Before the modern derivatives of Sanskrit existed, a group of languages known as the Prakrits or Middle Indo-Aryan languages evolved from India’s classical language. These were the vernacular dialects of ancient times, and several of them became important literary vehicles in their own right. The best known of this group is Pali, which still serves as the canonical language of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Other Prakrit languages such as Sauraseni, Maharastri, Magadhi and Gandhari embody various facets of the literatures of both the Brahmanical/Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
As these languages are derived from and closely related to Sanskrit, they are usually studied together with it. The Department of Asian Languages and Literature offers a complete range of courses in Sanskrit language and literature. Courses in Pali and the Prakrits are also offered on a rotating basis.