After Panini, we have many grammarians who lived in the post-Mauryan period. Among them Patanjali was the most outstanding who wrote the magnificent commentary, the Mahabhasya. After Patanjali, the centre of Sanskrit grammar learning shifted to Deccan where Katantra School flourished in the first century AD.
Sarvavarman, probably a courtier of king Hala, produced the grammar Katantra, meaning ‘short or handy work’. It is also known as Kalapa after the peacock vehicle of God Kumara. Further, the twin epics the Mahabharata and Ramayana were enlarged during this period. Ramayana took its present form between 400 BC and 200 BC and Mahabharata between 400 BC and AD 400.
Asvaghosha, apart from being a play write, was a poet as well. He wrote Saundarananda, Buddhacharita, Vajrasuchi and Gandeestotra. The Buddhacharita is of hagiographical nature, and the Saundarananda relates how the Buddha converted his cousin Nanda.
Contemporary with Asvaghosha, patronized by the same king and at times identified with him, was Matricheta who wrote the Chatussataka-stotra (or Varnarhavarna stotra) and the Sata-panchashataka-stotra (or Adhyardha- sataka-stotra) recovered from Central Asia and Tibet.
Slightly later than Asvaghosha and influenced by him was Kumaralata of Taxila whose Sutralankara or Kalpanamandtika are quite famous. Avadana Salaka (AD 100) and the Divyavadana (second century AD) were translated in Chinese in the third century AD. The Lalitvistara mentions a treatise on the art of poetry called Kavyakaragrantha.
The art of acting had already been codified by Panini’s time in the Natasutras of Shilalin and Krisasva. Subandhu flourished during the age of the Nandas and Mauryas. Kautilya mentions natas, nartakas, natyarango-pajivin and preksha.
Nata occurs frequently in the Mahabhasya. All these early forms contributed to the development of Bharata’s Natyashastra belonging to the period between 200 BC and AD 200. Representations of some dance poses (mudra) of the Natyashastra are to be seen in the Amaravati sculptures.
Taking a cue from the Greek influence on Indian sculptures of Gandhara, it has been suggested that Sanskrit drama also developed under the same influence. This theory is supported only by the word yavanika meaning the curtain.
However, since indigenous words for curtain like pad, apati and tiraskarini were there, the Greek influence seems incidental and shows only some superficial interaction. Further, the tragedies in the Greek manner, chorus and the unities of time and place, which use hallmarks of Greek drama, are absent in Indian drama.
Asvaghosha son of Suvarnakshi of Saket, becajne a convert to Buddhism and wrote many Sanskrit plays. Fragments of his plays, aprakarana and a prototype of the later allegorical Prabodha Chandrodaya have been recovered from Turfan. The former, in nine acts called Sariputra Prakarna, or Saradvatiputra Prakarana, deals with the conversion of Sariputra and Maudgalyayana by the Buddha.
It is also believed that Asvaghosha composed a musical play on the story of the conversion of Rashtrapala by the Buddha. Bhasa was another dramatist of the period, manuscripts of whose plays had been recovered by T. Ganapati Sastri from Trivandrum. He wrote, in all, thirteen plays including. Svapnavasavadattam, Charudattam (original of Mrichchhakatikam of Shudraka), Pratignayogandharayana, Ravanabadha & Urubhanga.
Many Buddhist and Jain texts were also written during this period in Pali, Ardha-Magadhi and Prakrit languages. The non-canonical Pali literature of this period comprises the Netti-Prakarana (book of guidance), the Petakopadesha and the Milindapanho also called Nagasena Bhikshu-sutra. Winternitz says that the Milindapanho was composed in the North-West and the rest in Ceylon.
Attakathas used by Buddhaghosha was also composed during this period. Jain Canons used the language known as Ardha-magadhi. The Jain adaptation of the Ramayana story in the Paumachariya of Vimalasuri was a poetical work of this period. Prakrit as a literary language was used extensively in central Deccan. Hala, a Satavahana ruler, is famous for his work Gathasaptasati, which he wrote in Prakrit.
The Shaptasati refers to the royal compiler as Kavi- vatsala i.e. ‘fond of the poets’. Lilavati, the Prakrit romance of Hala, Abhinanda’s Ramacharita and Katha-Tarangini of Palita may be ascribed to this period and they are supposed to have lived in Hala’s court. Gunadhya, whom Govardhana calls an incarnation of Vyasa produced his Brihatkatha, a storehouse of the country’s stories and fables. This was written in Paisachi or Bhutabhasa.
Other than the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, some the Puranas and dharmashastras may have been compiled during this period. Manu’s dharmashastra is usually attributed to a period between 200 BC to AD 200. However, the tenth chapter of this text may belong to the Gupta age. Narada Smriti may be referred to the period AD 100-300. Brihaspati Smriti is placed between AD 200 and 400.