Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858

3. Inschriften

6. Prakrit / by George Abraham Grierson (1911)

Herausgegeben von: Alois Payer


Zitierweise / cite as:

Grierson, George Abraham <1851-1941>: Prakrit (1911). -- (Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858 / Alois Payer ; 3. Inschriften, 6.). -- Fassung vom 2008-03-21. -- http://www.payer.de/quellenkunde/quellen036.htm            

Erstmals publiziert: in: Encyclopaedia Britannica. -- 11. ed. -- Vol 22. -- 1911. -- S. 251 - 254. -- Original online: http://www.archive.org/details/encyclopaediabri22chisrich. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-08 

Erstmals hier publiziert: 2008-03-21


Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung FS 2008

©opyright: Public Domain

Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit  von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

Falls Sie die diakritischen Zeichen nicht dargestellt bekommen, installieren Sie eine Schrift mit Diakritika wie z.B. Tahoma.

"George Abraham Grierson (7 January 1851, Glenageary, County Dublin, Ireland - 9 March 1941, Camberley, Surrey, England, United Kingdom) was born to a prominent Dublin family in 1851. His father and grandfather, both also named George Grierson, were well-known printers and publishers.

Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, he joined the Indian Civil Service in 1871 and reached the Bengal Presidency in 1873. He would eventually become Magistrate and Collector at Patna and, later, Opium Agent for Bihar. In 1898 he was appointed Superintendent of the newly formed Linguistic Survey of India and moved to England “for convenience of consulting European libraries and scholars” (Thomas and Turner n.d., 3).

Grierson published scholarly works throughout his career: on the dialects and peasant life of Bihar, on Hindi literature, on bhakti, and on linguistics.

His contemporaries noted his lack of sympathy for Advaita Vedanta, which he regarded as “pandit religion” but noted his “warm appreciation of the monotheistic devotion of the country folk” (Thomas and Turner n.d., 11) Grierson had thought that bhakti stemmed from contact with Christian communities but later admitted that Indian bhakti was older than Christianity, without ruling out later Christian influence.

Most of Grierson's later work deals with linguistics. In a celebratory account of his life, F.W. Thomas and R.L. Turner refer to the extensive publications of the Linguistic Survey of India as “a great Imperial museum, representing and systematically classifying the linguistic botany of India” (n.d., 18)"

[Quelle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Abraham_Grierson. -- Zugriff am 2008-03-08]

PRAKRIT (prākṛta, natural), a term applied to the vernacular languages of India as opposed to the literary Sanskrit (saṃskṛta, purified). The place which the Prakrits occupy in regard to the Indo-European languages (q.v.), ancient and modern, is treated under that head. There were two main groups of ancient Indo-Aryan dialects, or Primary Prakrits, viz. the language of the Midland or Āryavārta, and that of what is called the Outer Band. The language of the Midland became the language of literature, and was crystallized in the shape of literary Sanskrit about 300 B.C. Beside it all the Primary Prakrits continued to develop under the usual laws of phonetics, and, as vernaculars, reached a secondary stage marked by a tendency to simplify harsh combinations of consonants and the broader diphthongs, the synthetic processes of declension and conjugation remaining as a whole unaltered. The process of development closely resembles that of old Italian from the Italic dialects of Latin times. It should be noted that although the literary dialect of the Midland became fixed, the vernacular of the same tract continued to develop along with the other Primary Prakrits, but owing to the existence of a literary standard by its side its development was to a certain extent retarded, so that it was left somewhat behind by its fellows in the race.

The Secondary Prakrits, in their turn, received literary culture. In their earliest stage one of them became the sacred language of Buddhism, and under the name of Pali (q.v.) has been widely studied. In a still later stage several Secondary Prakrits became generally employed for a new literature, both sacred and profane. Not only were three of them used for the propagation of the Jaina religion (see JAINS), but they  were also dealt with as vehicles for independent secular works, besides being largely employed in the Indian drama. In the last-named Brahmans, heroes and people of high rank spoke in Sanskrit, while the other characters expressed themselves in some Secondary Prakrit according to nationality or profession. This later stage of the Secondary Prakrits is known as the Prakrit par excellence, and forms the main subject of the present article. A still further stage of development will also be discussed, that of the Apabhraṃśa, or "corrupt language." The Prakrit par excellence, which will throughout the rest of this article be called simply "Prakrit," underwent the common fate of all Indian literary languages. In its turn it was fixed by grammarians, and as a literary language ceased to grow, while as a vernacular it went on in its own course. From the point of view of grammarians this further development was looked upon as corruption, and its result hence received the name of Apabhraṃśa. Again in their turn the Apabhraṃśas received literary cultivation and a stereotyped form, while as vernaculars they went on into the stage of the Tertiary Prakrits and become the modern Indo-Aryan languages.

