Nalini Joshi: Interpretation of the Mudrārākṣasa from the Jaina perspective

Considered to be an extremely powerful political play and penned by Viśākhadatta around the 7th – 8th CE, Mudrārākṣasa is characterized around the king Chandra Gupta Maurya and his Chief minister Cāṇakya. The play has been in the lime light for several reasons and scholars have agreed to its Buddhist and Jaina readings as well. Nalini Joshi’s presentation focuses only on the Jaina elements or characteristics that have been identified through the reading of the play. In spite of ample evidence of Jaina influence, this text had hardly made an impact on the literature of Jainism until the 15th or 16th century. Within this paper Joshi has made an attempt to interpret the Mudrārākṣasa from the Jain perspective with regard to:

  1. The Jaina characters in the play
  2. JīvasiddhiKṣapaṇaka
  3. Candadāsa
  4. Sarvārthasiddhi
  5. Cāṇakyas character in the Mudrārākṣasa
  6. Brāhmaṇatva of Cāṇakya
  7. Cāṇakya’s tuft of hair
  8. The strict laws of Cāṇakya
  9. The wisdom of Cāṇakya
  10. Cāṇakya’s address to Candragupta
  11. Conflict between Cāṇakya and Candragupta
  12. The use of Prakṛts in the Mudrārākṣasa
  13. The main theme of the Mudrārākṣasa
  14. Some minor similarities

With the character analysis one is able to identify the specific traits that Viśākhadatta has assigned to these various roles. For example, Kṣapaṇaka is recognized as a Digaṃbara who is in search of, or on the path to, liberation. Apart from this, Joshi also points out traits of being virtuous, non-violent, truthful etc., which represent the code of conduct of an individual in the Jaina tradition. From these side characters the paper then moves towards the central character of Cāṇakya. In the Jaina tradition Cāṇakya is considered to be a srāvaka as opposed to a Brāhmaṇa. It is on this note that Jain scholars have debated extensively on the fact that there is lack of reference suggesting Cāṇakya’s Brahmin birth. He was considered to be the shadow king of the emperor himself. The Jaina literature further has extensive sources and materials on the period of the death and suffering experienced by Cāṇakya. With this, she concluded her paper.

Report by: Meghna Amin and G. Narayanan


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