• The meaning of ‘Prakrit’ is ‘Natural’.
  • The word Prakrit is used for the group of languages spoken in ancient India.
  • Jainism has a great relation with Prakrit Languages.
  • In ancient India, Sanskrit was spoken only by Vedic Brahmins, while common people’s language was Prakrit.
  • Jains always promoted their religion through people’s languages.
  • So, most of ancient Jain literature was written in various Prakrit Languages.
  • This language had been an integral part of social life and polity for centuries.
Losing Importance
  • Prakrit started losing importance after the 12th century, the time when regional languages in the northern part of the country emerged.
  • The fact that Prakriti was spoken by the common people was also one among the reasons the scholars of that time ignored it.
  • At that time Sanskrit gained recognition while Prakrit was sidelined.
Receiving attention recently:
  • In recent years, the Prakrit has been receiving attention.
  • Few universities in India and abroad are offering courses in Prakrit studies.
  • Young scholars of Japan have developed an interest in Prakrit studies.
  • Many works of Jain scholars in Prakrit have been translated into Russian.
Classical languages:
  • These are those languages which are ancient, of an independent nature and not a derivative of any other tradition.
Criteria for declaring Classical Language:
The criteria to declaration a language as a Classical language is as under:-
  • High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years.
  • A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers.
  • The literary tradition should be original and not borrowed from another speech community.
  • The classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.
Classical languages in India
  • In 2004, the Government of India declared that languages that met certain requirements could be accorded the status of a “Classical Language in India”.
  • Languages so far declared to be Classical in India are:-
    • Tamil (in 2004)
    • Sanskrit (in 2005)
    • Kannada (in 2008)
    • Telugu (in 2008)
    • Malayalam (in 2013)
    • Odia (in 2014)
The following benefits are available for languages which are declared as classical languages:
  • Two major annual international awards are given to the scholars of eminence in the concerned language.
  • A ‘Centre of Excellence for Studies in Classical Languages’ can be set up.
  • The University Grants Commission can be requested to create, a certain number of professional chairs for classical languages and for scholars of eminence in the concerned language.
Section : History & Culture