Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/32

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libraries of temples, monasteries, colleges, the courts of princes, as well as private houses. A famous library was owned by King Bhoja of Dhār in the eleventh century. That considerable private libraries existed in fairly early times is shown by the fact that the Sanskrit author Bāṇa (about 620 A.D.) had in his employment a reader of manuscripts. Even at the present day there are many excellent libraries of Sanskrit MSS. in the possession of Brahmans all over India.

The ancient Indian language, like the literature composed in it, falls into the two main divisions of Vedic and Sanskrit. The former differs from the latter on the whole about as much as Homeric from classical Greek, or the Latin of the Salic hymns from that of Varro. Within the Vedic language, in which the sacred literature of India is written, several stages can be distinguished. In its transitions from one to the other it gradually grows more modern till it is ultimately merged in Sanskrit. Even in its earliest phase Vedic cannot be regarded as a popular tongue, but is rather an artificially archaic dialect, handed down from one generation to the other within the class of priestly singers. Of this the language itself supplies several indications. One of them is the employment side by side of forms belonging to different linguistic periods, a practice in which, however, the Vedic does not go so far as the Homeric dialect. The spoken language of the Vedic priests probably differed from this dialect of the hymns only in the absence of poetical constructions and archaisms. There was, in fact, even in the earlier Vedic age, a caste language, such as is to be found more or less wherever a literature has grown up; but in India it has been more strongly marked than in any other country.