Related Hindu texts
Shastras and sutras
Chronology of Hindu texts
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian
subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya (or Kāvya; Sanskrit:
काव्य, IAST: kāvyá) or Kappiyam (Tamil language:
காப்பியம், kāppiyam). The
Ramayana and the
Mahabharata, which were originally composed in
Sanskrit and later
translated into many other Indian languages, and The Five Great Epics
of Tamil Literature and
Sangam literature are some of the oldest
surviving epic poems ever written.
2 Kannada epic poetry
3 Tamil epics
Sanskrit epics the
Itihāsa ("History") or
Compositions"), a canon of Hindu scripture. Indeed, the epic form
prevailed and verse remained until very recently the preferred form of
Hindu literary works. Hero-worship was and is a central aspect of
Indian culture, and thus readily lent itself to a literary tradition
that abounded in epic poetry and literature. The Puranas, a massive
collection of verse-form histories of India's many Hindu gods and
goddesses, followed in this tradition. Itihāsas and Purāṇas are
mentioned in the Atharva Veda and referred to as the fourth
The language of these texts, termed Epic Sanskrit, constitutes the
earliest phase of Classical Sanskrit, following the latest stage of
Sanskrit found in the Shrauta Sutras.
The Buddhist kavi
Aśvaghoṣa wrote two epics and one drama. He lived
in the 1st-2nd century. He wrote a biography of the Buddha, titled
Buddhacarita. His second epic is called Saundarananda and tells the
story of the conversion of Nanda, the younger brother of the Buddha.
The play he wrote is called Śariputraprakaraṇa, but of this play
only a few fragments remained.
The famous poet and playwright
Kālidāsa also wrote two epics:
Raghuvamsha (The Dynasty of Raghu) and
Kumarasambhava (The Birth of
Kumar Kartikeya), though they were written in later Classical Sanskrit
rather than Epic Sanskrit. Other Classical
Sanskrit epics are the
“Slaying of Śiśupāla”
Śiśupālavadha of Māgha, “Arjuna and
the Mountain Man”
Kirātārjunīya of Bhāravi, the “Adventures of
the Prince of Nishadha”
Bhaṭṭikāvya of Bhaṭṭi.
Kannada epic poetry
Main article: Kannada literature
Kannada epic poetry mainly consists of Jain religious literature and
Asaga wrote Vardhaman Charitra, an epic which
runs in 18 cantos, in 853 CE, the first
Sanskrit biography of the
24th and last tirthankara of Jainism, Mahavira, though his Kannada
language version of Kalidasa's epic poem, Kumārasambhava, Karnataka
Kumarasambhava Kavya is lost. The most famous poet from this period
is Pampa (902-975 CE), one of the most famous writers in the
Kannada language. His
Vikramarjuna Vijaya (also called the
Pampabharatha) is hailed as a classic even to this day. With this and
his other important work
Ādi purāṇa he set a trend of poetic
excellence for the Kannada poets of the future. The former work is an
adaptation of the celebrated Mahabharata, and is the first such
adaptation in Kannada. Noted for the strong human bent and the
dignified style in his writing, Pampa has been one of the most
influential writers in Kannada. He is identified as Adikavi "first
poet". It is only in Kannada that we have a
Ramayana and a Mahabharata
based on the Jain tradition in addition to those based on Brahmanical
Shivakotiacharya was the first writer in prose style. His work
Vaddaradhane is dated to 900 CE.
Sri Ponna (939-966 CE) is
also an important writer from the same period, with Shanti Purana as
his magnum opus. Another major writer of the period is Ranna
(949-? CE). His most famous works are the Jain religious work
Tirthankara Purana and the Gada Yuddha, a birds' eye view of the
Mahabharata set in the last day of the battle of
relating the story of the
Mahabharata through a series of flashbacks.
Structurally, the poetry in this period is in the Champu style,
essentially poetry interspersed with lyrical prose.
Siribhoovalaya is a unique work of multilingual Kannada literature
written by Kumudendu Muni, a Jain monk. The work is unique in that it
employs not alphabets, but is composed entirely in Kannada
numerals. The Saangathya metre of
Kannada poetry is employed in the
work. It uses numerals 1 through 64 and employs various patterns or
bandhas in a frame of 729 (27×27) squares to represent alphabets in
nearly 18 scripts and over 700 languages. Some of the patterns used
include the Chakrabandha, Hamsabandha, Varapadmabandha, Sagarabandha,
Sarasabandha, Kruanchabandha, Mayurabandha, Ramapadabandha,
Nakhabandha, etc. As each of these patterns are identified and
decoded, the contents can be read. The work is said to have around
600,000 verses, nearly six times as big as the ancient Indian epic
The Prabhulingaleele, Basava purana,
Basavarajavijaya are few of the Lingayat epics.
