Brahmacarya, Brahman-carya: 29 definitions


Brahmacarya means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Marathi, Hindi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

Alternative spellings of this word include Brahmacharya.

In Hinduism

Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Purana glossary
Source: Puranic Encyclopedia

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य).—In ancient India an ideal life was considered to pass through four stages, and Brahmacarya is one of the stages of life. The four stages are Brahmacarya (Vedic student vowed to chastity), Gārhasthya (married householder), Vānaprastha (forest hermit) and Sannyāsa (an ascetic who has renounced the world). Brahmacarya, the first stage of the four is considered as the period of education. The rules and conduct of a Brahmacārī are given in Manusmṛti, Chapter 2. (See full article at Story of Brahmacarya from the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani)

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य).—The disciplined life of celibacy; followed by Kara;1 greatness of;2 observers of it at Benares attain salvation.3

  • 1) Matsya-purāṇa 25. 23.
  • 2) Ib. 175. 33, 36-41; Vāyu-purāṇa 49. 138; 56. 69; 67. 27; 104. 23.
  • 3) Matsya-purāṇa 182. 8-11.
Source: Shodhganga: The saurapurana - a critical study

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to one of the various limbs of Yoga, according to the 10th century Saurapurāṇa: one of the various Upapurāṇas depicting Śaivism.—Accordingly, the eleventh chapter contains the dialogue of Śiva and Skanda; the glories of the devotees of Śiva and the devotion to Śiva. The systems of Yoga along with its limbs Yama, Niyama, Ahiṃsā, Brahmacarya, Aparigraha, Svādhāya, Saṃtoṣa, Śauca, Prāṇāyāma and Samādhi are described while various kinds of impediments to the practice of Yoga and the means of overcoming them are explained in the thirteenth chapter.

Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Ayurveda (science of life)

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Ayurveda glossary
Source: Google Books: A Practical Approach to the Science of Ayurveda

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य, “celibacy”).—One of the thee supporting pillars of the body.—Celibacy means ‘to protect the semen’ by keeping control over all the senses. The last dhātu (body tissue) formed after the digestion of food substances we eat is the śukra (semen). According to Āyurveda, the strength of the body depends upon semen. Opposite to celibacy, sexual indulgence and enjoyment results in loss of semen corresponding to loss of strength. By celibacy one becomes full of ‘ojas,’ brightness, intellect, strength and majesty. Celibacy prevents diseases, preserves health and promotes strength.

Source: Ayurveda glossary of terms

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य):—A state of continence and chastity abstaining from sexual relations and experience

Ayurveda book cover
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

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Arthashastra (politics and welfare)

Source: Knowledge Traditions & Practices of India: Indian Ethics: Individual and Social

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य), or “stage of studentship” refers to the first of the four Āśramas (“stages of life”).—The division of one’s life into the four āśramas (e.g., Brahmacarya) and their respective dharmas, was designed, in principle at least, to provide fulfilment to the person in his social, moral and spiritual aspects, and so to lead to harmony and balance in the society.

Arthashastra book cover
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Arthashastra (अर्थशास्त्र, arthaśāstra) literature concerns itself with the teachings (shastra) of economic prosperity (artha) statecraft, politics and military tactics. The term arthashastra refers to both the name of these scientific teachings, as well as the name of a Sanskrit work included in such literature. This book was written (3rd century BCE) by by Kautilya, who flourished in the 4th century BCE.

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Vaishnavism (Vaishava dharma)

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Vaishnavism glossary
Source: Pure Bhakti: Bhagavad-gita (4th edition)

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to “literally, ‘spiritual cultivation’; the first āśrama, or stage of life, in the varṇāśrama system; celibate student life”. (cf. Glossary page from Śrīmad-Bhagavad-Gītā).

Vaishnavism book cover
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Vaishnava (वैष्णव, vaiṣṇava) or vaishnavism (vaiṣṇavism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshipping Vishnu as the supreme Lord. Similar to the Shaktism and Shaivism traditions, Vaishnavism also developed as an individual movement, famous for its exposition of the dashavatara (‘ten avatars of Vishnu’).

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Dharmashastra (religious law)

Source: Shodhganga: The saurapurana - a critical study (dharma)

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) or Brahmacārin refers to the first of the four “stages of life” (aśrama), according to the 10th century Saurapurāṇa: one of the various Upapurāṇas depicting Śaivism.—From the times of the most ancient dharmaśāstras the number of āśramas has been four:—Brahmacarya, Gṛhastha, Vānaprastha and Sannyāsin.—The first part of āśrama [i.e. man’s life] is brahmacarya in which he learns at his teacher’s house.

