(10) LESSON Wed Jul 05 2007-
(2662 Mon 25 Jun LESSON)
Learning Buddha’s Word By Own Dialects Or Magadhi?
It should be Magadhi.
The Original Language of the Buddha and His Teachings
The languages used in Hela Diva in Buddha’s period
4) Classical Hela Basa (Hela Language),
in 1) Classical Magahi Magadhi, 2) Classical Chandaso
language, 3)Magadhi Prakrit,
5) Classical Pali, 6) Classical Deva Nagari
Learning Buddha’s Word By Own Dialects Or Magadhi?
There were two Bhikkhus complained to the Buddha, that some of the
Bhikkhus were reciting the Buddha’s word by not using the Chandaso
language but their own dialects , thus they requested Buddha to unify
the recitation of Buddha’s word by using Chandaso language but refused
by the Buddha, then Buddha has spoke this:
Anujānāmi, bhikkhave, sakāya niruttiyā buddhavacanaṃ pariyāpuṇitu’’nti.
Translated by Prof.Rhys Davids & Oldenberg:
“I allow you, oh Bhikkhus, to learn the words of the Buddha, each in his own dialect”
But in the other hand, the Pali Tipitaka commentator, Ven. Bhadanta Achariya Buddhagosha in his commentary:
Sakāya niruttiyāti ettha sakā nirutti nāma sammāsambuddhena vuttappakāro māgadhiko vohāro.
“I ordain the words of the Buddha to be learnt in his own language (in Māgadhī, the language used by the Buddha himself)”.
The Buddha spoke in a language called Magadhi Prakrit.
Magadhi Prakrit is the spoken language of the ancient Magadha kingdom,
one of the 16 city-state kingdoms at the time, located in the eastern
Indian subcontinent, in a region around modern-day Bihār,
and spanning what is now eastern India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The
first Magadha king is Bimbisara (558 BC –491 BC), during whose reign the
Buddha attained enlightenment. Both king Bimbisara and his successor
son Ajatashatru, were mentioned in several Buddhist Sutras, being lay disciplines, great friends and protectors of the Buddha.
Magadha empire, ~500 BCE
The Magadha kingdom later became part of the Mauryan Empire, one of the world’s largest empires in its time, and the largest ever in the Indian subcontinent.
Mauryan Empire, 265 BCE
Magadhi Prakrit is the official language of the Mauryan court. Its emperor “Ashoka
the Great” (ruled 273- 232 BCE) united continental India. During the
war to conquer Kalinga, the last Southern part of India not subject to
his rule, he personally witnessed the devastation that caused hundred of
thousands of deaths, and began feeling remorse. Although the annexation
of Kalinga was completed, Ashoka embraced the teachings of Buddhism, and renounced war and violence. He sent out missionaries to travel around Asia - his son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitra, who established Buddhism in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) - and spread Buddhism to other countries.
Stone lion of Ashoka, later became symbol of modern India
Magadhi Prakrit is predominantly the language by which Emperor Ashoka’s edicts were composed in. These edicts were carved on stone pillars placed throughout the empire.
The inscriptions on the pillars described edicts about morality based on Buddhist tenets.
the Buddha taught in Magadha, but the four most important places in his
life are all outside of it. It is likely that he taught in several
closely related dialects of Middle Indo-Aryan, which had a high degree
of mutual intelligibility.
Magadhi Prakrit shares a genealogy with Sanskrit – an Indo-Aryan language, with commonalities to ancient German and Persian. The sacred Hindu Vedas and Upanishads
text are written in this language. Since Buddha was a prince, he would
have spoken Sanskrit, the language of Brahmins and aristocrats, and
used in formal religious texts. But many of his followers were common
people who would not have been educated in Sanskrit. The Sutra record
stated that the Buddha was opposed to the use of Sanskrit for his
preaching. He preferred the vernacular Magadhi for his preaching and
Although the Buddha’s teaching was in Magadhi, there is
no written record of his teaching in this language. Immediately after
his death, under the sponsorship of king Ajatashatru, his elder student
Mahakassapa organized the “First Buddhist council”
during which Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin and long time aide, with
prodigious memory, was asked to recite his teachings, which were
When the Buddhist teachings started to
spread during Ashoka’s time, they were continually translated into the
local dialects and languages.
When the teachings started to be
written down, around three or four hundred years after the death of the
Buddha, there already existed several different, carefully memorized,
versions - one of which is the Pali version. Only one complete version of the set of Vinaya (inventories of rules to be observed by monks/nuns), Sutra (record of the discourse of the Buddha) and Abhidharma (Commentaries) has survived in the Pali language, preserved by the Theravadin
School. Consequently this copy has been regarded as the authoritative
account of the Buddha’s teachings in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos
and Cambodia, the home of the Theravadin School.
It should be Magadhi.
Because, Pali (पालि / பாளி) was not a vernacular language spoken during
the period of Shakyamuni, Siddhartha Gautama. As Magadhi Bhasha is
believed to be Siddhartha’s mother tongue, it is highly likely that he
delivered his teachings in that language.
Some linguists argue that Pali must simply be a text version of
Magadhi. In fact, the word “pali” simply means “line” or “mark” in
ancient Indo-Aryan languages (Prakrits and Sanskrit). It can be roughly
understood as “text” as the language Pali was used only after writing
system was introduced in ancient India.
Some other linguists
believe that Pali must be a mix of several Prakrit languages in order to
make majority of the ancient Indians to understand Buddha’s teachings.
However, it is very obvious that Buddha would not have used Pali during
his lifetime. It should be Magadhi.
නිවන් අවබෝධ කර ගැනීමට උපකාරී වන්නේ පරම පවිත්ර සිරි සද්ධර්මයයි !
The languages used in Hela Diva in Buddha’s period
All the rulers in Hela Diva (Deva Hela) mainly used two languages.
- Magadhi Prakruth language
- Hela Basa (Hela Language)
As a whole, the language of the ordinary citizens in the entire Hela Diva was Hela Basa. Hela Basa had been used as a spoken language and also as a written language. Hela Basa was used everywhere by ordinary citizens, in the day today life and also in their trading activities.
Prakruth Magadhi language was a language of the great scholars. Magadhi language was used for technology, science & craftsmanship and administration of the country. Magadhi
language was used commonly in the county of Magadha of which the city
of Rajagaha was the capital city. The scholars, rulers of the country,
clergy, Brahmans and some Counts learnt and used the Magadhi language. Everyone who used Maghadi language knew Hela Basa as well. The gap between Magadhi language and Hela language was not that much great. Maghadi language
was used to learn any particular skill & knowledge or any science.
It can be seen that the mass in the general public did not use the
profound Maghadi language.
Buddha used Maghadi language to teach Dhamma in all the sixteen states in Janbudveepa Hela Diva. The Dhamma preached in Maghadi language was easily understood by the common people who used Hela Basa as well. In the ancient times there lived scholars in Hela Diva who knew Hela Basa as well and they present Artha, Dharma, Nirukthi and Patibhana for the intellectual Buddha Dhamma which was taught in Maghadi language. Because of this, Buddha Dhamma preached in Magadhi language by Gautama Buddha was analyzed during that period itself and Hela Commentaries were written for them. Hela Basa was a written language, but not the Maghadi language. Because of this, within the same period of time, Commentary writing (Attha katha) in Hela Basa was done for the Buddha Dhamma preached by Gautama Buddha. In order to analyze and present explanations for the teachings of Buddha, in the ancient times in Hela Bima, five Artha kathas written in Hela Basa had been used and they are Hela Atuwa, Kurundi Atuwa, Budukali Atuwa, Seehala Attha Katha and Mahaatta Katha. All these Attha Kathas were written on Buddha Dhamma preached by Gautama Buddha in Maghadi language. These original Hela Atuwa could be seen even in the Anuradhapura period. The alphabet used for Magadhi language and Hela Language was the same. There were no two different alphabets. Both these languages used a methodology of Prakrit letters.
But by this time, what used in India were the Brahmi letters and the
Sanskrit language. The ordinary citizens in India never used Maghadi language or Hela Basa. Because of this, one can notice that there are certain differences between the letters used in Lanka in the very old age in Helabima,
which is the Buddha’s period even before Anuradhapura period, and the
letters used in Anurahapura after Ashoka’s period. The consequence of
this were that the inscriptions reader of the Anuradhapura period
experienced difficulties in reading inscriptions written in Buddha’s
period in Hela Diva. But the pattern of the letters in
Anuradapura period and Ashoka period was very similar. This is because
of the influence from India. In the ancient Hela Diva, rulers and some scholars from Yakkha Hela where Yakkha & Naaga tribes lived knew both languages, Maghadi and Hela Basa. Rulers of Yakkha tribe such as Saathaagira and Hemawatha could understand the Dhamma preached by Gautama Buddha in Maghadi language. Even King Samana could understand Dhamma. And also the great King Wessawana introduced the enactment of Aataanaataa to Gautama Buddha in Magadhi language. Gautama Buddha preached the same to his disciples again in Magadhi language.
