Selected Speeches on Prakrit and Jainology ► Speech as Chairperson

Posted: 01.06.2012

International Prakrit Jñānabharati Awards

Paramapujya SyAdvAda SiddhAnta Cakravarti prashasti vibhUshit Svasti sri CArukIrti BhaTTArakji, upasthit AdaraNIya atithi-abhyAgatah, VidvadvareNyah, Namhstubhyam.

Today, the 14th of October 2010, is an unforgettable day, particularly for Prakrit scholars. Since the last two days we have experienced the thrill of celebrating Prakrit's legacy. The unique International Prakrit Jnanabharati Award bestowal ceremony is not only culmination of three days celebration but also crowning glory.

The International Seminar was organised mainly to promote, to focus and to highlight Prakrit's place in the comity of classical languages. Prakrit scholars need a big forum to discuss and take stock of what is going on in the field of their study and research. The seminar has turned the spot light on the poor state of Prakrit in India and elsewhere. Unfortunately Prakrit's development is low in Government's priority. It is dushama- dushama- kAla, 'most unhappy period', for Prakrit. Let us all join together to convert this avasarpiNi, 'regressive half-cycle', age into utsarpiNi, 'progressive half-cycle', age, and make Prakrit come alive to its past glory. The deliberations serve as an urgent reminder of the imperative need to improve Prakrit's position globally, and to keep pace with the modern scientific developments. The Seminar may not yield instant or quick results. Nor do languages grow with state patronage or sponsorship. Languages live and develop organically from the people who use them, and from scholars who study them. The history of Prakrit is itself a living proof of it. When I speak of and plead for Prakrit's status, it is purely an objective and legitimate demand that it deserves.

As it happens everywhere, creative writers steal the show. Poets and story-tellers reach readers faster whereas scholarship travels slowly. Scholars and scholarship rarely get focused. Albeit, first rate scholars are not frustrated. Despite all hurdles and hardship, researchers in east and west keep busy in their libraries. They are least bothered about awards or rewards or popularity. But they should not be taken for a ride. The deserved should not go unrecognised and justice should prevail.

Research has comas, colons and semi-colons but not full stop. It is a continuous process. Research is, many a times history of mistakes. It is a process of corrections, innovations and filling void.

Therefore, scholars belong to a class of their own, wherever they are. As the wise saying goes, vidvAn and vidvat are respected everywhere. This Award bestowal ceremony is a living proof of it. Professors Rajaram Jain from Noida in Uttar Pradesh, Nalini Balbir form Paris in France, and Adelheid Mette from München in Germany, are felicitated on a common platform here in SravaNabelagola. Like the birds of the same feather, scholars working in the same field have flocked together to gather some new material for further researches! SravaNabelagola is a Golden mine for researchers. The hoary tradition of the Holy place is such that it is always eager to extend its helping hand to the deserved - be it a monk, a nun, an administrator, a house-holder, a saint or a scholar. A cursory glance at the history of this place will reveal how, starting from apostle BhadrabAhu, many hundreds of souls journeyed to find spiritual solace and experienced unique happiness.

While earnestly trying to resurrect the status of Prakrit and to accord a proper place in education and academic field, we need not feel we are fighting a losing battle. Nothing happens overnight. Progress is a step by step process. More over our attempt is not to dislodge Sanskrit to accommodate Prakrit. In other words, our struggle is not Prakrit against Sanskrit. Instead our attempt is to establish Prakrit plus Sanskrit. The intention is to move together rather than isolate and disintegrate Prakrit and Sanskrit. Indian literature has umpteen layers, but Prakrit and Sanskrit being invaluable layers, need to be focused on priority. Scholars working in the field of ancient and classical languages are not many. Their number is dwindling day by day. There is no sufficient encouragement. Lack of funds for researches in the field is another curse. In European countries also things are not better. Prakrit is not a job potential study. Everywhere Departments of Humanities is losing its ground. The time has come when Scholars have got to contemplate on proper measures to overcome the obstacles and to rejuvenate Prakrit position. Our endeavour is to promote, propagate and preserve this classical language.

A tiny Nirgranthist world with all its wealth, mostly restricted to India, attracted a fairly good number of Western scholars, the German Indologists in particular, in the beginning of the 20th century. The philologists of the last quarter of the 19th century were first attracted by Prakrit languages as part of Indo-European Family of Languages but ended up as the devoted scholars of the Jaina Āgamas. Slowly and steadily, their number never exceeding a pleasing dozen (number did not matter) at any stage, the study of Jaina canons was strengthened. It was rewarding because an handful of scholars who chose to researches on Jaina basic texts were stalwarts. They dedicated their entire life to the study of primordial texts and soon discovered the ĀvaSyaka tradition as the treasure trove for further researches.

Prof. Adelheid Mette ji and Prof. Nalini Balbir ji have continued the tradition of their predecessors of Germany and enriched the field of Jaina Studies with special focus on Prakrit canons. Prof. Adelheid Mette is one of the few scholars to select this area as her field of research and teaching. She has considered the strenuous work as a joy rather than a burden. Through dedication to Indological and Jainological researches, she has made Jainism significant not only for its followers, but also for others. Her basic researches have provided many leads to further reading. I recall the unforgettable experience of our first meeting in the campus of Munich University. Not only she arranged my lecture (power point presentation) but also took care of providing pure Vegetarian food in an Indian Hotel. Later she released one of my books, the Stones of AbhayakumAra and spoke kind words.

