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This map shows the regions
of the world where Sanskrit was commonly used (red circle).
The oldest literary texts surviving from any Indo-European languages
are in Sanskrit. These texts are the Vedas, a set of sacred
writings that date back to about 1500 BCE. The Vedas include
the Rig-veda, a collection of over 900 hymns and the
Atharva-veda, a treatise on religious rituals and mystical
formulas. The Sanskrit language used in later commentaries on
the Vedas developed into a language we call Vedic Sanskrit to
distinguish it from the older version. This Vedic Sanskrit became
an incredibly important tongue. It is the language of the Brahmanas
(directions for Hindu ritual and dogmatic commentary), the Sutras
(chants and rules for aspects of private religious life), the
Aranyakas (directions for Hindu eremites), and the
Upanishads (philosophy texts). In turn, Vedic Sanskrit
gave rise to a specifically literary and ornate form of the
language after 300 BCE known as Classical Sanskrit. Classical
Sanskrit is the language of the Mahabharata and the
Ramayana, the two great national epics of India. Sanskrit
eventually developed into a series of Pakrits, or regional dialects
differing from each other. At this point, Sanskrit was no longer
a spoken vernacular language. It was used exclusively as a written
language for scholars and priests, and hence it occupied a position
similar to that of Latin in Europe or Avestan in the Middle
East. These new regional languages or Pakrits included Pali
(which became the language of Buddhism after the sixth century
BCE), and a variety of modern languages in India, Pakistan,
and Bangledesh, such as Assamese,
and Urdu. The most important
of these are Hindi, Urdu, and Bengali.
|Daniel M. Short originally created this
map and the other Indo-European language charts for his website at http://www.danshort.com/.
I reproduce these images here with the author's permission, but they are
copyrighted by Daniel Short as of 2002. These charts should not be reproduced
or reused without Mr. Short's approval. You may contact him at email@example.com
for more information. These images are not public domain.