Evangelists and Epigones: Sanskrit adaptations of Mahabharata by Jains in 13th-century Gujarat

01 November 2021 → 31 October 2025
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Indian languages
    • Historical linguistics
    • Other Asian literatures
    • Study of Hinduism
    • Other philosophy, ethics and religious studies not elsewhere classified
Mahabharata Sanskrit Jainism Asia Sanskrit 15th Century 16th Century Late Antiquity Middle Ages Antiquity Comparative Language and text analysis Literary history Religious identity Sanskrit literature History Religion Literary studies
Project description

Sheldon Pollock’s influential theories on the cosmopolitan and ‘secular’ nature of Sanskrit literature and the vernacularisation of regional Indian literatures being a top-down process originating in royal court do not explain or account for the continued interest of Jains in composing Sanskrit adaptations of the epic Mahābhārata in 13th-century Gujarāt. As adherents of an Indian minority religion known for its insistence on non-violence, Jains in Gujarāt such as Devaprabhasūri and Amaracandrasūri adapted the Mahābhārata in a cosmopolitan style of Sanskrit at a time when poets in neighbouring regions chose for regional adaptations of the epic in vernaculars such as Kannada and Telugu. Furthermore, Devaprabhasūri’s adaptation Pāṇḍavacarita, presents itself as anything but ‘secular’ in its commitment to Jain ideology. By comparing Devaprabhasūri’s Pāṇḍavacarita (1234 CE) and Amaracandrasūri’s Bālabhārata (1240 CE) with its inspiration, the Mahābhārata, this project seeks to address what remains unaccounted for in Pollock’s theories: his downplaying of the role of religious ideology in works of Sanskrit literature and the endurance of Mahābhārata adaptations in Sanskrit in a region which is vernacularising.