Orality and Literature in Ancient India

· The earliest settlement in South Asia was the Indus Valley civilization (aka the Harappan civilization). The Indus Valley civilization lasted from about 2,600 BCE to 1,900 BCE.

· Cool fact: this civilization had ties with Mesopotamia when The Epic of Gilgamesh was being composed (Puchner et al 677-78)

· The Harappan people had a writing system, but it has not been deciphered yet. See below for an example:

(Harappan Script (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. from Laboratory of Kuang Yu Chen)

· The next group of people to to arrive were the Indo-Aryans, who settled what is modern-day Punjab, or the Pakistan/India area (Puchner et al 679)

· The Indo-Aryan language became Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas, and of much literature in the Indian sub-continent. People wrote in Sanskrit continuously from 1,200 BCE to 1,800 CE — that’s 3,000 years!

(15th C CE Sanskrit Pen Written Document (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. from the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian)

· Sanskrit is related to Greek and Latin–“these languages share much of their grammar, use similar sentence structures, and draw on hundreds of common roots for their vocabularies” (Puchner et al 679) –> Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, and ancient Persian are thought to derive from a single parent language, called proto-Indo European

· Proto-Indo European was a language that arose in the Caucasus Mountains (on the border of the Ukraine and Georgia) -OR- in Anatolia (modern day Turkey

· The close relationship between these ancient languages supports the hypothesis that Homer, Valmiki, and Virgil’s work share similarities because their languages had the same root (Puchner et al 679)

· The first written works on the Indian subcontinent were “hymns and ritual formulas (mantras)” organized into a group of texts called the Vedas (Puchner et al 679)

· HOWEVER, most stories were transmitted orally (Puchner et al 679-80)

· Stories were transmitted (and still are today!) by priests and scholars who “are trained from early childhood to memorize an entire work in multiple forms: by phoneme (sound unit), word, verse, chapter, and book; by mnemonic summaries of the whole work, and by its ‘indexed’ words; and even by the reverse order of its verses” (Puchner et al 680) –> they are capable of reciting 1,028 hymns in correct order (Puchner et al 680)

· Today, there are one dozen  writing systems on the Indian subcontinent, including Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, Marthi, Kannada, Tamil, Urdu, and others (Puchner et al 680)

Read these website:



Indian Pantheons: crash course world mythology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_NJAJGCKD8&feature=youtu.be

The Ramayana Through Dance:


Ramayana Navarasa: