Indian Canon - per Basham's (1984) Chronological Tables

I have been moving beyond Indian Literature and try to compile a Indian subcontinent's "List of Canonical Texts" into other areas. I went back to Basham's 1984, and saw that in its Chronological Tables, the "Cultural and Religious Column" in fact include a list of the most important works and figures, per below: (I ignored all the non text-related stuff such as art and architecture, or scientists / physicians / astronomers etc.)


c. 1300-1000B.C. Composition of Rig Veda

c. 1000-800B.C. Composition of Brahmanas

Beginning of composition of Mahabharata

c. 700B.C.  Parsva [Jina before Mahavira, considered historical]

Aruni Gautama [Upanisadic philosopher - associated with doctrine of transmigration]

c. 563/6-483/6B.C. Gautama Buddha

c. 500B.C. Mahavira [founder of Jainism] 

Composition of Upanisads

Composition of Tripitaka [Buddhist]

c. 350B.C. Panini

Kautilya's Arthasastra in original form

Patanjali [both commentator to Panini's grammar, and author of Yoga Sutra]

c. 1st century B.C. Final composition of Ramayana

(Dates below are in A.D.)


1st-3rd centuries Tamil Ettuttogai

c.100-200 Lawbook of Manu in final form

2nd century? Bhasa [dramatist]

c. 150 Nagarjuna



c. 400 Asanga


Bhakti movement in South India


c. 660-710 Dandin

680-730 Bhavabhuti [dramatist, held in high esteem in traditional literary criticism] 

9th century Sankaracharya

c. 1000 Abhinavagupta [founder of Kashmir Saivism] 

c. 1000-1070 Kshemendra

Sufisim in India

1137 Death of Ramanuja

Hemachandra [Jain scholar]

?1197-1276 Madhva

1253-1325 Amir Khusrau

1271-97 Jnanesvara, bhakti writer [Marathi, author of a commentary to Bhagavad Gita

c. 1400-1470 Ramananda [follower of Ramuja's sect, teacher of Kabir, spread Vaisnavism to North India] 

1440-1518 Kabir

1469-1539 Guru Nanak

1473-1531 Vallabhacharya

1453-1533 Chaitanya [Bengali]

1532-1623 Tulsidas

(1542-1545 St. Francis Xavier in India)

(1579 Father Thomas Stevens)

1598-1650 Tukaram

1603-4 Compilation of Guru Granth Sahib

(1784 Sir William Jones found Asiatic Society)

1772-1833 Ram Mohan Roy

1818-98 Sayyid Ahmad Khan 

1834-86 Ramakrishna

1869-1948 Mahatma Gandhi

1872-1950 Sri Aurobindo

1913 Tagore wins Nobel Prize for Literature


Looking at this list:

1) The big ommissions in literature seem to be Silappadigaram ("The Jewelled Anklet"), Hala's Saptasataka, Bhatrhari, Jayadeva's Gita-Govind, Somadeva and Ghalib.

2) I am not yet sure what some of the 19th century names signify

3) Bhakti in South Asia (Tamil poetry) and Sufism in India - definitely should have some names in those key movements.

4) Among the moderns, as I mentioned in another post, it is still too early to tell who will be ultimately canonized.

5) These being said, this is a very reasonable short-list, and with further data added (e.g. region of writing / influence, key works / genres of authors, religious affiliation, etc.), I think this is a really good base for constructing a Indian canon list!


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