Introduction to Prakrit

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2 or Year 3
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
South Asia Section

Module overview

The continued teaching of Prakrit at SOAS in 2019/20 is made possible thanks to the generosity of the Digambar Jain Mahasabha, New Delhi, and all well-wishers who have also generous supported the 2019 crowdfunding call 'Save Prakrit at SOAS' of the Centre of Jain Studies.

After a brief introduction to the linguistic structure of Prakrit and to its role in Indian literary and religious tradition, some basic grammar exercises will be followed by study of extracts from the Jain narrative text Manipaticarita. This includes verse in both the classical Maharashtri and old Magadhi dialects. Roman script will be used throughout the module.

The introduction into the basic linguistic features of Prakrit will lay a foundation for the understanding of Prakrit components of the classical Indian tradition (e.g. classical Sanskrit dramas) as well as Middle-Indic historical documents (inscriptions etc.).



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Students will be made familiar with the basic features of different Prakrit dialects; special emphasis will be put on the language of the Jain tradition.

At the end of the module, students should be able to understand an original Prakrit text with the help of the appropriate tools (grammar, dictionary, translations).


Two hour weekly lecture over one term

Method of assessment

  • one written examination taken in May/June (50%)
  • one language assignment (20%)
  • one test taken in the last class of the term in which this half unit is taught (30%)
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

  • A.C. Woolner: Introduction to Prakrit, 2nd ed. 1928, repr. Delhi 1986.
  • S.M. Katre: Prakrit languages and their contribution to Indian culture, Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1945.
  • R. Williams (ed.): Two Prakrit versions of the Manipaticarita. London: Luzac & Co. 1959.
  • Jain, Banarsi Das: Ardha-Magadhi Reader. Lahore 1923.
  • Jacobi, Hermann: Ausgewählte Erzählungen in Mâhârâsh.trî : Zur Einführung in das Studium des Prâkrit. Grammatik, Text, Wörterbuch. Leipzig 1886.
  • Hindu tales : an English translation of Jacobi's Ausgewählte Erzählungen in Maharashtri / by John Jacob Meyer. London 1909.


  • M. Winternitz: "Jaina Literature" in: A History of Indian Literature vol 2, Calcutta 1930,
    p. 429-595.
  • P. Dundas: The Jains. London: Routledge 1992.


Professor J Clifford Wright


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules