Prakrit and Apabhramsha at the University of Toronto
For anyone interested in the doctrines, practices, narratives, and histories of the Jains, Prakrit and Apabhramsha are the languages to know. The Prakrit called Ardhamāgadhī is key for unlocking the āgamas, which are considered by the Śvetāmbara Jains to be the very words of Mahāvīra. Śaurasenī Prakrit was used, among others, by the Digambara Jain philosopher Kundakunda to develop a scholastic system of Jaina doctrine that has remained influential until the present day. Finally, Māhārāṣṭrī, regarded as the most refined of the Prakrits, is known for the exquisite poetry that was composed in this literary idiom, such as Hāla’s Sattasaī or the rich narrative literature from medieval Mahārāṣṭra. As all Prakrits are very close to each other and moving from one to the other requires one to be aware only of a small number of rules, students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with more than one Prakrit to take advantage of the variety of literatures and genres that have flourished in these languages and that are kept alive in communities throughout India to the present day.
The UofT faculty working on the use of Prakrit in the literature of the Jains of Tamil Nadu is Christoph Emmrich.
Apabhramsha (literally “the decayed [language]”) is an umbrella term for a set of literary languages dominant in South Asia from the 6th to the 13th century, which prepared the ground for the modern South Asian vernaculars. The Buddhist Tantric doha and caryā poetry of Northeast India was written in Apabhramsha, as were Jain epic, philosophical, and didactic texts. The world of Apabhramsha is maybe the largest still unexplored field in the religious literature of South Asia.
Prakrit and Apabhramsha are offered at the Department for the Study of Religion at all three levels (beginners, intermediate, and advanced) by Christoph Emmrich.
Textbook used in Prakrit courses at UofT: Alfred C. Woolner. Introduction to Prakrit. Reprint. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999. Find the book here.
Grammar used in Apabhramsha courses at UofT; Ganesh V. Tagare. A Historical Grammar of Apabhraṃśa. Reprint. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987. Find this book here.