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What was the mode of communication among the people at the time of Ramayana and Mahabharata? Was it Sanskrit?

Did Krishna, Pandavas and Kauravas (who I think had origins near the state of Bihar, where Bihari is now the official language) also spoke Sanskrit?

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    Yes, they communicated in a pure form of Sanskrit. But as the time passed their language changed to much easier form and now its Hindi. – Pranav Garg Oct 30 '14 at 15:48
  • people at Mahabharata time speaks Prakrita language and the Governance language (Official) is Sanskrit. – user3736 Sep 17 '15 at 7:49
  • @PranavGarg How could you say Hindi is easier? Just because majority of us don't know Sanskrit doesn't make it hard. It's because we communicate in hindi since birth that makes us think that it's easy. – Chinmay Sarupria Jan 8 '16 at 15:16
  • Ramayana happened in 24th treta yuga while Mahabharata happened in 28th Dwapara that is approx difference of 4 Mahayuga Cycles, Even Map of earth changed, language is very different thing. hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/7175/… – Yogi Mar 1 '16 at 15:01
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    @Dr.VineetAggarwal Edits should be minimal and we shouldn't be removing content without checking with OP first. It is possible Krishna and Pandavas spoke a different language than the common people. – sv. Feb 19 '18 at 23:00
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There is a passage in Mahabharata Anusasana Parva Section XLI that states:

Then the lady endeavoured to answer him. Vipula, however restrained the words she intended to utter. The words, therefore, that actually escaped her lips (under the influence of Vipula) were, ‘What is the reason of thy coming hither?’ These words adorned with grammatical refinements, issued out of her mouth that was as beautiful as the moon.

Ganguli, the translator, remarks that ‘Ladies spoke in Prakrita and not in Sanskrit. The latter is refined, the former is unrefined. Hence Indra’s surprise at hearing Sanskrit words from the lady’s lips.'

  • I thought Prakrit was a family of languages with Pali being one of it. Is this right? – Bharat Jan 3 '15 at 17:40
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    @Bharat: Yes, that's right. Though of course, my personal opinion is that in the early period, the distinction between Prakrit and Sanskrit was not that of different languages, but different registers of the same language -- like formal and colloquial speech. Of course over the course of time the various Prakrits evolved into the modern languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, etc). – ShreevatsaR May 3 '15 at 16:41
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Rishi Valmiki who wrote the Ramayan was a contemporary of Shri Rama. The fact that he wrote the entire epic in Sanskrit points to the fact that it was the spoken language in those days. Same logic applies to the Mahabharat as well which was composed by Rishi Ved-Vyas & narrates the life-stories of his grandsons the Kauravs and Pandavs.

Also, Pali and Prakrit, the derivatives of Sanskrit didn't come about till much later. The INTRODUCTON TO PRAKRIT by Woolner, Alfred C. (Alfred Cooper), 1878-1936 states that:

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So if Prakrit became the lingua franca close to the 3rd century BCE, we can safely assume that yes Sanskrit was the spoken language at the time of the epics the historical dates for which vary from 5th Millenium to 2nd Millenium BCE (5000 BC to 1500 BC) but not the 3rd century BCE (300 BC).

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Sanskrit is not the language of the human beings but that of the Gods. For humans the language is Prakrit.

So, they should have been speaking in Prakrit only.

From this Agni Purana chapter:

Sanskrit is the language of the gods. The language of humans is Prakrita. Poetry can be either in Sanskrit or in Prakrita. There are three types of poetry. These are gadya (prose), padya (poetry) or mishra ( a mixture of the two), Genuine poetry is, however, only padya.

  • In what category of writing do Sutras fall into? – Vishwanath N Feb 19 '18 at 13:53
  • You mean among Padya and Gadya? @VishwanathN – Rickross Feb 19 '18 at 14:28
  • yeah, is it among those 2 or a separate one by itself? – Vishwanath N Feb 19 '18 at 15:13
  • Not sure may be it's something separate.. @VishwanathN – Rickross Feb 19 '18 at 15:39
  • What's the original language in which Agni Purana was written? Sanskrit or Prakrit? Is it prose or poetry? Is it written by gods? If written by a human, it should've been in Prakrit! Sanskrit is still being used today by 'humans' - if Agni Purana is right, then all the Sanskrit scholars alive today are 'gods'. There are so many holes in this 'one language for gods and other for humans' theory. – sv. Feb 19 '18 at 22:53

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