Top 10 Oldest Books in India – Ancient Literature

India had a great influence on the world’s history. The ancient Indian literature written by our scholars proves the facts of today’s modern science. Literature in India has a deep meaning and significance in our day-to-day life. It is so rich that following its principles can lead you to achieve great success in your life.

Top 10 Oldest Books in India

Ancient scholars have preserved their learnings in the form of works of literature which can be a guiding light for us. This literature enlightens us on our culture, religion, and spiritual way of living. We should assimilate and conserve this treasure for an infinite period of time.

If you are wondering which are the oldest books in India? Scroll down and you will get the answer.

List of oldest books in India:

1. Vedas

Vedas, oldest book in India

Written in: 1500 – 1200 BCE

Written by: Rishis (Sages)

Language: Sanskrit

Vedas is the oldest known Indian literature which was scripted around 1500 – 1200 BCE. This ancient literature composes Hindu religious texts and principles of Hindu religion. Earlier Vedas were transferred verbally from master to students until it was scripted.

There are four main types of Vedas namely – Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda. Each Veda is further divided into four subdivisions – Aranyakas, Brahmanas, Samhitas, Upanishads.

Rigveda has a total of 10 books called ‘Mandalas’ and contains 10600 verses. It is about Shlokas and knowledge.

Samaveda refers to chants and melodies. It contains 1549 verses and is a base of India Classical music and dance. It is divided into two parts.

Yajurveda stands for worshipping knowledge. It preserves mantras and chants that are used while performing certain Yajnas. Yajurveda is separated into two types, Krishna and Shukla. Krishna has an unarranged and unclear collection of verses while Shukla has arranged and clear verses.

Atharvaveda describes the basis and way of living life. It contains 730 hymns/suktas, 6000 mantras, and 20 books.

2. Sulbha Sutras

Sulbha Sutras, top 10 oldest books in India

Written in: 800 – 200 BCE

Written by: Baudhayana

Language: Sanskrit

Sulbha Sutras is one of the most ancient texts in India. It is a collection of various formulas and geometry related to fire-altar construction. Sutras mean formulas and there are eight types of Sulbha Sutras.

Apastamba, Baudhayana, Manava, Katyayana, Maitrayaniya, Varaha, Vadhula, Hiranyakeshin are the eight collections of Sulbha Sutras.

Every collection contains formulas and theorems related to mathematics, geometry, and yajna construction.

This was written by Baudhayana and Baudhayan Sulv Sutra today known as Pythagoras theorem was written by him in the Sulbha Sutras.

3. Ramayana

Ramayana, oldest book written in India

Written in: 1000 – 400 BCE

Written by: Valmiki

Language: Sanskrit

Ramayana is the third oldest book written in India. It is an ancient epic that was written by Valmiki. This epic is known as Itihasa as it is believed that it happened in the past.

Ramayana is the well-known and ideal literature of India. It contains 500 chapters and 24,000 verses. It is one of the greatest epics ever written not only in India but all over the world. It leaves its significance on world literature.

Ramayana is an adventurous story of Lord Rama’s exile and returns to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Laxman. Ramayana depicts the boundless love between brothers, the ideal wife in the form of Sita, how good can be overcome over bad.

It contains principles of the way of living life and guides us to be better human beings. The legacy of Ramayana is never-ending.

Fun fact: Ramayana serial aired in 1987-1988 on Indian television has broken records drawing over 100 million views and becoming the world’s most viewed mythological serial. This shows its significance in India.

4. Mahabharata

Mahabharata, greatest epic in the world

Written in: 400 BCE – 400 CE

Written by: Vyasa

Language: Sanskrit

Mahabharata is not only one of the oldest but it is the longest epic ever written. It is bigger than Ramayana four times. It is also considered the fifth Veda. This epic was narrated by Vedvyas and written by Lord Ganesha.

This historical epic depicts a war between two cousin branches Pandavas and Kauravas for the throne. The war took place between 100 Kauravas and 5 Pandavas. In this war, Lord Krishna became the guide of Arjuna and led the war.

The whole conversation between Krishna and Arjuna has been scripted in Bhagavad Gita another ancient Indian literature.

Mahabharata has 18 chapters, over 100,000 slokas, and 1.8 million words in total. This great epic is the biggest piece of literature ever written in the world. It is remarkable and extraordinary literature.

5. Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gita, top 10 oldest books in India

Written in: 200 BCE – 200 CE

Written by: Vyasa

Language: Sanskrit

Bhagavad Gita is a part of Mahabharata and it is the conversation between Lord Krishna and Pandava Prince Arjuna before the beginning of the Kurukshetra battle. It is included in the Bhishma Parva chapter of Mahabharata.

