Indo Aryan literature is a blend of various literary works as well as popular dialects of the ancient Indian societies. Interestingly, the conditions of the ancient societies of India are reflected in Indo Aryan literature. Thus, Indo Aryan literature holds a lot of significance. This literature can be described with special reference to the works done. The Indian languages, belonging to the Indo Aryan languages
group, are believed to have passed through three broad stages of evolution. These are Ancient Indo-Aryan languages comprising Vedic, Epic and classical Sanskrit language
, Middle Indo-Aryan languages, including Pali language
, Prakrit language
and Apabhramsa, and contemporary Indo-Aryan languages like Hindi language
, Bengali language
, Nepali, Oriya language
, etc. The languages, thus evolved, are spread over northern parts of India particularly in its eastern and western wings excluding a small pocket in the extreme north-west. The languages of the major part of South India are of Dravidian origin, and thus belong to an entirely different family.
The literature that is written in Middle Indo-Aryan languages is Middle Indo-Aryan literature. However, the origin of Indo Aryan languages is not very clear. There has been substantial deviation of opinion regarding the derivative meaning of the word Pali. According to some, it comes from `Pankti` denoting the lines of the canonical literature written in Pali. Others are of the opinion that it is derived from `Palli` denoting a village. Thus, according to them, it was originally the language of the rural people. It is said that side by side with Sanskrit, which was considered as the language of the elite; there was another widely used language which was a corruption of Sanskrit and, in some cases, Pali.
This theory suggests that the Buddha`s instructions to spread his teachings in the own language of the people. Pali is regarded as the oldest form of Prakrit. That Prakrit was extensively in vogue as a spoken language of the masses seems to be proved also by the existence of several dialects of it such as Maharastri, Sauraseni, Magadhi, etc. According to some, Prakrta is derived from Prakrti or nature. So, the language that spontaneously developed among the people came to be known as Prakrit language. Several grammarians declared Sanskrit language to have been the basic language out of which Prakrit developed. Prakrit is believed to have passed through three stages of development, namely old, middle and late.
also constitutes to the Indo Aryan literature. It is largely divided into two classes: Canonical and Non-canonical. Canonical Pali literature comprises the Tipitaka (three baskets), called Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidhamma. Like Pali literature, Prakrit literature
also can be broadly divided into two classes, namely religious and secular. The religious works are called Siddhantas or Agama
. Prakrit lyrics are of two kinds, religious and secular. Of the musical educational works, the well-known are the Uvaesamala, Kathakosa, Kumarapala-pratibodha, etc. Among the anthologies, the Vajjalagga and the Prakrta-Sukta-ratna-mala deserve special mention.
Indo Aryan literature also comprises broad literary works including prose, drama, spiritual works, prabandha, poetry and lyrics. Works in prose are rare. Most of the works are in prose interspersed with verse. Well-known among these works is the Samaraicca-kaha. Of the works of the Kathanaka (short stories) class, mention may be made of Kathakosa, Katha-ratnakara, Kalakacharya- kathanaka, Katha-mahodadhi. The Karpura-manjari is the most renowned drama of the Indo Aryan literature. Coming to Apabhramsa literature, some verses of the Vikramorvaslya Kalidasa needs special mention. The Apabhramsa works can be broadly divided into two classes, Jain and non-Jain.