Polemics of Dispassion and Production of Wonder: Argumentation and Devotion in the Praise Hymns of Hemacandra (1089–1172)

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Studies

First Advisor

Cort, John


This dissertation looks at the diverse ways in which Jains have perceived and shaped contentious pan-Indic religious, cultural, and political spaces through the production of hymns (stotra, stavan, stuti). Focusing on this highly fluid genre of medieval Indian devotional-poetic literature, it asks how these documents reflect their premodern Jain authors’ concerns and perceptions of the broader religious and intellectual worlds in which they flourished. It focuses on a well-documented period and region—Caulukyan-era Gujarat—in which a prolific figure from a minority tradition, the Jain scholar-monk Hemacandra (1089-1172 CE), composed Sanskrit devotional hymns for the Śaiva king Kumārapāla. Hemacandra’s hybrid and intertextual hymns often advocate devotion to a dispassionate being, the Jina—as opposed to Hindu gods—while promoting a specific form of devotional sentiment tied to the cultivation of wonder. Employing the sophisticated technical language of Sanskritic discourse, Hemacandra pushes beyond what he has inherited from previous Jain hymnists by promoting the aesthetic experience of wonder as the highest devotional sentiment towards a dispassionate being, one that connects the devotee to his or her most innate nature. His diverse hymnic compositions are inherently polemical, yet serve as a devotional exercise. By highlighting the content and rhetoric of his hymns both as independent compositions and as embedded within narrative texts, this project shows how Jain monks such as Hemacandra utilized the flexible genre of hymn to advance a normative definition of Jain devotion while simultaneously negotiating the value of this devotion within the larger arena of Indian religiosity.

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