The Vedas, the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Shakuntala & Meghadutam the Buddhacharita, the Hitopadesha, the Panchatantra are some world-famous Sanskrit masterpieces.
Sanskrit has given a rich literary heritage to India and to the world consisting of the Vedas (Veda), Brahmanas, and Upanishads, The Sanskrit epics such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
Prominent Authors are Aryabhatta , Panini, Banabhatta, Vishnugupta (Chanakya), Shankaracharya, Kalidasa, Ashvaghosha, Kumaradasa, Bharavi, Bhatti, Magha, Shriharsha, Bhasa, Shudraka, King Harsha, Vishakhadatta, Bhattanarayana, Bhavabhuti.Maharishi Vlamiki, Maharishi Ved Vyas, Vatsayana, Ashwagosh, Bhasa, Jaidev, Bhartihari, Dandi, Bhavbhuti Maithili Saran Gupta, Vishnu Sharma, Kalhana,and many more.
The Sanskrit language had flourished in India. Poetry, drama, mathematics, science all had been written in this language.
The four Vedas together represent ancient Hindu thought at its most beautiful and esoteric and belong to the period 1500 - 1000 B.C. Rig Veda was the first among the list. Then came the other three Vedas - the Yajur Veda , Sama Veda, and the Atharva Veda -
Each Veda is divided into the sections Mantra/Sanhita, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. The first section is the oldest of the four, while the last two were added on between 800-600BC.
The Mantra or the Sanhita section consists of prayers, hymns of praise and devotion. This part of the text is in separate books and the contents are fully metered.
The Brahmanas section is in prose and comprises explanations and legends associated with various hymns. Sacrifices and their ritualistic performance were subordinate to the understanding of the mystic significance of the ritual.
The Aranyakas (from aranyas 'forest') are the writings of those students who chose to continue their quest for knowledge without getting married. They lived in hermitages or forests, and the students themselves came to be known as aranas or aranamanas (forest dwellers). These texts do not concern themselves with explanations of sacrifices and rituals, they deal with the more mystical part of such. Undoubtedly, the distinction between the Brahmanas and the Aranyakas is not a clear-cut one.
Upanishads, the word, is derived from upa (near), ni (down), and sad (to sit), i.e. to sit down near. Many claim that the word Upanishad is derived from Upasana (worship or reverence).The Upanishads number from 108 to 150, possibly more. Some of the principal Upanishads and the Vedas of which they are a part; Aitreya Upanishad - Rig Veda.
Taittriya Upanishad - Yajur Veda (Black Yajur) Isa Upanishad, Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad - Yajur Veda (White Yajur) Kena Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad - Sama Veda Katha Upanishad, Prasna Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad, Mandukya Upanishad - Atharva Veda.
Vedanga (Ved = knowledge, anga = part) are the disciplines necessary to read and understand the Vedas fully. These are six in number:
Siksha, i.e. pronunciation and phonetics;
Chhanda, i.e. metre;
Vyakarana, i.e. grammar (Panini's rules and views);
Nirukta, i.e. etymology (Yaska's writings);
Jyotisha, i.e. astronomy;
Kalpa, i.e. rules for sacrifices and ceremonies in accordance with the Vedas. Also known as Kalpa-sutras or Sautra-sutras.
There are 18 major Puranas - Brahma, Padma, Vishnu, Shiva, Bhagavata, Narada, Markandeya, Agni, Bhavishya, Brahmavaivarta, Linga, Varaha, Skanda, Vamana, Kurma, Matsya, Garuda, Brahmanda and Vayu. They have been written over a long span of time and their contents as well as their style reflect the changing times. The Puranas are not religious texts, though they do have religious, even ritualistic, elements. They are poetry with a religious theme. They contain accounts of the creation and dissolution of the world, of the dynasties of kings, of geography, law, politics, history, philosophy and so on. They have fascinating stories about brave warriors, beautiful women, and hotheaded sages. Written mostly as poetry in the metres of the Itihasas, the Puranas are a lively mixture of realism and romanticism. Several minor Puranas also exist, known as the Upa-puranas.
