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The Jain Knowledge Warehouses: Traditional Libraries in India

John E. Cort
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 115, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1995), pp. 77-87
DOI: 10.2307/605310
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/605310
Page Count: 11
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Jain Knowledge Warehouses: Traditional Libraries in India
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Abstract

The Jains of western India have preserved hundreds of thousands of handwritten manuscripts for many centuries in their libraries or "knowledge warehouses" (jñān bhaṇḍār). These manuscripts have been an invaluable aid in reconstructing much of the history of Indian society, religion, philosophy, and art. But these libraries have never been viewed as social institutions in and of themselves. This article investigates the patterns of ownership, management, and use of the libraries and the manuscripts in the small town of Pāṭaṇ in north Gujarat, to essay a beginning of a sociology of Jain knowledge. Some manuscript collections were owned by individual laymen, some by domesticated monks, and others were under the control of the leaders of the lay congregations. At the same time as these manuscripts have come to the attention of the scholarly world, their utility within the Jain community itself has drastically declined, as handwritten manuscripts have been replaced by printed books for both ritual and pedagogical purposes. As a result, while the manuscripts are better cared for than ever, they have been relegated to a marginal status within the Jain community, and hence my use of the term "warehouse" do describe these libraries.

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