In the Prakrit stage of the Secondary Prakrits we see the same grouping as before a Midland language, and the dialects of the Outer Band. The Prakrit of the Midland was known as Śaurasenī, from Śūrasena, the name of the country round Mathurā (Muttra). It was the language of the territories having the Gangetic Doab for their centre. To the west it probably extended as far as the modern Lahore and to the east as far as the confluence of the Jumna and the Ganges. Conquests carried the language much further afield, so that it occupied not only Rajputana, but also Gujarat. As stated above, the development of Śaurasenī was retarded by the influence of its great neighbour Sanskrit. Moreover, both being sprung from the same original the Primary Prakrit of the Midland its vocabulary, making allowances for phonetic changes, is the same as in that language.

The Prakrits of the Outer Band, all more closely connected with each other than any one of them was to Śaurasenī, were Māgadhī, Ardhamāgadhī, Mahārāṣṭrī, and an unknown Prakrit of the North-west. Māgadhī was spoken in the eastern half of the Gangetic plain. Its proper home was Māgadha, the modern South Bihar, but it extended far beyond these limits at very early times. Judging from the modern vernaculars, its western limit must have been about the longitude of the city of Benares. Between it and Śaurasenī (i.e. in the modern Oudh and the country to its south) lay Ardhamāgadhī or "half-Māgadhī." Mahārāṣṭrī was the language of Mahārāṣṭra, the great kingdom extending southwards from the river Nerbudda to the Kistna and sometimes including the southern part of the modern Bombay Presidency and Hyderabad. Its language therefore lay south of Śaurasenī. West of Śaurasenī, in the Western Punjab, there must have been another Prakrit of which we have no record, although we know a little about its later Apabhraṃṣa form. Here there were also speakers of Paiṣācī (see INDO-ARYAN LANGUAGES), and the local Prakrit, if we are to judge from the modern Tertiary vernacular, was a mixed form of speech. We have a detailed description of only one Apabhraṃśa  -- the Nāgara -- the Apabhraṃśa of the Śaurasenī spoken in the neighbourhood of Gujarat, and therefore somewhat mixed with Mahārāṣṭrī. We may, however, conclude that there was an Apabhraṃśa corresponding to each Prakrit, so that we have, in addition to Śaurasena, a Māgadha, an Ardhamāgadha and a Mahārāṣṭra Apabhrarṃśa. Native writers describe more than one local Apabhraṃśa, of which we may mention Vrācaḍa, the ancient dialect of Sind. There were numerous Prakrit subdialects to which it is not necessary to refer.

Of all these Prakrits, Mahārāṣṭrī is that which is best known to us. It early obtained literary pre-eminence, and not only was the subject of long treatises by native grammarians, but became the language of lyric poetry and of the formal epic (kāvya). Dramatic works have been written in it, and it was also the vehicle of many later scriptures of the Jaina religion. We also know a good deal about Ardhamāgadhī, in which the older Jaina writings were composed. With Māgadhī we have, unfortunately, only a partial acquaintance, derived from brief accounts by native grammarians and from short sentences scattered through the plays. We know something more about Śaurasenī, for it is the usual prose dialect of the plays, and is also employed for the sacred writings of one of the Jaina sects.

The materials extant for the study of the Prakrit are either native grammars or else literary works written in accord with the rules laid down therein. Originally real vernaculars with tendencies towards certain phonetic changes, the dialects were taken in hand by grammatical systematizers, who pruned down what they thought was over-luxuriant growth, trained errant shoots in the way they thought [S. 252] they ought to have gone, and too often generalized tendencies into universal rules. Subsequent writers followed these rules and not the living speech, even though they were writing in what was meant to be a vernacular. Moreover, at an early date, the Prakrits, qua literary languages, began to lose their characteristics as local forms of speech. A writer composed in Mahārāṣṭrī, not because it was his native language, but because it was the particular Prakrit employed for lyrics and in formal epics. In the same way, in dramatic literature, Śaurasenī and Māgadhī were put into the mouths of characters in particular walks in life, whatever the nationality of the dramatist might have been; There was thus a tendency for these literary Prakrits to adopt forms from the vernacular dialects of those who wrote them, and, en revanche, for the very popular lyric poetry of Mahāraṣṭrī to influence the local dialects of the most distant parts of India. On the other hand, although to a certain extent artificial, the literary Prakrits are all based on local vernaculars, a fact entirely borne out by a comparison with the modern Indian languages, which closely agree with them in their mutual points of difference. We now proceed to consider the general points in which the Prakrits differ from Sanskrit and from each other. The reader is throughout assumed to be familiar with the general outline of the article SANSKRIT.


