Sanskrit Stories You Should Know
- August 7, 2020
Sanskrit is one of the oldest Indian languages, equivalent to what Latin is to Europe. The earliest writings in Sanskrit were the Vedas. Composed between 2000 BCE and 500 BCE, they form the basis of Hindu philosophy. Both the great Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana were written in Sanskrit between 1200 BCE and 200 BCE. These epics have inspired innumerable literary works through the centuries and up to present times. Here are some classic Sanskrit literary works that everyone should know.
Illustration: Sundara Moorthy
The text for this classic work of the enigmatic writer, Bhasa, was long considered lost, until it was discovered in Kerala in 1912.
Udayana, the king of Vatsa, falls deeply in love with Vasavadatta, the princess of Avanti, eloping together, and returning to his capital, Kaushambi. Post the wedding, Udayana becomes so besotted with his new wife that he starts neglecting his royal duties, causing the kingdom to suffer. In addition, a hostile enemy seems poised to attack Kaushambi.
Udayana’s loyal minister, Yaugandharayana, decides that Udayana needs to form an alliance with a strong neighbour, but for that, he would have to marry the princess of that kingdom. Knowing how much Udayana loves his queen, and desperate for a solution, Yaugandharayana takes Vasavadatta into his confidence and comes up with a plan. But for the plan to work, Vasavadatta needs to die!
The real Udayana was a historical king of Vatsa, near today’s Allahabad, and a contemporary of Buddha. His capital was, like the story suggests, at Kaushambi. His character appears in a lot of the literature of the time, as does that of his wife, Vasavadatta. There is a huge collection of stories called the Kathasaritsagara, which contains accounts of Udayana’s military exploits.