WONDERS IN PRAKRIT LANGUAGE- 2000 INSCRIPTIONS! (Post No.7523)

WRITTEN BY LONDON SWAMINATHAN

Post No.7523

Date uploaded in London – 1 February 2020

Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

Pictures are taken from various sources for spreading knowledge; this is a non- commercial blog.

There are 2000 inscriptions in Prakrit from Asokan period. Next to Asokan we have Kharavela’s inscriptions. Oldest Tamil inscriptions of first century BCE have Prakrit words in Brahmi lipi/script.

In Sanskrit dramas Kings and ministers spoke in Sanskrit. But women, workers and Brahmin comedians spoke in Prakrit. Brahmin Comedians/ Vidushakas spoke in seven different Prakrits.

Unique feature of Prakrit is that we have prose first and then poetry later which is not found in existing (ancient) languages.

Vedic Hindus used Sanskrit , Jains used Prakrit , Buddhists used Pali for teaching.

The teachings of Jain Tirthankaras/ saints were composed in Prakrita.

There are thousands of books in Prakrita covering all subjects from astronomy to zoology.

Prakrit  became an ideal source of communication among the people. Therefore, Saint Mahavira, Kings Asoka and Kharavela used Prakrit for delivery and transmission of their messages.

Great Prakrit poet Vakpatiraja praised Prakrit  sky high. He says,

“As water evaporates from the sea to form clouds and comes back to the sea as river, so all languages emerge from Prakrit  and come back to it and again become dialects spoken by the people”.

–Gaudavaho 

Sayalaao imam vaayaa visanti etto ya nenti vaayaao

Enti samuddam cciya saayaraao cciya jalaaim – 2, Gaudavaho

Prakrit  is mostly in Jain Agamas.  Ardhamagadi is the language of the Jain Canon. It is considered a language of saints and monks which indicates its antiquity.

Buddhists consider Magadhi as the basis of all languages, the Jains consider Ardha magadhi and grammarians consider Arsa language as a basic language from which other languages and regional dialects came into existence.

Most of the present day north Indian languages came from Prakrit .

Another unique thing is grammarians wrote grammar of Prakrit  in Sanskrit

XXX

Asoka’s advice

The edicts of Asoka are in Prakrit . This shows that Prakrit  was popular among common people. Asoka depicted high moral values in small phrases. He said,

Praanaanam sadhu anaarambho, apavyayataa apa bhaandataa sadhu – Girnar 3rd edict.

Non violence is good for living beings, less expense and less compilation is good.

Savapaasandaa bahusutaa va asu, kalaanagamaa va asu – Girnar 12th edict

All religious communities should listen to each other and work for welfare

Emperor Asoka

Sravanabelagola Prakrit University

Svastisri  Carukirti Bhattaraka Pattacarya ,a great Jain scholar  and multi linguist, has established a Jain centre with library and research facilities at Sravanabelagola.

There is a Prakrit University in Sravanabelagola  in Karnataka. It is a popular tourist destination because of  the gigantic, reverential Gomateswara monolith statue touching the blue sky. Great Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya came here to spend his last days at the feet of his Jain Guru .

MAIN DIALECTS OF PRAAKRT

Mahaaraastri, Sauraseni, Maagadhi, Ardhamaagadhi,

Paisaaci and Paali are different types of Prakrit.

Sanskrit grammarians treat all these languages as Apabhramsa which means not regulated by strict grammatical rules.

Modern Maraatti came from Mahaaraastri Praakrit

Gujaraathi, Raajasthaani, Punjaabi and Western Hindi from Ardhamaagadhi

Bengaali, Oriaa, Biihaari and Assaamese from Paisaaci.

Nepaali and many Himalayan dialects may be from Paisaaci.

Pali

We have written materials up to 14th century CE.

Sacred language of the Buddhist canons;

Tripidakas, Jataka stories, Mahavamsam and Deepavamsam are some important works in Pali. Earliest works are from 3rd century BCE.

Among the Kavyas written between 10th and 14th centuries –

Jinacaritam of Budhapriya

Padyamadhu of Veedeeha

Ardhamaagadhi

Important works – Agamas of Svetambara Jains; even though it is an ancient language like Pali, it has assumed the status of literary language only in the 2nd century CE. These works on morals comprise 115 books.

Sauraceni

Language of the kingdom of Saurasena with its capital in Mathura, land of Lord Krishna. In Sanskrit dramas women and Brahmin Viduusaka speak in this language. Kathakali literature in Kerala contains certain lines in Sauraseni. It was not used in poetry in dramas.

