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Opening the Archive: Scholars and Monks in a Moment of Change

03.23.2023 – 03.24.2023

Event Summary

Woman at Podium smiling

Photo by Abel Arciniega

In the late 19th century, European scholars began to realize that Jainism—a minority religion of India—was crucial to understanding the Indian past, both because of its own history and because Jain communities maintained the largest and most important manuscript archives in the country. This interest coincided with a movement from within the Jain community to open up the archives and publish the important texts of the tradition. Monks, especially from North Indian Śvetāmbara lineages, became some of the most important figures in this emerging scholarly project, which belonged to a larger transformation across religious traditions in colonial India. Their unparalleled philological skills, knowledge of Indian traditions, and access to archives resulted in scholarship that fundamentally transformed how we think of the Indian past.

This conference was presented as part of the Entanglements of the Indian Past research project at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, with support from the Dr. Parag and Dulari Doshi Family and Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago Fund for the Jain Studies Program.