Redemption or death. Jainism’s transformation of the Hindu villain Kīcaka in Jaina Mahābhāratas

Verlossing of de dood. Jainisme’s transformatie van de Hindu schurk Kīcaka in Jaina Mahābhāratas
Start - End 
2019 - 2023 (ongoing)
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Department of Languages and Cultures
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Jainism
Sanskrit literature
Religious identity

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Abstract

Jainism as a living and influential minority religion on the Indian subcontinent came into being around the sixth century BCE. Despite sharing key concepts with Hindu traditions such as dharma, karma and the cycle of rebirth, Jainism, famous for its doctrine of extreme non-violence (ahiṃsā) actively defined itself as a counter-tradition to Hindu tradition. Jains composed their own versions of famous Sanskrit epic Mahābhārata, a work of great significance for Hindus, often jainifying the original source material.

This project seeks to compare the single episode of the Kīcakavadha (slaying of Kīcaka) across several Jaina adaptations of Mahābhārata. In the Harivaṃśāpurāṇa (783 AD), the first complete Jaina adaptation of Mahābhārata, the Jaina author Jinasena Punnāṭa radically transformed the sexual predator Kīcaka, who is killed by the hero Bhīma in Hindu versions, into a repentant Jaina monk who attains final enlightenment (nirvāṇa).

Does Jinasena’s radical alteration of the figure of Kīcaka inspire later Jaina authors in their adaptations of the Kīcaka-episode, or do Jaina authors remain faithful to the Hindu depiction of Kīcaka as a depraved libertine? In case of the former, to which extent is this choice informed by their religious identity?

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