Prof. Adelheid Mette's recent work in German language Die Erlösungslehre der Jainas is voluminous and extraordinary. While Reviewing this brilliant book, Prof. Willem Bollée writes «It is a pleasing experience that after some twenty years German readers, perhaps tired of the west-Asian religions, which are all connected with violence from their very beginning up to the present day, have become enough interested in Jinism, the ancient Indian conviction of non-violence, to enable a much enlarged edition of Mette's previous Durch Entsagung zum Heil (1991) to be published now. The Jain Doctrine is clearly documented by well-chosen translations from the canonical literature and prominent mediaeval commentators. Unlike its predecessor, themes of this book such as cosmic man, the soul in samsāra and Jinas, esp. Mallinatha, the female one, are illustrated by beautiful colour reproductions from manuscripts to which there is an extensive explanation on pp. 392-411».

Settled in Paris as Professor of Indology in the University, Dr. Nalini Balbir regularly writes on Jaina tradition for a universal readership. Her writing is a symphony of the magnificence of Jainology that authenticates her as an unique Jainologist. It is her passion and zeal for Jainalore that helped find her way to the famed SravaNabelagola. Trained and trimmed in the gymnasium of Mme. Collet Caillet, an illustrious Jainology-scholar of eminence, Naliniji has worked hard for the cause dear to her heart and has set good models for generations to come. When the preparation of the Catalogue of the Jain Manuscripts of the British Library had come to a sudden halt, with the sad demise of ChandrabhAl Bh. TripAThI (1929-96), Nalini Balbir ji willingly shouldered the extremely difficult responsibility of cataloguing Manuscripts. Taking assistance of scholar-couple Kanhaiyalal V. Sheth and Kalpana K. Sheth, Naliniji successfully completed the project. The Institute of Jainology, UK, has beautifully published it in three Volumes in 2006. Naliniji's dedication to promote Jaina Studies is exemplary.

Ubhaya-Bhashā-ViSarad VidvAn, Prof. Rajaram Jain belongs to the galaxy of traditional Oriental Scholars of eminence. He is known for his erudition in Prakrit and Sanskrit and for a series of 120 articles on ancient Prakrit works. For over half a century Rajaram ji has spent more time in reading, teaching and researching rare ApabhramSa and Sauraseni Prakrit works. Many National Awards have adorned him including the Presidents Award for Pali and Prakrit. Textual Criticism and Raidhu SAhitya is his first love. He has discovered many rare and ancient Prakrit Classics, methodically edited with good introduction and additional notes. This has facilitated the reader to understand and appreciate the almost forgotten classics better. As a result of his devoted labour, some important Prakrit works have survived to see the light of day. Retired, but tireles, Rajaram ji is a non-stop researcher!

The role of these three eminent scholars, in showcasing the glory and treasure- trove of Prakrit and in emphasising its relevance to the present times, is extraordinary. To put it in a nut shell, they have carved a niche in the hall of fame and set a standard model for the subsequent scholars to emulate. Their contribution to the collective wisdom of Jainology will be remembered for a long time to come.

It is hoped that the last two days' (12th & 13th of October 2010) Seminar and also today's (14th) Award bestowal function will contribute to a resumption of Prakrit Studies in India and abroad. HH ParampUjya Svasti Śri Charukeerti Bhattarakji, an unique saint-scholar, as a crusader has launched his khaNDa-sphuTita-jbNoddhAra or renovation mission of saving and retrieving Prakrit language and literature. He has created an infrastructure from where we can safely take off. He has dreams and Prakrit is one such. He has launched the coming year 2011 as the International Year of Prakrit. As its crowning glory, Pujya SyAdvAda SiddhAnta Cakravarti Śri Charukeerti Bhattarak ji has given green signal to organise an International Prakrit Conference in November 2011. Let us all stand up to say that we extend unconditional support to him in making the envisaged Prakrit Conference a grand success. Namostu Svamiji. We are grateful to you for your benevolence and for resurrecting the neglected Prakrit tradition.

I insist and urge the central and State Governments to declare the year 2011 as the year of Prakrit and make provision in the budjet for 2011 and 2012 to allocate a sum of Rupees one Hundred Crore. The amount thus set apart should be allocated to start Five Prakrit Universities in North, South, East, West and in Madhya Pradesh respectively. Hope Central and State Governments will consider this proposal favourably. I request the Scholars to take up this issue seriously and stop not till the goal is achieved.

Dear scholar friends, I consider you as ambassadors of Prakrit. Let us all meet here once again in November 2011. Till then goodbye to all of you. Svasti, au revoir.

N.B.: Please refer Appendix for the text of citation.

P.S.: So far nothing has happened to implement the above suggestions.


International Prakrit Jñānabharati Awards
2007, 2008 and 2009

Award Bestowal Function
14-10-2010, Thursday Morning
at Shravanabelagola

Full Text of the Speech by Prof. Nagarajaiah Hampa
Chair Person of the Award Bestowal Ceremony

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