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The 77 Greatest Works of South Asian Literature

This list comprises the greatest literature from the area once called the "Indian subcontinent" but is now more properly referred to as South Asia. This includes the countries of India, Pakistan, Bengali, Sri Lanka and several others that have existed historically.

For the South Asian list we have tried to cover all possible genres, cultures and periods of literature from the area, based on the same extensive research and surveys carried out for our Greatest Literature of All Time—with special attention paid to the views of South Asian readers, writers, critics and scholars.

Sometimes it is difficult to decide which works are to be considered "South Asian", as authors who started their careers in the area sometimes moved to and worked in other parts of the world. To help find consensus on this question, we consider writers' origins, their current nationalities, where they wrote, where they published, and what they wrote about. In the end though, a judgment call often has to be made and not everyone is going to agree with every tough call we've had to make.

One more caveat: although we think this is a good beginning for a list of the greatest works from South Asia, we suspect it is too short and we expect it to grow with our ongoing research. Check back for updates.

Latest update: July 12, 2023

c.600–200 CE
Ramayana
Valmiki
India, long poem
c.400 BCE–400 CE
Mahābhārata
Vyasa
India, long poem
c.200–300 BCE
Panchatantra (Five Treatises)
Anonymous
India, story collection
c.300
The Vision of Vasavadatta
Bhasa
India, play
c.400
The Recognition of Shakuntala
Kālidāsa
India, play
c.450
Mahāvaṃsa
Anonymous
Sri Lanka, long poem
450–500
The Three Satakas
Bhartṛhari
India, poetry collection
c.500
The Tale of an Anklet
Iḷaṅkõ Aṭikaḷ
India, long poem
c.1000
Twenty-five Tales of Baital
ed. Somadeva
India, story collection
1866
Kapalkundala
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Bengal, novel
1873
Bishabriksha
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Bengal, novel
1882
Anandamath
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Bengal, novel
 
The Fruitseller from Kabul
Rabindranath Tagore
Bengal, story
1899
Umrao Jaan Ada
Mirza Hadi Ruswa
India, novel
1901
The Broken Nest
Rabindranath Tagore
Bengal, novella
1910
Gora
Rabindranath Tagore
Bengal, novel
1912
The Post Office
Rabindranath Tagore
Bengal, play
 
Song Offerings
Rabindranath Tagore
Bengal, poetry collection
1914–1917
Bunch of Stories
Rabindranath Tagore
Bengal, story collection
1916
The Home and the World
Rabindranath Tagore
Bengal, novel
1922
Anarkali
Imtiaz Ali Taj
India, play
1935
Untouchable
Mulk Raj Anand
India, novel
 
Swami and Friends
R.K. Narayan
India, novel
1943
The Crooked Line
Ismat Chugtai
India, novel
 
Mulgadi Days
R.K. Narayan
India, story collection
1950
The Skeleton
Amrita Pritam
India, story collection
1951
The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian
Nirad C. Chaudhuri
India, memoir
1952
The Financial Expert
R.K. Narayan
India, novel
1953
The Private Life of an Indian Prince
Mulk Raj Anand
India, novel
1954
Nectar in a Sieve
Kamala Markandaya
India, novel
1955
Waiting for the Mahatma
R.K. Narayan
India, novel
1956
Train to Pakistan
Khushwant Singh
India, novel
1958
The Guide
R.K. Narayan
India, novel
1959
River of Fire
Qurratulain Hyder
India, novel
1963
Best Stories of Manto
Sadaat Hasan Manto
Pakistan, story collection
1965
Pterodactyl, Puran Shay, and Pirtha
Mahasweta Devi
Bangladesh, novella
1966
The English Teacher
R.K. Narayan
India, novel
1967
The Vendor of Sweets
R.K. Narayan
India, novel
1974
Crooked Line
Ismat Chughtai
India, novel
1977
Phaniyamma
M.K. Indira
India, novella
1980
Clear Light of Day
Anita Desai
India, novel
1981
Midnight's Children
Salman Rushdie
India, novel
1983
Shame
Salman Rushdie
India, novel
1984
In Custody
Anita Desai
India, novel
1985
Rich Like Us
Nayantara Saghal
India, novel
1986
The Golden Gate
Vikram Seth
India, novel
1988
Baumgartner's Bombay
Anita Desai
India, novel
 
The Shadow Lines
Amitav Ghosh
India, novel
 
The Satanic Verses
Salman Rushdie
India, novel
 
Ice Candy Man
Bapsi Sidhwa
Pakistan, novel
1989
The Great Indian Novel
Shashi Tharoor
India, novel
1990
Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Salman Rushdie
India, novel
1992
Vardi Wala Gunda
Ved Prakash Sharma
India, novel
 
The Triple Mirror of the Self
Zulfikar Ghose
Pakistan, novel
1993
The Jam Fruit Tree
Carl Muller
Sri Lanka, novel
 
A Suitable Boy
Vikram Seth
India, novel
1994
The Amulet
Punyakante Wijenaike
Sri Lanka, novel
1996
Quilt and Other Stories
Ismat Chugtai
India, story collection
1997
The God of Small Things
Arundhati Roy
India, novel
1999
Feasting, Fasting
Anita Desai
India, novel
2003
The Road From Elephant Pass
Nihal De Silva
Sri Lanka, novel
2004
The Last Song of Dusk
Siddharth Shangvi
India, novel
2005
The Collector's Wife
Mitra Phukan
India, novel
2006
The Inheritance of Loss
Kiran Desai
India, novella
2007
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Mohsin Hamid
Pakistan, novel
 
Dara Shikoh
Danish Iqbal
India, play
2008
The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga
India, novel
 
Sea of Poppies
Amitav Ghosh
India, novel
2009
2 States: The Story of My Marriage
Chetan Bhagat
India, novel
 
Three Plays
Utpal Dutt
India, Plays
2010
Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew
Shehan Karunatilaka
Sri Lanka, novel
2013
Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer
Cyurus Mistry
India, novel
2015
Devourers,The
Indra Das
India, novel
 
Ghachar Ghochar
Vivek Shanbhag
India, novella
2017
Exit West
Mohsin Hamid
Pakistan, novel
 
Home Fire
Kamila Shamsie
Pakistan, novel
2018
Tomb of Sand
Geetanjali Shree
India, novel
2022
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida
Shehan Karunatilaka
Sri Lanka, novel

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