Sanskrit is a language belonging to the Indo-Iranian subdivision of the Indo-European language group. It was the standard literary and religious language of ancient India. Spoken chiefly by the upper classes, it was gradually replaced by common dialects known as Prakrits, However, Sanskrit continued to be used for literature in India until about 1100 A.D., and it is still occasionally employed.
Sanskrit is usually written in the Devanagari alphabet of northern India. A rich and varied literature exists in the language. An early form of Sanskrit, known as Vedic, was used in the ancient Hindu religious texts called the Vedas, which were composed before 500 B.C. In the 4th century B.C. the grammar of Sanskrit was codified by the Indian scholar Panini. The later form of the language, classical Sanskrit, was the medium for outstanding prose, poetry, and especially drama. In the late 18th century the discovery that Sanskrit has similarities with Greek and Latin led to the development of the modern study of linguistics.