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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Pālī is a language which plays a very important part in the communication of ideas. Pālī is one of the several ancient languages of the country. It appears to be the common language during the Gautama Buddha[1] era. It is derived from the root ‘pā’.[2] ‘Pālī’ is ‘that which protects’. However, it was originally applied to Buddha’s words as contained in the Tripitakas or Tipitakas. Later on, it indicated the language of these works.

It has also been known as Māgadhī language. However, the language of the edicts of the Magadhan emperor Aśoka[3] is a little different. Pāli is closer to Vedic rather than classical Sanskrit. Apart from the Devanāgarī script, the scripts of other countries like those of Ceylon,[4] Burma[5] and Thailand are also being used to express the Pālī texts. The literature in the Pālī language is quite extensive.


  1. He lived in 6th century B.C.
  2. Pā means ‘to protect'.
  3. He lived in 272-232 B. C.
  4. It is in Sri Lanka.
  5. It is in Myanmar.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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