Jain Studies in Germany (Part 1)

Published: 05.01.2012
Updated: 30.07.2015

This paper was published in October 1956 in The Voice of Ahinsa - The Indo-German Special Number (Vol. VI, No. 10, pp. 398-407).


Jain Studies in Germany (I)


Part I: 1858-1935

H. Th. Colebrooke's “Observations on the sect of Jains“ had marked the beginning of Jain studies. In 1858, half a century later, an essay by Albrecht Weber “Über das Śatruñjaya Māhātmyam“ (On the Śatruñjaya Māhātmyam) appeared in Germany. The author was then professor for Sanskrit at Berlin University, and it can well be said that he inaugurated not only Jain studies in Germany, but the critical study of Jainism in general with this monograph. The outcome of Weber's occupation with Jainism is mainly incorporated in two later works: in his publication “Über die heiligen Schriften der Jaina“ (On the Sacred Texts of the Jains) [1] a survey of the āgama is given the first authentical information about the Śvetāmbara canon which reached the West; in the last two sections of his catalogue of the Sanskrit and Prakrit MSS of the Royal Library of Berlin [2] 259 Jain MSS are listed, analyzed, and edited in specimens. Far from being a mere list of MSS the second publication furnishes ample material for the study of Jain literature and is closely connected with the first work.

Whereas Weber's activities can be described as a sort of stocktaking in a vast field of literature unknown up to that date, Jain studies enter into a new stage with the critical editions and translations of many canonical as well as post-canonical texts by Hermann Jacobi. Jacobi was a younger contemporary of Weber and professor at Bonn University. His contribution towards better understanding of Jainism provides some parallel to Max Midler's efforts to reveal to the West the treasures of Vedic literature and to pave a way for the recognition of their true importance. For it was Jacobi who showed for the first time (Introduction to the Kalpasūtra edition, Leipzig 1879), that Jainism is absolutely independent from Buddhism and cannot be considered as a Buddhist sect as was done by previous scholars including even Weber.

When Jacobi was professor at Bonn, Ernst Leumann had the chair for Sanskrit at Strassburg. Leumann, in his Jain studies, went a step further than Jacobi. He implemented the study of the single texts by an investigation into the interrelation and stratification of the works. Literary parallels are traced wherever possible, and Jain tradition is seen in the context of Indian tradition in general. The different strata of the exegetic literature on the āgama are separated in the case of the Āvaśyaka-literature; the original Āvaśyaka-sūtra which was almost buried under numerous layers of commentaries is brought to light. Unfortunately the “Übersicht über die Āvaśyaka-Literatur“ (Survey of the Āvaśyaka-Literature), an undertaking which was “by decades ahead of its time“ (Schubring), remained unfinished like so many other works of Leumann. It was published as a voluminous fragment in 1933 (Hamburg).

Leumann's pupil, Walther Schubring brings us to the present time. [3] Until his recent retirement Schubring has been in charge of the Sanskrit Department, Hamburg University, where he is still lecturing. Besides editions of canonical texts we owe to him “Die Lehre der Jainas“ (The Doctrine of the Jains), published in Hamburg in 1935 (unfortunately not translated into English till this day). [4] The book is based entirely on canonical texts (of the Śvetāmbara),and the description of the material is so exhaustive, that only minor alterations and additions can be expected from further research-work. Schubring's later publications will be discussed in the second part of this article.

The last mentioned work as well as Ernst Windisch's “Geschichte der Sanskrit Philologie“ (History of Sanskrit Philology), published in 1917 (Strassburg), give an outline of Jain studies in Germany during this period. We thought it therefore sufficient to direct the attention to such publications which demonstrate most clearly the continuous progress of the research-work before 1935. Needless to say, works of scholars like Joh. Klatt (studies in the history of the church), Georg Bühler (studies in history and epigraphy), Richard Pischel (Prakrit Grammar, published in 1900), Johannes Hertel (studies in the non-dogmatical narrative literature), Helmuth von Glasenapp (description of the Jain Religion, published in 1925), Willibald Kirfel (studies in cosmography) have as prominent a place in the history of the discipline as those mentioned previously.


Part II: 1935-1956

It does not seem out of place to discuss the research-work after 1935 in more detail than the earlier publications, which have already been summed up by Windisch and Schubring. For the present time, however, an objective survey of the published works and articles will be more appropriate than an appreciation of the different scholars. So the form of the report has to be changed as against Part I. The authors appear in alphabetical order, their works in chronological order.

