Skip to main content

Prakrit literature

Prakrit literature: By the 6th cent. BC the people of India were speaking and writing languages that were much simpler than classical Sanskrit. These vernacular forms, of which there were several, are called the Prakrits [Skt.,=natural]. One very important and early Prakrit was Pali (see Pali canon), which became the language of the Buddhists. However, most of the literature generally called Prakrit is devoted to Jainism. The sacred texts (Siddhanta or Agama) of the two main sects of the Jains employed three types of Prakrit. The oldest sutras of the Svetambara sect are written in Ardha-Magadhi, while later books are in Maharastri. The Svetambara canon, written in verse and prose, received its final form in AD 454. The sacred books of the Digambara sect are written in Savraseni. An important source of knowledge of Prakrit is the Sanskrit drama. Kalidasa is included among many dramatists, who, in order to obtain a realistic effect, had the common people in their plays speak in Prakrit. See Sanskrit literature.

See M. Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature (2 vol., tr. 1927–33, repr. 1971).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Prakrit literature." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 20 Apr. 2019 <>.

"Prakrit literature." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (April 20, 2019).

"Prakrit literature." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.