Priti Shubhachandra: Anti-Yajna Representations in Kannada Literature

Priti Shubhachandra, in her paper titled “Anti-Yagna representation in Kannada Jaina literature”, looks at various narratives from Kannada Jaina Literature where there is a dialectic between Vedic sacrifice and Jaina Ahimsa. She initially points out that the debate between the supporters of Vedic Yagna and opponents went parallel with the religious history of India. She mentions that the Vedic concept of power was related to violence and destruction whereas Ahimsa, the essence of Jaina philosophy and therefore Jainas don’t have a place for Gods like Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the protector) and Shiva (the destroyer). She briefly traces the history of animal sacrifice in Vedic times to the Upanishads. She points out the emergence of the concepts of transmigration and Karma theory after the Upanishads which are central to Jaina philosophy. She mentions the poet Janna and his work Anantha Natha Purana written in Kannada champu style, which talks about Lokasdrsti – the world view of Jaina philosophy. Later in the paper she talks about Kannada poets and writers who have represented Vedic sacrifice, Vedic Brahmanism through the Jaina lens. She mentions a Kannada poet named Ruttavilasa who through his satirical narration of Puranic legend and epics of Vedic fate criticizes the Brahminical Yagna ritual. Subhachandra points out that in most of the Kannada Jaina literature the Vedic Gods (Shiva, Brahma, Krishna and Indira) were mocked and made laughing stocks of. Next she mentions a Kannada poet named Camundaraya who in his Camundaraya Purana mentions the tale of King Sagara and his attempt to perform animal sacrifice. This story of King Sagara as she points out is a symbolic representation of the conflict between the enlightened Kshatriya Sramanic class and the Vedic priestly class. She states that in Kannada Jaina literature, Ravana was portrayed as being against Yagna. She gives the example of Pampa Ramayana, a Kannada epic poem by Nagacandra where Ravana destroys the podiums where the animals were meant to be sacrificed. She also points to a specific other version of Ramayana written by a Kannada writer where Ravana frees the animals that have been tied for sacrifice. She ends her paper by narrating the story of Bali and a Jaina ascetic. In the story Bali wanting to take revenge on the ascetic and the disciples of the ascetic decided to perform a Yagna. At the end of the story Bali gets punished for his act.

Report by: Arjun Rajan and Nitesh Anchan


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