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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, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Sindhi, Singhalese, Romany, 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 danshort@gte.net for more information. These images are not public domain.


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Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2017. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated January 5, 2017. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.