The Constitution of a Literary Legacy and the Tradition of Patronage in Jainism

Posted: 27.04.2017
Updated on: 28.04.2017

Centre of Jaina Studies Newsletter: SOAS - University of London


The international workshop The Constitution of a Literary Legacy and the Tradition of Patronage in Jainism, organized by Christine Chojnacki and Basile Leclère, and hosted by Jean Moulin (Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3, Institute of Philosophical Research), was held on 14-17 September 2016.

The first day of the workshop was opened by H. Nagarajaiah (Bangalore University), who spoke on the patronage of a cultural legacy in Karnataka, dealing with the extensive literature on Kannaḍa language from the 7th to the 13th centuries. He drew attention to the poets Ravikīrti, Śrīvijaya, Pampa, Ponna and Ranna, who made a great impact on Kannaḍa poetry and whose patrons were kings of different dynasties in Karnataka. H. Nagarajaiah emphasized the role of royal patronage during the Cāḷukya and Rāṣṭrakūṭa Dynasties in supporting the Jain community, which helped the Jainas to preserve their palm-leaf manuscripts in libraries (śrutabhaṇḍāra) and to build many temples (basadi). Peter Flügel (SOAS) in Information on Patronage of Jaina Literature in Manuscript Catalogues explored some of the earliest meta-data on patron-client relationships in standard manuscript catalogues, focussing on the indices of Albrecht Weber's (1886, 1888, 1891) Verzeichniss der Sanskṛit- und Prâkṛit-Handschriften der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, Zweiter Band; Johannes Klatt's (1892/2016) Jaina-Onomasticon; Hiralal R. Kapadia's (1954) Descriptive Catalogue of the Government Collection of Manuscripts Deposited at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute XVII, V; and the New Catalogus Catalogorum of the University of Madras (1949ff.). Flügel compared the data models of recent Indological data-bases such as PANDIT and the Koba Library Catalogue. On the basis of a preliminary statistical analysis of data on patronage in Klatt (2016), he argued that comparing the different methodological approaches of the great cataloguers of Indian literature may help to generate a set of categories for the computer- supported exploration of sociology of Jaina knowledge production. He then presented a new data model that he had used in his own research on Sthānakavāsins.

This was followed by Rajyashree H. Nagarajaiah (Bangalore), who focused on life stories of two noble ladies from Karnataka—Ravideviyakka and Malliyakka— as examples of female patronage in preserving palm-leaf manuscripts of the circa 2nd-century Digambara scripture on karma theory Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgāma (The Scripture in Six Parts).

The paper by Piotr Balcerowicz (University of Warsaw) was entitled Royal Patronage of Jainism between the Fourth-Second Centuries BCE. Balcerowicz questioned the story about Candragupta Maurya, who is believed to have been converted to Jainism by Bhadrabāhu and, following a famine in Ujjayinī, accompanied the latter to Śravaṇabeḷagoḷa where he performed the sallekhanā rite of a ritual suicide nature. According to Balcerowicz, there is no evidence that would allow one to establish any link between the founder of the Mauryan Dynasty with Jainism, and with Bhadrabāhu in particular. Analysing the literary sources as well as paleographic and archaeological data, Balcerowicz came to the conclusion that the first ruler of note in South Asia who patronized Jainism was King Khāravela, as is indicated in the Hāthīgumphā inscription.

Next, Johannes Bronkhorst (University of Lausanne) spoke on No Literature Without Patronage: Weak Royal Patronage and its Effect on the Constitution of the Jaina Canon under the Kuṣāṇas. Bronkhorst showed that five absences characterize the Jainas under the Kuṣāṇas: absence of royal patronage, absence of monasteries, absence of Sanskrit, increasing absence of stūpa worship and absence of an established canon. He argued that they are organically related.

Annette Schmiedchen (Humboldt University of Berlin) in Religious Patronage in Favour of Jain Literary Traditions: The Epigraphic Evidence argued that most of the donative inscriptions for the benefit of the Jaina community describe either the erection of a sanctuary (vasati) or an endowment to maintain such an institution; but even complex grants hardly ever mention the copying of religious manuscripts amongst the purposes they were to serve. Schmiedchen pointed out that in contrast to Buddhist grants, which were usually bestowed upon local monastic orders, but not upon individuals, Jaina donations were meant to sponsor the religious activities of particular groups and certain spiritual milieus.

The first day of the workshop was concluded by two papers on textual transmission in Jaina philosophy. The first was presented by Natalia Zheleznova (Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences) on Akalaṅka Bhaṭṭa's Rājavārttika: An Example of Textual Transmission in the Digambara Philosophical Commentary Tradition. The second paper was read by Himal Trikha (Vienne Academy of Sciences), On the History of the "Jaina Logicians" and the Transmission of Their Works. Both speakers gave some examples that illustrated the ways of transmissions of different epistemological and philosophical concepts and doctrine in the case of Akalaṅka Bhaṭṭa's Rājavārttika and Vidyānandin's texts respectively.

