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  • Inventing Prakrit: The Languages of Literature

    Andrew Ollett

    Chapter from the book: Ollett, A. 2017. Language of the Snakes: Prakrit, Sanskrit, and the Language Order of Premodern India.


    The foundational work of Prakrit literature was Hāla’s Seven Centuries, which was unanimously believed to be a product of the Sātavāhana court. A much less studied text, the Taraṅgavatī by the Jain monk Pālitta, was also said to be a product of the same court. This chapter reads these two works together as complementary documents from the earliest phase of Prakrit literature in the first and second century CE. In this phase, I argue, Prakrit literature was not already divided into “Jain” and “courtly” traditions, but characterized by the active involvement of Jain intellectuals in the cosmopolitan courts of the Sātavāhanas and their successors. In introducing these texts and reading them as courtly productions, this chapter also introduces the core aesthetics of Prakrit literature, including “clever speech” and “meaning without saying,” and the criss-crossed modalities of meaning that Prakrit poetry would be forever associated with.

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    Ollett, A. 2017. Inventing Prakrit: The Languages of Literature. In: Ollett, A, Language of the Snakes. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.37.c

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    Published on Oct. 10, 2017