Apabhraṃśa (Sanskrit: अपभ्रंश, IPA: [əpəbʱrə̃ˈɕə], Prakrit: Avahansa) is a term used by the native Sanskrit grammarians since Patañjali to refer to the Indo-Aryan dialects of North India before the rise of the modern languages. In Indology, it is used as a cover term for the dialects forming the transition between the late Middle and the early Modern Indo-Aryan languages, spanning the period between the 6th and 13th centuries CE. However, these dialects are conventionally included in the Middle Indo-Aryan period.:p.42 Apabhraṃśa in Sanskrit literally means "corrupt" or "non-grammatical language", that which deviates from the norm of Sanskrit grammar.
Apabhraṃśa literature is a valuable source for the history of North India for the period spanning the 12th to 16th centuries.
The term Prakrit (which includes Pāli) is also used as a cover term for the popular dialects of India which were spoken until the 4th to 8th century, but some scholars use the term for the whole Middle Indo-Aryan period. Middle Indo-Aryan languages gradually transformed into Apabhraṃśa dialects, which were used until about the 13th century. Apabhraṃśas later evolved into Modern Indo-Aryan languages. The boundaries of these periods are somewhat hazy, not strictly chronological. The modern northern Indian languages are often considered to have begun to develop a distinct identity around the 11th century, while the Apabhraṃśa dialects were still in use, and became fully distinct by the end of the 12th century.
A significant amount of Apabhraṃśa literature has been found in Jain libraries. While Amir Khusrow and Kabir were writing in a language quite similar to modern Hindi, many poets, especially in regions that were still ruled by Hindu kings, continued to write in Apabhraṃśa. These authors include Saraha, Tilopa and Kanha of Kamarupa; Devasena of Dhar (9th century CE); Pushpadanta of Manyakheta (9th century CE); Dhanapal; Muni Ramsimha; Acharya Hemachandra of Patan; and Raighu of Gwalior (15th century CE).
An early example of the use of Apabhraṃśa is in Vikramorvashiyam of Kālidāsa, when Pururava asks the animals in the forest about his beloved who had disappeared. Compositions in Apabhramsha continued until Vikram Samvat 1700, when Bhagavatidas wrote Migankaleha Chariu.
- Shapiro, Hindi
- Shastri, Dr Devendra Kumar (1996). Apabhramsha Bhasha Sahitya Ki Shodh Pravritiyan. New Delhi: Bhartiya Jnanpith. Bhartiya Jnanpith Bhartiya Jnanpith. p. 388.
- Apabhramsha Sahitya, Devendra Kumar Jain, Mahavir Jain Vidyalay Suvarna Mahotsav Granth, 2003.
- Shapiro, Michael C. Hindi. Facts about the world's languages: An encyclopedia of the world's major languages, past and present. Ed. Jane Garry, and Carl Rubino: New England Publishing Associates, 2001.