Apabhraṃśa (Sanskrit: अपभ्रंश, IPA: [əpəbʱrə̃ˈɕə], Prakrit: Avahansa) is a term used by vyākaraṇin (native grammarians) since Patañjali to refer to the dialects prevalent in North India before the rise of the modern languages. In Indology, it is used as an umbrella 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 Pali, is also used as a cover term for the vernaculars of North India that were spoken perhaps as late as the 4th to 8th centuries, but some scholars use the term for the entire Middle Indo-Aryan period. Middle Indo-Aryan languages gradually transformed into Apabhraṃśa dialects, which were used until about the 13th century. The Apabhraṃśas later evolved into Modern Indo-Aryan languages. The boundaries of these periods are somewhat hazy, not strictly chronological. Modern North Indian languages are often considered to have begun to develop a distinct identity around the 11th century - while Apabhraṃśas 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; Hemachandra of Patan; and Raighu of Gwalior (15th century CE).
An early example of the use of Apabhraṃśa is the Vikramorvashiyam of Kālidāsa, when Pururavas asks the animals in the forest about his beloved who had disappeared. Compositions in Apabhramsha continued until Vikram Samvat 1700, when Bhagavatidasa wrote Migankaleha Chariu.
The only known example of an Apabhramsa work by a Muslim is the Sandesh Rasak of Abdur Rahman of Multan, possibly written around Circa 1000 A.D.
- 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.