As a Gonda Fellow at IIAS, Abhishek is researching the Jain prabandha literature from the 13th to 16th century in North and Northwestern India. Prabandha literature is a late medieval literary genre of historical biographies of Jain monks, poets, kings, laymen, and of histories of Jain pilgrimage sites written and preserved by Śvetāmbara Jain authors. He has established these collections of biographies as literature of cultural specificity in his doctoral dissertation entitled Emplotment and Historicity: Narrative Modes of Historical Discourse in the Prabandhakośa. Such writings were significant and can be called a form of historical discourse.
Looking at the literary history of such a large corpus, he particularly interested in the patronages of the prabandha texts wherein his research trajectory is as follows: literary writings by Hindu authors were largely supported by rulers, as has been thoroughly researched, but this is an investigation of what caused Jain authors, even if they were not supported by local kings, to involve themselves in competition with Hindu authors, and what was the purpose of prabandhas taken as a literary genre of historical discourse. An outcome of such a study is to unfold a strategy that kept Jain teaching alive through texts and traditions. The first purpose is to investigate courteous acknowledgment by the Jain authors for their supporters from religious affiliations, in works of the prabandha literature, which most probably were written for communal education, for polemic, and even to address outsiders. The second purpose to see the Jains' strategy to keep their identity separate from Buddhism, Vaiṣṇavism and Śaivism in the period of the Islamic rulers in India (which perhaps was the main aim of the Jain authors from the early period), can be seen as polemic in the historical narratives, and in the social, linguistic, and philosophical strategies of Jains to assimilate and survive as an Indian philosophical tradition, may have been the primary goal of the prabandha authors. When reading history from the present to the past, the identity of Jainism as a separate religion can be seen through its social, ethical, metaphysical, and cosmological aspects in the Jain prabandha texts.
This project will exclusively provide a light on the Jain prabandha authors, focusing on the situation and the extent to which they were supported by rulers or householders.