The vocabulary of Śaurasenī is to all intents and purposes the same as that of Sanskrit In the languages of the Outer Band there are numerous provincial words (deśī or deśya), the originals of which belonged to Primary Prakrits other than those of the Midland.

In the Outer Band there is also a rich variety of grammatical forms, many of which are found in the Veda and not in classical Sanskrit, and some (e.g. Prakrit -hi, Pali -dhi, Greek -θι) which cannot be traced to any known Primary Prakrit form, but which must have existed in that stage and beyond it, back into Indo-European times.


The Sanskrit diphthongs e and o are treated in Prakrit as pure vowels, and may each be either long or short. Ai and au become either e and ο or aï and aü respectively. The vowel becomes a, i, or, under the influence of a neighbouring labial, u. Before two consonants an original long vowel becomes short, and i and u are (according to the grammarians) changed to e and o respectively. The last rule is an instance of grammarians' over-generalization, and is not universally true. Examples, Sanskrit mārga-, Prakrit magga-; Sanskrit sindura-, Prakrit sendura-; Sanskrit pustaka-, Prakrit potthaa-. Conversely, a short vowel before two consonants is lengthened on one of them being elided. Thus, Sanskrit īśvara-, Prakrit issara- or īsara-; Sanskrit jihvā, Prakrit jihā. In Nāgara Apabhraṃśa the quantity of vowels is very loosely observed.

In all dialects n becomes ṇ unless it is followed by a dental mute, but in Jaina works nn and initial remain unchanged. Judging from modern vernaculars, the latter seems to have been the real state of affairs. In Māgadhī j becomes y and r becomes l. Here also s and ṣ become ś, a peculiarity still preserved by the modern Bengali. Elsewhere ś and ṣ usually become s, but the change of a sibilant to h is not uncommon in the Outer Prakrits (even in Māgadhī), though rare in the more archaic Śaurasenī.

Initial y becomes j except in Māgadhī, in which, on the contrary, j becomes y. Subject to the foregoing general rules, all other initial consonants usually remain unchanged. As regards medial single consonants:

  1. k, g, c, j, t, d and y are usually elided. As a hiatus is caused by the elision, a faintly sounded y (or in some cases ) is substituted for the elided consonant, though only written in Jaina MSS. Examples: Sanskrit loka-, Prakrit lo(y)a-; Prakrit maa = Sanskrit mata-, mada-, maya-, mṛga or mṛta-. The latter example illustrates the extraordinary confusion which results from the strict application of this rule of elision of medial consonants. Such a Prakrit would have failed in the main object of a language the connotation of distinct ideas by distinct sounds. To the present writer it seems impossible that such a language could ever have existed, and he is persuaded that the rule just given is merely another instance of grammarians over-generalization. A rule has been made out of a tendency and this tendency was evidently, first, to soften a hard letter, and then (but not necessarily) to elide it. We see this well illustrated by Apabhraṃśa, in which k, t and p are usually preserved under the forms g, d and b. In the Outer Prakrits also k often becomes g as in Sanskrit śrāvaka-, Jaina Mahāraṣṭrī and Ardhamāgadhī sāvaga-, Māgadhī śāvaga-. Śaurasenī and Māgadhī always preserve a medial t, changing it to d; thus, Sanskrit gata,- Śaurasenī, Māgadhī gada-, elsewhere ga(y)a-.

  2. kh, gh, th, dh, ph and bh similarly become h. Also, as above Śaurasenī and Māgadhī change th to dh. ṭh becomes ḍh, and ph may become bh. The other aspirates (ch, jh, ḍh), and also sometimes bh, remain unchanged. In Apabhraṃśa, as before, kh, th and ph are usually preserved in gh, dh and bh respectively.