A Brahmacārin should be the bearer of a staff (daṇḍa), black antelope skin, girdle and he should be cleanly saved. He should live on alms, brought from the houses of gentlemen. He should partake of the alms only after proclaiming to Guru and receiving his permission. Let him eat turning his face towards the east and having purified himself by sipping water. Excessive eating is prejudicial to health, to fame and to bliss in heaven. So he should avoid it carefully. He should study the Vedas. After completing his study and giving proper fees to the teacher, he should marry and enter into the second āśrama, Gṛhasthāśrama.

Dharmashastra book cover
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Dharmashastra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharmaśāstra) contains the instructions (shastra) regarding religious conduct of livelihood (dharma), ceremonies, jurisprudence (study of law) and more. It is categorized as smriti, an important and authoritative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

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Shaktism (Shakta philosophy)

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Shaktism glossary
Source: Google Books: Manthanabhairavatantram

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to the “vow of continence” or “practice of bliss” according to the Ambāmatasaṃhitā.—[...] The goddess in the Liṅga is practicing austerity. This is the observance of her own special vow of continence (brahmacarya). Within her Liṅga, that is, the Yoni, she is ever Kumārī—the Virgin. There she resides as the pure bliss of the genderless absolute. As such she is identified with the ‘neuter’ Brahman, the absolute of the Upaniṣads that is neither god nor goddess, simply unqualified bliss. Her continence is thus what the word for it in Sanskrit, i.e. brahmacarya, Kaulas understand to mean, namely, the ‘practice of bliss’. Paradoxically, this ‘continence’ is her inner union with the god.—(cf. Tantrāloka 29.96-100 and Manthānabhairavatantra (Kumārikākhaṇḍa) 3.45-64).

Shaktism book cover
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Shakta (शाक्त, śākta) or Shaktism (śāktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devi) is revered and worshipped. Shakta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various Agamas and Tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.

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Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Shaivism glossary
Source: Brill: Śaivism and the Tantric Traditions

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to the “chaste conduct of a student”, according to the 9th-century Sarvajñānottaratantra chapter 18.—Accordingly, “Next, I shall teach the best observance among observances, which is known as the Śiva-vrata and which is revered by Asuras and Gods alike. Pure pale ash [should be used, and] white dress and unguents; he should wear a white sacred thread and be adorned by a chignon of matted locks. He should be equipped with all [suitable] ornaments, [and] adorned with white garlands; he should consume [only the pure ritual gruel-offering known as] caru; he should observe the chaste conduct of a student (brahmacarya-stha); he should venerate Śiva, the fire and his Guru. [...]”.

Shaivism book cover
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Shaiva (शैव, śaiva) or Shaivism (śaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshiping Shiva as the supreme being. Closely related to Shaktism, Shaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including Tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Hinduism glossary
Source: Vedic index of Names and Subjects

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) denotes the condition of life of the Brahma-Cārin1 or religious student. The technical sense is first found in the last Maṇḍala of the Ṛgveda. The practice of studentship doubtless developed, and was more strictly regulated by custom as time went on, but it is regularly assumed and discussed in the later Vedic literature, being obviously a necessary part of Vedic society.

The Atharvaveda has in honour of the Brahmacārin a hymn which already gives all the characteristic features of religious studentship. The youth is initiated (upa-nī) by the teacher into a new life; he wears an antelope skin, and lets his hair grow long; he collects fuel, and begs, learns, and practises penance. All these characteristics appear in the later literature. The student lives in the house of his teacher (ācārya-kula-vāsin; ante-vāsin); he begs, looks after the sacrificial fires, and tends the house. His term of studentship might be long extended: it was normally fixed at twelve years, but much longer periods, such as thirty-two years, are mentioned. The age at which studentship began varied: Śvetaketu commenced at twelve and studied for twelve years.

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to “behavior that leads to Brahman” and is one of the four stages of life in an age-based social system as laid out in the Manu Smrti and later Classical Sanskrit texts in Hinduism. It refers to an educational period of 14–20 years which starts before the age of puberty. During this time the traditional vedic sciences are studied, along with the religious texts contained within the Vedas and Upanishads. This stage of life was characterized by the practice of strict celibacy.

The word brahmacharya stems literally from two components: Brahma, (shortened from brahman), the absolute, eternal, supreme God-head. (As opposed to Brahmā, the deity in the Hindu triad responsible for creation). Charya, which means "to follow". This is often translated as activity, mode of behaviour, a “virtuous” way of life.

