Ghent University has been hosting Jaina Studies since several decades. What has now become a research tradition on Jainism was initiated by the work of Jozef Deleu, who defended his doctoral thesis on Jaina narrative literature in 1957. To facilitate his research, he pursued training in the Jaina Prakrits, the Middle Indo-Aryan languages of Jaina texts, with the renowned scholars Walther Schubring and Ludwig Alsdorf at the University of Hamburg in 1959. In 1970-71 he was guest lecturer of Jainology at the University of Utrecht, and he became lecturer at Ghent University in 1971, where he taught, among other subjects, the Jaina Prakrits.

His student and successor, Frank Van Den Bossche, submitted his doctorate on Jaina metaphysics in 1993. In 1983-84 he stayed at the Bhandarkar Oriental Institute in Pune in preparation of his doctoral thesis. In 1999, he became a lecturer at Ghent University, where he researches Jaina ethics and philosophy and teaches Prakrit, Sanskrit and other courses, which also focus on Jainism.

Eva De Clercq completed her doctoral dissertation, supervised by Professor Van Den Bossche, on the Paümacariu, a Jaina version of the Rāmāyaṇa written by the Apabhraṃśa poet Svayambhūdeva. Having rejoined the Department of Languages and Cultures of South Asia as a lecturer in 2010, she is now further strengthening the departments focus on Jaina Studies with her research on Apabhraṃśa literature, Jaina Rāmāyaṇas and Digambara monastic history.

Eva De Clercq, Claire Maes, Tillo Detige, Marie-Helene Gorisse, Frank Van Den Bossche

Thanks to this tradition of several decades of Jaina studies, Ghent University is now proud to have a rich collection of publications on Jainism and  international contacts with scholars of Jainism. Several young researchers are currently benefiting from this ideal environment, and further contribute to the diversity of research and expertise in the vast field of Jainology.

Eva De Clercq was the promoter of the post-doctoral project Jaina Theories of Inference in the Light of Modern Logic. This post-doctoral project, sponsored by a BOF-grant from Ghent University (October 2012-15), and carried out by Marie-Hélène Gorisse. This project is aiming at producing an improved Sanskrit text, an English translation and a philosophical commentary, of selected sections of Prabhācandra’s eleventh century Prameyakamalamārtaṇḍa about theories of knowledge and argumentation.

Eva De Clercq is currently the promoter of the following four research projects on Jainism:

1. The doctoral research of Tillo Detige, part of the project North Indian Digambara Jainism (13th-17th Century): The Age of the Bhaṭṭārakas, funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (started in September 2012). Using textual, epigraphic as well archeological sources, this project focuses on the history of the Bhaṭṭārakas, the clothed and sedentary ascetics whose monastic lineages stood at the heart of the Digambara tradition throughout a large part of the 20th century.

2. The doctoral research of Tine VekemansTrue transnationals? Jains and Jainism in diaspora (commenced in October 2013) addresses the development of diasporic networks within South-Asian migrant-communities, as well as the effect of these changing networks on cultural identity and religion, with a case study of the Jain diaspora.

3. The doctoral research of Sander Hens, In the Guise of Eulogy: Ambivalence, Tragedy and Irony in the making of the first Rajput Epic (commenced in October 2015), investigates from both a literary and socio-political perspective how a new type of literary hero, namely the tragic-heroic historical warrior-king, was introduced in North-India’s literary culture with the emergence of the so-called Rajput epic in the beginning of the fifteenth century.

4. And the doctoral research of Heleen De Jonckheere, Examination of the Religious Other: Jainism advocating itself in the Dharmaparīkṣās (commenced in October 2016), addresses a category of Jaina texts named Dharmaparīkṣā. These narrative texts, written from the tenth century onwards, are embroidered with stories from the Puranic (Hindu) tradition in order to prove the faults in these stories and in the Puranic tradition itself.

Jaina studies in Ghent are embedded in the Research Group Buddhist and Jaina Traditions in South and East Asia.  Next to the more traditional topics in Buddhist and Jaina studies, the research group’s work also focuses on the impact of intra Jain-Buddhist contacts on the development, organization and self-definition of the respective communities. Both traditions having simultaneously developed within the same socio-religious environment, questions related to their mutual influences are highly relevant, especially for an ameliorated understanding of the Jaina tradition within its wider Indian contexts. One example of ongoing research analyzing the scope of Jain-Buddhist influences, is the doctoral research of Claire Maes, which traces these influences in the Pāli Vinaya. Claire Maes obtained a MA in Indology at Ghent University and a MA in Philosophy at the University of Mysore. Her PhD research is supervised by the Vinaya specialist Ann Heirman.

This decades-long tradition of research on Jainism has also shaped the teaching curriculum of the Bachelor and Master in Oriental Languages and Cultures. Apart from Sanskrit and Hindi, which are taught throughout the Bachelor and Master, regular courses in Jaina Prakrit and occasional seminars on Apabhraṃśa are also given. In the summer of 2010, the department hosted the third Prakrit Summer School.