Page:Sanskrit Grammar by Whitney p1.djvu/23

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


and the standard drama. The beginnings of the latter date from a period when in actual life the higher and educated characters used Sanskrit, and the lower and uneducated used the popular dialects derived from it, the Prākrits; and their dialogue reflects this condition of things. Then, however learning (not to call it pedantry) intervened, and stereotyped the new element; a Prākrit grammar grew up beside the Sanskrit grammar, according to the rules of which Prākrit could be made indefinitely on a substrate of Sanskrit; and none of the existing dramas need to date from the time of the vernacular use of Prākrit, while most or all of them are undoubtedly much later. Among the dramatic authors, Kālidāsa is incomparably the chief, and his Çakuntalā is distinctly his masterpiece. His date has been a matter of much inquiry and controversy; it is doubtless some centuries later than our era. The only other worked deserving to be mentioned along with Kālidāsa’s is the Mṛcchakaṭī of Çūdraka, also of questionable period, but believed to be the oldest of the extant dramas.

A partly dramatic character belongs also to the fable, in which animals are represented as acting and speaking. The most noted works in this department are the Pañcatantra, which through Persian and Semitic versions has made its way all over the world, and contributes a considerable quota to the fable-literature of every European language, and, partly founded on it, the comparatively recent and popular Hitopadeça (salutary instruction).

Two of the leading departments of Sanskrit scientific literature, the legal and the grammatical, have already been sufficiently noticed; of those remaining, the most important is by far the philosophical. The beginnings of philosophical speculation are seen already in some of the later hymns of the Veda, more abundantly in the Brāhmaṇas and Āraṇyakas, and then especially in the Upanishads. The evolution and historical relation of the systems of philosophy, and the age of their text-books, are matters on which much obscurity still rests. There are six systems of primary rank, and reckoned as orthodox, although really standing in no