In rare cases publications which appeared before 1935 have been included. Reviews and popular articles could not be taken into account. Contributions which are only loosely connected with the study of Jainism have been dealt with cursorily. The author hopes to be excused for discrepancies in the treatment which cannot be explained in this way.

Book-titles appear in English and German, subtitles and titles of articles in English only. The language is German, if not stated otherwise.

Numerous repetitions in the names of works etc. make the use of abbreviations necessary:


the Svetāmbara canon


Alt-und Neu-Indische studien (Hamburg 1923 ff)




Hemacandra's Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacaritra


Mahāpurāa by Jinasena and Guṇabhadra


Mahāpurāṇa Tisaṭṭhimahāpurisaguālakāra by Pupadanta




Sanghadāsa's Vasudevahiṇḍi


Universal History (=history of the 63 great men)


Vasudevahiṇḍi (without reference to a particular version)


Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft (Leipzig 1847 ff., Wiesbaden 1950 ff.)

Ap., Pkt., Skt, stand as usual for Apabhraśa, Prakrit, Sanskrit.



l. Ludwig Alsdorf (Head of the Sanskrit Department of Hamburg University, pupil of W. Schubring).

Der Kumārapālapratibodha” (The Kumārapālapratibodha). ANIST 2, 1928. - Jacobi had inaugurated the study of the Ap.-language and -literature with his critical editions of Bhavisattakaha (Dig.) and Sanakumāracariya (Śvet.). Alsdorf continues Jacobi's work with a study of the Ap.-portions of Somaprabha's Kumārapālapratibodha (Śvet., composed 1195AD). Besides a critical edition and translation, he gives an analysis of the language (it is similar to the language of the Sanaṃkumāracariya) and of the metre. Amongst the stories the Jīva-mana karaa-salāpa-kathā and the Sthūlabhadra kathā are most important. The various versions of the latter are traced from the oldest record in the Av. Cūrni to their latest forms as Gujarati rasas. The study includes - as Part 1 - a short discussion of the Pkt. and Skt. portions of the Kumārapālapratibodha. All kathās of the work are listed (along with literary parallels) on pp. 7ff. of the book.

Remarks on Pischel's “Materialien zur Kenntnis des Apabhraśa“ (Festschrift Moritz Winternitz, Leipzig 1933, pp. 29 ff). “Apabhraṃśa-Studien” (Studies in the Apabhraṃśa Language), Leipzig 1937. - These two publications (reinterpretation of Ap. stanzas, collected and translated by Pischel, and discussion of crucial points of Ap. and NIA grammar) have little direct bearing on Jain literature, but form a general contribution towards better understanding of Ap. texts.

Two New Testimonies for the “Indian Origin“ of the Arabian Nights (ZDMG 1935, pp. 275 ff.) - (I) The beginning of the story of Hasan of Basra and one of the Sindbad-episodes go back to the Cārudatta-story of SVh (Cārudatta in SVh = Sānudatta in the Bhatkathā). The greater originality of the Indian version is obvious. (II) The story of prince Firoz Shah's magic horse is partly based on the Kokkāsa-story (as related in SVh) and on the story of “The Weaver as Viṣṇu'' (Pancatantra). The Pancatantra-story itself seems also to be inspired by the Kokkāsa-story. [5]

Harivaṃśapurāṇa (H., A section of the “Mahāpurāṇa Tisaṭṭhimahāpurisaguālakāra“, a Universal History in Ap.), ANIST 5, 1936. - Previous editions of Ap. works had suffered under the lack of MSS. Three good MSS of the MPT (Dig., composed 959-965 AD) enabled Alsdorf to establish a reliable text for the Harivaśa-section of Pupadanta's work and to put our knowledge of the Ap. grammar (especially of the phonology) on a sound basis.

The text is translated, and the language (it is similar to the language of the Bhavisattakaha) and the metre are analyzed. A point of special interest is the peculiar treatment of the names in MPT and MP (Skt.), which Alsdorf discusses for the first time. A “Sukusumadasaiya“ e.g. may stand for “Pupphayanta“ (“synonymy of names“), and a “Devadattau Jinādikau“ for Jinadeva-Jinadattau“ (“algebra of names'').

