Mahavamsa : die große Chronik Sri Lankas

0. Einleitung

1. Der Mahāvamsa als Literatur

verfasst von Mahanama

übersetzt und erläutert von Alois Payer


Zitierweise / cite as:

Mahanama <6. Jhdt n. Chr.>: Mahavamsa : die große Chronik Sri Lankas / übersetzt und erläutert von Alois Payer. -- 0. Einleitung -- 1. Der Mahāvamsa als Literatur. -- Fassung vom 2006-07-08. -- URL: -- [Stichwort].

Erstmals publiziert:  2001-07-17

Überarbeitungen:  2006-07-08 [Ergänzungen]; 2006-03-24 [Ergänzungen]; 2006-03-16 [Ergänzungen]

Anlass: Lehrveranstaltungen, Sommersemester 2001, 2006

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Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Buddhismus von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

0. Übersicht

1. Der Text

In einer Leseedition liegt der Pālitext online leicht zugänglich vor: Zugriff am 2006-03-01

Die maßgebliche kritische Edition ist immer noch:

Mahānāma <5. Jhdt. n. Chr.>: The Mahāvaṃsa / ed. by Wilhelm Geiger. -- London : Published for the Pali text society by H. Frowde, 1908.  -- 376 S. -- (Pali text society. Publications ; v. 63). -- Pali Text transliteriert

Der deutsche Indologe Wilhelm Geiger <1856 - 1943> legte seiner Edition folgende Quellen zugrunde:


My edition of the Mahāvamsa is based upon the following manuscripts:

  1. MSS. written in Burmese characters (= X).
    1. B 1 = MS. of the India Offiee Library ,,Pali History 136". Palm leaves. Nine lines on a page. A very fine MS., brought from Mandalay to London. See Journ. of the Pali Text Soc. 1896, p. 43. It contains 
      1. the Dīpavamsa, leaf ka to nū, 
      2. the older part of the Mahāvamsa (chap. 1 to chap. 37. 50), 109 leaves, leaf nē to dhē, and 
      3. the Mahābodhivamsa.
    2. B 2 = MS. of the India Office Library ,,Pali History 137". Palm leaves. Ten lines on a page. See Journ. of the Pali Text Soc. 1896, p. 44. The MS. is of the same character as B 1 and also brought from Mandalay. It contains 
      1. the older part of the Mahāvamsa (chap. 1 to chap. 37. 50), 79 leaves, leaf ka to chū, and 
      2. the Mahāvamsa-Tīkā.
  2. MSS. written in Sinhalese characters (= Y).
    1. S 1 = MS. of the Cambridge University Library ,,MS. Add. No. 964". 184 palm leaves. Eight to ten, generally nine lines on a page. It contains the Mahāvamsa from chap. 1 to chap. 90. 47 of the Colombo Edition, the older part of the Mahāvamsa ending on leaf 69. From leaf 59 we find another handwriting. The MS. is, notwithstanding its high critical importance, full of clerical errors.
    2. S 2 = MS. of the Royal Library at Copenhagen ,,XL. 18. Mahāvanso 56". 129 palm leaves. Twelve lines on a page. It contains, like S 1, the Mahāvamsa from chap. 1 to chap. 90. 47, the older part of the Mahāvamsa ending on leaf 46. The MS. contains numerous corrections, apparently made by the first writer himself.
    3. S 3 = MS. of the Cambridge University Library ,,MS. Add. No. 962". 241 palm leaves. Nine lines on a page. The last stanza of the MS. corresponds to the verse chap. 100. 296 cd—297 ab of the Colombo Edition. The older part of the Mahāvamsa ends on leaf 74. S3 has also numerous corrections throughout.
    4. S 4 = MS. of the India Office Library ,,Ceylon MSS. P. C. No. 91 (121)". 118 palm leaves. Ten lines on a page. It contains the Mahāvamsa from chap. 1 to chap. 90. 102. The older part of the Mahāvamsa ends on leaf 43.
    5. S 5 = MS. of the India Office Library ,,Ceylon MSS. P. C. No. 92 (122)". 85 palm leaves. Seven lines on a page. The stanzas are not written continuously as in the other MSS., but each page is divided into three columns and the hemistichs stand one below the other. The older part of the Mahāvamsa ends on leaf 73. The last stanza of the MS. corresponds to chap. 42. 30 of the Colombo edition.
    6. S 6 = MS. of the India Office Library ,,Ceylon MSS. P. C. No. 93. 1 (123)". 98 palm leaves. Generally nine lines on a page. It contains the Mahāvamsa from chap. 1 to chap. 58. 11 of the Colombo edition. But two leaves (ka and kā) are added, containing a summary of the chapters 1 to 99. This summary, therefore, extends also to a second part of the MS., comprising the leaves chi to tham. The older part of the Mahāvamsa ends on leaf 61 of the MS. S 6. The MS. S 6 contains also many corrections. These corrections were added when the writer of the MS. had already finished his work. This appears from the fact that the corrections are not blackened like the remainder of the MS.
  3. MSS. written in Cambodian characters (= Z).
    1. C 1 = MS. belonging to the Colombo Museum, Ceylon. 308 palm leaves. Five lines on a page. One set of leaves, na to tah, is missing. The missing leaves contain the passage from the middle of chap. 22 to the beginning of chap. 25.
    2. C 2 = Copy of a collation and transcript, made by the late Prof. Hardy from the Cambodian Mahāvamsa MS. ,,fonds Pali No. 632" of the National Library at Paris.

