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Adapting an adaptation over time and space: a case study from the Jain tradition

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· Heleen De Jonckheere Ghent University (Gent, Belgium)


Adaptations of South Asian Narratives Across Time and Space


The literary culture of the Jains, as of South Asia in general, is filled with adaptations of authoritative narratives. These have taken on different forms from translations and retellings to appropriations and countertellings. This paper wants to explore the different adaptive processes at the base of adaptation-products by looking at a specific narrative from the Jain tradition, called the Dharmaparīkṣā. This didactic-polemical frame narrative is in itself an adaptation as it satirizes stories from the Hindu Purāṇas and epics in order to criticize Puranic Hinduism. It has also been adapted over time and space through several versions written from the tenth to the eighteenth century in both Northern and Southern India. The analysis of the paper will first focus on the Dharmaparīkṣā story (in the authoritative Sanskrit version by Amitagati) as an adaptation of the Puranic tales that indicates the creative ways in which the Jains engaged with and countered Hindu dominance. Secondly, the paper will explore the ‘afterlife’ of this narrative through its different adaptations focusing on language and style, as well as aspects that indicate a change in how the story was mediated. This will expose a second layer of adaptative processes, over the first oppositional layer, that is induced by changes in socio-historical, geographical and linguistic setting, together with changes in aesthetic culture. In this way, the paper will not only demonstrate the range of adaptation-products one narrative can engender, but also the range of contexts that are negatioted within these adaptations.