Jain Satire and Religious Identity in Tamil-Speaking Literary Culture
Professor of South Asian Religions
Thursday, November 11 at 7:00 pm
Even a quick survey of pre-colonial Tamiḻ literature reveals Jain monastic poets to be the masters of the satirical. The Nīlakē ci and the Civakacintā maṇ i, the Peruṅ katai and the Cū ḷ ā maṇ i, the Yacō tarakā viyam and the Utayaṇ an̰ katai--all sparkle not only with poetic elegance and narrative complexity, but with biting wit aimed at king and court, Hindu and Buddhist, glutton and hedonist. While the anti-Jain Śaiva invectives of early bhakti literature have been studied at length, this Jain (more specifi cally, Jain monastic) propensity for satire has been little examined. Why would Jain monks compose lengthy poetic narratives on the classical Tamiḻ themes of love and war, most often retelling stories well-known from Sanskrit and Prā krit sources in a new key? What role might the composition and consumption of lengthy poetic satire have played in Jain monastic discipline? What historical circumstances might have given rise to these many Tamiḻ Jain satirical pieces? This paper will explore the questions above, arguing that Jain satire shaped pre-modern Tamiḻ literary culture in numerous ways.
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