There is a demand from Kashmir as well as from Maharashtra to honor their ancient and literarily rich languages by conferring upon them the classical status. However, these proposals are still pending with the Central Government, for the reasons listed below-
1. The main proposals demanding the Classical status Kashmiri and Marathi languages try to show the Sanskrit language as parent language while treat all the Prakrits including Kashmiri and Marathi as the descendant languages. This is not true based on the available historical evidence. This error prevents these languages from getting classical status as per the norms laid down by the government for declaring such status, according to which a language needs independent origin with rich ancient literature. As per my observations, the proposals have failed in doing so.
2. The appraising body has not given so far any clarification as to why these languages cannot be declared as classical languages.
3. Also, it appears that so far the appraising body has not applied its own mind and linguistic study to correct the lacunas in the proposals in order to lend a logical foundation to them. Further, the appraising body has substantially failed to understand the real status of the Sanskrit language, irrespective of what is claimed in the respective proposals.
1. 4. The appraising body has overlooked that the oldest specimens of the Prakrit are as old as 1400 BC, whereas the first specimen of the Sanskrit appears only in the inscription of Rudradaman in 160 AD. The scholars influenced by the Aryan Invasion or Migration Theory, out of their supremacist linguistic views have overlooked this historical fact which needs a fresh review.
To help the appraising body in making the appropriate linguistic assessment to reach a correct decision that Sanskrit is not the mother language of the Prakrit languages and that these languages have been treated as middle-Indo-European (MIE) languages under influence of the Aryan Migration Theory. In this regard the following points may please be noted:
Position of the Vedic language
Though the Vedic language has been claimed to be the origin of the Sanskrit and its descendent languages, the linguistic facts are otherwise. Language of the Rig Veda in its present form contains grammatical contamination from other contemporary languages such as Iranian and Indian Prakrit languages. It is replete with borrowed vocabulary from Prakrit having the base of the Prakrit grammar. Also, many Prakritic forms are left untouched in the Rig Veda. This makes Vedic language, as per J. Bloch, a hybrid language, having no originality.
According to Hargovindadasa Seth, the vocabulary and suffixes of Prakrit have more affinity with Vedic language than Sanskrit. Had Prakrits emerged from Sanskrit, this wouldn’t have happened. (Ref. Prakrit-Sanskrit-Hindi Dictionary by Haragovindadāsa Trikamacanda Setha)
It is clearly apparent that the Vedic language possesses many similarities with the language of the Avesta. With the slight change of sounds, many Avestan words can be easily transformed into those from the Vedic language. Rig Veda itself provides the proof that the seers (creators) of the Vedas had formulated a new language by borrowing vocabularies from the vernacular languages, (Rig Veda, Indus Culture and the Indo-Iranian Connections by Pramod V. Pathak in IRANIAN JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDIES 1: 1 (2011)
Linguist Pischel declares that the Prakrit languages cannot be traced back to any common source as they could not have developed from Sanskrit as is held by Indian scholars and Hoffar, Lassen and Jacoby. According to him, all Prakrit languages have a series of common grammatical and lexical characteristics with the Vedic language and such are significantly missing from Sanskrit. (A Grammar of the Prākrit Languages By Richard Pischel, Page-5)
This only means that the Vedic seers had restructured their original Avestan (old Persian) language to suit local Prakrit languages though the original old Persian vocabulary was used with a slight sound change.
This shows that the claim Vedic language was the original source of the Prakrit languages cannot stand on any ground. Rather, the Vedic language was a hybrid language heavily influenced by Prakrit languages.
Position of Sanskrit
Sanskrit begins to appear only after the first century AD. It differs significantly from Vedic language in vocabulary, lexicon, and syntax. The classical Sanskrit, as a formalized language, is an artificial language that was developed carefully as a means of communication between the cultures and persons across the India. Classical Sanskrit is a product of Vedic and Prakrit languages and not vice versa. (Ref. Formation of the Marathi Language by J Bloch, Motilal Banarasidas, 1970)
Hence we will have to treat archaic Prakrit as an original or parent language, Vedic as hybrid language and Sanskrit as an artificially developed descendent language.
1. Archeologically origin of the Prakrit languages can be traced back to the Bogazkoy Treaty and Horse Training Manual of Kikkuly belonging to 1400 BC. In which we find the Prakrit forms of the numeric and proper names such as Indara (For Indra), Varena (for Varuna) and Eka (for Ekam), Panza (For Panch) Satta (for Sapt), Tusaratta (For Dasharatha) etc. This will prove that the Prakrit has more antiquity than the Vedic and Sanskrit languages. The Sanskrit forms provided in the bracket are obviously a later development in the process of making language.
