Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Ardhakathanaka by Banarasi Das: a Socio-cultural Study

  • Eugenia Vanina


Any researcher into the pre-modern history of India inevitably faces the problem of source material, and the creative genius of medieval Indians furnishes us with a wide range of sources; innumerable files of original documents, multi-volumed chronicles, bulky treatises, etc. A great number of travelogues enables us to view medieval India through the eyes of visitors from all parts of the globe. The source to be analysed in this article will hardly stand comparison with the above-mentioned materials. It is a biography of an insignificant man, a family history of modest middle-class people unconnected with court intrigues and political battles. And the title of the book is anything but serious. Ardhakathanaka means “Half a Tale”. The author, a Jain merchant named Banarasi Das, completed it in 1641, being fifty-five at that time; the ideal life span of the great Jain sages was believed to be one hundred and ten years. Thus Banarasi, who harboured no ambitions to equal the great sages, titled his autobiography “Haifa Tale”, displaying a somewhat bitter humour (he died shortly after completing the book).



Hide All

1 Lath, Makund (ed., trans.), Half a Tale. Ardhakathanaka (Jaipur, 1981), p. 96 (English), p. 275 (Hindi). This article is based on the Hindi text as produced by Dr Lath. The quotations are translated by the present author and this translation in some cases differs from Lath's. Lath's English rendering is also referred to for the readers' convenience. The source is hereafter abbreviated to AK.

2 Gupta, Mataprasad (ed.), The Ardha-Katha (Allahabad, 1943).

3 Premi, N. R. (ed.), The Ardhakathanaka (Bombay, 1957); by the same author, Premi, N. R. (ed.), Jain Sahitya aur Itihas (Bombay, 1956).

4 Jain, Ravindra K., Kavivar Banarasi. Jivani aur Kritittva (Varanasi, 1966).

5 Unfortunately, this book is inaccessible to the present author.

6 Indica, VII (1970), pt. 12.

7 The Cambridge Economic History of India (Cambridge, 1982), i, pp. 264, 341–3, 351.

8 Published in Chandra, S. (ed.), Essays in Medieval Indian Economic History. Indian History Congress, Golden Jubilee Series (Delhi, 1987), pp. 222–8.

9 AK, p. 224 (Hindi), Lath's English translation omits this date.

10 AK, pp. 38–40 (English), pp. 242–3 (Hindi). See also Lath's preface and commentaries.

11 See, for instance, Singh, M. P., Merchants and Local Administration and Civil Rights in Gujarat-Aligarh University. A Miscellany (Aligarh, 1964), p. 223; The English Factories in India. A Calendar of Documents in the India Office (Oxford, 1907), pp. 11, 148, 158.

12 Thakur, Vidyapati, Kirtilata (Jhansi, 1962), pp. 5867.

13 AK, p. 5 (English), p. 226 (Hindi).

14 AK, p. 226 (Hindi). The list of castes was omitted in Lath's translation and reproduced in Sharma's article, Indica, VII, pt. I, pp. 22–6.

15 Vanina, E., “Urban industries of medieval India: some aspects of development”, Studies in History, V (1989), pp. 275–6.

16 AK, p. 2 (English), p. 224 (Hindi).

17 Mazumdar, B. P., Socio-Economic History of Northern India (1030—1194 A.D.) (Calcutta, 1960), p. 109.

18 Discussed at length in R. C. Sharma's paper.

19 AK, p. 54 (English), p. 252 (Hindi).

20 Ray, I., Of Trade and Traders in XVIIth Century India (Calcutta, 1979), p. 6; Chicherov, A., India. Economic Development in the XVIth-XVIIIth Centuries. Outline History of Crafts and Trade (Moscow, 1971), pp. 159230.

21 For instance, Travels in India by Tavernier, Jean Baptiste, Baron of Aubonne (Delhi, 1977), i, p. 24; ii, p. 144.

22 The Cambridge Economic History of India, i, p. 343.

23 AK, p. 14 (English), pp. 227, 231 (Hindi).

24 Tavernier, ii, p. 144.

25 AK, pp. 47, 48, 63 (English), pp. 247, 248, 256 (Hindi).

26 AK, p. 60 (English), p. 255 (Hindi).

27 Khan, M. Afzal, “The Chalebi merchants of Surat”, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress (1979), pp. 412414; The English Factories in India, pp. v, 290.

28 AK, pp. 18, 82 (English), pp. 232, 267 (Hindi).

29 AK, p. 7 (English), p. 227 (Hindi).

30 AK, pp. 38–40 (English), pp. 242–3 (Hindi).

31 Khan, Ali Muhammad, Mirat-i Ahmadi (Baroda, 1928), pp. i, 181182.

32 Nizami, Kh. A., Akbar and Religion (Delhi, 1989), pp. 373378.

33 Allami, Abu-l Fazl, trans, by Blochmann, H. and Jarrett, H. S., Ain-i Akbari (Delhi, 1978), iii, pp. 56.

34 Bhanuchandragainicharitam (Bombay, 1931), pp. 47; Mehta, Shirin, “Akbar as reflected in the contemporary Jain literature in Gujarat”, Social Scientist, XX (Sept.-Oct. 1992), nos. 910, 5461.

