Prakrit Language 1 (PG)

Key information

Start date
End date
Module code
FHEQ Level
South Asia Section

Module overview

The continued teaching of Prakrit at SOAS in 2022/23 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.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • ability to read and understand Prakrit texts at basic level
  • general knowledge of Prakrit grammar and vocabulary; familiarity with the appropriate tools (dictionaries, grammars, translations)
  • ability in English-Prakrit composition at basic level
  • familiarity with the history of Prakrit literature and its cultural and religious background


This module will be taught over 20 weeks with a 2 hours per week classroom contact in language classes.

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of  the classical Indian tradition (drama, sophisticated narrative, and popular lyric poetry) as well as Middle-Indian historical documents (inscriptions, etc.)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of Gandhari, the earliest extant Buddhist texts, in Kharoshti script, and of Aśokan inscriptions, the earliest historical documents, in Brahmi script will complement MA courses in Religions, History, and Art and Archaeology.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 3-hour written examination taken in May/June (40%); a translation and commentary of 1500 words to be submitted on the day of teaching, after reading week, term 2 (20%); an essay of 2,000 words to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 3 (30%); a one hour in class test at the end of term 1 (10%).



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.