In Buddhism

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Mahayana glossary
Source: Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to a “holy religious life” according to appendix 5 of the 2nd century Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XIV). The word brahmacarya is of brāhmin origin and designates in a general way the rigorous observation of prescribed rules and, in a more specialized way, the sexual continence imposed on the novice during his studies at the foot of the master.  The word has passed into Buddhism with this twofold meaning. It designates the holy life, the religious life, notably in the form of the Arhat, but also chastity.

According to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra, “There are beings who follow the ten wholesome courses of action but who have not yet destroyed lust. Thus the sūtra here praises those who practice the conduct of king Brahmā (brahmacarya) by cutting through their sexual desire. It is said that those who practice brahmacarya purely never smell bad (nirāmaya-gandha): the person who is addicted to lust has an ugly malodorous body; thus, to praise those who have cut through lust, it is said that they do not have a bad smell”.

Also, “The gods who have cut through sexual desire are Brahmās, a term applied to all the gods of the form realm (rūpadhātu); this is why the method of cutting through sexual desire is called brahmacarya”.

Source: A Study and Translation of the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to “(practicing) the holy life”, according to the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā: the eighth chapter of the Mahāsaṃnipāta (a collection of Mahāyāna Buddhist Sūtras).—Accordingly, “How then, son of good family, does the Bodhisattva who has attained memory never forget? Son of good family, the Bodhisattva attains memory (dhāraṇī) by purifying his memory. What then is the purification of memory? Son of good family, there are thirty-two purifications of memory. What are the thirty-two? [...] (17) great learning without boundaries for the sake of careful consideration (pratisaṃkhyā) according to tradition; (18) practicing the holy life (brahmacarya-vāsa) endlessly; (19) entering and remaining in a solitary place; (20) recollecting the six recollections; [...]”

Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

Source: OSU Press: Cakrasamvara Samadhi

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to “chastity” [i.e., paryavadātaṃ brahmacaryaṃ], according to the Guru Mandala Worship (maṇḍalārcana) ritual often performed in combination with the Cakrasaṃvara Samādhi, which refers to the primary pūjā and sādhanā practice of Newah Mahāyāna-Vajrayāna Buddhists in Nepal.

Tibetan Buddhism book cover
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Tibetan Buddhism includes schools such as Nyingma, Kadampa, Kagyu and Gelug. Their primary canon of literature is divided in two broad categories: The Kangyur, which consists of Buddha’s words, and the Tengyur, which includes commentaries from various sources. Esotericism and tantra techniques (vajrayāna) are collected indepently.

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In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Jainism glossary
Source: Wisdom Library: Jainism

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) or Brahmacaryapratimā represents the seventh of eleven pratimā (stages) laid down for Jain laymen. Brahmacarya-pratimā refers to “maintaining sexual purity now assuming the stricter aspect of celibacy and also not decorating one’s person” according to J. L. Jaini in his “outlines of Jainism” (pp. 67-70).

These pratimās (e.g., brahmacarya) form a series of duties and performances, the standard and duration of which rises periodically and which finally culminates in an attitude resembling monkhood. Thus the pratimās rise by degrees and every stage includes all the virtues practised in those preceeding it. The conception of eleven pratimās appears to be the best way of exhibiting the rules of conduct prescribved for the Jaina laymen.

Source: Trisastisalakapurusacaritra

1) Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to the “eighteen kinds of chastity”, according to chapter 1.1 [ādīśvara-caritra] of Hemacandra’s 11th century Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacaritra: an ancient Sanskrit epic poem narrating the history and legends of sixty-three illustrious persons in Jainism.—Accordingly, in the sermon of Sūri Dharmaghoṣa:—“[...] the gift of supporting dharma (dharmopagrahadāna) is five-fold: purity of giver, receiver, gift, time, and thought. [... ] That gift would have purity of receiver, whose receiver is such a man [who] practices the eighteen kinds of chastity (brahmacarya), [...]”.

2) Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य, “chastity”) refers to one of the five types of Saṃyakcaritra (“right-conduct”), as mentioned in chapter 1.3.

Accordingly, as mentioned in Ṛṣabha’s sermon:—

“[...] mokṣa is attained by those who practice unceasingly the brilliant triad of knowledge, faith, and conduct. The abandonment of all censurable activities will lead to right-conduct (cāritra), known by its five divisions, the vow of non-injury, etc. Non-injury, truthfulness, honesty, chastity, and poverty, with five supporting clauses each, lead to mokṣa. [...] Wealth is the external breath of men. It is destroyed by one who takes it. The abandonment of divine and earthly loves by action, consent to action, or causing others to act, with reference to thought, speech, and body, is called the eighteen-fold chastity [brahmācarya?]”.

