Language and Literature,The Role of Sanskrit in Indian Language Families



The Indian sub-continent consists of a number of separate linguistic communities each of which share a common language and culture. The people of India speak many languages and dialects. Which are the mostly the verities of about 15 principal languages. Some Indian Language have a long literary history-Sanskrit literature is more than 5000 year old and Tamil 3000 year old. India has also some languages that do not have written forms. Each has produced a literature of great variety and richness.

  Indian Language Families

 In India many major languages exist along with other minor language usually spoken by a small number of people. The Indian language can be divided into the following four families.
   1. Indo-Aryan
                 Speakers of languages from this family account for round 70% of the population of the country. Most of the languages in this family are derived from Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Assamese etc are part of this family.
     2. Dravidian
 This is second biggest family of languages in India and consists of languages mostly spoken in Southern India like Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu. The Dravidian languages are older than the Indo-Aryan languages.
  3. Austric
 This is oldest and most indigenous languages in the family of India. Its speakers are concentrated in the hilly and tribal areas of central and eastern India. Santhali, Nicobarese, Khond etc are the examples of languages from this family.
 4. Sino-Indian
 This includes languages spoken in the North-East and Northern parts of India. it includes Naga, Bodo, Tibetan, Ladakhi, Karbi etc.
 Apart from this a fifth family of languages spoken in south Andaman is Ongan, which includes the two languages of Onge and Jarawa. Apart from them, the Great Andamanese is another language family, which is almost extinct. The nihali language spoken by around 2000 people in MP and Rajasthan is an isolated language, not a part of any family.

The Role of Sanskrit

 The Sanskrit language happens to be mother of many Indian languages. The Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and Dharmasutras are all written in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is the most ancient language of our country. The literature in Sanskrit is vast, beginning with the most ancient thought embodied in the Rig Veda, the oldest literary heritage of mankind. The Great grammarian Panini, analysed Sanskrit and its word Formation in his unrivalled descriptive grammar Ashtadhyayi.

The Vedas

 The Vedas are the earliest known literature of India. The Vedas were written in Sanskrit and were handed down orally from one generation to the other. To be able to keep such a vast literary wealth as the Vedas intact, when the art of writing was not there and there was a paucity of writing material is unprecedented in world history. There are four Vedas, namely, the Rig Veda, The Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Each Veda consists of the Brahmans, the Upanishads and the Aranyakas. The Rig Veda, Sama Veda and Yajur Veda are collectively known a Traji. In later years, the Atharva Veda was incorporated in this group.
Structure of Vedas
 Each Veda consists of four parts. The Samhitas(hymns), the Brahmanas(rituals), the Aranyakas(theologies) and the Upanishads (philosophies). The collection of mantras or hymns is called the Samhita. The Brahmans are rituals texts and include precepts and religious duties. Each Veda has several Brahmans attached to it. The Upanishads form the concluding portions of the Veda and therefore are called the Vedanta or the end of Veda and contain the essence of Vedic teachings. The Upanishads and the Aranyakas are the concluding portions of the Brahmans, which discuss philosophical problems

The Upanishads

          The word Upanishads is derived from upa (meaning nearby) and nishad (meaning of sit down). Groups of pupils used to sit near the guru to learn from him in the guru-shishya parampara or tradition.
     The Upanishad marks the culmination of Indian thought and is the final parts of Vedas. As the Upanishads contain abstract and difficult discussions of ultimate philosophical problems, they were thought to the pupils at the end. That is why; they are called the end of the Vedas The Upanishadas from an important part of our literary legacy. They deal with questions like the origin of the universe, life and death, the material and spiritual word, the nature of knowledge etc.
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Language and Literature,The Role of Sanskrit in Indian Language Families
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