There was political instability between the era of 500 years after the fall of the Mauryan Empire and before the rise of the Gupta Empire. This period is marked as the development of Dravidian languages and literature in the South India.
The Sanskrit language and various forms of Prakrit language developed and some distinctive literature was written in these languages.
The two great Epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, were compiled. Besides, some of the Dharmasastra were also composed in this period.
The Smritis have continued to play a very important role in Hindu life as it were playing since the last two thousand years.
The Smritis explained the religious duties, usage, laws, and social customs.
The Smritis are the expanded version of the Dharmasutras, which covered the period from (about) sixth century to third century B.C.
The Smritis compiled almost in the period of eight hundred years or even more.
Manusmriti is the oldest among all. It was composed in about the 1st century B.C. Other important Smritis are −
These Smritis (discussed above) are very important sources of law and social customs of the contemporary society and hence, declared to be of divine origin.
Mahabhasya written by Patanjali was the most outstanding work in the field of grammar during the period of 2nd century B.C.
The center of Sanskrit grammar learning shifted to the Deccan after Patanjali.
In Deccan, the Katantra School developed in the first century A.D. Sarvavarman composed the grammar of Katantra. He was a great scholar in the court of Hala (Satavahana King)
Katantra’s grammar was short and handy to help the learning of Sanskrit in about six months.
Hala, the King of Satavahana wrote a great poetical work, namely ‘Gathasaptasati’ in Prakrit language.
Asvaghosha was an important literary figure of this period. He was a great Buddhist philosopher. He had written many poetry, plays, etc. Important of them are −
‘Buddhacharita’ was written in the form of Mahakavya. It is a complete life of Buddha. It has been translated into many languages of the world.
Remains of Asvaghosha's plays have been recovered from Turfan (in central Asia).
‘Svapnavasavadatta’ was written by Bhasa. It is famous Sanskrit play of the period.
The art of dance and drama had already been codified by Panini's time and mentioned by Kautilya and Patanjali.
Natyashastra was written by Bharata in the same period.
‘Milindapanho’ was written in Pali language. It explains the Buddhist doctrines in the form of a dialogue between Milinda and his teacher (the great Buddhist philosopher Nagasena). Milinda is generally identified with the Indo-Greek king Menander.
Tamil language is the oldest one among the south Indian languages. The earliest phase of Tamil literature is associated with the three Sangams.
Sangams were the societies of learned men established by the Pandya kingdom. Each Sangam comprises of a number of distinguished poets and learned scholars.
All literary works were submitted to these Sangams where learned scholars selected the best ones from different works and set their seal of approval.
The Sangam literature was compiled between A.D. 300 and 600.
Ettuttogai collection (the eight anthologies) is considered to be the earliest one belonging to 3rd century B.C. to 3rd century A.D.
Tirukkural written by Thiruvalluvar is the best of the minor didactic poems. Its teachings are considered as an everlasting inspiration and guide to the Tamilians.
Silappadikaram and Manimekhalali are the two Tamil epics. These are important sources for the construction of the early history of south India.