|Era||500 BC – 500 AD; developed into Marathi, Konkani, Divehi and Sinhalese|
Maharastri or Maharastri Prakrit, SIL: Mahārāṣṭri Prākrit (Marathi, Konkani: महाराष्ट्री प्राकृत), is a language of ancient and medieval India which is the ancestor of Marathi, Konkani, Sinhala and Maldivian. It is one of the many languages (often called dialects) of a complex called Prakrit, and the chief Dramatic Prakrit. Maharashtri was spoken for 1000 years (500 BC to 500 AD). It was used in numerous works of literature, and its literary use was made famous by the Sanskrit playwright Kālidāsa.
Maharashtri Prakrit was commonly spoken until AD 875 and was the official language of the Sātavāhana empire. Works like Karpurmanjari and Saptashati (150 BC) were written in it. Maharashtri Prakrit was the most widely used Prakrit language in western and southern India.
Maharashtri Apabhraṃśa remained in use for several hundred years until at least AD 500. Apabhraṃśa was used widely in Jain literature and formed an important link in the evolution of Marathi. This form of Apabhraṃśa was re-Sanskritised and eventually became Marathi.
Maharashtri was the most popular amongst all Prakrit languages. It was spoken from Malwa and Rajputana (north) to the Krishna and Tungabhadra River region (south). Historians agree that Maharashtri and other Prakrit languages prevailed in what is now modern Maharashtra. Maharashtri was widely spoken in western India and even down south in the parts which speak Kannada.
The ruler Hāla (r. 20-24 CE) mentioned in the Puranas as a member of the Satavahana dynasty, used Maharashtri, then popular, to write the Gāhā Sattasaī, Setubandh and Karpurmanjari (कर्पुरमंजरी). It was used by Vakpati or Vakpatiraj to write the poem Gaudavaho. It is also used in the dialogue and songs of low-class characters in Sanskrit plays, especially the famous dramatist Kālidāsa.
Maharashtri was, literally, the "Language of the Empire", the official language of the Satavahana Empire in the early centuries of the Common Era. Under the patronage of the Satavahana Empire, Maharashtri became the most widespread Prakrit of its time, and also dominated the literary culture amongst the three "Dramatic" Prakrits of the time, Maharashtri, Sauraseni and Magadhi. A version of Maharashtri, called the Jaina Maharashtri, also was employed to write sections of Jain scripture. The Satavahana Emperor Hala's Sattasai, an anthology of over 700 love poems, has been established as the most famous work of literature in Maharashtri.
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Maharastri Prakrit". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
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- V.Rajwade, Maharashtrache prachin rajyakarte
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- The Linguist List
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