In the history of literature, the sixth and seventh centuries are equally important.
Sanskrit continued to be used by the ruling class from the second century ad. In line with the pomp, vanity, and splendour of the feudal lords, the style of Sanskrit prose and poetry became ornate.
Writing became replete with metaphors, imagery, adjectives, and adverbs that made it difficult for the reader to comprehend its essential meaning. Bana’s prose is a typical example.
In poetry, many metres were invented and elaborated to meet the requirements of the new ornate, verbose, high-flown style. In line with the dominance of landed magnates over the social hierarchy, artificial prose and poetry became fashionable with the elitist authors, who widened the chasm between the landlords and the peasants. Kosambi considers the combination of sex and religion to be a distinctive feature of feudal literature.
A leisured landed class sought the support of the Sanskrit writers who wrote on sex and tantrism. Sexual union came to be seen as union with the supreme divine being. According to the Vajrayani tantrikas, supreme knowledge, which amounted to supreme bliss, could be realized through the sexual union of the male and female. Spiritualism was thus inverted to justify eroticism in art and literature.
The medieval period produced a large corpus of commentaries on ancient texts in Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit, and these were written between the fifth and eighteenth centuries. They discussed not only the Dharmasutras and Smrtis but also Panini’s grammar, the Grhyasutras, Srautasutras, Sulvasutras, and medical and philosophical texts. Commentaries on the Pali texts are called atthakatha, and those on Prakrit texts curni, bhasya, and niryukti. This literature greatly strengthened the authoritarian trend in intellectual life, seeking to preserve the state- and varna-based patriarchal society, and to adapt it to new situations.
Several law-books were also composed between ad 600 and 900. In order to make themselves acceptable, some of the lawgivers called themselves Vrddha Manu or Brhat Parasara. In any event, the commentaries helped to perpetuate the essentials of social inequality and adapt the law and rituals to the new inequalities that had arisen from the unequal distribution of land and power. Commentaries and digests continued till the eighteenth century. They emphasized continuity, and the dominant trend in medieval times was that of a closed mind linked to a closed economy that killed creativity.