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Pali and Prakrit are the languages that belong to the Middle Indo-Aryan period i.e. 600 BC-1000 AD. Prakrit was the Indo-Aryan speech which was in the form of uncultivated popular dialects. Prakrit came down to us in inscriptions dating back to 4-3 BC. Practically all over India, Prakrits were freely used for inscriptions almost up to the Gupta age. Vararuci's Prakita-prakasa (5 AD) and Hemachandra's Prakrit grammar (12 AD) are the earliest grammatical works in Prakrit.  In the course of time, the Prakrits were transformed into what are known as the Apabhramsa dialects, which were widely used in popular and folk literature. The various Prakrit dialects described by Prakrit grammarians are Maharastri, Sauraseni, Magadhi, Paisaci and Apabhramsa.   Pali and Ardha-Magadhi are also Prakrits and were used in early Buddhist and Jain literature.  The Prakrits and Apabhramsa represent the Middle Indo-Aryan stage of language development.  The Satavahana rulers were great patrons of Prakrit.  Hala, the 17th Satavahana ruler himself authored a Prakrit work called Saptasati.

The earliest of the Buddhist literature is in Pali.  Indologists differ in their opinion as to the origin of Pali.  Some consider Pali as Magadhi Prakrit or Magadhi-bhasa, while others point to a close relationship of Pali with Paisaci Prakrit spoken at that time in the Vindhya region.  The Tripitakas; Milindapanha; Petakopadesa and Visuddhimagga are some early works in Pali.


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