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Sanskrit : Language of Vedas and Epics

Brief Description

The oldest surviving example of the tabulations of the rules of Sanskrit grammar is Panini's "Astadhyavi" (literally translating to "Eight-Chapter Grammar") dated to have been written around the 5th century BC. The "Astadhyavi" is essentially a prescriptive set of grammarian principles, which defines (rather than describes) the correct usage of Sanskrit. However, it is replete with descriptive sections, chiefly to account for those Vedic forms of Sanskrit which had already phase out by the time Panini wrote the book.

Classical Sanskrit distinguishes 48 sounds. Some of these are, however, allophones. The number of phonemes is smaller, at about 35.

The sounds are traditionally listed in the order vowels (Ach), diphthongs (Hal), anusvara and visarga, stops (Sparsa) and nasals (starting in the back of the mouth and moving forward), and finally the liquids and fricatives, written in IAST

Regions where spoken

It is a classical language of India, a liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and one of the 23 official languages of India. It has the same status in Nepal as well.

Development & Spread

Sanskrit has a similar position in India to that of Latin and Greek in Medieval Europe, and is a central part of Hindu/Vedic traditions. In its pre-classical form, called Vedic Sanskrit, Sanskrit is one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family. The oldest example of Sanskrit literature available is the Rigveda. However, while the age of 3,000 years is a very conservative estimate based on the dating on the earliest found manuscript written in Sanskrit, it has been postulated that an oral tradition was extensively used for several centuries before the penning of religious works like the Rigveda was undertaken.

The current form of the language is believed to have evolved out of the earlier "Vedic" form of Sanskrit and certain scholars often classify Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit as separate languages.


Historically, Sanskrit is not associated with any particular script. The emphasis on orality, not textuality, in the Vedic Sanskrit tradition was maintained through the development of early classical Sanskrit literature. When Sanskrit was written, the choice of writing system was influenced by the regional scripts of the scribes. As such, virtually all of the major writing systems of South Asia have been used for the production of Sanskrit manuscripts. Since the late 19th century, Devanagari has been considered as the de facto writing system for Sanskrit.

Important Writers or Works

Valmiki, Ved Vyasa, Kalidasa, Bhasa, Bharata, Sri Harsha, Bharavi, Gesta Govinda

Source: www.bhashaindia.com , www.linguaindia.blogspot.com , www.sanskrit.org

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