SOAS University of London

South Asia Department

Prakrit Language 1 (Postgraduate)

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

The continued teaching of Prakrit is made possible thanks to the generosity of Dr Shamil Chandaria (London) in the name of his parents Anil and Lata Chandaria, supporters of the Centre of Jain Studies.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate . . .

  1. ability to read and understand Prakrit texts at basic level
  2. general knowledge of Prakrit grammar and vocabulary; familiarity with the appropriate tools (dictionaries, grammars, translations)
  3. ability in English-Prakrit composition at basic level
  4. familiarity with the history of Prakrit literature and its cultural and religious background
  5. knowledge and understanding of the role of language in general, and Prakrit in particular, in scholarship and research based on textual sources (specific learning outcome for PG students)


This course will be taught over 22 weeks with a 2 hours per week classroom contact.  An additional 6 hours will be spent in lectures and an further 6 hours will be spent in seminars/tutorials over the 22 week period.

Scope and syllabus

After a brief introduction to the linguistic structure of Prakrit and to its role in Indian literary and religious tradition, the basic grammar of Maharashtri, the main literary form of Prakrit, will be taught, together with translation exercises. This will be followed in the second term by study of a Jain narrative text and of specimens of various forms of Prakrit literature, exemplifying the earliest Buddhist, Jain and Hindu historical records of India. Roman script, as used in all critical Prakrit text editions, will be used throughout the course. Specially prepared grammar lessons, edited texts, and glossaries are provided as coursework.

The study of the grammar will lay a foundation for  the understanding of  Prakrit components of  the classical Indian tradition (drama, sophisticated narrative, and popular lyric poetry) as well as Middle-Indian historical documents (inscriptions, etc.) It is thus a suitable complement in the MA Languages and Cultures of South Asia as well as the MA South Asian Area Studies. Special emphasis may be put on one of these text categories, or on specifically Middle Indian aesthetic theory and prosody, according to the specific interest of the individual students / student groups.

Specimens of Gandhari, the earliest extant Buddhist texts, in Kharoshti script, and of Aśokan inscriptions, the earliest historical documents, in Brahmi script will complement MA courses in Religions, History, and Art and Archaeology. With its principal emphasis on Jain texts, the course is primarily designed as an adjunct to Jaina studies within the MA Religions.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (40%); a one hour in class test at the end of term 1 (10%); a translation and commentary of 3,000 words to be submitted on the day of teaching, after reading week, term 2 (20%); one essay of 3,000 words to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 3 (30%).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules