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Concretely Imagining the Southern Digambar Jain Community, 1899–1920

  • Michael Carrithers (a1)

In the pilgrimage season of 1899 a ‘small but select’ group of Jains met before the temple of the deity Bharamappa near Kolhapur to found the Southern Maharashtra Jain Sabha, the dakṣiṣ mahāraṣṬrajain sabhā. The intended constituency of the Sabha was the Digambar Jain population of the Southern Maratha Country of the Bombay Presidency, the area including Kolhapur State, Belgaum, and Sangli, with their rural hinterlands. The Sabha prospers still, while so many of the other associations in that lush growth of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in India have disappeared. It has been instrumental in forging a Jain ethnicity, in creating a new sense of a specifically Jain past and present, and in fostering new habits of education and of social intercourse among Jains. A good proportion of what is today taken for granted by Jains about southern Digambar samskrti, ‘culture’ or ‘civilization’, was moulded by Jains acting in and through the Sabha.

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1 Sangave, V., dakṣiṇ mahāra jain sabhā itihās (Kolhapur. 1976), p. 30.

2 Anderson, B., Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1983). It is important to note that the idea of an imagined community does in fact fit nicely with ethnicity as well as with nationalism, as was argued in Carrithers, M. and Humphrey, C., The Assembly of Listeners: Jains in Society (Cambridge, 1991).

3 It is difficult to think of this period in India's history—or of any period, for that matter—without thinking of Windisch's remark that society is not just characterized by, but is actually constituted of, ‘conflictual’ relations, See Windisch, U., Speech and Reasoning in Everyday Life (Cambridge, 1990).

4 Carrithers, M., ‘Passions of Nation and Community in the Bahubali Affair’, Modern Asian Studies 22, 4 (1988), pp. 815–44.

5 Carrithers, and Humphrey, , Assembly of Listeners.

6 A sensitive treatment of what happens when a sense of ethnicity becomes salient appears in Gupta's, D. discussion of Sikh ethnicity in the Punjab: ‘Ethnic Imagos and their Correlative Spaces’, Contributions to Indian Sociology (n.s.) 26, 2 (1993), pp. 195222.

7 Dundas, P., The Jains (London. 1992).

8 Pragati, 12 August 1919.

9 Ibid.

10 Conlon, F.. A Caste in a Changing World (Berkeley, 1977).

11 A dispassionate observer might have wondered whether, or how long, the Jains of the region would retain a distinctive Jain character at all. See Carrithers, M., ‘Jainism and Buddhism as Enduring Historical Steams’, Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford, 21, 2 (1990), pp. 141–63.

12 Sangave, , Itihās, p. 27.

13 Ibid., p. 30.

14 See the chronology attached as an appendix in ibid.

15 Ibid., p. 36

16 Latthe, A. B., Introduction to Jainism (Bombay, 1905).

17 Omvedt, Gail, Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society: The Non-Brahman Movement in Western India, 1873–1930 (Bombay, 1976).

18 Ibid., p. 127.

19 Sangave, , Itihās, p. 393.

20 Ibid., p. 36.

21 Carrithers, M., Why Humans Have Cultures: Explaining Anthropology and Social Diversity (Oxford, 1992).

22 Carrithers, M., ‘The foundations of Community among Southern Digambar Jains: an Essay on Rhetoric and Experience’, in Carrithers, and Humphrey, , Assembly of Listeners, pp. 261–86.

23 Sangave, , Itihās, p. 286.

24 Pragati, 1 May 1919.

25 Pragati, 23 November 1919.

26 Pragati, 5 February 1920.

27 See Haynes, D., Rhetoric and Ritual in a Colonial Setting: The Making of Public Culture in Surat City, Western India, 1852–1928, (Berkeley, 1991).

28 Pragati, 8 and 23 December 1919.

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Modern Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0026-749X
  • EISSN: 1469-8099
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