    Both the Cambodian MSS. contain the enlarged text of the Mahāvamsa, which was first detected by Prof. Hardy in the Paris MS. mentioned in 10.1, and which was compiled by a Siamese monk, called Moggallāna. The same text is found in a third Cambodian MS., kept now in the Colombo Museum Library, as I conclude from a letter, which my venerated friend, the high priest Subhuti, wrote to me from Waskaduwa 20th November 1905. We have, therefore, reason to assume, that all Cambodian MSS. show the enlarged text of our poem which we may call the Cambodian Mahāvamsa.
    With regard to C 2, Prof. HARDY has fully transcribed only those passages from the Paris MS., which do not belong to the original Mahāvamsa, but were added by Moggallāna, and he merely collated those passages, which are identical with the old text. But in his collations he apparently disregarded the minor differences. One should not forthwith assume, when in my notes only a reading of C 1 is mentioned, that in these cases C 2 always agrees with the other MSS.

  4. Corrections in our Manuscripts.

    Three of the MSS., described above, are systematically corrected according to another source, to wit the MS. S 2, 3, 6. The corrections in S 2 and S 3 are taken, as I may mention in advance, from a MS., which must have been very similar to S 1; those in S 6 are taken from S 5. Occasional corrections occur also in the rest of the MSS., but they have no essential importance. I have marked those corrections in my edition by S 2², S 3², S 6², and in contradistinction to them, the original readings by S 2 or., 3 or., 6 or.


  1. T = Mahāwansa Tīkā or "Wansatthappakāsinī, revised and edited, under Order of the Ceylon Government, by Pandit BATUWANTUDAWE and M. NANISSARA Bhikshu. Colombo 1895.

    The critical value of this old Mahāvamsa Commentary is by no means insignificant, as I shall afterwards show in detail. As the Tīkā was composed between 1000 and 1250 A. D., its quotations from the Mahāvamsa represent a form of text, which is several centuries older than that of our oldest MSS. But the Tīkā is, of course, only a fragmentary source of criticism, as it does not comment upon every word of the original text. Where, in the critical notes of my edition, in any list of various readings the ,,T" is missing, we may assume that the word or passage in question is not quoted in the Tīkā. There are also many instances, where we are able to draw a conclusion from the paraphrase of a Mahāvamsa passage, given in the Tīkā, as to what the original reading was. In such cases I have added the word ,,probably" after the abbreviation ,,T". I have done the same, where I thought it necessary to emend the text of the printed edition of the Tīkā.