  3. ṭ becomes ḍ, ḍ becomes ḷ (often written l), which when doubled becomes dentalized to ll, as in the case of the Jaina nn. p and b usually become v. The Outer languages often cerebralize dental sounds and change ṭ to l.

  4. ṇ, m, l and h remain unchanged. v disappears before u, but otherwise generally remains unchanged. In Nāgara Apabhraṃśa m may become a v nasalized by anunāsika; thus, Sanskrit bhramara-, Nāgara Apabhraṃśa bhaṽara-.

Final consonants usually disappear altogether, except nasals, which become anusvāra. Thus, Sanskrit samantāt, phalam, Prakrit samantā, phalaṃ.

The following rules will be found to include the great majority of possible cases of compound consonants. They show clearly the character of all changes from Primary to Secondary Prakrit, viz. the substitution, mainly by a process of assimilation, of a slurred or a distinct pronunciation :

  1. In Prakrit a conjunct consonant cannot consist of more than two elements, and, except in Māgadhī and Apabhraṃśa, can only be a double consonant or a consonant preceded by a nasal, a consonant followed by r, or one of the following: ṇh, nn, mh, lh. The consonants r and h cannot be doubled.

  2. In Prakrit the only conjuncts which can begin a word are ṇh, nh, mh, and lh. If any other conjunct consonant be initial, the first member of the Prakrit form of it is dropped. Thus, in Prakrit kr becomes kk, and the Sanskrit ākramati becomes Prakrit akkamaï. If we omit the initial preposition ā- (Prakrit a-), the kk becomes initial, and we have kamaï, not *kkamaï. Similarly, Sanskrit sthira- becomes Prakrit thira- for *tthira-.

  3. l and v are elided when they stand first or last in a compound, and the remaining letter is doubled, if it admits of doubling. Thus,Sanskrit ulkā, Prakrit ukkā; Sanskrit pakva, Prakrit pakka-. The same rule is followed regarding r, but when it follows a consonant it is sometimes, especially in Apabhaṃśa, retained even when initial. Thus, Sanskrit arka-, Prakrit akka; Sanskrit priya-, Prakrit pia- or (Apabhaṃśa) pria-.

  4. m, n and y are elided when standing last in a compound, and the remaining letter is doubled ; thus, Sanskrit raśmi-, Prakrit rassi-.

  5. k, g, ṭ, ḍ, t, d, p, ś, ṣ and s are elided when standing first in a compound, and the remaining letter is doubled as before; thus Sanskrit bhakta-, Prakrit bhatta-, Sanskrit skhalita-, Prakrit khalia- for *kkhalia- (see rule 2).

  6. The above rules hold in the order given above; that is to say, rule 3 holds in preference to rules 4 and 5, and rule 4 in preference to rule 5. Thus, in the Sanskrit compound kr, the r is elided under rule 3, and not the k under rule 5, so that the Prakrit form is kk.

  7. Special Rules for Māgadhī In this form of Prakrit there are several peculiar changes. dy, rj, ry, all become yy; ṇy, ny, jñ, ñj become ññ; medial cch becomes śc; ṭṭ, ṣṭ, ṣṭh become sṭ; and rth, sth become st. Other changes also occur, besides dialectic variations of those given above.


Prakrit has preserved the three genders of Sanskrit, but has lost the dual number. As a rule, the gender of a noun follows that of the Sanskrit original, though in Ardhamāgadhī there is already a tendency to substitute the masculine for the neuter, and in Nāgara Apabhraṃśa these two genders are frequently confused, if the distinction is not altogether neglected. In the formation of cases, the phonetic rules just given are fully applied, but there are also other deviations from the Sanskrit original. The consonantal stems which form an important part of Sanskrit declension are frequently given vocalic endings, and there is a general tendency to assimilate their declension to that of a-bases, corresponding to the first and second declensions in Latin. This tendency is strongly helped by the free use of pleonastic suffixes ending in a, which are added to the base without affecting its meaning. Of these the most common are -ka-, -ḍa; , and -alla-, -illa- or -ulla-. The first of these was also very common in Sanskrit, but its use became much extended in Prakrit In accordance with the general rule, the k is liable to elision ; thus, Sanskrit ghoṭa-ka-, Prakrit ghoḍa-a-. It may even be doubled, as in Sanskrit bahu-, much, Prakrit bahu-a-a-, for bahu-ka-ka-. -ḍa- is confined to Apabhaṃśa, and may be used alone or together with the other two, as in Sanskrit bāhubala-, strength of arm, Nāgara Apabhraṃśa bāhubal-ulla-ḍa-(k)a-. illa- is most common in the Outer languages, and especially so in Ardhamāgadhī and Māgadhī; thus, Sanskrit pura-, Mahāraṣṭrī pur-ilia-.

