Sanskrit (संस्कृता वाक् saṃskṛtā vāk, for short संस्कृतम् saṃskṛtam) is a classical language of India, a liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism. It is one of the 23 official languages of India. It is also both an ancient and a modern Indo-Aryan language of South Asia.
Its place is similar to that of Latin and Greek in Europe. In Europe it has evolved into, as well as influenced, many modern-day languages of the world. It appears in pre-Classical form as Vedic Sanskrit, with the language of the Rigveda being the oldest and most archaic stage preserved. Dating back to as early as 1500 BCE, Vedic Sanskrit is the earliest attested Indo-Aryan language, and one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family.
The corpus of Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and religious texts. Today, Sanskrit continues to be widely used as a ceremonial language in Hindu religious rituals in the forms of hymns and mantras.
Spoken Sanskrit is still in use in a few traditional institutions in India, and there are some attempts at revival.
As a language
The term "Sanskrit" was not thought of as a specific language set apart from other languages, but rather as a particularly refined or perfected manner of speaking. Knowledge of Sanskrit was a marker of social class and educational attainment and the language was taught mainly to members of the higher castes, through close analysis of Sanskrit grammarians such as Pāṇini. Sanskrit, as the learned language of Ancient India, existed alongside the Prakrits (vernaculars), which evolved into the Middle Indic dialects, and eventually into the contemporary modern Indo-Aryan languages.
A significant form of post-Vedic Sanskrit is found in the Sanskrit of the Hindu Epics—the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Traditional Sanskrit scholars call such deviations aarsha (आर्ष), or "of the rishis", the traditional title for the ancient authors.
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