  2. As a guide, which must not be overlooked in fixing the Mahāvamsa text, I have finally to mention the quotations and parallel passages in other works of the historical literature of Ceylon. The following works come into consideration here: 
    1. Dīp. = Dīpavamsa, ed. OLDENBERG, London 1879. The Dīp. contains many stanzas which are also found in the Mahāvamsa. It is often very useful to determine the correct spelling of proper names, when the various groups of the Mah. MSS. differ one from the other. See Mah. 2. 4a; 2. 12 d; 5. 7c; 5. 206 c; 6.45d; 15. 78 c; 15. 92 a; 33. 14 d; 34, 28 c; 35. 5 a; 35. 9 a; 35. 84a; 36. 4c; 36. 18 d. It confirms the reading of the Burmese MSS. in 14. 44 b and 33. 100b; that of the Tīkā in 11. 31 d.
    2. Smp. = The Historical Introduction to Buddhaghosa's Samanta Pāsadikā ed. OLDENBERG (The Vinaya Pitakam III, p. 281). The readings of the Smp. generally agree with those of X, i. e. the Burmese group of MSS. (as in 3. 39 a; 5.27; 11. 28c; 11. 34c; 13. 15d; 14. 48d; 17. Ic; 18. 38 a), occasionally with those of Y, i. e. the Sinhalese group (as in 3. 37 a, 12. 16 d). It differs from the Tīkā in 19. 27 c. ...
    3. Thūp. = Thūpavamsa (in Pali) ed. by DHAMMARATANA, (Colombo) 1896. By SThūp. the Sinhalese version of the work is meant (ed. DHAMMARATANA , 1889). The Thūp. was compiled about the middle of the 13th century A. D. Its readings agree also more frequently with those of X (as in 5.27; 14. 48 d; 25. 71 a; 26. 8a; 26. 24; 30. 9b; 31. 71 d; 32. 75 c) and of the Tīkā (as in 26. 8b; 30. 51 a; 31. 83d), than with those of Y (as in 28.13c; 29. lib and 12b; 31. 80b; 32. 57 c)1. The correct spelling of proper names can be made out by its help in 25. 11 et seq.; 25. 80b; 28. 18c; 29. 39a; 31. 4b; 31. 27 c. ...
    4. MBv. = Mahābodhivamsa ed. by STRONG, Pali Text Society 1891. It confirms readings of the Burmese MSS. (as in 14. 65 a; 19. 38 d) and of the Tīkā (as in 17. 65 c). The MBv. was compiled, I believe, in the last quarter of the 10th century A. D.
    5. Rasav. = Rasavāhinī ed. by VEDEHA MAHA THEEA, Colombo 1901. It is quoted in 23. 82, 84, 91.
    6. Sās. = Sāsanāvamsa, ed. by BODE, PTS. 1897. It is quoted in 5. 4 et seq.


  1. E 1 = The Maháwanso in Roman Characters with the Translation Subjoined, and an Introductory Essay on Pali Buddhistical Literature. Vol. I containing the first thirty eight Chapters. By the Hon. GEORGE TURNOUR C. C. S. Ceylon 1837.
  2. E 2 = The Maháwansa from first to thirty-sixth Chapter. Revised and edited, under Orders of the Ceylon Government by H. SUMANGALA, High Priest of Adam's Peak, and Don Andris de SILVA BATUWANTUDAWA, Pandit. Colombo 1883.

TURNOUR'S edition is based on a MS., which belongs to the same class as the MSS. S 5, 6. 

In the Colombo edition use is made of six Sinhalese MSS., and occasionaly of one Cambodian MS. I have given the different readings of the Sinhalese MSS., marked in my edition as s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, according to the foot-notes in E 2. But I have omitted to add the readings of the ,,Kamboja potthaka". For I am inclined to believe that it is identical with the MS. C 1. I have arrived at this conclusion through the fact that the quotations from the ,,Kamboja potthaka" cease at verse 22.42, which is just where the lacuna in C 1 begins.


In all the MSS. the distinction between i and ī, u and ū, n and . n, l and .l is shown in a very careless manner. It was, of course, quite. impossible to notice all these trifles. There is also much inconsistency in the use of the Anusvāra. We find tampi, tañca, tanti as well as ta.m pi, ta.m ca, ta.m ti ..."