2. Though it has been proclaimed by various historians that Pushyamitra Shunga after assuming the power (158 – 149 BCE) revived the Vedic religion, none of the coins issued during his reign bears Sanskrit legend. His successor Agnimitra’s coins also bear Prakrit legends.
3. During Shunga rule, Greek ambassador Heliodorus had erected Garuda pillar in honor of Vasudeva (110 BCE). The inscription on the pillar is also in Prakrit. The dynasty that is claimed to have revived Vedic religion surprisingly has not used Sanskrit anywhere only because the language couldn’t have existed then.
4. The inscriptions belonging to the period prior to second century AD, which have been found so far and which provide descriptions of the Vedic sacrifices, surprisingly are in local Prakrit languages. Ayodhya inscription describing the Ashwamedha sacrifice conducted by Pushyamitra Shunga, Naneghat inscription describing various fire sacrifices conducted by Satvahanas and Mathura inscriptions on Yupa (Sacrificial pillars) are all in local Prakrit languages. Neither Vedic nor Sanskrit language has been used in any of the inscriptions that describe Vedic rituals. This creates a serious doubt on the pre-existence of Vedic or Sanskrit language.
5. Present Sanskrit has certainly been developed from the Prakrit languages as we have several numismatic and inscriptional proofs to show the progressive forms of the gradual development of Sanskrit from the Prakrit languages approximately between the first century BC and second century CE. We have abundant proofs to establish the fact that the Vedic or Sanskrit did not exist prior to the second century AD. There never was any “Vedic Times” to impose the languages upon the aboriginals because Vedas seem to have been heavily influenced by the local languages i.e. Prakrit languages.
6. Had Vedic language been present prior to the Prakrit languages, no matter how short, a specimen would have emerged from somewhere in India or elsewhere, but this is not the case. The oral tradition has been seriously doubted by the scholars because even if we consider that the religious literature was preserved by the oral tradition, written records of the socio-political transactions would be extant somewhere to show the existence of this language the way we find abundant inscriptional and numismatic proofs of the several Prakrit forms.
7. Time of the Sanskrit grammarian, Panini has erroneously been assumed to be 8th century BC. This assumption has proven to be controversial. The literature in Paninian Sanskrit only appears after fourth century AD and not earlier. Therefore, in reality, the time of Panini cannot be stretched back to more than the third century AD.
Position of the Prakrit languages
The oldest specimen of the Prakrit appears in the Bogazkoy treaty and a Horse manual of Kikkuli belonging to the fourteenth century BC. The movement of the language to that part of the world can be attributed to the trade and political relations between both the regions back then.
Prakrit languages have been labeled as Middle Indo-European languages without any supportive evidence. Aryan Invasion or Aryan Migration Theory has been proven baseless on various grounds including modern genetics. Vedic religion came to India through a handful of the people and later making a substantial change in the language of the Vedas the religion was spread in some sections of the Indian society by missionary practices. They accommodated the local deities and some ritualistic practices to make the spread easy. They couldn’t have influenced the local languages except for some exchange in the vocabulary.
The following Prakrit languages emerged independently in respective regions and all modern languages owe the origin to them.
1) Maharashtri Prakrit
2) Ardhamagadhi Pakrit
3) Magadhi or Pali Prakrit
4) Gandhari Prakrit
5) Kamarupi Prakrit
6) Paishachi Prakrit
7) Shauraseni Prakrit
The names of the languages indicate the regions where these languages were spoken. On the contrary, the name Sanskrit or Vedic language bears no geographical connection because these languages were hybrid and artificially developed for literary or religious purpose.
Though these languages possess some linguistic affinities they show significant independent regional traits in their grammar and lexicon. This can be credited to the geological similarities that influence regional psychologies reflecting in the languages and cultures they exhibit. But the origin of these distinct languages is independent and has remote antiquity.
These Prakrit languages were not only colloquial; rich traditions of the religious and nonreligious literature has been preserved by them. To take a short review of the same, we present the following information -
1. Maharashtri Prakrit- Besides numerous inscriptions, a poetically rich collection “Gatha Saptashati” has been the most influential anthology since second century AD. “Angavijja”, a treaty composed in the prose by a Jain follower belongs to the Kushana era, i.e. first century AD. This treaty throws substantial light on the contemporary socio-economic life. This book nowhere mentions that Sanskrit or the Vedic language was present in that era. Besides this, there are numerous religious Tantric texts and other literature available in Maharashtri Prakrit, which shows that present Marathi is directly related to the Maharashtri, and to none else.
