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Ardhamagadhi – Language Of Magadha Kingdom

Ardhamagadhi is one of the Prakrti (spoken forms of languages) dialects, also called Arsha or Rshibhashita. The Jainas consider Ardhamagadhi to be the source of all languages. It is the language of the common man and represents the conglomerate of eighteen native languages. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It represents the language of half of Magadha, and is a combination of languages. It is for this reason that the tirthankaras chose this language as their medium of expression. The development of this language through different stages suggests its living and growing nature. The growth of Ardhamagadhi was followed by the growth of its two variants, viz., Sauraseni and Maharashtri. Ardhamagadhi developed as a lingua franca because of the royal and public patronage in the Magadha kingdom and its neighboring kingdoms.

This literature in Ardhamagadhi language is vast and spread over centuries. The major portion of this literature consists of Jaina canons. Pro-canonical literature of the digambaras was in Sauraseni Prakrta. In Mahrashtri Prakrita there is poetry of a very high order. When Ardhamagadhi was grammatized it received a standard form. The other local dialects were collectively known as Apabhramsha, from which originated the different modern North Indian languages. Although most of the Ardhamagadhi Prakrita canonical literature was written by Jaina ascetics, there are a number of non-Jaina ascetics, there are a number of non-Jaina scholars who contributed to the growth of this language. A large number of post-graduate departments in Indian universities and institutions are involved in researching and developing this language.