The literary languages of India are only twelve, four of the Dravidian family (Deccan, southern India, northern Ceylon) and the others of the Indo-European family of the Indo-Aryan group (central and northern India, Pakistan). While ancient Vedic and Sanskrit literature crystallizes in the classicism of their respective languages, the Prakrites (vulgar languages), literally used in Jain and Buddhist dramas and religious texts, undergo a long process of evolution leading to the formation of the basic languages of modern arian literatures: Hindī, Urdu, Bengali, Assamese, Oriyā, puñjābī, Gujarati, marāṭhī. A similar development, attested starting from the first centuries of the Common Era, followed by the languages of the Dravidian family: Telegu, Canarian, Tamil, Malayalam. Vedic literature (second millennium-5th-4th century BC) takes its name from the Veda, “knowledge”, “sacred knowledge” and includes the Saṁhita (collections: Ṛgveda, Yajurveda, Sāmaveda, Atharvaveda), Brāhmaṇa (on the sacrificial science), the Āraṇyaka (on the woods), the Upaniṣad (sitting around the teacher, on the secret doctrine). These are flanked by the Vedānga (on the interpretation of the solemn and private ritual) and the Sutras (rules). Composed perhaps between 500 and 200 BC. C. with evidently didactic purposes and difficult to understand without appropriate commentaries, they include practically all the knowledge of the time and close the Vedic literature. The Sanskrit epic consists of two such masterpieces: Mahābhārata and Rāmāyana. The central theme of the first (110 thousand stanzas in 18 books, plus a nineteenth: Harivaṃśia, dedicated to the genealogy of Hari-Viṣṇu) is the rivalry between Kaurava and Pānḍava, sons of Pānḍu. But, alongside the narrative themes, religious, cosmogonic, didactic, state administrative ones develop, so that the Mahābhārata comes to constitute a real summa determined between the century. IV a. C. and IV d. C. Less extensive than the previous one, but more unitary, is the Rāmāyana (The Journey of Rāma) in 24,000 stanzas and seven books, attributed to a single author, Vālmīki, and focused on the events of Rāma, embodiment of the highest ideal of warrior virility Indiana. Also rich in themes unrelated to the main story, the work, whose final draft is not after the century. II d. C., is perhaps the most famous of Indian literature and has been translated, imitated, redone in all the languages of the subcontinent, and is still today the most widespread and the most read in the Hindī version of Tulsīdas (1532-1623). The epic literature is flanked by the Purāṇa, composed beyond the century. V d. C., in epic-style verses (sloka), divided into three groups: dedicated to Viṣṇu, Śiva and Brahmā for a total of 18 books, all of which are encyclopedic in character. Next to the great Purāṇa there are also the minor, or secondary Purāṇa (Upa purāṇa). The rebirth of the Sanskrit language, flanked by the schemes codified by Pāṇini (5th or 4th century BC) and by Patañjali (2nd century BC or 2nd century AD), as an expressive form of secular literature, states in the kāvya literary style (epic poem in an ornate style), however, often suffocated by formal refinement, which nevertheless provides the schemes for epic-artistic literature. Witnessed since the century. II d. C., this has its maximum representative in Kālidāsa (4th-5th century AD), author, among other things, of two poems that are models of the genre: Kumārasambhava (Birth of the god of war) and Raghuvaṁśa (Genealogy of Raghu). The formal conception of art has, moreover, slowed down the birth of a historical literature, which has had weak manifestations and which has its point of reference in the Rājatarangiṇī (The river of kings) of Kalhana, composed in 1149-50, in 7826 stanzas divided into 8 chapters, on the history of Kashmir from its origins to the reign of Jayasimha, that is, to the time of the author. Kalhana did, in a certain sense, school and the historical works became numerous, but none equaled the Rājatarangiṇī.
According to Computerdo, the lyric instead dominates among the most representative and oldest literary genres of Sanskrit literature. The themes are those of love and contemplation of nature. The first important work is Sattasaī (The seven hundred stanzas) attributed by the Purāṇa to king Hala Sātavahāna or Śālivahāna Āndhra (1st-2nd century AD), where the erotic component triumphs. Once again, however, the prominent place belongs to Kālidāsa with the two poems Rtu Saṁhāra (The cycle of the seasons) and Meghaduta (The messenger cloud). Also worth mentioning is the masterpiece of Indian erotic lyric: the Amaruśataka (Centuries of Amaru) of the century. VI or VII. Alongside this lyric genre there is also the religious and erotic-religious genre, in which the last one stands out Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda (12th century). The poem is composed in 12 cantos and is the mystical-erotic celebration of the loves of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Gnomic and didactic poetry has had a great development in India. Famous among the first is the collection of Cāṇakya, identified with Kauṭilya, the author of the most famous political science treatise of ancient India, the Kauṭilya – Arthaśāstra. But the best gnomic treatments are due to the poet Bhartṛhari, who constituted a model for all. In the didactic and anthological genre, the Kuṭṭanīmata must be remembered (The teachings of the mizzen) by Damodaragupta (eighth century), treatise on pornography, but with moralistic purposes, and the Sufhāṣitaratnakoṣa (Treasure of the gems of beautiful sayings) of Vidyakara, composed around 1100. The anthological genre always had luck and continues even today. Fiction is among the no less valid genres of Sanskrit literature, in the different aspects of fable, doctrine, folk tale and novel, often with alternating prose and verse. The Pañcatantra is the most important collection of didactic fables; composed between the century. II and VI, due to the Brahmin Viṣṇuśarma and widespread also in the West (One Thousand and One Nights), followed by a popular narrative that got rid of moralizing motives, for the sole purpose of delighting. The highest example is Gunāḍhya ‘s Bṛhatkatha (The Great Tale), the original of which has been lost, but which survives in reconstructions from the 13th century. VIII or IX. Less cultivated than the fable is the novel which reached considerable artistic levels. This is attested to by the oldest and most famous work of all: Daśākumāracarita written by Dandīn in the century. VII. If Indian literature is particularly rich in philosophical treatises (Brāhmaṇa, Upaniṣad, Purāṇa, Tantra, Yogasūtra, etc.), it is equally so with philosophical manuals and true science that have risen from tools to actual treatises. Among them, a particular mention should be made of the literature of Trivarga, that is to that set of works whose arguments concern the three ends of human existence: “The moral and religious law”, “The activities of practical life” and “Politics “, Testified by numerous publications, including the Mānavoidharmaśāstra (Legal Treatise of Manu) and the Kauṭilya – Arthaśāstra (Treatise on the Art of Government) attributed to Kauṭilya. Alongside the Vedic and Sanskrit, the Prakrites also developed strongly, and they later gained some literary dignity, the most ancient example of which is found in the Asóka inscriptions (3rd century BC). To these groups of Prakrites belong the pāli and the māhārāṣṭrī, used by Buddhists and Jains for their canonical texts, which starting from the first centuries AD. C. gave birth to an impressive literary flowering. It will suffice here to recall the Samarāiccakathā (The novel of Samarāditya), a grandiose edifying novel by Haribhadra, and the Upanitibhavaprapañcakathā (The novel in which the multiplicity of existences is presented through comparisons) by Siddharsi, composed in 906.