History and Development of Prakrit Literature traces the important role played by Prakrit language and narrative literature in the development of Indian
languages and literature. This is considered to be the first attempt ever, by any Indian or foreign scholar in this field.
This publication has been painstakingly, manually prepared by Dr. J.C. Jain after a detailed research of a wide range of Indian and foreign literary works, which
has taken several years.
The manifold contributions of Prakrit in the field of Ardhamagadhi, Sauraseni, Maharastri and Paisachi language and literature, development of narrative
literature in Maharastri, contributions in the field of Sanskrit poetics and drama have all been incorporated in this rare publication.
Dr. Jain has considered all the traditional views of ancient authors and grammarians and has compared them to those of the modern times, to enable to present a
clear viewpoint to the readers.
Prof. Dr. Jagdish Chandra Jain (1909- 1994), a legendary figure in the field of Indology, specifically Jainological and Prakrit studies, occupied the Chair in the
Universities of Bombay (India), Peking (China) and Kiel (Germany).
His lecture tour to most of the international universities of Europe, Soviet Union, USA, Canada and Latin America was a milestone of his efforts to bring the
Indian wisdom in the practical grip of human society.
Besides being an author of more than 80 books on a variety of subjects, he has contributed numerous research papers to Indian and foreign journals.
One aspect of Dr. Jain's versatile personality was his active participation in the freedom struggle of India and association with Mahatma Gandhi, Gurudeva
Tagore and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Municipal Corporation of Mumbai, honoured him by naming the road of his residence after him and to keep his memory alive, the Government of India has
released a commemorative postal stamp recently. He was the recipient of several national and international literary awards.
Some of his outstanding works include the Vasudeva Hindi, A Jain Version of the Brhatkatha; Life in Ancient India as Depicted in Jain Canons; Prakrit Sahitya
Ka ltihasa; Bhagwan Mahavir (in different languages); Studies in Early Jainism; Prakrit Narrative Literature, etc.
The late Prof. Jagdish Chandra Jain does not require any introduction from a less competent man like myself. It was his greatness to count me as one of his
friends, and it was in 1994 when he was 83 years of age that I was able to bring out his felicitation volume under the title Jainism and Prakrit in Ancient and
Medieval India: Essays Jar Prof. J. C. Jain. In the preface of the volume the following was written: 'In the scholarly world Prof. Jagdish Chandra Jain is known as
a great historian and as an authority in Prakrit language and literature. But basically he is a creative artist, a philosopher whose approach towards life is
conducive to the welfare of mankind as a whole. The wealth of experience which he acquired in his chequered career through many ups and downs, poverty and
hardship, toil and turmoil, has given him a heroic magnificence, a rare insight and a power to transcend human frailties and limitations. The story of his life reads
like an epic-though it lacks epic grandeur, it is not devoid of epic qualities.
Here I shall say a few words about his contribution to Prakrit language and literature. Earlier Western writers were interested in Sanskrit and specially Vedic
Sanskrit because of its Indo-European affiliation. Subsequently, however, scholars became interested in the study of Prakrit and regional languages. Though a
kind of simple Sanskrit served as the occasional spoken language of the elitist and scholarly class all over the country, the language of the masses was Prakrit. R.
'The basis (prakrti) of Prakrit is the natural current language of the people that cannot be fashioned according to the rules of the grammar.' Keith says: 'It is
impossible to decide what was the process which led to the use of the term; perhaps speeches other than Sanskrit received the name from being the common or
vulgar speech.' Besides there are many similarities between Prakrit and Vedic languages. Prakrit could not have been developed out of Sanskrit. The presence of
prakritism in the Vedas proves that there were spoken Prakrits even in the Vedic age and that later literary Prakrits must have descended from these earlier spoken
Prakrits and not from classical Sanskrit.
