From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Prākrt literally means ‘unrefined’.

Sanskrit or Sanskṛta and Prākṛt or Prākṛta are the two important languages of ancient India. ‘Prākṛta’ as against ‘sanskṛta’ means, ‘the unrefined, the original or the basic’. Taken in this sense, it is the crude form of Sanskrit, the crudeness being brought about by corruption in usage by the common masses. If Sanskrit was the language of the classes, Prākṛt was the language of the masses.

Considered as a vernacular dialect, Prākṛt could have existed in many forms. The names of these were:

  1. Apabhramśa
  2. Mahārāṣtrī
  3. Māgadhi
  4. Paiśācī
  5. Saurasenī

The Jain scriptures like the Ācārāñga and the Sutrakrtāñga and also the edicts of Aśoka[1] and Khāravela[2] are in Prākṛt. There are a large number of works including grammars and dictionaries in this language. The subjects covered are poetics, astrology and medical sciences, apart from the religion.


  1. He lived in 272-232 B. C.
  2. He lived in 200 B. C.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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