Source: HereNow4U: Śrāvakācāra (Ethics of the Householder)

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to one of the eleven pratimās (eleven stages for becoming excellent śrāvaka).—Brahmacarya-pratimā prescribes absolute continence. This is indicative of the further limitation in the objects of Upabhoga.

Source: The University of Sydney: A study of the Twelve Reflections

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to “celibacy”, according to the 11th century Jñānārṇava, a treatise on Jain Yoga in roughly 2200 Sanskrit verses composed by Śubhacandra.—Accordingly, “The doctrine is said to be forbearance, humility, purity, straightforwardness, truth and restraint, celibacy (brahmacarya), asceticism, renunciation and non-possession. Anything which is undesirable for oneself is not to be done to others by the actions of [body,] speech and mind, even in a dream—such is the principal characteristic of the doctrine”.

General definition book cover
context information

Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Marathi glossary
Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य).—n (S) One of the four ashram or states of life through which the Brahman passes,--that from the investiture with the sacrificial thread until marriage. 2 Abstinence from sexual commerce with women; either for a time, as of those who are about to engage in some extraordinary religious duty, or for the whole term of life. Applied also to Continence or Conjugal fidelity on the part of the male.

context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit dictionary

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Sanskrit glossary
Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य).—

1) religious studentship, the life of celibacy passed by a Brāhmaṇa boy in studying the Vedas, the first stage or order of his life; अविप्लुतब्रह्मचर्यो गृहस्थाश्रममाचरेत् (aviplutabrahmacaryo gṛhasthāśramamācaret) Manusmṛti 3.2;2. 249; Mv.1.24; यदिच्छन्तो ब्रह्मचर्यं चरन्ति तत्ते पदं संग्रहेण ब्रवीम्योमित्येतत् (yadicchanto brahmacaryaṃ caranti tatte padaṃ saṃgraheṇa bravīmyomityetat) Kaṭh.

2) religious study, self-restraint.

3) celibacy, chastity, abstinence, continence; also ब्रह्म- चर्याश्रम (brahma- caryāśrama).

-ryaḥ a religious student; see ब्रह्मचारिन् (brahmacārin).

-ryā chastity, celibacy. °व्रतम् (vratam) a vow of chastity. °स्खलनम् (skhalanam) falling off from chastity, incontinence.

Derivable forms: brahmacaryam (ब्रह्मचर्यम्).

Brahmacarya is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms brahman and carya (चर्य).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Benfey Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य).—I. n. 1. studentship, the order of a religious student. 2. pious austerity, [Mānavadharmaśāstra] 5, 160. 3. chastity, [Vedāntasāra, (in my Chrestomathy.)] in Chr. 217, 15. Ii. Brahmacarya, m. a religious student. Sa-brahmacarya, n. studying together. Ratha-caryā, f. a chariot-exercise.

Brahmacarya is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms brahman and carya (चर्य).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Cappeller Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य).—[neuter] sacred study, the life and condition of a Brahman student, [especially] abstinence, chastity; poss. vant†.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य):—[=brahma-carya] [from brahma > brahman] n. study of the Veda, the state of an unmarried religious student, a state of continence and chastity (also f(ā). , [Harivaṃśa]), [Atharva-veda] etc. etc. ([accusative] with √grah, car, vas, ā-√gam, upa-√i, to practise ch°; cf. -cārin)

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Yates Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य):—[brahma-carya] (ryyaḥ) 1. m. The Brahmachārī or religious student. n. His order, state or condition.

[Sanskrit to German]

Brahmacarya in German

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Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family (even English!). Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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Hindi dictionary

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Hindi glossary
Source: DDSA: A practical Hindi-English dictionary

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) [Also spelled brahmchary]:—(nm) the first of the four stages ([āśrama]) in a man’s life as prescribed by the Hindu scriptures extending till the twenty-fifth year during which one is expected to live strictly as a celibate dedicated to the consummation of his educational effort under the preceptor’s direction and guidance.

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Kannada-English dictionary

[«previous next»] — Brahmacarya in Kannada glossary
Source: Alar: Kannada-English corpus

Brahmacarya (ಬ್ರಹ್ಮಚರ್ಯ):—[noun] = ಬ್ರಹ್ಮಚರ್ಯೆ [brahmacarye].

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Kannada is a Dravidian language (as opposed to the Indo-European language family) mainly spoken in the southwestern region of India.

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