In the ancient times Arahant Mahinda Thero came to Hela Diva (Lanka), went to the capital city of Rajagaha (Ampara) in the kingdom of Magada, learnt both Magadhi language & Hela Basa for few years, took the Budu Kali Commentaries written in Hela Basa to Anuradhapura and preached Buddha Dhamma to King Dewana Paathis in both Magadhi language & Hela Basa. This means that most of the people lived in the kingdom of Anuradhapura too knew Hela Basa and Magadhi language very well. Gradually, Helabasa became the language of the common man and Magadhi language became the language of the intellectuals.
This Magadhi language used by the intellectuals in all the sixteen states in Hela Diva and also in Yakkha Hela & Naaga Hela
had never ever been a language to be used by any region or any kingdom
in India. All the languages prevailed in India that day were based on
Sanskrit, but not Prakrit.
After preaching Dhamma by Gautama Buddha in Hela Diva, Dhamma spread out gradually to South India and the regions like east Kerala. When Buddha Dhamma was spread out in this manner, Maghadi language was used in the kingdoms in South and East India. As a result of this, books written in Hela Diva in Magadhi and Hela languages were translated in to Indian languages. Indian universities too started teaching Maghadi language and that is only after the spreading of Buddha Dhamma. Pela is not a language. Pela Dhamma is nothing but the texts or passages of Buddha Dhamma in Magadhi language which are in the form of lines or arranged into lines. Buddha Dhamma
was presented in this manner, in the form of lines, as it helps in easy
reading by heart and registers in mind thoroughly. After 7 centuries,
in the latter part of Anuradhapura period, Pela Dhamma was transformed in to a language called Pali and later modified it as a language with grammar. Pali language which is used and learnt at present is a created, modified language and not the same Magadhi language used by Buddha to preach Dhamma. There are many differences between these two. Artha, Dharma and Nirukthi can be presented for the Magadhi terms which were used by the Buddha. Pali language has only customary meanings.
 Atta Katha or Attha Katha or Artha Katha
– the commentaries were written with the aim of explaining something in
a simple manner, to make easy the reader to understand certain
H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III
The Original Language of the Buddha and His Teachings
Extracted from the book “Buddhist Sutras: Origin Development” by Kogen Mizuno.“The
original language of the sutras seems to have been Magadhi, which
Shakyamuni used in preaching. Of all the Indic language versions of
sutras used as Buddhist texts today, those written in Pali are the most
numerous and are widely used in the Southern Buddhist countries Sri
Lanka, Burma, and Thailand. According to Southern Buddhist tradition,
Pali is regarded as the language that Shakyamuni spoke, and therefore is
called Magadhi or the fundamental language. However, recent studies
show that although a little of the Magadhi influence is still evident in
the Pali language, the basic characteristics of the two languages are
two important language families of India are Indic and Dravidian. All
Buddhist sutras were originally compiled in Indic languages, which
developed in various parts of India over a period of three or four
thousand years. In present day India more than ten major languages-
including Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Bihari, Marathi, and Punjabi- belong to
this family, and together they number several hundred dialects. Sanskrit
and fourteen modern languages are now officially sanctioned by the
Indian constitution, and in a large house it is possible for several of
the recognized languages to be in use, since servants from different
areas and family members would all speak in their own languages or
rich linguistic heritage was noted in earlier times, when, for example,
in plays one could identify a character’s occupation and social status
through the prescribed language he or she spoke. Kings, ministers, and
Brahmans spoke Sanskrit, the most highly esteemed and inflected
language; queens, princesses, nuns and courtesans spoke a graceful
language called Shauraseni; the general populace, such as merchants and
artisans, spoke Magadhi; and the lower classes spoke Paishachi. Even
lyrics had their own pleasant to the ear language, Maharashtri.
five languages just mentioned originated in the dialects of different
areas, but the languages in Shakyamuni’s time belonged to a period
earlier than that of these five languages. However, even in Shakyamuni’s
time, regional languages already differed, and each language had its
own unique characteristics, as we can see from the edicts of Ashoka,
issued about two centuries after the death of Shakyamuni. Ashoka had his
edicts carved on large rocks and stone pillars, and one particular
edict was written in a different language in each of the eight areas
where it has been found. The languages of the edicts in India, which can
be divided into four or five regional groups, correspond to the five
languages used in drama of later periods. In time they became regional
languages of the Apabhramsha family, and still later they developed into
the modern Indic languages.
language Shakyamuni spoke was the one in general use around the middle
reaches of the Ganges, where he was active. Since the area was later
called Magadha, its language was called Magadi (or Old Magadhi), and
because many of Emperor Ashoka’s edicts have been found in this area, we
have an idea of what the Magadhi Shakyamuni spoke was like.
the time of Shakyamuni, the Vedas, the holy scriptures of Brahmanism,
were transmitted in Vedic Sanskrit, which was the forerunner of
classical Sanskrit. Both Vedic Sanskrit and classical Sanskrit are
elegant, highly inflected, complex languages. The Vedic scriptures were
transmitted only to the educated upper classes, never to the lower
classes. Shakyamuni, who wanted his teachings to reach all classes of
society equally, thought that the lower classes would be the focus of
his ministry and therefore preached his teaching in Magadhi, the
everyday language of the common people, so that even the lower classes
could understand him.”
excerpt from “Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks: Collected Papers on
the Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Texts of Monastic Buddhism in India” by
know, and have known for some time, that the Pali canon as we have it-
and it is generally conceded to be our oldest source- cannot be taken
back further than the last quarter of the first century BCE, the date of
the Alu-vihara redaction, the earliest redaction that we can have some
knowledge of, and that-for a critical history- it can serve, at the very
most only as a source for the Buddhism of this period. But we also know
that even this is problematic since as Malalasekera has pointed out
‘…how far the Tipitaka and its commentary reduced to writing at
Alu-vihara resembled them as they have come down to us now, no one can
say.’ In fact, it is not until the time of the commentaries of
Buddhaghosa, Dhammapala, and others- that is to say the fifth to sixth
centuries C.E.- that we can know anything definite about the actual
contents of this canon.
also know that there is no evidence to indicate that a canon existed
prior to the Alu-vihara redaction. Although Ashoka in his Dhabra Edict
specifically enjoined both monks and laymen to recite certain texts,
which he named, he nowhere in his records gives any indication that he
knew of a canon, or the classification of texts into nikayas.”
personally have great faith in the memory-power of the monks who
memorized the Buddhist Sutras from the time of the Buddha and
transmitted them verbally from generation to generation for about 400
years before they were actually written down. And in terms of dating the
earliest recorded Sutras, it is my understanding that parts of the
Sutta Nipata in Pali and parts of the Mahavastu in Buddhist Hybrid
Sanskrit (from the Shravastivadin tradition) are the oldest known
recorded Sutras- both dating back to about 350 years after the Buddha.
Again, I didn’t mean to be too long-winded in this explanation, but I
thought people might be interested in knowing a little more, if they
didn’t know already, about these questions of language and the Buddhist
little footnote: according to our tradition and the historical records
of Ancient China the earliest Sutra translated from the Indic languages
into Chinese was the Sutra in 42 Sections in 69 C.E.
Sincerely, in Dharma, Heng Shun
The Magahi language, also known as Magadhi, is a language spoken in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal states of eastern India. Magadhi Prakrit was the ancestor of Magadh, from which the latter’s name derives. Magadhi has approximately 18 million speakers.
It has a very rich and old tradition of folk songs and stories. It is spoken in ten districts of Bihar (Gaya, Patna, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Nalanda, Nawada, Arwal, Lakhisarai, Sheikhpura, Jamui) and eight districts of Jharkhand (Palamu, Chatra, Hazaribag, Koderma, Deoghar, Jamtara, west singhbhum, Bokaro, Dhanbad, Giridih). In West Bengal, it is spoken in Malda district.In Odisha, it is spoken in kendujhar district.
Magahi or Magadhia language derived from the ancient Magadhi Prakrit, which was created in the ancient kingdom of Magadha, the core of which was the area south of the Ganges and east of Son River. It is believed to be the language spoken by Gautama Buddha. It was the official language of the Mauryan court, in which the edicts of Ashoka were composed.
The name Magahi is directly derived from the name Magadhi
Prakrit, and educated speakers of Magahi prefer to call it “Magadhi”
rather than “Magahi”.
Though the number of speakers in Magahi is large, it has not been
constitutionally recognised in India. In Bihar Hindi is the language
used for educational and official matters. Magadhi was legally absorbed under Hindi in the 1961 Census.
The ancestor of Magadhi, Magadhi Prakrit,
formed in the Indian subcontinent in a region spanning what is now
India and Nepal. These regions were part of the ancient kingdom of Magadha, the core of which was the area of Bihar south of the Ganges.
The name Magahi is directly derived from the word Magadhi, and educated speakers of Magahi prefer to call it Magadhi rather than Magahi.
Grammarian Kachchayano wrote of the importance of Magadhi, “There is a
language which is the root (of all languages); men and Brahmans spoke
it at the commencement of the kalpa, who never before uttered a human
accent, and even the supreme Buddhas spoke it: it is Magadhi.”