This 18 chapter Hindu scripture has 700 verses written by Lord Ganesha and narrated by Vedvyasin Sanskrit.

Bhagavad Gita is considered a Hindu holy book that enlightens and guides us on the path of life. Many great leaders have followed Gita to find answers to life. Even Albert Einstein had read and appreciated Bhagavad Gita.

Originally written in Sanskrit Gita is now translated into 175 languages and is also referred to as Soul Dictionary.

6. Kama Sutra

Kama Sutra, oldest books in India

Written in: 400 BCE – 200 CE

Written by: Vātsyāyana

Language: Sanskrit

Kama Sutra is one of the oldest books written in India by Vatsyayana in the Sanskrit language. In Sanskrit ‘Kama’ means desire and ‘Sutra’ means strategy to achieve it. And this literature is considered as a Bible of sex positions.

This ancient literature comprises 36 chapters. 1250 verses are divided into 7 parts. This book also illumes us about four stages of every human life – 1. Dharma, 2. Artha, 3. Kama, 4. Moksha.

People’s conception of the Kama Sutra is different than what the author is trying to convey. Kama Sutra is not only about the sex positions. The sex positions cover only 20% of the Kama Sutra.

The rest 80% teaches and helps humans to achieve their desires and sustain the pinnacle of that joyful experience. It enlightens us to achieve great happiness, the art of living well, attain and maintain healthy relationships.

7. Arthashastra

Arthashastra, top 10 oldest books in India

Written in: 300 BCE – 200 CE

Written by: Chanakya

Language: Sanskrit

Chanakya was one of the most ingenious and brilliant people in Indian history. His contribution towards the betterment of his empire was noteworthy. He was the advisor and guardian of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya.

Arthshastra was written by Chanakya in the 3rd century BCE and it includes the strategies, laws, court systems, ethics, economics, etc. This book contains all the information that is needed to run a peaceful and organized empire.

The Arthashastra is divided into 15 books, 150 chapters, and 180 topics. It contains all strategies and guidance for a king to rule his kingdom in a systematic method.

Arthashastra was lost until it was found in 1905 by the Sanskrit scholar Rudrapatna Shamasastry. Shamasastry later translated this Sanskrit script into English and the Arthashastra became renowned throughout the world. It is compared to The Prince (published 1532 CE) by the Italian political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli.

8. Panchatantra

Panchatantra, best stories for children, oldest books in India

Written in: 200 BCE – 200 CE

Language: Sanskrit

Do you remember the story of Monkey and Crocodile, tortoise and Geese we heard in our childhood? Who would have thought that these favorite and famous stories were written around 200 BCE – 200 CE.

Panchatantra is one of the oldest books in India. It is an ancient Indian animal fable written in Sanskrit by fictitious names Vishnu Sharma and Vasubhaga.

It contains 5 books.

Book 1: Mitra-bheda. This book contains 30 fables and covers 45% of Panchatantra.

Book 2: Mitra-samprāpti. It has 10 fables and covers 22% of the total length.

Book 3: Kākolūkīyam. This book contains 18 fables and makes up about 26% of the total work.

Book 4: Labdh. It has 13 fables and covers 3.5%.

Book 5: Aparīkṣitakārakaṃ. This book contains 12 fables and covers the rest 3.5%.

It is one of the most translated Indian texts. It is present in more than 50 languages and 200 versions throughout the world.

9. Panchasiddhantika

Panchasiddhantika, top 10 oldest books of India

Written in: 575 CE

Written by: Varāhamihira

Language: Sanskrit

Panchasiddhantika is an ancient book written by Varahamihira in 575 CE. He was a great philosopher, astrologer, and astronomer. He had learned Greek at his time and praised Greeks in his works for being trained in the sciences.

This old book contains five astronomical treatises as Surya Siddhanta, Romaka Siddhanta, Paulisa Siddhanta, Vasishtha Siddhanta, and Paitamaha Siddhanta.

Varahamihira was the foremost individual to note that the shifting of the equinox is 50.32 arc seconds per year.

This ancient text is now considered lost.

10. Diamond Sutra

Diamond Sutra, world's first printed book

Written in: 868 CE

It is believed that Diamond Sutra was written in Sanskrit in the 2nd century CE. And then translated by Kumarjiva into Chinese in 401 CE.

Diamond Sutra is the oldest known book printed in the world. It was printed by Wang Jie in China on 11th May 868 CE.

It was discovered by Marc Aurel Stein in the cave called The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas along with 40,000 scrolls which were sealed and hidden for more than 1000 years.

Diamond Sutra is believed to be a conversation between Buddha’s pupil Subhati and his master. It is believed that it was directly dictated by Buddha and has great importance in Buddism.

This 6000 words long sutra enlightens us about our existence and soul. It is believed as one of the oldest books in India.

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