AHMEDABAD: In the Middle Ages (5th century BC to 12th century AD) when Sanskrit was enjoying the position of Devabhasa (language of the gods) in India, especially in northern parts, the citizens of various states derived and used their own languages such as Ardhmagadhi, Shaurseni and Maharashtri known with umbrella term of Prakrit, literally meaning natural or vernacular.
Down the centuries, the language has again fascinated the scholars for a large pool of information yet to be tapped from manuscripts and documents belonging to golden age of Prakrit. LD Institute of Indology hosted a two-day seminar titled 'In Search of Rare Prakrit Literature' on March 23 and 24 where more than 50 scholars and researchers participated. The experts concluded that the rare literary treasure should be preserved for the generations to come.
Talking about Prakrit, New Delhi-based BL Institute of Indology's Professor Gayacharan Tripathi said that it was contemporary of languages such as Sanskrit and Pali. "Gautam Buddha and Mahavira spoke Magadhi and Ardhmagadhi to reach out to the masses. Later, Jainism adopted it for Jain canon of scriptures. While Sanskrit was used to write 'classic' literature, Prakrit documented common people's life outside general subjects revolving around kings and religion," he said.
Scholars said that Gujarat holds special mention in history of Prakrit as while Valabhi University was a major center of learning using the language along with Sanskrit, Hemchandracharya, 11th century scholar in Solanki era, wrote grammar for the language that was later followed widely.
Director of LD Institute of Indology J B Shah said that the event was organized with a view to collect the Prakrit works. "Every language is reflection of the contemporary society and Prakrit is no exception. It captured mood and currents of India and became voice of the parallel literature. By its proper study, we believe, we may get to learn hitherto unknown facts about regions, persons and history," he said.
Movement to preserve manuscripts
The participants at the seminar stressed on the need to sensitize citizens about preservation of manuscripts. "Many of the households in the country are in possession of manuscripts about which they don't know much. Unfortunately many of it either gets bundled up or discarded. We want to create awareness to donate such works to institutes where it can be studied and documented to further our quest for knowledge of the bygone era," said Shah.