Article: Karma-prakr̥ti

Contributed by Jean Arzoumanov

Commentator

This 19th-century engraving shows the main street of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, around 1860. One of the capitals of the Mughal Empire at its zenith, Agra was a wealthy centre of culture and commerce from the mid-16th century.

Main street of Agra, around 1860
Image by unknown © public domain

The author of the Braj Bhāṣā commentary on the Karma-prakṛti is named in the manuscript as Hemarāja, more often known as Hemrāj Pande. From the Agravāl merchant caste, Hemrāj lived in Agra in the 17th century (Kaslival 1983) but few details of his life are known. Hemrāj was a disciple of Rūpcand, a thinker who had settled in Agra in 1635, where he gave a lecture on the Gommaṭasāra.

As a ‘pande’ – a vernacular form of the Sanskrit paṇḍita – or 'pandit', Hemrāj Pande could have been a lay Jain administering the temple, appointed by a bhaṭṭāraka. Pandes were essentially 'litterateursand intellectuals' employed by temples to perform rituals and give public discourses (Cort 2002). They emphasised the necessity of both ritual and philosophy to achieve spiritual gains, whereas orthodox clerics stressed ritual practices.

In parallel to the traditional practice of religion, pandes formed the core of lay discussion circles. The well-known memoirist and writer Banārasīdās is the chief example of the Adhyātma movement, the most notable group, but as he does not mention Hemrāj it is impossible to establish whether Hemrāj was involved in this philosophical school. As John Cort underlines, 'Jainism has long exhibited a tension between those who focus on religious knowledge (jñāna) of the fundamental principles of the tradition, and those who focus more on correct conduct and ritual observance (kriyā)' (Cort 2002).

Hemrāj was a close friend of Kaurapāl or Kuṃvarapāl, who is mentioned by Banārasīdās in his autobiography, the Ardha-kathānaka. Kaurapāl asked Hemrāj to compose a commentary on Kundakuṇḍa’s Pravacana-sāra and Caurāsī Bol – Eighty-Four Disputes – a polemical work aimed at Śvetāmbaras. Surprisingly, Banārasīdās does not include Hemrāj among the prominent Digambara scholars in Agra (Jaini 2008). Hemrāj is first mentioned in 1644, by Hīrānanda, who describes him as 'wise and cultivated' in his Samavaraṇavidhāna (Kaslival 1983).

Kaslival (1983) references several works by Hemrāj, all written in the vernacular, that is Braj Bhāṣā. Hemrāj seems to have specialised in writing commentaries on texts by other scholars.

Translator

The text of the original work, the Karma-prakṛti, and the commentary are both translated into Persian by the brahmin Dilārām. Nothing is known of him except what he says in this translation and his translation of the Pancāstikāyasāra.

The translator introduces himself in the closing words of his work.

šukr īzid rā ki masthām dilārām brahman ki saṭrī dar ᶜilm-i saṃskṛta va hunar-i pārsī qiyāfa dārad tarjuma-yi īn pūthī-e jayn matī rā ki Karma-kāṇḍanām dārad ba mūjib-e iršād-i bandagān-i ḥuḍūr-i fayḍ-i ganjvar-e šaraf al-dawla sayf al-mulk imtiyāz ḫān jirnīl klūd mārtīn ṣāḥib bahādur šahāmat jang […] bā tamām rasānīda būd

Thanks be to God that Masthām Dilārām, brahmin, who has mastered writing in the science of Sanskrit and in the art of Persian appearance [?] has brought to a close the translation of this book [pūthī] about the Jain religion [matī] called Karma-kāṇḍa, at the behest of the servants of His Excellence, by the grace of the Treasurer of the most Noble in this world, Sword of the Kingdom, his distinguished Lordship, General Claude Martin, Valiant, Audacious in Combat.

Bodleian Library, Wilson 262, folio 1 recto
Translation by Jean Arzoumanov

In his translation of the Pañcā-stikāyasāra he presents himself as Masthām Dilārām, son of Mansārām, a brahmin, resident of a small city in the district of Sambhal. In modern Uttar Pradesh, this place is quite far from Lucknow, where Dilārām completed his two known translations.

Sponsor

An early 19th-century photo of La Martinière College in Lucknow, in present-day Uttar Pradesh. After Major-General Claude Martin died in 1800, his will set up his country house, Constantia, as a high school, along with two other schools.

La Martinière College
Image by unknown © public domain

As Dilārām indicates at the end of the text, his Persian translation was commissioned by 'General Claude Martin', who was quite a famous character in 18th-century Lucknow. Martin has been the subject of several biographies, the latest being the work of Rosie Llewellyn-Jones (1992).

Born in Lyon in 1735, Martin worked as an apprentice for a silk-weaver before enrolling at the age of 16 in the Compagnie des Indes, the French counterpart of the East India Company. After serving for eight years in India in the ranks of the French army, he turned to the British side, which has sometimes been judged an opportunistic move. He started a successful career in the East India Company in spite of being French, which made him potentially suspicious in the company’s eyes. In 1776 Martin settled in Lucknow, the new capital of Awadh State and now the capital of modern Uttar Pradesh.

At the end of the 18th century Awadh, which the British spelled Oudh, was the most prosperous region in northern India. Formally a representative of the Mughal emperor, the Nawabi dynasty gradually broke free of central authority during the 18th century and reached a golden age before the rise of the British power in Awadh in the early 19th century.

After long petitioning the Governor-General in Calcutta, Claude Martin was made honorary major-general at Lucknow in 1795. He used this position at the Nawabi court to set up various businesses, such as silkworm breeding, and became one of the richest Europeans in India. As an amateur engineer and architect, he also designed several luxurious mansions, some of which are still standing in the city, and is also remembered as the first person to launch a hot-air balloon in Lucknow. In many ways he is the archetypal 18th-century polymath, heir of the Enlightenment.

Martin's interests also encompassed India’s culture, religions and scripts. He regularly bought orientalist works and original manuscripts in Sanskrit and Persian. This was sometimes achieved through dubious means, as reported by the Comte de Modave, who was shown 'several rarities by Martin, which had been appropriated in some temples of the Boutans. He even gave me several manuscripts which he had taken from inside the statues. I sent them to the Académie des Inscriptions' (Deloche 1971: 106). Martin also joined the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1799. He died in 1800 and left an enormous fortune, which he bequeathed for the founding of three high schools called Martinière. One was to be established in his hometown, Lyon, one in Calcutta and one in Lucknow, and all are still operating.

The inventory of Martin's collection made on his death states that some 500 Persian manuscripts were sent to Calcutta after he died. Unfortunately, their names are not given and no further information can be obtained. His collection was probably one of the biggest of any European in India in that time.

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Related Manuscripts

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    Bodleian Library. MS. Wilson 262. Nemicandra. 21 July 1796

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