Main article: The Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature
The post-sangam period (2nd century-6th century) saw many great Tamil
epics being written, including
Cilappatikaram (or Silappadhikaram),
Manimegalai, Civaka Cintamani,
Valayapathi and Kundalakesi. Later,
Chola period, Kamban (12th century) wrote what is
considered one of the greatest Tamil epics — the Kamba Ramayanam of
Kamban, based on the Valmiki Ramayana. The Thiruthondat Puranam (or
Periya Puranam) of Chekkizhar is the great Tamil epic of the Shaiva
Bhakti saints and is part of the religious scripture of Tamil Nadu's
Out of the five,
Kundalakesi are Buddhist religious
Civaka Cintamani and
Tamil Jain works and
Silappatikaram has a neutral religious view. They were written over a
period of 1st century CE to 10th century CE and act as the historical
evidence of social, religious, cultural and academic life of people
during the era they were created.
Civaka Cintamani introduced long
verses called virutha pa in Tamil literature., while Silappatikaram
used akaval meter (monologue), a style adopted from Sangam literature.
Tamil epics such as Silappathikaram and
Periya Puranam are unique in
Indian literature as they employ characters and stories associated
with the people and language of the poets (Tamil) and take place
within the Tamil country. This is in contrast to other Indian
languages which are based on
Sanskrit works and deal with Sanskrit
mythology based on North Indian works.
The first epic to appear in
Hindi was Tulsidas' (1543–1623)
Ramacharitamanas, also based on the Ramayana. It is considered a great
Hindi epic poetry and literature, and shows the author
Tulsidas in complete command over all the important styles of
composition — narrative, epic, lyrical and dialectic. He has given a
divine character to Rama, the Hindu
Avatar of Vishnu, portraying him
as an ideal son, husband, brother and king.
Jaishankar Prasad has attained
the status of an epic. The narrative of
Kamayani is based on a popular
mythological story, first mentioned in Satapatha Brahmana. It is a
story of the great flood and the central characters of the epic poem
are Manu (a male) and Shraddha (a female). Manu is representative of
the human psyche and Shradha represents love. Another female character
is Ida, who represents rationality. Some critics surmise that the
three lead characters of
Kamayani symbolize a synthesis of knowledge,
action and desires in human life.
Apart from Kamayani;
Kurukshetra (Epic Poetry) (1946), Rashmirathi
Urvashi (1961) by
Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar'
Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' have attained the
status of epic poetry.
Likewise Lalita Ke Aansoo by
Krant M. L. Verma (1978) narrates
the tragic story about the death of
Lal Bahadur Shastri
Lal Bahadur Shastri through his
wife Lalita Shastri.
^ Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: devraj to jyoti - Amaresh Datta
- Google Books. Books.google.ca. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
Atharva Veda 11.7.24, 15.6.4
^ Chāndogya Upaniṣad 7.1.2,4
^ Jain, Kailash Chand (1991). Lord Mahāvīra and his times, Lala S.
L. Jain Research Series. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 25.
^ Jain, Kailash Chand (1991). Lord Mahāvīra and his times, Lala S.
L. Jain Research Series. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 59.
^ "Introduction to Siribhoovalaya, from Deccan Herald". Archived from
the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2007.
^ "Usage of Saangathya and frame of 729, from The Hindu newspaper".
Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 7 March
^ Datta 2004, p. 720
^ *Book:Lalita Ke Ansoo on worldcat
^ Hindustan (
New Delhi 12 January 1978 (ललिता
के आँसू का विमोचन)
Panchjanya (newspaper) A literary review 24 February 1980
Arthur Anthony Macdonell
Arthur Anthony Macdonell (1900). "The epics". A History of Sanskrit
Literature. New York: D. Appleton and company.
Oliver Fallon (2009). "Introduction". Bhatti’s Poem: The Death of
Rávana (Bhaṭṭikāvya). New York: New York University Press, Clay
Poetry of different cultures and languages