The 'Sītācarit' ('The Deeds of Sita') is a retelling of the Rāmāyaṇa story, written in the mid-17th century by Rāmcand Bālak, a Digambar Jain about whom not much currently is known beyond his name. The 'Sītācarit' is significant in that it is the first full-scale Jain treatment of the Rāmāyaṇa story to be written in Brajbhāṣā, a widely popular literary language in early modern North India. The text itself draws on the familiar episodes of the established Jain Rāmāyaṇa tradition, but also includes several characteristic innovations. For instance, it foregoes the traditionally Purāṇic introduction of earlier Jain Rāmāyaṇas, which focus on establishing Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa and Rāvaṇa as the eight śalākāpuruṣa trio of Bālaram, Vāsudeva and Prativāsudeva, in favour of highlighting Sītā as the true protagonist of the story. Yet the 'Sītācarit' has never been printed and is still only available in manuscript form.
The main aims of this project are to establish a critical edition of the 'Sītācarit' on the basis of manuscripts held in Jain libraries and temples throughout North India, and to use both the manuscripts and the collated text as the main data for a study of how the 'Sītācarit' navigates its literary contexts. On the one hand, these include the established tradition of Jain Rāmāyaṇas, represented by texts such as Vimalasūri’s Prakrit 'Pauma-cariya', Raviṣeṇa’s Sanskrit 'Padma Purāṇa', Svayambhūdeva’s Apabhraṃṣa 'Paumacariu' and Samaysundar’s Maru-Gurjar 'Sītārāmcopāī'. On the other, the Sītācarit’s literary contexts include its contemporary literary culture, primarily represented by vernacular, Hindu Rāmāyaṇa treatments of the same time, such as Tulsīdās’ Avadhī 'Rāmcaritmānas' and Keśavdās’ 'Rāmcandrikā'. Through this approach, the project aims not only to make a hitherto inaccessible text available to both scholars and general readers, but also to provide a contribution to the on-going work of understanding the vernacular literary activities of Jains in early modern North India in their relations with the wider literary culture of the day and its trends.
- The Female Flute: Gender, Sexuality, and Devotion in the Sūrdās Tradition'. Paper in the panel 'Bridging Stylistic and Moral Distances: The Translation and Reception of Pre-Modern, Non-Western Erotic Literature' at the 7th Coffee Break Conference: Comparisons Across Time and Space, Leiden University, 8th-10th September, 2016.