The discussion of the contents proceeds from a short analysis of MPT, Jinasena's Harivaśapurāṇa (Dig.), HTr parvan VIII (Śvet.), SVh (Śvet.) to a comparison of all the available Dig. and Śvet. sources of the Harivaṃśapurāṇa the first systematical treatment of a section of the UH. This Jain Harivaṃśapurāṇa is composed out of five elements which were amalgamated by the Jain authors: Kṛṣṇa-legend, Mahābhārata, Nemi-carita, Vh, Pradyumna-carita. Out of these the Vh deserves special interest, because it is the Jain Version of the Bṛhatkathā. Alsdorf had discussed this discovery already in a paper “A New Version of the Lost Bṛhatkathā of Guādhya“ (Atti del XIX Congresso Internazionale degli Orientalisti, Rome 1938, pp. 344 ff.). Its contents can be summarized as follows:

Previously only the two almost identical Kashmiri versions of the Bṛhatkathā (Somadeva's Kathāsaritsāgara and Kemendra's Bṛhatkathāmañjarī) and the remainders of the Nepali version (Budhasvāmin's Bṛhatkathāślokasagraha) were available for the reconstruction of the lost Bṛhatkathā of Guṇādhya. With the discovery of the Vh which exists as a part of the Harivaṃśapurāṇa in all Jain versions of the UH, and as an independent work in the form of SVh - a text of considerable antiquity - the door is thrown open for further reconstruction work. Lacôte's view, that the Nepali and not the Kashmiri tradition represents the original most faithfully, is confirmed by the close relationship between Guṇādhya's and Sanghadāsa's work.

Coming back to Alsdorf's “Harivaṃśapurāṇa“ we summarize the author's conclusions regarding the Jain Harivaṃśapurāṇa (and the UH in general):

  1. Śvet. and Dig. versions of the UH have a common source.
  2. This source was independent from literary Brahmanical works like Harivaṃśapurāṇa and Mahābhārata, although at a much later stage Jain tradition was influenced by Brahmanical texts.
  3. MP and MPT, the two main Dig.-versions of the UH differ only slightly, but Puṣpadanta is at least partly independent from the earlier author Guṇabhadra.
  4. The UH was developed after the composition of the Harivaṃśapurāṇa (2.-3. century BC?) which it presupposes.
  5. As the Bṛhatkathā must have been included in the UH at an early date (Naravāhanadatta's adventures were ascribed to Vasudeva, father of Kṛṣṇa, the ninth Vāsudeva of the UH), the time of its composition must be pushed back at least to the first century BC.

The Vasudevahiṇḍi, a Specimen of Archaic Jaina-Mahārāṣṭrī” (in English), in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, Vol. VIII, London 1935-1937, pp.319 ff. - For the study of Jaina Mahārāṣṭrī, the Pkt. of the post-canonical Jain works, old texts had not been available, when Pischel wrote his Grammar. Alsdorf analyzes the text of SVh to find many forms “which are either completely wanting in Pischels grammar or attributed by Pischel to Ardhamāgadhī only“.

Contributions to the History of Jain-Cosmography and -Mythology” (ZDMG 1938, pp. 464 ff.). - A peculiarity shared by the Bṛhatkathā and the mythological works of the Jains is the importance which they attach to the vidyādharas (comparable to the earlier gandharvas/apsaras). [6]

Alsdorf shows that those parts of the cosmographical-mythological system of Jainism which are connected with vidyādharas have largely been borrowed from the description of Naravāhanadatta's vidyādhara-campaign in the Bṛhatkathā. While incorporated into the fairly well defined system of Jainism, the Bṛhatkathā elements underwent a number of important changes. Most noteworthy amongst them is the duplication of the Himalaya: Guṇādhya's vidyādhara-Himālaya was incorporated into the system as a second mountain-range (“Veyaḍḍha'') - parallel to and South of the real Himalaya. The reason for this change is obvious: if the Jain-cakravartin was - like Naravāhanadatta - to conquer the realms of the vidyādharas, these had to be situated within Bharata, not on the Himalayas, which are outside Bharata and beyond the reach of an inhabitant of this continent.

A New Version of the Agaadatta Story” (in English), New Indian Antiquary 1938-39, pp. 281 ff. - By a comparison of Devendra's (Uttarajjhāyā-Commentary), Sāntisūri's (Uttarajjhāyā-C.), and Sanghadāsa's Vasudevahiṇḍi versions Alsdorf restores the original form of the Agaḍadatta story. Devendra's text is found to be unoriginal as against the other two. But these two form actually only one version, for “nearly the whole text of Śāntisūri is contained in that of Sanghadāsa“. Śāntisūri's version is, however, only an abridgment as compared with tho fuller account of Svh.

