Greatest Literature banner

The Greatest 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.

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 list—with special attention paid to the views by South Asian readers, writers, critics and scholars.

Sometimes it is difficult to decide for the sake of this list which works are to be considered "South Asian", as authors have moved to other parts of the world. We consider writers' origins, their current nationalities, where they write, where they publish and their subject matter to help find a consensus on this question. In the end, though, a judgment call often has to be made and it is admitted some errors may have crept in.

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: November 22, 2022

The 77 greatest works of literature from South Asia

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
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
Play collection
2010
Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew
Shehan Karunatilaka
Sri Lanka
Novel
2013
Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer
Cyurus Mistry
India
Novel
 
The Hungry Ghosts
Shyam Selvadurai
Sri Lanka / Canada
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
2022
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida
Shehan Karunatilaka
Sri Lanka
Novel

Back to top