Article: Karma-prakr̥ti

Contributed by Jean Arzoumanov


The word 'Sanskrit' written in Sanskrit using the Devanāgarī script. Sanskrit was the literary language widespread in ancient and medieval Indian civilisations.

The word 'Sanskrit'
Image by OldakQuill © CC BY-SA 3.0

Hemrāj’s commentary is bilingual in the sense that it contains Sanskrit explanatory sentences followed immediately by a Hindi paraphrase. Yet although the commentary is written chiefly in Braj or Braj Bhāṣā, it contains many technical Sanskrit words from the Digambara doctrine.

Hemrāj may have been taken the explanations in Sanskrit from a previous commentary or may have composed them himself. They are sometimes similar to another anonymous Sanskrit commentary on the Karma-prakṛti.

The Sanskrit religious terms in the vernacular commentary are rarely explained, usually remaining unchanged. These Sanskrit-like words used in the vernacular are called tatsama – 'identical' in Sanskrit. These unexplained terms make it quite difficult for a student to use the commentary without proper guidance.

Most of the work is written in the local form of literary Hindi known as Braj or Braj Bhāṣā, which is still spoken in a vast area of northern India, including Agra. Before the emergence of modern Hindi in the 19th century, Braj was the main language of Hindu literature for several centuries across a larger area than nowadays. Although it is mainly thought of as a Hindu language, Jain scholars in the past often used it.


Translating the various languages of the text of the original work and its commentary into another language requires high levels of multi-lingual fluency. In addition, the Karma-prakr̥ti is a technical treatise on the complicated doctrinal topic of karma and a good grasp of the subject is needed to translate it accurately and convey the subtleties of Hemrāj's commentary. However, the translation in the two so-called Karma-kāṇḍa manuscripts is frequently confusing, underscored by the epithet of 'curious book' added on the title page of the British Library copy. It highlights the likely bewilderment of readers struggling to make sense of the mixture of languages, scripts and religious doctrine in the manuscripts. Dilārām's translation often blends Hindu and Muslim terms and references to explain what appear to be misunderstandings of Jain doctrine, expressed in poor Persian.

The translation is in Persian, the main language used for writing and administration in northern India for hundreds of years. The standard of the Persian in the manuscripts suggests that the translator's knowledge of the language was imperfect, making the translation hard to understand.

Further, at some points the translator Dilārām transliterates Sanskrit into Arabic script, increasing the effort required to read the text.

One of the main difficulties in understanding the Karma-prakr̥ti in these two manuscripts arises from Dilārām's translation and interpretation of Hemrāj’s commentary. Dilārām seems to misunderstand Jain doctrine and in some areas often obscures the Jain beliefs of the text by introducing terms and concepts from Hindu and Muslim thought. In some cases he uses Islamic terms for Hindu concepts to discuss aspects of Jain philosophy. Although these all make the original text hard to grasp, these elements point to an environment where ideas from various religious faiths were discussed freely.

Languages and scripts

The Karma-prakr̥ti was originally composed in Jaina Śaurasenī while the commentary is largely in Braj Bhāṣā and Sanskrit. Dilārām almost never translates the Sanskrit sentences in Hemraj's commentary but he consistently translates the Braj Bhāṣā into Persian, the principal language of the period in North India, although his Persian is inaccurate in many places. He also provides some Sanskrit phrases in Arabic script.

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Related Manuscripts

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    Bodleian Library. MS. Wilson 262. Nemicandra. 21 July 1796 - All text is © JAINpedia / Institute of Jainology 2020 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence The Jain universe online at

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