Kings and noble characters in Sattakam group are ‘Karpuuramanjari’ of Rajasekhara,

‘Chandralekha’ of Kerala poet Srikanthakavi

‘Aanandasundari’ of Ghanasyaama

‘Sringaaramanjari’ of Visvesvara

‘Rambhamanjari’ of Nayachandra.

Mahaaraastri

According to Dandin, it was spoken in Maharshtra. As this language abounds in common nouns, it is not an easily intelligible language. Most grammarians use the word Prakrit to refer to this language. This is highly a musical language and hence the songs sung by women characters in Sanskrit dramas are written in it.

Important works

Gathaa Sapta Sati of Halan

Gathaasahasri of Samayasundragni

Sethubandhana of Pravarasena

Praakrtaprakasam of Vararuci

Gaudavaho of Vaakpatiraaja

Visambanaleela of Aanandavardhaana

Karpuuramanjari of Raajasekhara

Paisaaci

It is also as old as Pali. Grammarians mention it and the places mentioned by them were all in South India. Except a few scanty citations as in Bhoja’s Srngaaraprakaasa , Paisaci doesn’t show any extant literature. The Brhadkathaa of Gunadhya was written in Paisaci.

Apabhramsa

Each of these literary Prakrts has its own colloquial dialect , which is called Apabramsa.

Therefore, Dandin classifying literature speaks of Sanskrit, Prakrta , Apabhramsa and Misra.

Apabrahmsa was used in daily conversation. By the sixth centur,y it goes to the level of a literary language

Bharata’s assessment

Bharata includes both Sanskrit and Prakrit in Aaryabhaasa, which he designates the language of kings. It is remarkable that the Brahmin Vidusaka in Sanskrit dramas speaks prakrts of all seven dialects.

Abhinavagupta explains these as vernaculars/ (desha bhasas) which according to him  are generate forms of Sanskrit.

Natyasaastra of Bharata include another list of languages also, by the name of Vibhasas, which include the language of Sakaras, Abhiras, Candalas, Sabaras, Dravidas and Andhras. Abhinavagupta describes them as language of foresters- gahanavaasinah—and designate them as degenerate forms of Prakrt.

My comments

Amazing thing about India is if we draw a language map of India during 2nd century CE, we see a multitude of languages and thousands of books in different languages from Kanyakumari to Kashmir,  no where in the world we see such a thing. They all hold the same cultural views and praise the same values of dharma, artha kama and moksha.

Some say Prakrit came from Sanskrit; others say Sanskrit came from Prakrit. Some others say both existed at the same time. But the fact of the matter is that we have Vedas in Sanskrit from at least 1500 BCE and Prakrit inscriptions only from 3rd century BCE.

In all the ancient languages, the old materials are in poetry. Then comes prose. It will be interesting to study how long it took for them to reach the prose stage. But we must consider the lost literature in that language as well. My cursory look at this shows it differs from language to language. But everyone would agree human beings spoke in prose and not in poetry. But it was easy to remember poetry because of its rhythm and music. So we have Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata in Sanskrit, Sangam literature, Five epics in Tamil , Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in Greek, Virgil’s Aeneid in Latin in poetry format.

This is to say that every language speaker begins speaking in prose and write important things in verses. If it is a short one, then they keep it as proverbs. Even those proverbs are with rhyme and rhythm. So we may even consider them as ‘one sentence poems’.

The question Did Prakrit exist first or Sanskrit exist first must be looked into with the above things in mind.

One more strange feature is we have so many Prakrit dialects. Why is it? We must explore this. Even if we discuss it the debate would continue forever without any conclusion. Because linguists are still wondering how come there are over 780 languages in New Guinea among aborigines. Why there are over 200 languages among Australian aborigines? Why did 2000 year old Tamil give birth to Telegu, Kannada and Malayalam from as early as first century BCE?

In short, no one can say what the reality is. It may differ from country to country, society to society, culture to culture. If we go to ancient Middle East still more wonders are seen. Why did Sumerians, Hittites, Kassites, Mitannian and Assyrians speak different languages in a small area (Modern Iraq)?

So don’t jump to any conclusion when you speak about the origin and development of languages.  If we apply Max Muller’s theory that ‘ a language changes every 200 years’, dating of Tamil literature will tumble. Dates of Tirukkural, Silappadikaram and Tolkappiam will be later productions than thought.

Sattaka / dramatic genre

Rajasekhara’s Karpuramanjari – 9th to 10th centuries

Nayacandra suri’s Rambhaamanjari – 14th to 15th

Rudradasa’s Chandralekhaa –17th Century

Visvesvara Pandeya’s Srngaramanjari – 17th to 18th centuries

Ghanasyama’s Anandasundari – 18th century

Source books

Carusri -Essays in honour of  S C B P

New horizons of Indological research

–subham —

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