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Sanskrit means ‘polished’ or ‘refined’ and is the name of the classical language of India. The sacred scriptures of Hinduism and also of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism were composed in Sanskrit, while the Tipitaka of Theravada Buddhism was composed in Pali.

The two languages share much in common, but Sanskrit has a more complex grammar and a larger vocabulary than Pali. Further, Sanskrit has its own script, called Devanàgarã, while Pali has no script. Even at the time of the Buddha, Sanskrit was spoken only in the royal court and by priests and intellectuals and for this reason the Buddha refused to have his sermons rendered into Sanskrit (Vin.II,139). He wanted his teachings to be accessible to all, not just to a small elite.