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Browsing: Karma-kāṇḍa with Persian commentary (MS. Wilson 262)

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Title: Blank page

Source:
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
Shelfmark:
MS. Wilson 262
Author:
Nemicandra
Date of creation:
21 July 1796
Total number of folios:
172
Place of creation:
unknown
Language:
Prākrit, Sanskrit and Persian
Medium:
ink on paper
Size:
22 x 12 cm
Copyright:
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Background

This manuscript is significant as a curiosity because it combines a Jain text in Prakrit with a Persian commentary, and is featured as a highlight of JAINpedia.

The Prakrit work, called the Karma-kāṇḍa or Karma-prakṛti, belongs to the Digambara tradition. By Nemicandra, a Digambara scholar monk who lived in the 11th century, it explores types of karmas and the way they work in verse. In the manuscript the verses are written in the script usually used for Indian languages, namely Devanāgarī. The verses are preceded by the word gāthā, meaning 'stanza', and normally end with the stanza number, in the usual Indian way. The last stanza is numbered 81.

The Persian title says: 'Persian translation of Pūhtī Karma Kānd on the Religion of Jain Matī'. The long commentary in Persian is written in Persian script. The manuscript is dated:

  • in the Vikrama era as the day of 'Sanībat' in the year 1853
  • in the Hijri Islamic calendar as 14th of the month of Muharram, the first month of the year, 1211 AH
  • the 21 July 1796 CE.

It seems that Nemicandra’s work attracted the attention of intellectuals outside the Jain tradition, as this Oxford manuscript is not the only example of Karma-kāṇḍa with Persian commentary.

Another instance is the British Library manuscript Add. 25,022, which is not digitised on JAINpedia. This has a Persian commentary written by Dilārām, son of Mansārām, a brahmin of Bijnūr, Shāhjahānābād. At the end of the manuscript, the commentator states that he completed this work in July 1796 for the French general Claude Martin. This was probably at Lucknow in modern Uttar Pradesh, where Martin was a Nawab in the service of Asaf al-Dawlah. This is the same for this Oxford manuscript.

More broadly, such manuscripts demonstrate that scholars, regardless of their religious affiliations, were keen to read the texts of other intellectual traditions that had arisen in pre-modern India.

With thanks to Alasdair Watson, Curator of Middle Eastern and Islamic Manuscripts, Bodleian Libraries.

Persian writing is read from right to left, and books written in Persian therefore begin at what would be the back in Western books. The digitised images on JAINpedia follow the order of the text.

Glossary

Brāhmaṇa
A member of the highest caste in Hinduism, the priests or brahmins. 'Brahminical' means 'of or like brahmins'.
Common Era
The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.
Digambara
'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.
Jain
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Vikrama-saṃvat
Often abbreviated, Vikrama-saṃvat is the calendar associated with Emperor Vikramāditya. It begins in about 56 BCE so the equivalent date in the Common Era can be calculated by subtracting 57 or 56. Based on Hindu traditions, it is a lunar calendar often used in contemporary India.
Islam
The monotheistic religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad in the sixth century CE. A believer in Islam, which means ‘peace’, is a Muslim, ‘one who submits to God’ in Arabic. Islamic practices and beliefs are based on the Qu’ran and the hadiths or stories about the Prophet Muhammad. A diverse faith, most Muslim sects accept the Five Pillars of Islam:
  • stating that Allah is the only god and Muhammad his prophet
  • praying five times daily at fixed times
  • giving to the poor and needy
  • fasting
  • making a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
Prākrit
A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.
Commentary
An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:
  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.
Pre-modern
Term for the period before the 'modern' age, which began around the 1500s in Western Europe. The pre-modern era was characterised by general belief in the divine and a strong sense of tradition and social order. In contrast, the modern period witnessed the spread of:
  • scientific knowledge and method
  • mechanisation and technologies such as the printing press
  • capitalism
  • individualism
  • increasing lack of belief in organised religions.
Persian
A widely used language in northern India for hundreds of years, developed in modern south-western Iran. Used for administration and literary works in areas ruled by Islamic regimes across northern India, it became associated with culture, education and science, and was the official language of the Mughal Empire. Persian influenced other languages in India and was gradually supplanted by English and Hindustani – the forebear of modern Hindi – in the 19th century.

Related Manuscripts

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