A Synopsis by Amrutha MK (Research Associate, NIAS) – on “Forms of Vernacular Sanskrit”
Lecture given by Prof. Madhav Deshpande given on 17 February 2021

Series Title: Sanskrit Language & its Traditions: A Journey Through its History and Contemporaneity
Organised by: NIAS Consciousness Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, India
Email: niasconsciousnessprogramme@nias.res.in 

A mesmerising session by Prof Madhav Deshpande on 17/02/2021, on the topic “Forms of Vernacular Sanskrit” as a part of the lecture series on Sanskrit language and its tradition. Prof Deshpande suggested that there is a happy coexistence between Sanskrit and Prakrit and the two languages share a symbiotic relationship. He recited a beautiful verse by Vākpatirāja to illustrate this beautiful relationship between Sanskrit and Prakrit. He says that the beauty of Sanskrit expressions blooms with a shade of Prakrit and the expressive power of Prakrit is achieved through Sanskritization. The relationship between them was not always like an invasion. Directionality is already built into the history from Sanskrit to Prakrit and Prakrit to Sanskrit.
Prof Deshpande also explained the reasons and purposes for intentional and unintentional vernacularization. He explained dialectical variation in Vedic and Prakritisms in Vedic. Vernacularisation manifest in several forms such as Vedic text occasionally contain words from Prakrit, Even Paninian Sanskrit incorporate some Prakrit forms such as variants in nicknames. Some grammarians have different views from those of poets. Kātyāyana considered Apabhraṃśa is born out of the incapacity of the speaker to speak proper Sanskrit. Panini gives examples of great sages Yarvāṇastarvāṇaḥ and Brahmin women who speak ungrammatical Sanskrit and wrong pronunciations. He also gave varieties of vernacularized Sanskrit and Sanskritzed vernaculars.
Various grades of hybridization were seen in Buddhist hybrid literature, Jain hybrid Sanskrit and Inscriptional hybrid Sanskrit. Simplified prakritized Sanskrit was used in teaching manuals. Sanskritized Pali and Prakrit were used for literary purposes. He also gave some interesting insights into how people with Prakrit mother tongue learnt Sanskrit. Sanskritization of regional vernacular such as North Indian languages and Dravidian languages were very common. We could find local phonological, synthetic, and lexical influence on regional production of Sanskrit even in modern times. There is an intense interaction between language varieties in various domains such as English and Marathi English and Hindi even today. Similarly, Sanskrit and Prakrit mixtures were taking place in various ways. There was deliberate production of new terminology of science.
Prof Deshpande also gave a schematic picture for comprehension of language during rituals by the learned priest and non-learned priests. Priests get training in formulized Sanskrit and various funny examples where the non-learned priests get in trouble when they have to adjust the formulas were mentioned. Various examples of simplification of Sanskrit to help host participants such as splitting word for ease of utterance were given. Vernacular vocabulary in Sanskrit also shows an interesting interaction of two languages. The session was followed by question and answer session.
Lecture Synopsis Author: Amrutha M K, Team NIAS CSP

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