There are five great Epic poems in Sanskrit. They are:

  1. Raghuvamsa of Kalidasa
  2. Kumarasambhava of Kalidasa
  3. Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi
  4. Sisupalavada of Sri Maagha and
  5. Naishadham of Sri Harsha (not the King Harsh).

Raghuvamsa: This is work of Kalidasa. It describes the lives of the kings of the solar dynasty beginning with Dilip. It consists of 19 cantos. The Rama’s story also described in this. But the list of ancestors was not followed as mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana. The life history of King Dilip, Raghu, Ajay, Dasaratha, Rama and his three descendants are described in detail. He gives the list of kings of solar dynasty till Agnivarna, who died without a child. Later one of his wife, who was pregnant was made as the queen. The work stopped here. The description of greatness of Solar dynasty, Dilip’s journey to Vasista’s ashram, Nandi, Raghu Digvijaya, Indumathi swayamvara are very interesting for the readers.

Kumarasambhava: Kalidasa also composed this. This work consists of 17 cantos. It deals with the birth of the war God Kumara or Subhahmanya and killing the enemy Taraka. There was a controversy in this work. Some say that Kalidasa composed upto 7 cantos only and some accept 8th also. But some more strongly argue that Kalidasa himself composed the full work. Every canto is unique in this work. Readers can enjoy this work. The descriptions of Parvathi, her panance, Siva’s Penance, Manmatha’s death, Siva Stuthi by the 7 sages, conversation of Siva Parvathi, Their marriage are very interesting.

my word: Since I have done research on this work in the view of names of Siva used, this work was composed by Kalidasa upto 8 cantos only. (Those who want can get a copy of this from me).

Kiratharjuniyam: Bharavi composed this in 18 cantos. It describes the story of Arjuna acquiring the Pasupatha Asthra from Siva. At the end of the penance Siva in the disguise of a hunter (Kiratha) tested the strength and ability of Arjuna in an encounter. This is narrated in Vanaparva of Mahabharata. Bharavi has transformed it in a beautiful Kavya. The style of Bharavai is said to be ‘Bharaveh Arthagauravam’. His date was somewhere in the 6th AD. The 15th canto contains a number of stanzas illustrating all kinds of puns and alliterations. The descriptions of forest and mountains create brilliant images before our eyes.

Only one sloka from Kiratha-Arjuniyam is enough to describe the great of Bharavi says that “if someone does the work in hurry becomes fool and the wealth which follow good characters reach a person one who acts wise.”

There are two interesting incidents available in the life history of Bharavi.

When he was a student, he stood first in education and he was very wise. He was very famous among scholars. Everybody praised him. But his father was away from praising him. Bharavi was upset and decided to kill his father. One day he was sitting with a big rock on the wooden beam, under which his father used to take food. While serving food mother asked her husband about his view over their son. Then father replied that he was very much happy about the performance of their son and proud of him. Due to the interest of their son’s progress he was not praising. Listening that Bharavi climbed down and said his mistake and requested for apology.

The second incident was that when he was searching for job, he was roaming here and there. One day he was sitting near a pool, plucked some lotus leaves and wrote some of his compositions over those leaves. Then he left them there and went away. Afterwards a king came there for water on the way of his hunting. He was upset seeing the lotus leaves and became happy to read slokas over them. One among them was the sloka, which meaning is given above. He was very much impressed with the gist, carved it in a golden plate and placed it in his bedroom. He ordered his soldiers to find the Poet. At last they found Bharavi and he was made as the head of poet of the Royal Court. Once the king, as usual, went for hunting and did not come back for many years since he lost his way in the forest. After few years he returned in the mid night to the palace and wanted to meet his wife in the same condition. That time the queen was sleeping and beside there was a man sleeping. He was upset and became angry. So he decided to kill her. He raised his sword and made a blow. But the sward hit somewhere and it made a huge noise. Everyone got up and also the queen. The queen was very much happy to see her husband back and told the person next to her “my dear son! look at your father, he had returned from hunting”. Now the king realised his great mistake and noticed that the blow of sward hit the golden plate.

Sisupalavadham: Magha composed this in 8th AD. A simple incident from Mahabharath where Krishna kills Sisupala, the king of Chedi during the occasion of Yudhishtira’s Rajasuya Yajna. It is said Magha is also a remarkable poet. There is a proverb which says that the life of a person will end by reading Magha’s work (Sisupalavadham) and Kalidasa’s Meghadoot. Magha excels Bharavi in the artistry of his style. He imitates Bharavi in many respects. Bharavi used the word ‘Lakshmih’ in the last verse of each canto whereas Magha used ‘Srih’. Magha is admired for his delightful style, profound thoughts and beautiful similes. His vocabulary is very vast and his knowledge of grammar is deep. Also it is said “if one studies the 9th canto of this work and there will be no new word for him to study.”

Naishadiya Charitam: Sriharsha (not king Harshvardhana) composed this in 12th AD. He was the son of Hira and Maamalla devi. He was patronised by the kings Vijayachandra and Jayachandra of Kanauj. We come to know that he had composed many works. He composed this work in 60 cantos but only 22 cantos are available now and the work is incomplete. The theme of this work was taken from Nalopakyanam (story of Nala & Damayanti) of Mahabharatha. The style of Harsha is called “Narikela Pakam” like the coconut. The praise of the book is that “this work is the medicine for Scholars”. He also describes that his work is not for fools to play with. He had written other works called ‘Khandana Khanda Khadya’, ‘Vijaya Prasasti’ and ‘Gowdorvisa Prasasthi’.