DR. SHIRIN MEHTA"
Akbar as Reflected in the Contemporary Jain Literature in Gujarat
Historians are turning towards closer integration of history and literature to understand realities regarding man-in-society. Literature has moulded men's minds and conduct and have better claim on historians. It provides deeper insights into realities and complexities of human nature. The structures of social consciousness such as attitudes, ideas, values, beliefs, identities—crystallised into arts and literature better reveal the depth of mentalite than the stereotyped historical source material. For this reason, historians sometimes do use literature as historical data to get clues though not as an absolute value that transcends history.
The study of the various facets of Akbar's personality as expressed in the contemporary Jain literature is central to this paper. The staple of this paper has been drawn heavily from the literary texts rather than conventional sources of historians's craft.1
The Jain literature was very voluminous since the social base of its sangha was very broad and cross cultural sections of the society had embraced it. But when Akbar invaded Gujarat in 1573, the Jain religious order was in a state of disruption and dismay. The two major divisions of the Jains—Svetamber and Digamber already existed. In the middle ages the centrifugal forces began to be operative powerfully, it further splitted into sects, subsects and subsections viz.;
Sanghas, Ganas, Gachchhas and Shakhas. Each section of people began to propagate their own views as a result corpous of literature came into existence. It assumed different forms, for example Rasas were interesting account of the manners and customs of the age and usually extolling Jain faith. Prashashti Lekhas were a kind of poetic bardic literature. They were eulogies on contemporary Kings and courtiers. Prabandhas were historical records, giving glimpses of the social life of the people. Maha Kavyas were the description of events in a poetic form. There were also many Shilalekhs or inscriptions placed at places of Jain worship. There was no dearth of manuscripts available atL.D. Institute of Indology, B.J. Institute of Learning and Research,
Professor of History, Gujarat University.
Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 9-10, September-October 1992