35 AK, p. 2 (English), p. 224 (Hindi).

36 AK, p. 75 (English), p. 263 (Hindi).

37 AK, p. 65 (English), pp. 257–8 (Hindi).

38 Rahim Rattuwati (Varanasi, 1950). See also Naik, C. R., Abdur-Rahim Khan-i Khanan and his Literary Circle (Ahmadabad, 1966), pp. 230232.

39 AK, p. 49 (English), p. 249 (Hindi).

40 AK, pp. 8, 37 (English), pp. 228, 242 (Hindi).

41 AK, pp. 7, 63 (English), pp. 227, 256 (Hindi).

42 AK, pp. ii, 21 (English), pp. 230, 234. (Hindi).

43 AK, p. 16 (English), p. 231 (Hindi).

44 AK, p. 8 (English), p. 228 (Hindi).

45 AK, pp. 14, 30, 41 (English), pp. 231, 238, 245 (Hindi).

46 AK, pp. 11–12 (English), p. 230 (Hindi).

47 AK, p. 13 (English), p. 230 (Hindi).

48 AK, p. 56 (English), p. 253 (Hindi).

49 AK, pp. 35–6, 40 (English), pp. 240, 244 (Hindi).

50 Sharma, K., Bhakti and Bhakti Movement. A New Perspective (Delhi, 1987), pp. 12; Schomer, K. and McLeod, W. H. (eds), The Sants. Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India (Delhi, 1987).

51 This sect was also known as Terapantha. See Jain, Muni U. K., Jaina Sects and Schools (Delhi, 1975), pp. 137138.

52 Premi, N. R., Jain Sahitya aur Itihas, pp. 398, 483, 493, 508.

53 AK, Appendix I, pp. 214–22.

54 Dvivedi, Hazari Prasad (ed.), Kabir (Bombay, 1960), p. 262.

55 See, for example: Callewaert, W. (ed. and trans.), The Hindi Biography of Dadu Dayal (Delhi, 1988), p. 37 (English), p. 92 (Hindi); Malukdasji ki Bani (Allahabad, 1946), pp. 1320.

56 Quoted by Hillerbrand, H. J., The Reformation. A Narrative History Related by Contemporary Observers and Participants (New York, 1964), p. 293.

57 See, for example, Ozment, S. E., Mysticism and Dissent. Religious Ideology and Social Protest in the Sixteenth Century (New Haven and London, 1973), pp. 35, 50, 56, 85ff.

58 Dvivedi, Hazari Prasad, Kabir, pp. 262, 272.

59 Tanner, N. P. (ed.), Heresy Trials in the Diocese of Norwich, 1428–1431 (London, 1977), p. 142.

60 English translation in Webster, D. and Green, L. (eds), Documents in Renaissance and Reformation History (Stanmore, 1969), p. 176.

61 Bardai, Chand, Prithviraj-Raso (Udaipur, 1955), pp. 1, 23, 144, 223225ff. See also Pandit, R. S. (trans.), Kalhana's Rajatarangini (Delhi, 1968); Ambastha, B. P., Non-Persian Sources of Medieval Indian History (Delhi, 1984).

62 See, for example, Brahmanadas, Charan, Bhagatmal (Jodhpur, 1959); Sarkar, J., Chaitanya's Life and Teachings (Calcutta, 1988); Abbott, Justin A., Eknath. A Translation from the Bhaktalilamrita (Poona, 1927).

63 Prithviraj Raso, pp. I, 26–7; Allami, Abu-l Fazl, trans, by Beveridge, H., Akbar Nama (Delhi, 1979), i, pp. 3949, 384385ff.

64 Bhagavadgita, iii, 35, trans, by Radhakrishnan, S. (London, 1948), pp. 146147.

65 See, for example, Habib, M. and Khan, A. U. Salim (ed. and trans.), The Political Theory of the Delhi Sultanate (Allahabad, n.d.), pp. 19, 49, 9798.

66 Grierson, G. A. (trans.), The Test of Man. Being the Purusha-Pariksha of Vidyapati Thakkura (London, 1935), pp. 112115.

67 AK, p. 33 (English), p. 239 (Hindi).

68 Allami, Abu-l Fazl, trans, by Blochmann, H. and Jarrett, H. S., Ain-i Akbari (Delhi, 1978), iii, pp. 45.

69 Nizami, Kh. A., Akbar and Religion (Delhi, 1989), p. 81.

70 Abidi, S. A., “Talib-i Amuli. His life and poetry”, Islamic Culture, XXXXI, pt. 2 (1967), p. 129.

71 See, for example, Ballala's, Bhojaprabandha. The Narrative of Bhoja (New Haven, 1950), pp. 32, 51.

72 Callewaert, W., pp. 33, 6375 (English), pp. 91, 105–15 (Hindi).

73 Compare, for instance, Ain-l Akbari, i, pp. 59, 162–70; iii, pp. 478524.

74 Nikasī ghauṅghī sāgar mathā (Churned an ocean, obtained a snail). AK, p. 52 (English), p. 251 (Hindi).

75 AK, pp. 3–4 (English), p. 225 (Hindi). Lath translated “wind of time wafted him away unawares”. But the word kāl means not only “time” but “death”. The latter seems more correct in this case, since Ghanmal was only three years of age.

The Ardhakathanaka by Banarasi Das: a Socio-cultural Study

  • Eugenia Vanina


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.