The development of the Magadhi language into its current form is
unknown. However, language scholars have come to a conclusion that
Magahi, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Bengali, Assamese and Oriya
originated from the Mithila Prakrit or might be Bengali Prakrit during
the 8th to 11th centuries. These different dialects differentiated
themselves and took their own course of growth and development. But it
is not certain when exactly it took place. It was probably such an
unidentified period during which modern Indian languages begin to take
modern shape. By the end of the 12th century, the development of Apabhramsa reached its climax. Gujarati,
Marathi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Maithili and other modern languages
took definite shape in their literary writings in the beginning of the
14th century. The distinct shape of Magadhi can be seen in the Dohakosha written by Sarahapa and Kauhapa. Magahi had a setback due to the transition period of Magadha administration.
Traditionally, strolling bards recite long epic poems in this dialect,
and it was because of this that the word “Magahi” came to mean “a bard”.
Kaithi is the script generally used for it. The pronunciation in Magahi
is not as broad as in Maithili and there are a number of verbal forms
for each person.
Historically, Magahi had no famous written literature. There are many
popular songs throughout the area in which the language is spoken, and
strolling bards recite various long epic poems
which are known more or less over the whole of Northern India. In
Magahi spoken area folk singers sing a good number of ballads.
Introduction of Urdu meant a setback to local languages as its Persian
script was alien to local people.
The first success for spreading Hindi occurred in Bihar in 1881, when Hindi displaced Urdu
as the official language of the province. After independence, Hindi was
given the sole official status through the Bihar Official Language Act,
Fruits and vegetables
||Baabuji / PitaJee
||बाबूजी / पिताजी
||Maiya / Maay
||मईया / माय
||Bahin / Didi
||दीदी / बहिन
||Bhaai / Bhaiya
||भाई / भईया
||Baaba / Daada
||बाबा / दादा
||Mama / Daadi
||मामा / दादी
||Bhaujai / Bhauji
||भौजाइ / भौजी
Addition of “Waa” or “eeya” to nouns and sometimes verbs
For male nouns:
In Hindi with Magahi/Magadhi style – “सलमनवा के पास एगो मोटरसाइकिल है”
In true Magahi/Magadhi language - “सलमनवा भिजुन एगो मोटरसाइकिल हई”
English translation – Salman has a motorcycle.
For female nouns:
In Hindi with Magahi/Magadhi style – “रिमिया रिया सेनवा के बहन है”
In true Magahi/Magadhi language - “रिमिया रिया सेनवा के बहीन हई”
English translation – Rimi is the sister of Riya Sen
In Hindi with Magahi/Magadhi style – “लठीया चला के तोर कपरवे फोर देंगे”
In true Magahi/Magadhi language - “लठीया चला के तोहर कपरवे/कपरवा फोर देम ”
English translation – (I’ll) throw the baton and crack your skull
In Hindi with Magahi/Magadhi style – “जानते हो, मोहना का बाप मर गया है”
In true Magahi/Magadhi language - “जानअ ह, मोहना के बाप / बाबूजी / बाबा /बावा मर् गेलथिन”
English translation – You know, Mohan’s dad has died
Apart from these all other females names and other nouns get “waa” in their ends.
Addition of “eeye” or “ey” in adverbs, adjectives and pronouns
In Hindi with Magahi/Magadhi style – हम बहुत नजदिके से आ रहें है
In true Magahi/Magadhi language – हम/हमनी बहुत नजदिके (बहुते नज़दीक)/भीरी से आवईत हिवअ/ आ रहली हे
English translation – We are coming from a very near place
Within Magahi, one can find lot of variation while moving from one
area to other, mainly end of the sentence is with a typical tone like
Hiva, thau, hein etc. It is a rich language with lot of difference one
can see while saying something with respect to elder or one with peer or
younger. For example, there are two counterparts of Hindi “aap” in
existence described in following sentences -
In Hindi—आप आज बाजार गये थे क्या?
In Magahi (To an elder) — तूँ आज बजार गेलहु हल का?
In Magahi (To highly respected persons or teachers) — अपने आज बजार गेलथिन हल का?
In Magahi (To an younger) — तूँ आज बजार गेलहीं हल का?
Magahi is a language of the common people in area in and around
Patna. It has few indigenous written literature, though a number of
folk-tales and popular songs have been handed down for centuries from
mouth to mouth and this remain main form of knowledge transfer in
literature. Strolling bards also known by name “Bhad” recite long epic
poems in this dialect, and sing verses in honor of the heroic
achievements of legendary princes and brave men of ancient time like
“Alha aur udal”. But no manuscriptic text has been seen except that
nowadays people have given it a book form.