Jain writers pioneers of Gujarati writing
By Ashish Vashi
AHMEDABAD: Gujarati language emerged out of Jain tradition. Jain saints and the tradition of writing pioneered the development of Gujarati language Twitter Facebook Share Email Print Save Comment and literature.
The first phase of Gujarati literature, generally claimed from the 12th century to the early 15th century, was dominated by Jain authors. The oldest ‘rasa’ poem of 1185 ‘Bharatesvara-bahubali Rasa’ was by Shalibhadra Sur, a Jain saint.
“Rasa, originally a folk dance which slowly acquired the features of dramatic presentation, was adopted by Jain authors in long narratives divided in short parts. The themes of the ‘rasas’ are legends associated with Jain saints. The period is dominated almost exclusively by the Jain poets,” wrote Sisir Kumar Das in ‘The History of Indian Literature 500-1399’, published by Sahitya Academy, Delhi. Another great influence on Gujarati language was Jain saint Hemchandracharya, whose writings are known as Gurjara Apabhramsa. The specimens of the Apabhramsa are to be found in the Prakrit grammar of Hemchandracharya (1088-1172), the great Jain monk. He lived during the reign of Siddhraj and Kumarpal, both kings of Solanki dynasty.
“In Hemchandracharya’s great work, we can spot the Gujarati writings very clearly. In many ways the Jain saints were pioneers for Gujarati language, ” says Kumarpal Desai, Jain scholar. Hemchandracharya also collected many ‘dohas’ in ‘apabhramsa’ as illustrations of different forms of poetry which are generally considered as part of the protohistory of Gujarati literature.
“The Jain tradition of writing helps a lot in formation of Gujarati language. They were pioneers,” says eminent writer of Gujarati language and Padma Shri Bholabhai Patel. “Even today, Jain granths have manuscripts of more than 1400 writers. All manuscripts are kept in protected ‘bhandars’ as these are great source of knowledge,” adds Desai.