All the Sanskrit cases are preserved except the dative, which has altogether disappeared in the Midland, but has survived in the singular number in the Outer languages. Everywhere the genitive can be employed in its place. Most of the case-forms are derived from Sanskrit according to the phonetic rules, but Nāgara Apabhraṃśa has a number of dialectic forms which cannot be referred to that language (cf. the remarks above about -hi=θι). It also rarely distinguishes between the nominative and the accusative. As an example, we may give the commoner forms of the declension of the Sanskrit putra, Prakrit putta-, a son (see next page). It should be understood that numerous other forms were also in use, but the ones given here are selected because they are both common and typical.

Abb.: Deklination von putra

The declension of neuter a-bases closely resembles the above, differing only in the nominative and accusative singular and plural. Nāgara Apabhraṃśa has almost lost the neuter termination in the singular. Feminine a-stems are declined on the same lines, but the cases have  run more into each other, the instrumental, genitive and locative singular [S. 253] being identical in form. Very similarly arc declined the bases ending in other vowels. The few still ending in consonants and which have not become merged in the o-declension, present numerous apparent irregularities, due to the inevitable phonetic changes, which must be learned from the textbooks.

All the Sanskrit pronouns appear in Prakrit, but often in extremely abraded shapes. It would, for instance, be difficult to recognize the Sanskrit tvām in the Apabhraṃśa paï. There is also a most luxuriant growth of by-forms, the genitive plural of the pronoun of the second person being, e.g., represented by no less than twenty-five different words in Mahārāṣṭhrī alone. We also find forms which have no original in classical Sanskrit Thus, in that language, the pronoun sa-, he, is only used in the nominative singular of two genders, but occurs also in other cases in Prakrit.


The Prakrit verb shows even more decay than does the noun. With a few isolated exceptions, all trace of the second, or consonantal, conjugation of Sanskrit has disappeared, and (much as has happened in the case of nouns) all verbs are now conjugated after the analogy of the a-conjugation. This a-conjugation, on the other hand, falls into two classes, the first being the a-conjugation proper, and the second the e-conjugation, in which the e represents the aya of the Sanskrit 10th class and of causal and denominative verbs. The ātmanepada voice of Sanskrit has practically disappeared in the Midland, and even in the Outer languages it is not common. The present participle is the only form which has everywhere survived. The other forms are supplied by the parasmaipada. All the past tenses (imperfect, perfect and aorists) have fallen into disuse, leaving only a few sporadic remains, their place being supplied, as in the case of the tertiary vernaculars, by the participles, with or without auxiliary verbs. The present tense of the verb substantive has survived from Sanskrit, but it is usual to employ atthi (Sanskrit asti) for both numbers and all persons of the present, and āsī (=āsīt) for both numbers and all persons of the past. It is interesting to note that the tatter has survived in the modern Panjabi sī, was, in which language it is universally, but wrongly, described as a feminine. Another verb substantive (Sanskrit √ bhū) has also survived, generally in the form hoi or huvaï for bhavati. In Ardhamāgadhī and Mahārāṣṭhrī we also have bhavaï pretty frequently, and the same form also occurs, but less often, in Śaurasenī and Māgadhī. Its usual past participle is hūa- or Māgadhī hūda-, Śaurasenī bhūda-. The forms are given here as they are important when the history of the Tertiary Prakrits comes under consideration.

These two verbs substantive make periphrastic tenses with other participles, and, in the case of the past participles and gerundives of transitive verbs (both of which are passive in signification), the agent or subject is put into the instrumental case, the participle being used either personally or impersonally, as in the tertiary languages. Thus, teṇa girivaro diṭṭho, by him a mountain was seen, i.e he saw a mountain; teṇa paḍivannaṃ, it was acknowledged by him, he acknowledged. The gerundive, or future passive participle, is also used impersonally in the case of intransitive verbs, as in dūraṃ gantavvaṃ, it is to be gone far, we must go far.

