August 17, 1939 saw the reopening of the old Deccan College as the Deccan College Postgraduate arid Research Institute providing facilities for research to young graduates. I had the good fortune of joining this Institute since its very inception as a research scholar and of remaining there for about four years until I finished my thesis for the Ph.D. degree, It was a happy coincidence for me to have Dr. S. M. KATRE, the Institute’s present Director, as my research guide, and it was he who suggested to the theme of the present work as a subject for Ph.D. thesis and enabled me to complete my work on it.
When the present work was submitted to the University. of Bombay for the doctorate degree, it comprised the study of only the Prakrits in the Brahmi inscriptions. Subsequently when the thesis was approved for the degree, the study of’ Kharosthi inscriptions and the early Lena inscriptions from Ceylon was added to it before the copy was sent to the press for publication. It was then intended also to include a complete index verborum to the present work. But it was found that the addition of such an index would much increase the extent of the work, which even as it stands . into some 400 pages. The cost of publication also having far exceeded the normal expectation it was decided to drop the index verborum but give the subject index a general way.
It is, however, planned to make good this defect by bringing out later another serving as a companion to the present one, giving the texts of the inscriptions and a complete etymological and comparative index verborum. This second volume would bring together the texts of all Prakrit inscriptions, save those of Asoka, the Kharosthi inscriptions the Barhut inscriptions and the Udayagiri and the Khandagiri inscriptions which are easily available at one place in the works of HULTZSCH, KONOW, and BaruaTrue, the versions of Asoka’s Minori Rock Edict discovered at Kopbal and Yerragudi are not to be found in HULTZSCH’S edition. But that affords little justification for publishing the whole group once more. Taken together, these two volumes will have given full treatment to the subject of Inscriptional Prakrits.
The corrigenda to the present work gives only important corrections. It was me at a very late stage that the press had not sufficient type to show or long and the mistakes due to this shortage have crept in at many places. Thus in all these cases where I had intended to mean short or long the printing shows only long. I crave the indulgence of readers for not having corrected such mistakes in the corrigenda.
Before I conclude it is my pleasant duty to acknowledge my debt to various persons and institutions. First and foremost, I have been laid under heavy obligations by his highness the Maharajasaheb of Baroda by his kind consent to allow me to dedicate this work to him. The Government of Baroda have always sought to champion the cause of Oriental learning and the dedication of this Volume to his highness is an humble token of that benevolent patronage.
Next I feel an altogether different pleasure in acknowledging my debt to Dr. S.M.KATRE. Not only do I owe him the suggestion to carry on research in this fruitful field but I am also indebted to him for his guidance and valuable advice throughout the period for which I was engaged on this work. It is indeed difficult for me to give an adequate expression to my deep sense of gratitude to Dr. KATRE.
I am also indebted to all scholars who have earlier worked in this field and have done much to decipher and interpret the Prakrit inscriptions. It is on the labour of these savants that I have built up the present edifice.
I take this opportunity to express my thanks to the Librarian and the Library staff of the Deccan College Research Institute for the help they gave me in getting on loan many books from outside Liberians.
So far as the printing of the work is concerned I am glad to express once more my indebtedness to Dr. KATRE for his kind consent to include the publication in the Institute’s Dissertation Series. But for this arrangement I am doubtful whether the work would have appeared in a book form for many years to come. I have also to express my sincere thanks to Mr. M. M. PATKAR for all the troubles he has taken in seeing the work carefully through the press.
In conclusion I have pleasure in acknowledging my indebtedness to the University of Bombay for the grant-in-aid received by me from the University towards the cost of publication of this work.
Historical Linguistics : The science of Linguistics which now forms a very important chapter in the Book of Knowledge seems to have passed through three well- distinguished stages before it attained its present status. The first stage was marked by the studies of individual languages mostly as they were recorded in literature. India can rightly claim to have given birth to the pioneers of the Linguistic in its cradle. Though pre-Paninian efforts in Linguistics are only partially shadowed in the Pratisakhyas, the Nighantu, and the Nirukta, Pãnini’s Astadhyayi bears ample evidence to the remarkable intelligence of the scholars who indulged in discussions centuries before the beginning of the Christian era. This tradition individual languages was upheld in later centuries by Prakrit grammarians unfortunately lacked the unique grasp of the methods pursued by their forerunners in this field. The very method of studying the grammar of a particular language and especially of the literary type exposed the efforts of these early linguists two glaring defects. First, they failed to study these languages from a comparative stand-point which could be developed only when a particular language was studied in relation to other cognate languages comprising one family. It is due to this defect in approach that those otherwise giant linguists failed to give to posterity the picture of a language in its proper perspective from the point of view of linguistic in it at various stages. Secondly, the materials with which they raised their structure were mostly drawn from literature. Now it is well-known that a language lives its true life not in literature but in the form in which it is brought into daily use by the people. These early scholars, however, remained content with the examples drawn from standardised languages which were more or less fossilized in literature.
