Kamarupi Prakrit

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For modern Kamrupi, see Kamrupi dialect.
Kamarupi Prakrit
Region Kamarupa
Era First millennium
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

Kamarupi Prakrit,[1] Kamrupi Apabhramsa,[2] old Kamrupi dialect,[3] Kamarupa dialect[4] and proto-Kamrupa; was the Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA) used in ancient Kamarupa. This language is the historical ancestor of the Kamatapuri lects and the Assamese language;[5] and can be dated prior to 1250 CE, when the proto-Kamta language, the parent of the Kamatapuri lects, began to develop.[6] This sort of Sporadic Apabhramsa is a mixture of Sanskrit, Prakrit and colloquial dialects of Assam.[7]

The evidence of this MIA exist in systematic errors in the Sankrit language used in the Kamarupa inscriptions.[8] A distinguishing characteristic of Kamarupa inscriptions is the replacement of ś and by s, which is contrary to Vararuci's rule, the main characteristic of Magadhi Prakrit, which warrants that and s are replaced by ś.[9] Linguists claim this apabhramsa gave rise to various eastern Indo-European languages like modern Assamese and felt its presence in the form of Kamrupi and North Bengali.[10][11]


Though the epigraphs were written in classical Sanskrit in kavya style of a high degree, they abound in corrupt and unchaste forms.[12]

  • Loss of repha and reduplication of the remaining concerned consonants.
  • Shortening of vowels.
  • Lengthening of vowels.
  • Substitution of one vowel for another.
  • Avoidance and irregularity of sandhis.
  • Loss of initial vowel.
  • Substitution of Y by i.
  • Total loss of medial Y.
  • Reduplication of consonants immediately followed by r.
  • Absence of duplication where it is otherwise necessary.
  • Varieties of assimilation.
  • Wrong analogy.
  • Varied substitution for m and final m.
  • Substitution of h by gh and susbstitution of bh by h.
  • Indiscriminate substitution of one sibilant for another.
  • Irregularity of declension in case of stems ending in consonants.
  • Absence of visarga even where it is invariably necessary.


Sample of apabhramsa in Nidhanpur Inscription of Bhaskar Varman

Some linguists claim that there existed a Kamrupi apabhramsa as opposed to the Magadhi apabhramsa from which the three cognate languages---Assamese, Bengali and Oriya and Maithili---sprouted. The initial motive comes from extra-linguistic considerations. Kamarupa was the most powerful and formidable kingdom in the region which provided the political and cultural influence for the development of the Kamrupi apabhramsa. Xuanzang's mention that the language spoken in Kamarupa was a 'little different' from the one spoken in Pundravardhana is provided as evidence that this apabhramsa existed as early as the 5th century. That Kamarupa remained unconquered till the beginning of the Assamese literature in the 14th century points to the possibility that the apabhramsa of the Kamarupa kingdom must have flourished. Archaic forms found in epigraphic records from the Kamarupa period give evidence of this apabhramsa, of which there are numerous examples.

The Buddhist Charyapadas from the 8th to 12th century are claimed by different languages: Assamese, Bengali, Oriya and Maithili languages. But the geographical region of its composition was the Kamarupa pitha and many of the composers were Kamarupi siddhas. Therefore the language in the Charyapadas is the best example of this apabhramsa. H. P. Sastri, who discovered these poems, termed the language sandhya bhasha (twilight language) and this is nothing but the Kamarupi apabhramsa.

Geographical vicinity[edit]

Assamese, or more appropriately the old Kamarupi dialect entered into Kamrup or western Assam, where this speech was first characterized as Assamese.[3] Golockchandra Goswami in his An introduction to Assamese phonology writes, "in early Assamese there seems to be one dominant dialect prevailing over the whole country, the Western Assamese dialect." Similarly Upendranath Goswami says, "Assamese entered into Kamarupa or western Assam where this speech was first characterised as Assamese. This is evident from the remarks of Hiuen Tsang who visited the Kingdom of Kamarupa in the first half of the seventh century A.D., during the reign of Bhaskaravarman"


  1. ^ "On the basis of many such evidences it is claimed that the Assamese language developed not from the Magadhi but from another parallel variety of Prakrit, which deserves to be called the Kamarupi Prakrit." (Sharma 1978, p. xxv)
  2. ^ "This sort of oneness must have helped the growth of a common language which can be termed as Kamrupi Prakrit or Kamrupi Apabhramsa" (Hazarika 1968, p. 80)
  3. ^ a b Sukumar Sen, Grammatical sketches of Indian languages with comparative vocabulary and texts, Volume 1, 1975, P 31, Assamese, or more appropriately the old Kamarupi dialect entered into Kamrup or western Assam, where this speech was first characterized as Assamese.
  4. ^ Suniti Kumar Chatterji,The origin and development of the Bengali language, Volume 1, One would expect one and identical language to have been current in North Central Bengal (Pundra-vardhana) and North Bengal and West Assam (Kamarupa) in the 7th century, since these tracts, and other parts of Bengal, had almost the same speech.
  5. ^ "In this study I refer to the western dialect of Asamiya as Kamrupi, and the historical ancestor of proto-Kamata and proto-Asamiya as proto-Kamrupa." (Toulmin 2006, p. 14)
  6. ^ (Toulmin 2006, p. 8)
  7. ^ Kamarupa Anusandhan Samiti, Journal of the Assam Research Society - Volume 18, 1968 P 81 Though Apabhramsa works in Kamrupi Specimens are not available, yet we can trace the prevalence of early Kamrupi Apabhramsa through the window of archaic froms as found in the grants or Copper-plates mentioned above. This sort of Sporadic Apabhramsa is a mixture of Sanskrit, Prakrit and colloquial dialects of Assam.
  8. ^ "... (it shows) that in Ancient Assam there were three languages viz. (1) Sanskrit as the official language and the language of the learned few, (2) Non-Aryan tribal languages of the Austric and Tibeto-Burman families, and (3) a local variety of Prakrit (ie a MIA) wherefrom, in course of time, the modern Assamese language as a MIL, emerged." (Sharma 1978, pp. 0.24-0.28)
  9. ^ "The replacement of and s by ś is one of the main characteristics of the Magadha Prakrit, as warranted by Vararuci's rule, ṣasau śah. But in the Kamarupa inscriptions, we find the reverse of it, i.e the replacement of ś by s as in the word suhańkara, substituted for the Sanskrit śubhańkara in line 32 of the Subhankarpataka grant of Dharmapala." This contrary rule was first pointed out by Dimbeswar Neog (Sharma 1978, p. 0.25), (link)
  10. ^ Mrinal Miri, Linguistic situation in North-East India , 2003, Scholars have shown that it is rather through the western Assam dialects that the development of modern Assamese has to be traced.
  11. ^ Sukhabilasa Barma, Bhawaiya, ethnomusicological study,2004 Based on the materials of the Linguistic Survey of India, Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay has divided Eastern Magadhi Prakrit and Apabhramsa into four dialect groups (1) Radha-the language of West Bengal and Orissa (2) Varendra-dialect of North Central Bengal (3) Kamrupi-dialect of Northern Bengal and Assam and (4) Vanga-dialect of East Bengal.
  12. ^ (Sharma 1978, p. 024)


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