimini                      6. Vedanta – Badarayana

Social Life of Ancient India

Position of Women

  1. The position of women was good in Rig Vedic Period.
  2. They were permitted to participate in Education Sabha, samiti, religious ceremonies etc.
  3. Different kinds of women –
  • Brahmavadin – Devoted to the study and spiritual development - did not marry
  • Amajoo – The women who did not marry
  • Mantra Drishti – who composed Vedic Mantras
  • Sadhudva – associated with house hold activities
  1. Women associated with Rigvedic Period – Vishwara, Ghosla, Lopamudra, Apala, Indrani
  2. Women of Later Vedic – Maitri, Gargi, Atraiya
  3. The position of the women started declining from later Vedic period and by the Gupta period their degraded status was clear.
  4. They were deprived of the right of education
  5. Vedic knowledge was deried to them.
  6. Purdah system started from 300 A.D., it became widely prevalent after invasion of Muslims.
  7. Child marriage became prevalent.
  8. The position of widow was miserable. Widow Remarriage was acceptable in Rigvedic time but not during the Gupta period. Punarbhee were those widows who get remarriage.
  9. Sati system – began in Harsha period.
  • Prevalent among Kshatriyas.
  • first reference of Sati is found in Eran inscription dated STOAD – according to this commander Gopraj of Gupta King Bhanugupta was killed fighting against Hunas and his wife became Sati.
  1. Prostitution -
  • In Maurya Period Ganika is mentioned, who were taxed also. The income of two days a month was to be paid as a tax.
  • In 600 B.C. there as a concept of Nagar Vadhu. The most beautiful and the respectable woman was known as Nagar Vadhu to Ex-Amrapali, Vasant Sena, etc.
  • Ganikas got the respectable position in Gupta period. They got the royal patronage.
  • According to Vatsayan Ganikas should have been proficient in 64 arts.
  • First reference of temple Prostitution is in Ramgarh Cave in Varanasi.
  • Temple prostitution become popular in south during the Chola period.

Position of Sudras

  1. First reference in Purush Sukuta in 10 mandal of Rigveda.
  2. The Varna dharma of shudras was to serve Dvijas (other three castes).
  3. Sudras were settled in new region for agriculture in Maurya period, but the social status of shudras was not changed.
  4. Shudras were not associated with craft, agriculture and trade from later vedic period to post-Mauryan period.
  5. Yajnavalka showed liberal attitude to Shudras. Yajnavalka associated them with agriculture, craft and trade.
  6. If a shudra was found studying vedas his tongue was cut (according to Alberuni).