(Last Updated on : 28/05/2010)
Numerous writings deal directly or indirectly with the depiction of the eventful fates of the Jaina-community in the course of the centuries. Although a series of historical facts are told in these works, they are so full of legends and fairytales that they can be only very cautiously regarded as a historical source-material. The boundaries between poetry and truth become blurred in them without the authors becoming conscious of them, and the crass anachronisms are order of the day in them. Jainas differentiate between the charitras and Prabandhas. The Charitras are the biographies of Tirthankaras, world-rulers and the other of the 63 "great men", but also of the old great teachers. The Prabandhas deal with the biographies of prominent personalities of the later period, saints, as well as the kings, ministers, business-Rasas written in Gujrati old verse.
Jainas have evoked from time immemorial extremely fruitful activity in the field of fairy tales novels and fables. They competed with Hindus and Buddhists in inventing new materials and develop existing ones. Their writings in the field of narrative literature are so vast that it cannot be estimated at the moment.
There are numerous Kathas and Kathanakas of purely Jaina origin. The writers of these works were not motivated to writing them sheer pleasure of story-telling, but by certain intentions. Kathas and Kathanakas exist in every form and in every size. They are, brief animal fables and succinctly narrated like tales, long stories in prose, verses.
The most popular theme of the epic among the Jain writers is the story of Jivaka. The destinies of Jivandhara and the important persons are all interwoven with one another by a tie of karma and find their explanation in the past existences as consequences of their actions. There are a great number of fairy-tale stories in prose and poetry.
Allegories enjoy a special place among the Kathas. They are supposed to depict the truth of Jaina-faith in a metaphorical form. Jains have also written artistic novels in Bana's style. In these works there is special emphasis upon the linguistic expression. They can, therefore, be regarded as "poems" (Kavya) composed in prose or in a mixture of verses and prose in accordance with the rules of poetics.
The content forms the centre of interest in all the work of narrative literature. This is true not only of the stories written in prose, but also of those in verse, indeed even of the artistic novels. But Jainas have also produced a number of work in which the contents completely recede behind. Every stanza in them is supposed to depict the whole which is complete in itself.
A great number of Jaina-poets have written stanzas also in Sanskrit and modern Indian language describing the different phenomena of human beauties of nature among other things. Also in the field of contemplative lyrics, the creation of Jaina-poets does not differ much from those of poets of other religious. Jainism is distinctly characterized in propagandistic and didactic poems. Hymnody is a much-cultivated field of Jaina-poetry. Laudatory songs are dedicated in the first place to the Tirthankaras, either individually or collectively. Besides, there are also such which are dedicated to gods and holy men. The songs are extensively used in the cult; even magical influence is attributed to some of them.