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Prakrit, then, was merely the natural process of change and corruption which the refined Sanskrit underwent in adapting itself to the exigencies of a spoken dialect'. It was, in fact, the provincial Sanskrit of the mass of the community; whilst Sanskrit, properly so called, became, as it is to this day, the language of the Brahmans and the accomplishment of the learned f.
This provincial Sanskrit assumed of course different modifications, according to the circumstances of the district in which the corruption took place; and the various modifications of Prakrit are the intermediate links which connect Sanskrit with the dialects at present spoken by the natives of Hindustan.
They have been analyzed and assorted by Vararudi, the ancient grammarian, who was to Prakrit what Panini was to Sanskrit grammar. The most noticeable varieties were the Mdgadhi, spoken in Magadha or Bihar; the Mahdrdsh(rl, spoken in a district stretching from Central to Western India; and the Sauraseni, spoken on the banks of the Jamna, in the neighbourhood of the ancient Mathura %. These patois modifications of Sanskrit are employed as the language of the inferior characters in all the Hindu dramas which have come
tribes: and a non-Sanskrit, or, as it may be called, a Scythian element, may be traced with the greatest clearness in the modern dialects of Hindustan. In all of these dialects there is a substratum of words, foreign to Sanskrit, which can only be referred to the aboriginal stock. See the last note at the bottom of p. xxii.
* It would be interesting to trace the gradual transition of Sanskrit into Prakrit. In a book called the Lalita-vUtara, the life and adventures of Buddha are narrated in pure Sanskrit. It is probably of no great antiquity, as the Buddhists themselves deny the existence of written authorities for 400 years after Buddha's death (about B. c. 543). But subjoined to the Sanskrit version are gdthds or songs, which repeat the story in the kind of mixed dialect, half Sanskrit, half Prakrit. They were probably rude ballads, which, though not written, were current among the people soon after Buddha's death. They contain Vedic as well as more modern formations, interspersed with Prakrit corruptions (e. g. STJirff for 3J1J, which is Vedic; and Vtfar for Viv^fm, which is Prakrit), proving that the language was then in a transition state.
t The best proof of this is, that in the Hindu dramas all the higher characters ■peak Sanskrit, whilst the inferior speak various forms of Prakrit. It is idle to suppose that Sanskrit would have been employed at all in dramatic composition, had it not been the spoken language of a section of the community.
J Arrian (ch.VIII) describes the Surasevi as inhabiting the city of Methoras.
down to us, some of which date as far back as the 2d century B. C, and the first of them is identical with Pdli, the sacred language of the Ceylon Buddhists*. Out of them arose Hindi (termed Hindustani or Urdu, when mixed with Persian and Arabic words), Nardthi, and Gujardthi—the modern dialects spread widely over the country. To these may be added, Bengali, the language of Bengal, which bears a closer resemblance to its parent, Sanskrit, than either of the three enumerated above; Uriya, the dialect of Orissa, in the province of Cuttack; Sindhi, that of Sindh; Pafijdbi, of the Panjab; Kdsmirian, of Kasmir; and Nipdlese, of Nipal f.
The four languages of Southern India, viz. i. Tamil}, 2. Telugu (the A'ndhra of Sanskrit writers) §, 3. Kanarese (also called Kannadi or Karnataka), and 4. Malayalam (Malabar) ||, although drawing largely from Sanskrit for their literature, their scientific terms, their religion, their laws, and their social institutions, are proved to be distinct in their structure, and are referred, as might have been expected from the previous account of the aborigines, to the Scythian, or, as it is sometimes termed, the Tatar or Turanian type T
* Pali, which is identical with the Magadhi Prakrit, is the language in which the sacred books of the Buddhists of Ceylon are written. Buddhist missionaries from Magadha carried their religion, and ultimately (after the decay of Buddhism in India) their language, into that island. Pali (meaning in Singhalese 'ancient') is the name which the priests of Ceylon gave to the language of the old country, whence they received their religion.
t For an account of some of these dialects, see Prof. H. H. Wilson's very instructive Preface to his ' Glossary of Indian Terms'
t Often incorrectly written Tamul, and by earlier Europeans erroneously termed Malabar. The cerebral / at the end has rather the sound of rl.
§ Sometimes called Gentoo by the Europeans of the last generation.
|| A fifth language is enumerated, viz. Tulu or Tuluva, which holds a middle position between Kanarese and Malayalam, but more nearly resembles the former. It is spoken by only 150,000 people. Added to this, there are four rude and uncuttivated dialects spoken in various parts of Southern India, viz. the Tuda, Kota, Gond, and Ku or Khond; all of which are affiliated with the Southern group.