As it happened this science of Linguistics which was once so vigorously studied here in India suffered a long break after the first millennium of our era. The stage of scholarship was then shifted to the west in Europe and America where this science began its history early in the nineteenth century. It was at the hands of the Western scholars that Linguistics attained the second stage in its development which may be styled as comparative Linguistics. The discovery of Sanskrit to the Western Scholars had almost a revolutionising effect on the theories previously held by them. The importance of Sanskrit and especially of Vedic Sanskrit was quickly appreciated, and its study was zealously undertaken in all Universities.2 Immediately languages began to be grouped in various families and were studied within and without these family limits from a comparative stand-point. This method of comparing a particular linguistic phenomenon in a language either within the bounds of its own linguistic family or outside it helped to solve many of the shelved linguistic riddles. The school of Junggrammatiker which was founded at this stage largely contributed to give this science a shape which it held till recently.
But as days rolled on the ‘Jung’ became old and their methods antiquated. As the discovery of Sanskrit helped the early linguists to strike at the comparative approach, the fortuitous discoveries of Hittite and Tocharian heralded the advance of Historical Linguistics.3 This science had then come of age and had particularly outgrown that stage when all brains were directed towards the reconstruction of PIE forms. The new historical approach to the study of languages lays emphasis not merely on the comparative study but also on the chronological and the regional one. The knowledge of PIE which we have today is based on the faulty method of comparing documents belonging to different centuries and countries. Torn as this data is of wide gaps both in chronology and geography, the structure of PIE built on it does not correspond to a synchronic state. Historical linguistics seeks to rectify this defect. It. will not now suffice to cite parallels from different languages comprising a particular family,; it is now almost imperative to give the date and geographical location of this parallel. All future work based on this point of Historical Linguistics should thus be primarily directed towards the fixing of the chronology of a given linguistic family.
2. Importance of Prakrit Inscriptions: In spite of the efforts of a band of scholars working in the east and west in the field of MIA. a comprehensive linguistic grammar of this family has not yet been attempted. Even the monumental work of PISCHEL suffers from the absence of Pãli and inscriptional Prakrits. “What is needed today to place MIA grammar on a sound foundation is a very comprehensive linguistic grammar of all dialects which strictly belong to the MIA field, namely the three types of non-classical Sanskrit (Jaina, Buddhist and Epic Sanskrit), the Prakrits of the inscriptions from Asoka downwards, the religious Prakrits (Pãli, Ardhantagadhi, Jaina Maharastri and Jaina Sauraseni), the Prakrits found outside India as in the Prakrit Dhammapada or the Kharothi Documents, the Prakrits found in Classical Sanskrit plays and in the Prakrit lyric poetry (Maharastri) and finally in Apabhramsa and in the grammatical and rhetorical literature.” Of all these sections the importance of Prakrit Inscriptions, which form one part of the MIA field, to the study of Historical Linguistics can never be overrated. They are very widely scattered all over India and range from about the middle of the third century B.C. to the end of the fourth century A.D, The all important advantage which they easily yield is that they can be definitely localised in point of place and very much approximately in point of time. Arid once the venue of these inscriptions and their period are ascertained it would be easy to scrutinise them in their space-time context.
With the meager advance made till today in the laborious task of publishing critical editions of Prakrit works, the importance of Prakrit inscriptions will be still more felt from a different angle. Similar attempts based on Historical Linguistics if applied to literary remains will be seriously hampered in the absence of definite chronology of Prakrit writings. As long as the literary works in Prakrit have not been critically edited this vast literature will remain an uncultivated field. It is a piece of good fortune, however, that scholars like ALSDORF in Germany and P. L. VAIDYA, Hiralal JAIN, and A. N. UPADHYE in India have started to supply this badly felt need.
There is also one more factor, and certainly of not less significance, which adds to the value of Inscriptional Prakrits. Literary compositions, since they are usually written by accomplished writers and are meant for the advanced classes in society, do not perfect1y reflect the language of the people. On the other hand the very nature of a very large number of Prakrit inscriptions which are donative guards them from this defect. They were essentially recorded by the people and for the people which naturally led them to be of the people. The dialects, or at the least the dialectal variations recorded in them are, therefore, the best available representatives of the living form of the speech which were current in different regions of India in those days. It is not, however, intended to suggest that these inscriptions, especially the long ones written in an artificial style, are altogether free from literary influences.
3.Distribution of Prakrit Inscriptions: It has been already noted above that inscriptions are widely distributed both in point of time and place. It will not be out of place here to give the details of these inscriptions from the point of their distribution. Leaving aside the inscriptions of Asoka whose geographical locations are well known all the rest can be conveniently divided into four groups viz, the Western, the Southern the Central and the Eastern.
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