Prior to the rise of Sanskrit, Maharashtri Prakrit was considered a supreme language for literature. Even after rising of Sanskrit as a medium of literature, Maharashtri in parallel was the most influential language which remained in use by the scholars, dramatists, and poets of the country. Gaudvaho written in 8th century is an indicative proof to establish this very fact.
2. Paishachi language (the name was given by the outsiders) also has its origin in the remote times. The language spoken in the Himalayan mountain range has several dialects due to the unique geological formation. Gunadhya’s Brihatkatha was the oldest known epic written in this language. Though the original Paishachi version is lost in the sands of the time, from Kashmir Kshemendra and Somadeva translated Brihatkatha in Sanskrit. The global literature has been influenced by Brihatkatha as many tales from it traveled across the globe gaining high popularity.
Paishachi or Bhut Bhasa is the term coined by the grammarians and other authors living in the mainland. This may be because mainland people had very little knowledge of the Kashmiri people and thus they created strange stories about them in sheer imagination. They thought this land belongs to the fiends and serpents speaking a strange language.
This is why the Indian grammarians have not been able to provide much information on the structure of this language in detail. Vararuchi (second century BC) in his Prakrit Grammar treaty provides very few lines on the grammar of the Paishachi Prakrit. It is possible that Bhamaha, who wrote Sanskrit commentary on Vararuchi’s now non-extant original grammar, has omitted most of that part because this language was not known to him.
Kashmiri people have been calling their language “Kashur or Koshur” since antiquity and the name has a regional reference which is natural for any Prakrit language. The translation of Brihatkatha could take place in Kashmir only because the local Pundits knew the archaic forms of their vernacular language. Though we have to yet search for the manuscript of original Brihatkatha, the Paishachi language’s existence and its being rich in literature cannot be denied.
Though Kashur or Kashmiri language, also known as Bhuta or Paishachi was never considered worthy of study by foreign scholars. Though the present urban Kashur is badly affected because many foreign dynasties ruled Kashmir, the original Kashur is still dominant in the rural Kashmir. Sir Walter Roper Lawrence states that the vocabulary of Kashur is rich, that its phrases are direct and unambiguous and that many terms in it are full of poetic thought. (Valley of Kashmir, page- 455) It is no wonder that Gunadhya chose Kashur language to write his unique epic “Brihatkatha”. Out of sheer ignorance of the mainland people this language was termed as Paishachi. Because of the ignorance, not only Kashmiri, the languages spoken in any hilly regions, such as Vindhya, were labeled as Paishachi which has caused great confusion in the study of the linguistics.
Linguist George Abraham Grierson was wrong in his assumption that the Pishacha language spoken in the valley is part of Shina-Khowaar group and occupies a position between Sanskritic language of India proper and Iranian languages of their west. (Linguistic Survey of India, vol. VIII, Part 2, p.2) It is obvious that his assessment was under the influence of the Aryan Invasion Theory which was prominent in his time. Kashur language had originally emerged among the ancient people of the valley and took its independent course with minor exchanges with neighboring tribes. A deep study of this language is required but that is not possible unless this language is declared Classical.
Like all other Prakrit languages, Kashur needs an independent evaluation. Calling Prakrit languages “Middle-Indo-European Languages” is an injustice to linguistic science because there is not a shred of evidence to establish the fact that the Prakrit languages have been born from Sanskrit. In fact, all the available evidence is contrary to this unscientific notion.
3. Magadhi and Ardha-Magadhi were the Prakrit languages in which far more rich literature is available compared to Sanskrit. Two major religions, Jainism and Buddhism extensively used this language in their religious and nonreligious literature. Buddhists can be credited with the development of the Sanskrit, Pali being intermediate. The Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit was developed far before, in first century BC, which later developed into formal Sanskrit as we know today. Edgerton did study this hybrid language which had Prakrit base, but his derivations from it were wrong as he assumed that the Brahmanical monks had forgotten Sanskrit hence they used mixed language. The case was obviously otherwise. In fact, Sanskrit was being developed from Ardhamagadhi, Magadhi and Pali to formalize religious texts. (The Prakrit Underlying Buddhistic Hybrid Sanskrit. Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, Vol. 8, No. 2/3)
This will prove that Paishachi (Kashur) or Maharashtri, are the languages having an independent origin and they deserve to be declared as classical languages to study their roots more deeply and independently without having the influence of the outdated and unscientific language group theories, such as Indo-European or Indo-Iranian language groups.