Besides the participles, the infinitive and the indeclinable participle (gerund) have also survived. So also the passive voice, conjugated in the same tenses as the active, and generally with parasmaipada terminations. The causal has been already mentioned. There are also numerous denominative verbs (many of them onomatopoeic), and a good supply of examples of frequentative and desiderative bases, mostly formed, with the necessary phonetic modifications, as in Sanskrit. The present participle in the parasmaipada ends in -anta- (-enta-), declined according to the a-declension, and in the ātmanepada in -māna-. The termination -(i)ta- of the Sanskrit past participle passive has survived under the form -ia-. Many direct representatives of Sanskrit participles in -ta- (without the i) and -na- also appear. Thus, Sanskrit dṛṣṭha-, Prakrit diṭṭha-, seen; Sanskrit lagna-, Prakrit lagga-, attached. As usual there is a tendency to simplification, and the termination ia is commonly added to the Prakrit present base, instead of following Sanskrit analogy. Thus, not only have we tatta- formed directly from the Sanskrit tapta-, but we have also tavia- from the Prakrit present stem tav-aï (-Sanskrit tapati), he is hot. All the three forms of the future passive participle or gerundive, in -tavya-, -anīya- and -ya-, have survived. The infinitive has survived, not only with the form corresponding to the classical Sanskrit termination -tum, but also with several old Vedic forms. The same is the case with the gerund, in which both the classical forms in -tvā and -(t)ya have survived, but with the loss of the distinctive use which obtained in Sanskrit. Besides these there are also survivals of Vedic forms, and even of Primary Prakrit forms not found in the Veda. The passive is generally formed by adding -jja or, in Śaurasenī and Māgadhī, -ia-, to the root or, more often, to the present stem. Thus, Mahārāṣṭhrī pucchījjaï or Śaurasenī pucchīadi, he is being asked.

The following are therefore the only tenses which are fully conjugated in Prakrit: the present, the imperative, the future and the optative. Except in Apabhraṃśa, the personal terminations in general correspond to the Sanskrit ones, but in Apabhraṃśa there are some forms which probably go back to unrecorded Primary Prakrits and have not as yet been explained. As an example we take the conjugation of the base puccha-, ask (Sanskrit pṛcchati), in the present tense.

Abb.: Konjugation

The imperative similarly follows the Sanskrit imperative. The Śaurasenī second person singular is generally puccha, while the Outer languages often have a form corresponding to pucchehi. The base of the optative is generally farmed by adding -ejja- in the Outer languages and in thus, Śaurasenī puccheaṃ, others pucchejjāmi, &c, may I ask. The Sanskrit future termination -iṣya- is represented by -issa-or -ihi-; thus, pucchissāmi or pucchihimi, I shall ask.

Prakrit Literature.