IT This is nevertheless consistent with the theory of a remote original affinity between these languages and Sanskrit and the other members of the Indo-European family. The various branches of the Scythian stock, which spread themselves in all directions westward, northward, and southward, must have radiated from a common centre with the Aryans, although the divergence of the latter took place at a much Sanskrit is written in various Indian characters, but the character
which is peculiarly its own is the Nagari or Devanagari, i. e. that
of 'the divine, royal, or capital city.' The earliest form of this
character can scarcely be traced back to a period much anterior to
the 3d century B. c*; and the more modern, which is one of the
most perfect, comprehensive, and philosophical of all known
alphabets, is not traceable for several centuries after Christ. The
first is the corrupt character of the various inscriptions which have
been discovered on pillars and rocks throughout India, written in
Magadhi Prakrit, spoken at the time of Alexander's invasion over a
great part of Hindustan. These inscriptions are ascertained to be
addresses from the Buddhist sovereigns of Magadha to the people,
enjoining the practice of social virtues and reverence for the priests.
They are mostly in the name of Piya-dasi t (for Sanskrit Priya
dars'i), supposed to be an epithet of As'oka, who is known to have
reigned at some period between the 2d and the 3d century B. C. by
his being the grandson of Candra-gupta, probably identical with
Sandrakottus, described by Strabo as the most powerful Raja,
immediately succeeding Alexander's death. He was one of the
kings of Magadha (Bihar), whose court was at Pali-bothra or Patali
putra (Patna), and who claimed the title of Samntys or universal
monarchs; not without reason, as their addresses are found in these
inscriptions at Delhi, and at Kuttack in the south, and again as far
west as Gujarat, and again as far north as the Panjab. The
imperfect form of Nagari which the corrupt character exhibits is
incompatible with Sanskrit orthography. It may therefore be
conjectured that a more perfect alphabet existed, which bore the
same relation to the corrupt form that Sanskrit bore to Prakrit.
later period. It is to be observed, that in the South-Indian dialects the Scythian element constitutes the bulk of the language. It may be compared to the warp, and the Sanskrit admixture to the woof. In the Northern dialects the grammatical structure and many of the idioms and expressions are still Scythian, but the whole material and substance of the language is Sanskrit. Sec, on this subject, the able Introduction of the Rev. R. Caldwell to his ' Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Languages,' lately published.
* Mr. James Prinsep placed the earliest form as far back as the 5th century B.C.
t The regular Prakrit form would be Pia-dassi. Probably the spoken Prakrit of that period approached nearer to Sanskrit than the Prakrit of the plays.
Nor does it militate against this theory that the perfect character is not found in any ancient inscription, as it is well known that the Brahmans, who alone spoke and understood the pure Sanskrit, and who alone would therefore need that character, never addressed the people, never proselytized, and never cared to emerge from the indolent apathy of a dignified retirement.
An interesting table of the various modifications of the Devanagari alphabet, both ancient and modern, from the date of the earliest inscriptions to the present time, may be seen in Mr. Edward Thomas' edition of Prinsep's 'Indian Antiquities,' vol II. p. 52 *. The perfection of the modern character, and the admirable manner in which it adapts itself to the elaborate and symmetrical structure of the Sanskrit language, will be apparent from the first chapter of the present Grammar.
* This table, by the kind permission of Mr. Thomas, was lent to me by Mr. Stephen Austin of Hertford, the printer of the above work, and inserted in my second edition; but as the table is more interesting to scholars generally than useful to the student of Sanskrit grammar, and as the increase of matter in the present volume makes space an object, I have preferred referring to the table as exhibited in Prinsep's ' Indian Antiquities.'
NOTICE TO THE STUDENT.
The publication at the Oxford University Press of'the Story of Nala' (confessedly the best reading-book for beginners), as a companion to the present volume, with full vocabulary and copious grammatical references, has almost superseded the need for the exercises in translation and parsing appended to the previous editions of the Grammar. They have, therefore, been much abridged in the following edition.
When the Sanskrit-English Dictionary, now being printed under the patronage of the Delegates of the Oxford Press, is completed, the student will be supplied with such facilities for translating the literature that a delectus at the end of the Grammar will be rendered unnecessary.
Observe—'The Sanskrit Manual,' by the author of the present work, contains a complete series of progressive exercises intended to be used in connexion with the rules in the following Grammar, and adapted to facilitate its study. This Manual may be obtained from W. H. Allen & Co., London, or any bookseller.
1. THE Devanagari character, in which the Sanskrit language is c /j_^„ written, is adapted to the expression of almost every known gradation, ^- tll...> of sound; and every letter has a fixed and invariable pronunciation. ^ ^>««^ (**> *
There are fourteen vowels (or without Iri* thirteen) and thirty- 4iflJ1M three simple consonants. To these may be added the nasal symbol, called Anusvdra, and the symbol for a final aspirate, called Visarga (see rule 6). They are here exhibited in the dictionary order f. All the vowels, excepting a, have two forms; the first is the initial, the second the medial or non-initial.
• See rule 3. b.
t The character 35 k •* not given, as being peculiar to the Vedas. See 16. a.
X In the previous editions this letter was represented by ch, out of deference to