The Digambara Jainas of South Maharashtra and North Karnataka since the Late 19th Century:Towards the Establishment of Collective Religious Identity and a Digambara Jaina Community

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Sabine Scholz

Abstract

ABSTRACTPhD, The University of ManchesterThe Digambara Jainas of South Maharashtra and North Karnataka since the Late 19th Century: Towards the Establishment of Collective Religious Identity and a Digambara Jaina CommunityThis thesis aims at locating the position of the Jainas within the Indian religious landscape. From the second half of the 19th century onwards, novel concepts of collective religious identities and the formation of exclusive communities among religious lines have led to the establishment of the popular image of India's religious landscape as consisting of a Hindu majority and several religious minorities. This model is based on exclusive, often antagonistic religious categories. However, by discussing the position of the Jainas within the framework of India's religious pluralism, the present thesis attempts to question this popular concept. As will be argued, similar to members of other religious traditions, among Jainas too the identity discourse of the intellectual elite has introduced broader supra-locally, supra-caste-based concepts of community. However, this process of collective identity and community formation has not been based on, in Harjot Oberoi's terms, the "construction of religious boundaries" (1994) between Jainas and Hindus. These `blurred boundaries´ between Hindus and Jainas in the modern Jaina identity discourse defy a concrete positioning of the Jainas within the framework of India's religious landscape.This thesis will begin with the analysis of the late 19th and early 20th century Jaina discourse of Western orientalists and intellectual Jainas, and its impact on the `definition´ of `Jaina values´ and the Jainas as a `community´. Mainly focusing on the regional sub-group of the Digambara Jainas of South Maharashtra and North Karnataka, the research will also discuss the impact of non-middle-class `agents´ in the process of community building among Jainas. In this respect it will be argued that lay-ascetic interaction and the performance of distinct rituals and festivals largely contribute to the establishment of community among Digambara Jainas. The strict practice of Digambara ascetics also adds the element of asceticism to the `Jaina values´, which have been propagated by intellectual lay Jaina individuals and organisations from the early 20th century onwards. These propagated `Jaina values´, most prominently among them ahiṃsa and tolerance, make Jainism the most suitable religion for modern times, and symbolise ancient Indian `values´ in their `purest form´.However, regarding the Jainas as a `community´, this Jaina discourse has remained rather vague and abstract. This vagueness finds its most concrete expression in the still undecided legal status of the Jainas regarding their inclusion among the nationwide religious minorities. In comparison to other Indian religious minority traditions, the Sikhs and Buddhists in particular, the `Jaina case´ suggests a complexity of collective religious identifications in the Indian religious landscape, which defies any fixed model.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Julia Hegewald (Supervisor)
  • John Zavos (Supervisor)
Award date1 Aug 2011