The second day of the workshop was opened by Arathi H. Nagarajaiah (Bangalore) who focussed on the life story of Attimabbe (10th -11th cc.) as an example of a noble Jaina patroness and benefactor. Christine Chojnacki (University of Lyon 3) in Monks, Kings and Laymen: Transmission of Literary Works in Medieval Gujarat (11th-14th centuries) explored the typical contents of the final eulogy (praśasti) of the literary works of this period, showing how these help to explain why the Jains were particularly active in the preservation of the manuscripts and why they  succeeded  in doing so. Eva De Clercq (Ghent University) in Promoting, Creating and Completing Apabhramsa Treasures: Bhaṭṭāraka Yaśaḥkīrti discussed Apabhraṃśa literary compositions, which were ordered by wealthy patrons from the lay community. De Clercq drew a detailed picture of the activities of Bhaṭṭāraka Yaśaḥkīrti (15th century, Gwalior), in order to establish his position in and significance for the history of the Jaina literary heritage, especially in Apabhraṃśa literature. De Clercq argued that aside from arranging the patronage for several of the layman Raïdhū's more than thirty compositions and writings of Apabhraṃśa epic poetry by himself, the bhaṭṭāraka famously completed the work Riṭṭhaṇemicariu of one of the greatest Apabhraṃśa poets, Svayambhūdeva, which had been left unfinished by the author.

In Behind the Curtain: Who Commissioned Medieval Jain Plays? Basile Leclère (Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3) investigated why and how Jaina writers, despite the austere Jaina doctrine prohibiting entertainments such as theatre, dance, music, etc., eventually adopted the genre of theatre in the 12th-14th centuries. During this period, no less than twenty-two plays were written by Jaina poets in Gujarat and Rajasthan, and perhaps even more if we surmise that a part of this production slipped into oblivion thereafter. Leclère pointed out that in medieval times it had become quite common for a dramatist to mention the name of his patron and the special occasion of this work in the prologue of the drama. This could be helpful in order to understand why this sudden and radical shift in the literary habits of Jaina writers took place.

The paper by Olle Qvarnstrӧm (Lund University) was Patronage and the Construction of a Jaina Self-Image: The Nābhinandanajinoddhāraprabandha of Kakkasūri. Qvarnstrӧm analysed how Kakkasūri, in an attempt to create a self-image of his own tradition in response to the polity of the Delhi Sultanate, tried to construe crucial elements for establishing a Jaina identity of the Upakeśagaccha and to find modus vivendi for the peaceful relations with his co-believers as well as with those who had different political and religious views.

In Historical Literature at a Turning Point in North India's Literary Culture: The Unconventional Poetry of Nayacandra Sūri, Its Influences and Aftermath, Hens Sanders (Ghent University) spoke on the Śvetāmbara monk Nayacandra Sūri, who composed two remarkable works of literature: the Hammīramahākāvya, a Sanskrit epic poem about the Cāhamāna King Hammīra of Ranthambhor (r. 1282-1301) and the Rambhāmañjarī, a humorous love-play in the rare saṭṭaka genre composed in a mixture of Prakrit and Sanskrit, about King Jayacandra of Kannauj (1173-1193). Sanders argued that Nayacandra's poetry could be taken as a sign of the rise of vernacular languages which was considered a step forward for the development of both Jaina and nonJaina historical narratives. He discussed the influences of prabandhas and early rāso texts on Nayacandra's work, and others thereafter, such as Padmanābha's old-Gujarati epic Kanhaḍade-prabandha (1455), and the Jaina author Amṛtakalaśa's old-Gujarati Hammīraprabandha (1518).

The last paper, Literary Circles and Manuscript Culture of the Early Modern Bhaṭṭāraka Saṅghas of West India, was presented by Tillo Detige (Ghent University). Detige's presentation provided a broad overview of the literary production, manuscript culture, and patronage of the bhaṭṭāraka saṅgha litterateurs of West India, particularly on the basis of manuscript eulogies (praśasti) and colophons (puṣpikā). He also examined some specific bhaṭṭārakīya manuscript collections (bhaṇḍāras), and the texts, genres, and languages represented in them, as valuable sources for the writing of 'localized literary histories', and provided a statistical breakdown of patronage to particular types of Digambara ascetics on the basis of the manuscript catalogues of North India. The workshop ended with two roundtables that focussed on the conclusions of the papers read, and on a discussion about the future Jaina research in Europe.

Natalia Zheleznova is a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. She specializes in Jaina Digambara Philosophy. She is author of three books and a number of articles on different aspects of Jainism.

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CoJS Newsletter • March 2017 • Issue 12