Books are a source of knowledge
Kareena reading the magazine
Books that were written a long time ago give detailed information about the life and society of ancient times. They also inform us about the religion and culture of that period.
The Tamil epic, the Silappadikaram, was composed by Ilango around 1,800 years ago. Thousands of books were written on many subjects during this period including epics, stories, science, mathematics, governance, religions and relationships.
Around 1,400 years ago, Seethalai Sattanar composed Manimekalai. It is a poem in 30 cantos. It is the story about the daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi.
These beautiful compositions were lost to scholars for many centuries, till their manuscripts were discovered around hundred years ago.
Other important works of this period include Arthashastra by Kautilya, Harshacharita by Banabhatta, the works of Kalidasa, the Jataka Tales and the biographies and the accounts of travelers.
Kalidasa is considered to the greatest poet and dramatist of the Sanskrit language. He wrote in Sanskrit but his characters in the play, women and people of the lower caste speak Prakrit. He wrote about the world in which he lived – the world of common people. There is love, anger, betrayal, humor, courage, and a lot of drama in his work. All his work give an idea about the life of the people during that age. Abhijnanashakuntalam, the story of Dushyanta, Shakuntala and their son Bharat was his greatest work.
During this period a number of religious stories were written. These included the Puranas, the Upanishads and the Mahapuranas.
Puranas are old world stories. They deal origin of the universe and contain a detailed description of the solar system, the earth, its continents, mountain ranges, family tree of gods and rishi and royal families. They also contain details on how the gods were to be worshiped. The Puranas contain stories about gods and goddesses such as Vishnu, Shiva, Durga or Parvati. The Puranas were written in simple Sanskrit and were meant to educate the common people. Everybody could listen to the Puranas, (recited in the temples by priests) including women and shudras, who were not allowed to study the Vedas.
Mahabharata is about a war fought between the cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas to gain control of the throne of Hastinapur. The Bhagavad Gita, which is a conservation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna at the battlefield, is also included in this epic. About 1,500 years ago, this old story was written in the fprm in which we read it today. Ved Vyasa is believed to have compiled both the Puranas and the Mahabharata.
The Ramayana was originally written in Sanskrit by Valmiki. It has also been written in almost all Indian languages with their own special flavour.
Aryabhatta is the author of the book Aryabhattiyam. He reveals that day and night are caused by the rotation of the earth on its axis and also gives a scientific explanation for eclipses. Another astronomer, Varahamihira wrote Panchasiddhantika and developed several subdivisions of astronomy like astrology and horoscopes.
During this period, surgery was also practiced. Another physician, Susruta wrote about surgical instruments and surgery in this book, Susruta Samhita.
The concept of Zero
The earliest inscription of zero was recorded on the Sankheda Copper Plate found Gujarat (AD 585 - 586) this paved the way for the decimal system, which simplified counting and calculations. Arab traders took this system and Indian knowledge and skills with them to the west. Over a period of time, the Indian decimal system came to be known as the Arabic Number System.