According to Prof. Jain the Middle Indo-Aryan consists of all Prakrit languages which incorporates the Prakrit inscribed in Asokan edicts, Niya Prakrit and the
Prakrit of the Dhammapada discovered in Chinese Turkestan. The first stage of the Middle Indo-Aryan (600 BC- AD 200) contains Pali, Prakrit of the
inscriptions, the oldest Jain Ardhamagadhi canons, the Sauraseni canonical literature of the Digambaras and the Prakrit of the Sanskrit dramas of Asvaghosa. The
second stage (200 BC- AD 600) comprises Prakrits of classical Sanskrit dramas, Hala's Sattasai and Gunadhya's Brhatkatha and the Prakrit grammars and
includes the Jain Ardhamagadhi, Sauraseni, Maharastri, Magadhi and their sub-dialects. The third stage (AD 600- 1000) comprises Apabhramsa while the next
stage of New Indo- Aryan (AD 1000 onwards) comprises the modern Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Sindhi and so on.
Throughout his long life Prof. Jain had written numerous books, booklets and articles on different aspects of Prakrit and his history of Prakrit literature in Hindi
has been regarded as a classic. Other scholars also contributed to the study of Prakrit language and literature. Though their works are by no means insignificant,
and some of them have supplied a great deal of source-material, Prof. Jain's life-long study has a different value. The credit of Prof. Jain lies in the fact that he
has taken into account all the traditional views of ancient authors and grammarians and compared them with the modern views in order to present the clearest
aspect of the situation. He has shown the similarity between the Prakrit and Vedic language and held that though the popular and regional pronunciation and
formation of Sanskrit words formed a part of Prakrit vocabulary, the basic Prakrit had its source in the living and not in the sacerdotal tradition of the Vedic
language which, in his opinion, was not a one-way traffic.
In this very big and comprehensive work Prof. J.C. Jain has highlighted the importance of the indigenous words forming the substratum of Prakrit and classified
the Indo-Aryan languages to show the emergence of the major Prakrit dialects like the Ardhamagadhi, Sauraseni, Maharastri, Paisaci, etc., and their sub-divisions.
He has dealt elaborately with the Ardhamagadhi of the Jain canonical literature and its transformation into other forms of Prakrit in the religious literature of the
Digambaras and post-canonical literature of the Svetambaras. Apart from religious literature, the Prakrit language contains epic poetry, lyrical poetry, gnomic
poetry and religious lyrics, besides various types of poetical anthologies. There is a vast didactic and narrative literature in Prakrit. In fact, in story telling, the
contributions of Prakrit are unique. These are mostly of Jain inspiration and form part of the mercantile literature which is why many of them have made their
way even in European literature like Gesta Romanorum. Prof. Jain has ably demonstrated how various forms of Prakrit have been used in Sanskrit dramas.
Actually the Natyasastra itself lays down the injunction that certain dramatic characters are to speak in Prakrit.
In the present history of Prakrit Prof. Jain has also laid stress on the inner strength of the Prakrit languages which is why eminent grammarians and literary critics
of the past were serious about them. There are many independent works on grammar, prosody, lexicography and poetics. There is no dearth of Prakrit works on
secular subjects like astronomy, astrology, ensnaring, omens and portents, medicine, art of warfare, erotica, taming, music, mining, testing of jewels, science of
coins, architecture, knowledge of horses, training of elephants and even the art of stealing. All these have been treated in details in this work. Moreover, in his
fairly long academic life Prof. Jain had the opportunity of visiting many libraries, archives and grantha-bhandaras and he had the occasion to see, examine and
note the contents of numerous unpublished Prakrit works. He had collected not only a great deal of materials but also employed a modern and historical mind to
work on them.
It would have been a matter of great pleasure for all of us if Prof. Jain were alive to see this great volume printed and brought to light. Our affectionate Sri Anil
Jain, worthy son of the late Prof. Jain, should be congratulated for collecting all the relevant papers and writings of which the present volume is constituted. I
specially thank Sri Ajay Jain, who is the son of my esteemed friend Sri Ramesh Jain, of Manohar Publishers & Distributors for bringing out this volume as a
tribute to the memory of Prof. Jain.
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