The great mass of Prakrit literature is devoted to the Jaina religion, and, so far as it is known, is described under the head of Jains. Here it is sufficient to state that the oldest Jaina sūtras were in Ardhamāgadhī, while the non-canonical books of the Śvetāmbara sect were in a form of Mahārāṣṭrī, and the canon of the Digambaras appears to have been in a form of Śaurasenī. Besides these religious works, Prakrit also appears in secular literature. In artificial lyric poetry it is pre-eminent. The most admired work is the Sattasaï (Saptaśaptikā), compiled at some time between the 3rd and 7th centuries A.D. by Hāla. The grace and poetry of this collection, in which art most happily succeeds in concealing art, has rarely been exceeded in literature of its kind. It has bad numerous imitators, both in Sanskrit and in the modern vernaculars, the most famous of which is the Satsaï of Bihārī Lāl (17th century A.D.). Hāla's work is important, not only on its own account, but also as showing the existence of a large Prakrit literature at the time when it was compiled. Most of this is now lost. There are some scholars (including the present writer) who believe that Sanskrit literature owes more than is generally admitted to works in the vernacular, and that even the Mahābhārata first took its form as a folk-epic in an early Prakrit, and was subsequently translated into Sanskrit, in which language it was further manipulated, added to, and received its final shape. In literary Prakrit we have two important specimens of formal  [S. 254] epic poetry the Rāvaṇavaha or Selubandha (attributed to ravarasena, before A.D. 700), dealing with the subject of the Rāmāyana, and the Gaüḍavaha of Vākpati (7th-8th century .D.), celebrating the conquest of Bengal by Yaśovarman, king of Kanauj. Reference must also be made to the Kumārapālacarita, the title of the last eight cantos of the huge Dvyāśraya Mahākvya of Hemacandra (A.D. 1150). The whole work was written to serve as a series of illustrations to the author's Sanskrit and Prakrit grammar, the Siddha-hemacandra. The last eight cantos are in Prakrit, and illustrate the rules of the corresponding portion of his work. Its hero is Kumāra-pāla of Aṇhilvāḍā. Dramatic literature has also an ad mired example in the Karpūramañjarī (" Camphor-cluster," the name of the heroine) by Rāja-śekhara (A.D. 900), an amusing comedy of intrigue. An important source of our knowledge of Prakrit, and especially of dialectic Prakrit, is the Sanskrit drama. It has already been pointed out that in works of this class many of the characters speak in Prakrit, different dialects being employed for different purposes. Generally speaking, Śaurasenī is employed for prose and Mahārāṣṭrī (the language of lyric poetry) for the songs, but special characters also speak special dialects according to their supposed nationality or profession. In India there is nothing extraordinary in such a polyglot medley. It is paralleled by the conditions of any large house in Bengal at the present day, in which there are people from every part of India, each of whom speaks his own language and is understood by the others, though none of them attempts to speak what is not his mother tongue. The result is that in the Sanskrit drama we have a valuable reflection of the local dialects. It is somewhat distorted, for the authors wrote according to the rules laid down by technical handbooks, and the dialects which they employed were, in the case of the later writers, as dead as Sanskrit. But nevertheless, if not an absolutely true representation, it is founded on the truth, and it is almost our only source of information as to the condition of the Indian vernaculars in the first five centuries A.D. The drama which gives the best examples of these dialects is the Mṛcchakaṭikā. For further particulars regarding the Sanskrit drama, reference should be made to the article SANSKRIT.


The father of Prakrit philology was Ch. Lassen, the author of the Institutiones linguae pracriticae (Bonn, 1837). This famous work, a wonderful product of the learning of the time, is now out of date, and has been definitely superseded by R. Pischel's Grammatik der Prakritsprachen (Strasburg, 1900). As an introduction to the study of the language, the best work is H. Jacobi's Ausgewählte Erzählungen in Mahārāshṭrī zur Einführung in das Sludium des Prakrit, Grammatik, Text, Wörterbuch (Leipzig, 1886). The best editions of the native grammars are E. B. Cowell's of Vararuci's Prākṛta-prakāśa (London, 1868), R. Pischel's of Hemacandra (Halle, 1877, 1889) [see above], and E. Hultzsch's of Siṃharāja's Prākṛtarūpāvatāra (London, 1909). For Deśya words, see Piscnel's The Deśināmamālā of Hemachandra (Bombay, 1880). For Apabhraṃśa, in addition to his edition of Hemacandra's grammar, see the same author's Materialen zur Kenntnis des Apabhraṃśa (Berlin, 1902). For the mutual relationship of the various Prakrits, see S. Konow, "Mahārashṭrī and Mārāthī," in the Indian Antiquary, (1903), xxxii., 180 sqq. For Jaina Prakrit, see under JAINS. As regards the secular texts mentioned above the following are the best editions : A. Weber, Das Saptataçatakam des Hāla (Leipzig, 1881) ; another edition by Durgāprasād and Kāśīnāth Pāṇḍurang Parab under the title of The Gāthasaptaśatī of Sātavāhana (Bombay, 1889) [a good commentary] ; S. Goldschmidt, Rāvaṇavaha oder Setubandha (Strasburg. 1880-1883) [text and translation]; Śivadatta and Parab, The Setubandha of Pravarasena (Bombay, 1895) ; Shankar Pāṇḍurang Paṇḍit, The Gaüḍavaho, a Historical Poem in Prākrit, by Vākpati (Bombay, 1887) ; the same editor, The Kumārapāla-charita (Bombay, 1900); Rajaçekhara's Karpūramañjarī, edited by S. Konow, translated by C. R. Lanman (Cambridge, Mass., 1901).

The literature of the Sanskrit drama is given under SANSKRIT.

(G. A. GR.) [= George Abraham Grierson]

Zu: 7. Zum Beispiel: Tempelinschriften in Tiruvaṇṇāmalai  (திருவண்ணாமலை) / von Nina Rageth