SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute


Dr Andrew Ollett (Harvard), Prof Paul Dundas (Edinburgh), and Lucas den Boer (Leiden)

Date: 9 January 2018Time: 2:00 PM

Finishes: 9 January 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Room: 116

Type of Event: Workshop


The Languages of Jainism in the Gupta Period

Dr Andrew Ollett (Harvard)

Before the Gupta period, Jains had used different varieties of Middle Indic for transmitting their scripture, commenting on them, and composing original works of literature and systematic thought. Among these varieties, we can distinguish first of all Ardhamāgadhī, the language of the aṅgas, and then two additional languages, both called Prakrit, which began to be used around the first century CE; one of these, called Mahārāṣṭrī Prakrit at a somewhat later period, was used for the niryuktis (versified commentaries on the aṅgas), and another—which, having had no more specific designation than "Prakrit" at the time that it was used, has been called "Śaurasēnī Prakrit" by modern scholars in order to differentiate it from Mahārāṣṭrī Prakrit—was used for the doctrinal and philosophical works of the Digambaras. In this workshop we will examine the changes in language use that were introduced among Jain communities in the Gupta period. We will discuss, first of all, the introduction of Sanskrit and the "standardization" of the aforementioned Middle Indic languages, and then we will ask what significance Jainism's use of multiple languages had, what the relationship between these various languages was imagined to be, and what the "division of labor" between these languages was.

A Legal Term in Haribhadra Yākinīputra's Ṣoḍaśakaprakaraṇa and its Implications

Prof Paul Dundas (Edinburgh)

Significant questions remain to be answered concerning Jainism as a social phenomenon during the Gupta period. A recent study by the speaker based on reading between the lines of the available patchy evidence offered some new interpretations of the actualities of the Jain community's status under the Guptas. This talk will amplify the aforementioned study by focussing on the means by which the Jain renunciant community was supported at this time. It will consider the role of financial endowment in the light of the few identifiable Jain sources (inscriptional and non-inscriptional) referring to this important legal mechanism which is mentioned frequently in Buddhist and Hindu texts of varying types. The talk will conclude with some conjectures about the significance of Prakrit references to the miraculous feeding of renunciants.

Umāsvāti’s Tattvārthasūtra and the Gupta Period

Lucas den Boer (Leiden)

The Tattvārthasūtra is the first systematic compendium of Jaina doctrine, and is still regarded as an authoritative overview of the Jaina tenets by contemporary Jains. We do not know exactly when and where it was composed but there are good reasons to situate the text and the first commentary, the Tattvārthasūtrabhāṣya, in the Gupta Period. The Tattvārthasūtra was the first Jaina treatise that favoured Sanskrit over Prakrit, which seems to be a sign that the author of the text tried to connect to a wider intellectual milieu. In my presentation, I will discuss what the Tattvārthasūtra and the bhāṣya can tell us about their historical circumstances, and how the aims of the author(s) can be linked to the social history of the Jaina community. For this purpose, I will focus on the language and rhetorical strategies of the texts in the light of the historical evidence of the Jainas in the Gupta Period.


Registration is required of all participants.

Organiser: SOAS, University of London

Contact email:

Contact Tel: +44 (0) 20 7898 4893

Sponsor: Euorpean Research Council