complete – until the period of the emergence of proto-regional languages in
different areas. Needless to say, the change is extremely significant from the
perspective of the social history of the period.
    This triumph of Sanskrit is at one level, evident from the magnificent
secular literature that the period produced. As both tradition and the extant
royal prasastis of the period indicate, this spurt in literary activity centred
around the court – an association which benefited the major genres of
creative literature: poetry, drama and so on. The major ritis or literary styles
began to develop. The use of various metres had become common by this
time; in his Brihatsamhita, Varahamihira illustrated as many as sixty metres.
    At another level, Sanskrit became the vehicle for giving a standard shape
to much of what had hitherto remained amorphous. The best illustration of
this would be the Puranas. The nucleus of Puranas certainly existed earlier,
as also did its five lakshanas, but the form in which they are available
certainly does not correspond to this scheme and they present a vast mass of
material, the incorporation of which must have been felt necessary only
around this time. The process can also be seen in the ‘Sanskritisation’ of folk
tales and fables, of which the original Panchatantra appears to have been a
contemporary example.
    Sanskrit as an official language, penetrated to the far south (and in fact, it
spread to the south-east Asian countries too), but the rich literary heritage of
Tamil continued to prosper from local patronage. Two epic-like compositions
are believed to have been products of this period. The better known of them,
the Silappadikaram by Ilango Vadigal, reveals that Brahmanism and its
values had penetrated considerably into the Tamil society, but structurally,
the epic is distinct and presents a combination of ‘high’ and ‘folk’ tradition –
a tradition which is perhaps totally absent in the north Indian epics.
    Several scientific thinkers of the period refer to the work of their
predecessors, thereby suggesting the assimilation of earlier indigenous as
well as heterogeneous influences in their own thinking. Varahamihira, for
example, in his Panchasiddhantika, mentions five earlier Siddhantas of
which Romaka and Paulisa are believed to have been derived from the
Hellenistic world. Similarly, rasavidya or alchemy, which gradually came to
be associated with esoteric tantric practices, may have grown out of contacts
with southern China. The attribution         of male and female principles to