Further Contributions to the History of Jain Cosmography and Mythology” (in English), New Indian Antiquary IX, 1947, pp. 105 ff. - Śvetāmbaras (Jambūdīvapaṇṇatti) and Digambaras (MP, MPT) relate that the Tīrthaṃkara's Janmābhieka is performed by the gods on Mt. Meru. In the case of the Śvet. this story is preceded by an account of certain rites performed with the child by the dikkumārīs, in the case of the Dig. by a description of the consecration of the child's mother by a number of goddesses (Sri etc.). Dig. and Śvet. versions of the abhieka have a common source, but whereas the Dig. left the story “on the whole unchanged“, the Śvet. enlarged the description of the abhiṣeka (and the preceding rites) in order to bring it into agreement with the later fully developed mythological system. The enlargements were derived from the description of god Sūryābha's abhiṣeka in Rāyapaseaijja. The number of 56 dikkumārīs as found with the Śvet. was developed from a nucleus of 32. These 32 were also known to the Buddhists (Mahāvastu, Lalita Vistara), as is seen from a comparison of the names. The Dig. account of consecration of the mother recurs partly in Mahāvastu, partly in the Nidānakathā, and seems to combine both these Buddhist versions. But instead of the mother's being taken for consecration to the Himalaya (related as a dream in the Nidānakathā) it is in the Dig. and Śvet. version the child and only the child which it is taken for the abhiṣeka to a mountain (Meru).

“Glimpses of Old Jain Libraries” (ANIST 7, 1951. pp. 59 ff.). - Important collections of Jain MSS at Jaisalmer, Patan, and Cambay have been rearranged and catalogued on the initiative of Muni Puṇyavijaya. Alsdorf visited these places in 1951 and now relates the improvements since his last visit in 1931.

The Veha in the Vasudevahiṇḍi” (Asiatica, Festschrift Friedrich Weller, Leipzig 1954, pp. 1 ff.). - It was Jacobi who directed the attention for the first time to the veha, a “compromise between prose and verse which he found in the varakas of the āgama and which were not recognized by the commentators and modern editors. [7] Alsdorf traces and analyzes about 260 veḍhas, scattered over the whole of SVh. As this metre is not known from other non-canonical texts and as the veḍha of SVh is not less correct than the veḍha of the canon, we can derive from the use of this metre additional evidence for the antiquity of the work.

Vāntam āpātum” (in English), Chatterji Jubilee Volume, Madras 1955, pp. 21 ff. - The meaning of the expressions vāntam āpātum and (a)gandhana of Uttarajjhāyā 22 and Dasaveyāliya 2 (Rājīmatī-episode) had been obscured by later commentaries. Here the words are reinterpreted in the light of Pkt. and Pali parallels.


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


The Voice of Ahinsa

Compiled by PK


Click on categories below to activate or deactivate navigation filter.

  • Institutions
    • Jainology
      • Center for Jaina Studies FU Berlin [CfJS.FU], Germany
        • Share this page on:
          Page glossary
          Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
          1. Abhiṣeka
          2. Ahinsa
          3. Albrecht Weber
          4. Apabhraṃśa
          5. Berlin
          6. Berlin University
          7. Bharata
          8. Bonn
          9. Bonn University
          10. Buddhism
          11. Das
          12. Digambara
          13. Digambaras
          14. Discipline
          15. Ernst Leumann
          16. Georg Bühler
          17. Hermann Jacobi
          18. JAINA
          19. Jacobi
          20. Jaina
          21. Jainism
          22. Jaisalmer
          23. Jinasena
          24. Johannes Hertel
          25. Klaus Bruhn
          26. Kṛṣṇa
          27. Leumann
          28. London
          29. Ludwig Alsdorf
          30. Madras
          31. Mahābhārata
          32. Marburg
          33. Meru
          34. Muni
          35. PK
          36. Pali
          37. Prakrit
          38. Puṣpadanta
          39. Richard Pischel
          40. Sanskrit
          41. Schubring
          42. The Voice of Ahinsa
          43. Uttarajjhāyā
          44. Vedic
          45. W. Schubring
          46. Walther Schubring
          47. Winternitz
          48. Āgama
          49. āgama
          50. Śatruñjaya
          51. Śvetāmbara
          52. Śvetāmbaras
          Page statistics
          This page has been viewed 3236 times.
          © 1997-2021 HereNow4U, Version 4.5
          Contact us
          Social Networking

          HN4U Deutsche Version
          Today's Counter: