Ravindra K. Jain
Ardhakathanaka: Half a Tale by Translated, introduced and annotated by Mukund Lath Rajasthan Prakrit Bharat Sansthan, Jaipur, 1981, 275 pp., 150
Sept-Oct 1982, volume 7, No 2

What makes Ardhakathanaka fascinating and important is the fact that it is perhaps the first autobiography in an Indian language. Originally written in 1641 A.D., and in verse, using a colloquial mix¬ture of Brajabhasha and the eastern dialects of Hindi, it is the self-revelation of a Jain merchant-poet, Banarasidas, who lived in the heyday of the Mughal rule. This work, made available for the first time in English translation by Dr. Mukund Lath, has a two-fold significance: as a documentary of character in its own right and as a valuable historical source. Firstly, like any auto¬biography it tells us about a person in the context of his community whose character and experiences are well worth knowing. Secondly, it gives us an insight into the times when Banarasidas lived, from an unusually honest and truthful personal angle. Dr. Lath, the translator, annotator, and commentator does not always maintain an analytical distinc¬tion between these two facets, with the result that the value of the present work is often obscured.

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