The unfolding

In great literature, especially long running ones, the story and characters often acquire a life of their own.

This is evident when one looks at the early episodes when the characters and stories are being given identities.

As one moves towards the middle and the end, a sort of automatic motion can be detected in the series.

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What is unsaid

Often, in literature, one comes across scenes and settings in which the story and dialogues are suggestive, than straightforward.

Such parts form some of the most powerful components of any writing, be it a novel or play or poetry.

Perhaps the attractive quality of such writing is what is left to the reader’s imagination.

If it so happens that most readers have similar ways of filling in the void left by what is left unsaid, it speaks to the wondrous achievement of the writer.

Details

In the classic Sanskrit play, Shakuntala, poet Kalidasa achieved one of the peaks of human achievement.

The play is structured from beginning to end in symmetry. As a whole, it is harmonious.

One observes such minute details such as how the stem of a flower appears when plucked. This serves as a plot device to help the lovelorn King Dushyanta to locate Shakuntala, the object of his desire.

Beautification

In writing poetry and prose, ancient Indians had gone into immense depths to study the process.

This is done under the science of rasa (aesthetics).

Various tools that can be used in the process are described in much detail.

One of the aspects is alankara (beautification), which includes over 200 templates that can be used to beautify a piece of literature.

Imagine

In the plays of ancient India, such as those of Kalidasa, one finds descriptions of fantastical personalities and events.

However, not many of these plays relied on there being extensive usage of special effects or props on the stage.

Instead, the audience was intended to use their imagination as the actors acted out such scenes and provided beautiful descriptions of the situations in verse.

Laconic versatility

One of the eminent philosophers and authors of the past century lived for most of his life as a teacher. Mysore Hiriyanna had an extraordinary grasp of Indian philosophy and literature.

He came out with works in English that clearly explain the ideas behind Indian philosophy. Owing to his erudition, although they were small in size, each of his works packed a real punch. His works on philosophy and aesthetics remain classics today.

In life, he was a man who lived his life in a disciplined way and was a man of a few words. He lived a simple life, a trait he shared with the rishis (sages) of the Indian tradition.

Stalwart

Among the great writers of India in the past century, the name of D. V. Gundappa features prominently. He was a rare combination of limitless talent combined with the utmost humility and forthrightness.

He began as a journalist and, over the course of his life, composed many works of fiction and non-fiction mainly in Kannada and a few in English.

Among his great works include Mankutimmana Kagga, Jeevana Dharma Yoga (Srimad Bhagavad Gita Tatparya) and Jnapaka Chitrashale.

He stood as an example of the lived philosophy. He amply demonstrated that the driving force behind all of Indian philosophy is to solve everyday problems and provide a practical way to live.

Literary greatness

In the history of literature, there have been a few achievements which deserve special notice.

The works of William Shakespeare for example are acknowledged as an ideal.

In Sanskrit, the works of Kalidasa are similarly significant. His play, Shakuntala, is acknowledged as a world classic.

In this work, Kalidasa displays the best elements of the Sanskrit drama tradition. It is said that it is so well crafted that not even a word appears out of place.

Classics and evolution of language

Shakespeare is said to be the greatest poet-dramatist of all time. His plays have a range and quality to them which have been unmatched since his time.

One reason I find his work fascinating is seeing how the English language has evolved since his time. Apart from the changes in spellings (which were not standardized back then), some of the words and phrases also have retained the same spelling, but changed in meaning. For example, “silly” originally meant happy and blessed.

The other interesting reason is how he masterfully weaves his sentences and words together to produce a rich depth of meaning.

For example, in All’s Well That Ends Well, the Countess of Rosillion describes Helen, who she has been taking care of after the passing of the latter’s father, below. She proclaims that Helen has every right to love who she desires :

Faith, I do: her father bequeathed her to me; and
she herself, without other advantage, may lawfully
make title to as much love as she finds: there is
more owing her than is paid; and more shall be paid
her than she’ll demand.

In the above, Shakespeare gracefully interleaves the meanings of economics and love.

On the subject of classical works as a whole, I think there is a treasure trove of literature in some of the classic Kannada and Sanskrit works. It is interesting to read such texts from the source and discover their nuanced meanings.