"We may now comprehend our single observations in the following manner:

  1. X [MSS. written in Burmese characters] and Y [ MSS. written in Sinhalese characters] represent two different recensions of the Mahāvamsa text and originate from two distinct archetypes Xa1 and Ya1.
  2. The Z [ MSS. written in Cambodian characters] recension is a later compilation of an eclectic character, but it more resembles X [MSS. written in Burmese characters], than Y [ MSS. written in Sinhalese characters].
  3. The Tīkā was based on MSS. of the X [MSS. written in Burmese characters] class, but their text was more correct, than that of B 1 and 2 and of their archetype.
  4. Y [ MSS. written in Sinhalese characters] is divided into two groups S 1, 2, 3, 4 and S 5, 6, each originating from a distinct archetype Ya2 and Ya3.
  5. The group S 1, 2, 3, 4 must again be divided into two groups, S 1, 2 and S 3, 4, with separate archetypes each. Ya4 and Ya5.
  6. The MSS. S 1, 2, 3 are, in a different degree, influenced by MSS. of the X [MSS. written in Burmese characters] class. The text in S 1 looks like a real combination of the two recensions.
  7. Moreover S 3 shows, in a minor degree, the influence of a MS., similar to S 5, and S 5 itself sometimes that of a MS. which contained a text, resembling to that of X [MSS. written in Burmese characters].
  8. S 2 and 3 have been corrected according to a MS., similar to S 1, and S 6 according to S 5.

The mutual relation of the different recensions and of the various MSS. may be shown by the following scheme:

Abb.: Stemma der Handschriften

The textual tradition of the Mahāvamsa is by no means a perfect one. It cannot surprise us, therefore, that there still remain passages enough, where we may doubt either the external form of their text, or the interpretation of their meaning."

[The Mahāvamsa / edited by Wilhelm Geiger. -- London : Pali Text Society, 1908. --  S. V - XI, XLVIII - XLIX]

Neben diesem Text gibt es noch den "Extended (or Cambodian) Māhāvamsa". Edition:

Extended Mahāvamsa / ed. by G. P. Malalasekera. -- Colombo : Times of Ceylon, 1934. -- LVIII, 380 S. -- (Aluvihāra Series ; III). -- Reprint: Oxford : Pali Text Society, 1988. -- ISBN 0-86013-285-4

Der Herausgeber, G. P. Malalasekera (1899 - 1973) beginnt seine ausführliche Einleitung zu den Quellen etc. des Extendes Mahāvamsa mit folgender Zusammenfassung:

"The Origin, Growth and Character of the Extended Mahāvamsa.

The foregoing Analysis clearly shows that the material and arrangement of the subject-matter in Extended Mahāvamsa are similar in the main to Mahāvamsa. But what in the latter is often only just mentioned is in Extended Mahāvamsa enlarged and given in greater detail. Extended Mahāvamsa moves in the same frame-work as Mahāvamsa, but inside this frame-work it introduces a fairly large amount of new material, not found in Mahāvamsa. The new material so introduced is mainly of a popular kind, consisting of romances, sagas and legends. Also of particular interest is the fact that, generally speaking, we are able to discover from what sources the author of Extended Mahāvamsa obtained this new material.

It has been counted that, as against 2,915 verses found in the original Mahāvamsa, there are in Extended Mahāvamsa 5,772 verses, very nearly double the number. How was this extension made possible? In the colophon to his work the author of Extended Mahāvamsa gives an indication of the sources he consulted :

"Buddhavaṃsaṃ Mahāvaṃsaṃ Līnatthañ ca samāhataṃ
Thūpavaṃsaṃ gahetvāna sampiṇḍitvāna ekato . . .

It seems legitimate to conclude that the Buddhavamsa and the Thūpavamsa mentioned are identical with the works of the same names extant at present. I am of opinion, however, that in the verse quoted, the words " Mahāvamsam Līnattham" should read " Mahāvamsa-Līnattham" and that the name refers to the Mahāvamsa Tīkā, which in some MSS. is called " Līnatthavannanā Atthakathā, Mahāvamsa." Of this more later.

The author of Extended Mahāvamsa used at least three other sources, which he does not mention by name, viz., the Mahāvagga of the Vinaya Pitaka, the Jātaka Commentary and the Samantapāsādikā ; also the Mahābodhivamsa or its precursor, and, probably, the Buddhavamsa Commentary."

[Quelle: Extended Mahāvamsa / ed. by G. P. Malalasekera. -- Colombo : Times of Ceylon, 1934. -- LVIII, 380 S. -- (Aluvihāra Series ; III). -- Reprint: Oxford : Pali Text Society, 1988. -- ISBN 0-86013-285-4. -- S. XL]

2. Übersetzungen

1874 ordnete der Governor, Sir William H. Gregory eine Übersetzung des Mahāvamsa an. