Showing posts with label Apabhransha. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Apabhransha. Show all posts

Myth of Mother Sanskrit Theory

Is sanskrit mother of all Languages. Various theories are being floated. Let us see them.

Mother Sanskrit theory is a Myth
  1. Vedas - The word `Sanskrit' does not occur anywhere in the Vedas. Not a single verse mentions this word as denoting a language.
  2. The Vedic language was referred to as Chandasa even by Panini himself [ Chatt., p. 63 ], and not as `Sanskrit'.
  3. The Buddha was advised to translate his teachings into the learned man's tongue - the `Chandasa' standard [ Chatt., p. 64 ], there is no mention of any `Sanskrit'. The Buddha refused, preferring the Prakrits. There is not even a single reference in any contemporary Buddhist texts to the word `Sanskrit'. This shows that Sanskrit did not even exist at the time of the Buddha.
  4. The word `Sanskrit' occurs for the first time as referring to a language in the Ramayana : "In the latter [Ramayana] the term `samskrta' "formal, polished", is encountered, probably for the first time with reference to the language"
  5. The first inscriptions in Indian history are in Prakrit and not in Sanskrit. These are by the Mauryan King Ashoka (c. 273 BC - 232 BC ), and number over 30. The script utilised is not `sacred' Devanagari, and the language is not `Mother' Sanskrit. They are mostly in the Brahmi script, while 2 inscriptions are in Kharoshtri. They are in various Prakrits and some in Afghanistan are in Greek and Aramaic [ Bas,. p. 390-1 ]. In fact all inscriptions in India were in Prakrit till the early centuries AD : "[T]he earlier inscriptions up to the 1st century AD, were all in Prakrit"
  6. The Satavahanas, the first historical dynasty of the Deccan, also used a Prakrit language. There is no usage of Sanskrit.
  7. The Nanaghat cave inscriptions in Poona distt. are in Prakrit and are the work of the Satavahana Satakarni I. They have been dated to the first half of the 1st century BC. The contemporary relgiion of this region was Vedic. Indra and Vasudev are mentioned as the Vedic gods then worshipped [ Bas, p. 395 ]. The later cave inscriptions of Nasik in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD are in the local Prakrit [ Bas, p. 395 ]. Thus, although the Vedic religion was followed in the Satavahana regions, Sanksrit was not in use.
  8. Kharavela's Kalingan inscription of the 1st century BC were in a Prakrit of the east indian type.
  9. First Sanskrit Inscription : 150 AD - The earliest inscription in Sanskrit is by the Saka
  10. Brajbuli dates to 1000 BC - A central assumption of the MST is that all Prakrit vernaculars must be of a very late date. With the first mention of `Sanskrit' in a Ramayana dating to the ealy centuries AD, any Prakrit existing prior to this necessarily contradicts the Mother Sanskrit Theory. Brajabuli, the precursor to the modern Braj Bhasa, is said to have been used by Krishna and the gopis of Vraja (Vrindavan, whence Braj) and it was thus popular amongst Vaishnava poets [ Assam, p. 422. n3 ]. Krishna is dated to ca. 1000 BC, and this internal evidence would imply that Braj Bhasa dated to 1000 BC. Recently, Krishna's city, Dvaraka, has been excavated, showing that he probably was a historical person. The stories are hence based on fact, and this evidence cannot be dismissed as a `myth'.
  11. Prakrit' = Vernacular - The term `Prakrta' or Prakrit means `common', `natural', while the term `Samskrta' or Sanskrit natural means `polsihed, refined' [ Up. 164 ]. Thus Prakrit refers to any of the natural languages, while Sanskrit refers to the `purified' language. This etymology itself indicates that Sanskrit is derived from Prakrit rather than the other way around. This necessarily implies that Sanskrit is, like Old Church Slavonic, a polished version of various vernaculars.
  12. Apabrahmsa is a Prakrit - Apabrahmsa, which in the MST is seen as a derivative of Prakrit, is in fact itself a Prakrit known as Abhiri. It was actually comtemporary with all the other Prakrits, and the view that it succeeded Prakrit is wrong. Several dramas have characters speaking Apabrahmsa and Prakrits side by side. This shows that Apabrahmsa is not the second stage in the development from Sanskrit, but was merely another Prakrit dilect.
  13. As per the MST, the Prakrits are all dead languages, having `degraded' into the modern Indo-Aryan tongues. However, Prakrits never disappeared. All the modern Indo-Aryan (IA) languages are Prakrits (Bengali, Marathi etc.). The ancient Prakrits are the direct precursors of the modern languages, thus Vangi - Bengali, Odri - Oriya, and Maharastri - Marathi. All these so-called `Prakrits' such as Vangi, Odri and Maharastri, can all be understood by the speakers of their respective IA languages with the same ease with which a modern speaker of English can understand Anglo-Saxon. This fact alone is sufficient to refute the MST. Far from being dead, Prakrit is still spoken in all parts of India just as it has been for thousands of years. The word Prakrit itself merely means `natural' and refers to all the Indo-Iranian languages as spoken by the common man in India. Thus, even the literal meaning of the word `Prakrit' implies that it is far from dead.
  14. Prakrit Older than Sanskrit - The MST claims that Sanskrit is older than Prakrit. However, it is Prakrit which is older than Sanskrit, since several features of Prakrit can be traced to the Rig Veda, which are not found in Sanskrit.
  15. Pali poses another problem for the MST. As per the MST, it is an independant derivation from Sanskrit, and is not a Prakrit. However, Pali is in fact a dialect of Magadhi Prakrit and not a separate language as evidenced by the mutual comprehensibility between these two tongues.
Sanskrit is the mother of all languages
  1. The sound of each of the 36 consonants and the 16 vowels of Sanskrit are fixed and precise since the very beginning. They were never changed, altered, improved or modified. All the words of the Sanskrit language always had the same pronunciation as they have today. There was no ‘sound shift,’ no change in the vowel system, and no addition was ever made in the grammar of the Sanskrit in relation to the formation of the words. The reason is its absolute perfection by its own nature and formation, because it was the first language of the world.
  2. The morphology of word formation is unique and of its own kind where a word is formed from a tiny seed root (called dhatu) in a precise grammatical order which has been the same since the very beginning. Any number of desired words could be created through its root words and the prefix and suffix system as detailed in the Ashtadhyayi of Panini. Furthermore, 90 forms of each verb and 21 forms of each noun or pronoun could be formed that could be used in any situation.
  3. There has never been any kind, class or nature of change in the science of Sanskrit grammar as seen in other languages of the world as they passed through one stage to another.
  4. The perfect form of the Vedic Sanskrit language had already existed thousands of years earlier even before the infancy of the earliest prime languages of the world like Greek, Hebrew and Latin etc.
  5. When a language is spoken by unqualified people the pronunciation of the word changes to some extent; and when these words travel by word of mouth to another region of the land, with the gap of some generations, it permanently changes its form and shape to some extent. Just like the Sanskrit word matri, with a long ‘a’ and soft ‘t,’ became mater in Greek and mother in English. The last two words are called the ‘apbhransh’ of the original Sanskrit word ‘matri.’ Such apbhranshas of Sanskrit words are found in all the languages of the world and this situation itself proves that Sanskrit was the mother language of the world.
I feel the debate will continue for a long time, as there is a absence of written records. But here distinction should be made between vedic and sanskrit. Sanskrit starts with Panini which he calls Chandas.



Home of Pali

Pali, in which only the Buddha delivered his noble messages, appears to have been hallowed as the text of the Buddhavacana. The language of the Buddhavacana is called Pali or Magadhi and sometimes Suddha-Magadhi, presumably in order to distinguish it from Ardha-Magadhi, the language of Jaina Canons. Magadhi means the language or dialect current in the Magadha. In Pali Lexicon, the definition of Pali is given thus: pa paleti, rakkhati ' ti pali. Since it preserves the Buddhavacana (words) in the form of the sacred text, it is called Pali. In fact, the word Pali signifies only "text" "sacred text".

According to the tradition current in Theravada Buddhist countries, Pali is Magadhi, Magadhanirutti, Magadhikabhasa, that is to say, the language of the region in which Buddhism had arisen. The Buddhistic tradition makes the further claim that the Pali Tipitaka is composed in the language used by the Buddha himself. For this reason Magadhi is also called Mulabhasa as the basic language in which the words of the Buddha were originally fixed. However, for Pali now arises the question, which region of India was the home of that language which was the basis of Pali.

Westergrd and E.Kuhn consider Pali to be the dialect of Ujjayini, because it stands closest to the language of the Asokan-inscriptions of Girnar (Guzerat), and also because the dialect of Ujjayini is said to have been the mother-tongue of Mahinda who preached Buddhism in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). R.O. Franke had a similar opinion by different means; and he finally reached the conclusion that the original home of Pali was "a territory, which could not have been too narrow, situated about the region from the middle to the Western Vindhya ranges". Thus it is not improbable that Ujjayini was the centre of its region of expansion. Sten Konow too has decided in favour of the Vindhya region as the home of Pali.

Oldenberg (1879) and E.Muller (1884) consider the Kalinga country to be the home of Pali. Oldenberg thinks that Buddhism, and with it's the Tipitaka, was introduced into Ceylon rather in course of an intercourse between the island and the neighboring continent extending over a long period. However, E.MUller bases his conclusion on the observation that the oldest settlements in Ceylon could have been founded only by the people of Kalinga, the area on the mainland opposite Ceylon and not by people from Bengal and Bihar.

Maurice Winternitz is of the opinion that Buddha himself spoke the dialect of his native province Kosala (Oudh) and it was most likely in this same dialect that he first began to proclaim his doctrine. Later on, however, he wandered and taught in Magadha (Bihar) he probably preached in the dialect of this province. When in course of time the doctrine spread over a large area, the monks of various districts preached each in his own dialect. It is probable that some monks coming from Brahmin circles also attempted to translate the speeches of Buddha into Sanskrit verses. However, the Buddha himself absolutely rejected it, and forbade learning his teachings in any other languages except Magadhi. Here it is related , how two Bhikkhus complained to the Master that the members of the order were of various origins, and that they distorted the words of the Buddha by their own dialect (Sakaya niruttiya). They, therefore, proposed that the words of the Buddha should be translated into Sanskrit verses (Chandaso). The Buddha, however, refused to grant the request and added: Anujanamibhikkhave sakaya niruttiya buddhavacanam pariyapunitum. Rhys Davids and Oldenberg translate this passage by "I allow you, oh brethren, to learn the words of the Buddha each in his own dialect". This interpretation, however, is not accorded with that of Buddhaghosa, according to whom it has to be translated by "I ordain the words of the Buddha to be learnt in his own language (i.e., in Magadhi, the language used by Buddha himself)". In fact, the explanation given by Buddhaghosa is more acceptable, because neither the two monks nor Buddha himself have thought of preaching in different dialects in different cases.

Magahi or Magadhi is spoken in the districts of Patna, Gaya, Hazaribagh and also in the western part of Palamau, parts of Monghyr and Bhagalpur. On its eastern frontier Magahi meets Bengali. Dr.Grierson called the dialect of this region Eastern Magahi (Magadhi). He (Dr.Grierson) has named western Magadhi speeches as Bihari. In this time he includes three dialects, Magahi (Magadhi), Maithili and Bhojpuri. Dr.Grierson, after a comparative study of the grammars of the three dialects, had decided Maithili, Magahi and Bhojpuri as three forms of a single speech. There are four reasons for terming them as Bihari, viz.,

Between Eastern Hindi and Bengali have certain characteristics, which are common to the three dialects.
It becomes a provincial language like Gujarati, Punjabi, Marathi, etc.
The name is appropriate from the historical point of view. Bihar was so named after so many Buddhist Viharas in the state. Ancient Bihar language was probably the language of early Buddhists and Jainas.

It is not a fact that in Bihar there is no literature. In Maithili we have extant ancient literature.
Though Hindi is highly respected as a literary language in Biharyetthe Maithili, Magahi and Bhojpuri languages are deeply entrenched in the emotions of the people. The fact is that Bihari is a speech distinct from Eastern Hindi and has to be classified with Bengali, Oriya and Assamese as they share common descent from Magadhi, Prakrit and Apabhransha. It is clear that an uneducated and illiterate Bihari when he goes to Bengal begins to speak good Bengali with little effort but ordinarily it is not easy for an educated Bihari to speak correct Hindi. Dr.Grierson has inclined to decide that Magadhi was a dialect of Magadha (Bihar) and some parts of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

The area covered by the Buddha's missionary activities included Bihar and Uttar Pradesh including the Nepal Tarai. So it may be assumed that the Buddha spoke in a dialect or dialects current in those regions. Welhelm Geiger considers that Pali was indeed on pure Magadhi, but was yet a form of the popular speech which was based on Magadhi and which was used by Buddha himself. It may be imagined that the Buddha might choose a widespread language which was used or understood by common people in the region, because through which he could propagate his noble teachings to the common people. Thus, Pali or the dialect of Magadha was more probably the language of the common people and also a lingua franca of a large region including mainly Magadha (Bihar).