This literary style, which includes both poetry and prose, is characterised by abundant usage of figures of speech such as metaphors, similes, and hyperbole to create its emotional effects. The result is a short lyrical work, court epic, narrative or dramatic work. Kāvya can refer to the style or the completed body of literature. Aśvaghoṣa (c. 80–150 AD), a philosopher and poet considered the father of Sanskrit drama, is attributed with first using the term.
Although very little literature in the kāvya style written before the time of Kālidāsa (5th century CE) survives, it can be assumed from quotations in Patañjali's grammatical treatise the Mahābhāṣya (2nd century BCE), as well as from poems written on various inscriptions of the 4th to 6th centuries CE, that it dates back to an early time.
Kālidāsa [b][c] is believed to have lived in the early 5th century CE. He is the author of two epics, the Raghuvaṃśa and Kumārasambhava. These two epics are traditionally known as mahākāvya "great epics".
Other writers of great epics were Bhāravi (6th century CE), author of Kirātārjunīya; Māgha (c. 7th Century CE), author of Śiśupāla·vadha, an epic famous for its linguistic ingenuity, and Śrīharṣa (12th century CE), author of Naiṣadhīya·carita. Another epic often called a mahākāvya, is Bhaṭṭikāvya, which is simultaneously a narrative and a manual of grammatical instruction. It is believed by some to have been written by the 7th-century poet and grammarian Bhartṛihari.
Those who wrote in prose included Subandhu (5th or 7th century CE?), author of Vasavadatta, a romantic tale, and Bāṇabhaṭṭa (also called Bāṇa) (7th century CE), author of Kadambari, a romantic novel, and of Harṣacarita, a biography written in poetic prose.
- a life of Buddha
- the story of ten princes
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