Ramayana is written by Valmiki, who is also known as Adi Kavi (The First Poet). The core story is about succession to the throne of Ayodhya where the Surya Vamsha (Solar Dynasty) ruled. King Dasharatha had, through the favour of gods, had four sons (Rama, Bharata, Shatrughna and Lakshmana) born of his three queens (Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra). Rama was acknowledged as the superior as well as the eldest, and won, through his prowess, Sita, the princess of Mithila as his wife. Dasharatha was all set to crown him king when, incited by her maid, Queen Kaikeyi made the old king banish Rama for 14 years. There was no fight over this issue. For, when Bharata heard of this, he would not touch the crown. Placing Rama's sandals on the throne, he governed the country for 14 years, waiting for Rama to come back. The battle in this epic occurred because, Rama, in his exile in the forests, had been accompanied by brother Lakshman and wife Sita, and the three of them often had to face rakshasas or vicious demons. One such, King Ravana, said to be of Sri Lanka, carried Sita away to his walled city overseas. Rama struck up an alliance with a troop of monkeys, Hanuman being the most prominent of them, and with their help, built a bridge across the sea to Lanka, fought hard and long, and finally killed Ravana. A kind of sequel, the Uttarakanda describes how Sita, though rescued from Lanka and brought back to Ayodhya, was not found acceptable to the general public because she had been abducted by Ravana. As King, Rama thought it fit to banish her from Ayodhya, and much later, offer to take her back only when she had proven her purity by an ordeal through fire. Through Rama and Hanuman were not originally in the Hindu pantheon, because of this epic they have become the two most beloved of Hindu gods.
The Mahabharata is a massive work attributed to the sage Vedavyasa. The myth is that he dictated it to Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity of wisdom and success, who was the one to actually pen it. Divided into 18 parvans or chapters, it is a War Epic, woven round the royal Kuru family of the Chandra Vamsha (Lunar Dynasty), which reigned over Northern India from Hastinapur. The war in question is the Kurukshetra War fought at Kurukshetra in northern India, around 3,000 BC according to the Indian tradition, and around 1,000-1,500 BC according to modern scholars. Its original name was Jaya or Victory.
The core story is as follows: King Santanu, father of Prince Devavrata, re-married at a late stage in life and the Kuru throne went, not to Devavrata, but to a succession of defective princes born because of the second marriage. This resulted eventually in a controversy about whether Prince Duryodhana or Prince Yudhistthira would be king. Yudhistthira had four brothers, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. And together the five brothers were known as Pandavas because their father had been named Pandu. They shared all sorts of adventures together, as well as a wife- Droupadi who was married to them all.
Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, and a cousin, was friend, philosopher and guide to the Pandavas. At the battlefield of Kurukshetra, all the major warrior kings of India were united under either Prince Duryodhana's banner or Prince Yudhistthira's. After a gory, 18-day battle, Yudhistthira emerged victor. But the epic does not end there. It takes us to great spiritual heights as after a benign reign, King Yudhistthira relinquishes his throne and, with his brothers and his wife, goes up the Himalayas into heaven.
Mahabharat has an important part The Geeta.
The drama Shakuntala, Kalidasa's masterpiece, is a development of a story in the Mahabharata. It has won acclaim from the great German poet Goethe. The celestial dancer Menaka had charmed the great sage Vishvamitra and had a daughter through him. She abandoned the child in a wood where Kanva, another sage, took her into his hermitage. She grew up in the hermitage, When King Dushmanta came there hunting, he fell in love with Shakuntala. He married her, promising to make her son the heir to the throne. Even though Dushmanta went with promises to return, the sage Durvasa's curse made him forget them all. When Shakuntala went up to the royal court to press her claims, Dushmanta denied all knowledge of her. Only later, when he saw his son growing up in another hermitage he accept him, and his mother Shakuntala, and take them to the palace with him.
The poem Meghadutam (Cloud-Messenger) is a lyric in a little over 100 verses, divided into two parts Purvamegha (Previous Cloud) and Uttaramegha (Subsequent Cloud). Kubera, the treasurer of the gods, has a species of creatures called yakshas working for him. One of them was so besotted with his wife that he neglected his duties. Kubera cursed him by banishing him to the earth. There too he thought of his wife all the time, and when he saw a rain-cloud pass overhead, requested it to carry his message to his wife at the Alakapuri he had been banished from. The poem describes the route the cloud was to take, and the descriptions are consciously decorative so as to make the route seem attractive to the cloud. It treats both Nature and human emotions with exquisite craftsmanship.