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Vedic Sanskrit

Vedic Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language, the language of the Vedas, the oldest shruti texts of Hinduism. It is an archaic form of Sanskrit, an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian, attested during the period between roughly 1000 BC (early Rigveda) and 600 BC (Sutra language, and still comparatively similar (being removed by maybe 1500 years) to the Proto-Indo-European language.

It is closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language. Vedic Sanskrit is the oldest attested language of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family.

Sanskrit is no longer a spoken language, but continues to be used in religious ritual, and its Classical form is still cultivated as a literary language. Sanskrit is divided into two general categories, the more ancient Vedic Sanskrit (assumed to have been spoken from approximately 1500-200 B.C.) and Classical Sanskrit (approximately 500 B.C.- 1000 A.D.).

Classical Sanskrit was formalized in the fourth century B.C. and, although there is some overlap between the two periods, there are important differences between it and the Vedic form.

Vedic Sanskrit literature developed first in an oral form, and was first set down in writting after centuries of oral transmission. The gap between the composition of and the written recording of the literature makes dating difficult, but most of what survives can be assigned either to the Vedic or Classical period.

Although the art of oral transmission in a pre-literate society required exact memorization, scholars cannot confidently say how close what was finally recorded in the third century B.C. is to the original composition.

The primary method of classifying the works by date is to take the subject matter and style of the work into consideration. The Vedic period is typified by an archaic style and religious subject matter. The Classical period is more secular in orientation and closer to the written style as it continued in the current era. The most important works of the Vedic period are the four Vedas (the word Veda meaning 'knowledge' in Sanskrit).

The Rig-veda is the oldest, consisting primarily of religious hymns; the Sama-veda is the veda of chants, the Yajur-veda the veda of prayers; finally, the Atharva-veda contains the lore of the Atharvans. From 600 BC, in the classical period of Iron Age Ancient India, Vedic Sanskrit gave way to Classical Sanskrit as defined by the grammar of Panini.


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