Prakrit vs. Sanskrit

What's the Difference?

Prakrit and Sanskrit are both ancient Indo-Aryan languages that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Sanskrit is considered the classical language of ancient India and is known for its complex grammar and rich literary tradition. It was primarily used by scholars, priests, and the upper classes. On the other hand, Prakrit was a more vernacular language that evolved from Sanskrit and was spoken by the common people. Prakrit was simpler in structure and vocabulary, making it more accessible to the masses. While Sanskrit was used for religious and philosophical texts, Prakrit was commonly used in everyday communication, literature, and drama. Despite their differences, both languages played significant roles in shaping the linguistic and cultural landscape of ancient India.


OriginDerived from Vedic SanskritEvolved from Proto-Indo-Aryan
ScriptUsed various scripts including Brahmi, Kharosthi, and GuptaPrimarily written in Devanagari script
PhonologyHad simpler phonological rules compared to SanskritHad a more complex phonological system
GrammarHad simpler grammar compared to SanskritHad a more complex and highly inflected grammar
UsageSpoken by common people in ancient IndiaUsed by scholars, priests, and in religious texts
EvolutionEvolved into various regional languagesEvolved into Classical Sanskrit and influenced other languages
LiteratureHas a rich collection of Jain and Buddhist textsHas a vast collection of ancient Hindu scriptures

Further Detail


Prakrit and Sanskrit are two ancient Indo-Aryan languages that have played significant roles in the development of Indian literature, culture, and philosophy. While both languages share common roots and belong to the same language family, they differ in various aspects, including their origins, grammar, vocabulary, and usage. In this article, we will explore the attributes of Prakrit and Sanskrit, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Origins and Development

Prakrit, derived from the word "prakrta" meaning "natural" or "ordinary," refers to a group of vernacular languages that evolved from the ancient Vedic Sanskrit. These languages were spoken by the common people and gradually developed regional variations. On the other hand, Sanskrit, derived from the word "saṃskṛta" meaning "refined" or "perfected," is a classical language that served as the language of scholars, priests, and intellectuals in ancient India. Sanskrit was meticulously standardized and preserved through centuries of oral and written tradition.

While Prakrit languages were more prevalent in everyday communication, Sanskrit was primarily used for religious, philosophical, and literary purposes. Sanskrit's prestige and association with high culture made it the language of choice for ancient Indian scholars and poets, leading to its extensive use in religious texts, epics, and treatises.

Grammar and Structure

Both Prakrit and Sanskrit share a common grammatical framework inherited from their Indo-Aryan roots. However, there are notable differences in their grammatical structures. Sanskrit has a highly complex and sophisticated grammar, characterized by its intricate system of declensions, conjugations, and verb forms. The language possesses eight grammatical cases, three genders, and a rich variety of verb tenses and moods.

On the other hand, Prakrit languages exhibit a simplified grammar compared to Sanskrit. They have fewer cases, genders, and verb forms. Prakrit grammar tends to be more flexible and less rigidly structured, making it easier for everyday communication. The simplification of grammar in Prakrit languages allowed for greater regional variations and dialectal diversity.

Vocabulary and Lexicon

Prakrit and Sanskrit also differ in terms of vocabulary and lexicon. Sanskrit, being a classical language, has an extensive vocabulary with a wide range of precise and nuanced terms. It has a rich collection of root words, prefixes, and suffixes, allowing for the formation of complex compound words. Sanskrit's vocabulary is deeply rooted in religious, philosophical, and literary traditions, reflecting the cultural and intellectual heritage of ancient India.

Prakrit languages, on the other hand, have a simpler vocabulary compared to Sanskrit. They incorporate a significant number of loanwords from local languages and dialects, resulting in a more colloquial and regionally influenced lexicon. Prakrit vocabulary is often associated with everyday life, commerce, and regional customs, making it more accessible to the common people.

Usage and Literary Significance

As mentioned earlier, Sanskrit was primarily used for religious, philosophical, and literary purposes. It served as the language of choice for ancient Indian scholars, enabling them to express complex ideas and profound philosophical concepts. Sanskrit literature encompasses a vast range of genres, including epic poetry, drama, philosophy, and scientific treatises. The great epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as the philosophical works of the Upanishads and Vedas, were composed in Sanskrit.

Prakrit languages, on the other hand, were more commonly used in everyday communication and regional literature. They were the languages of the common people, and their literature often focused on themes of love, romance, and social interactions. Prakrit literature includes plays, poetry, and folk songs that provide insights into the cultural and social fabric of ancient India.


In conclusion, Prakrit and Sanskrit are two ancient Indo-Aryan languages that have shaped the linguistic and literary landscape of India. While Sanskrit is a classical language associated with high culture and intellectual pursuits, Prakrit languages represent the vernacular and regional expressions of the common people. Both languages have their unique attributes, including differences in grammar, vocabulary, and usage. Together, they have contributed immensely to the rich tapestry of Indian literature, philosophy, and cultural heritage.

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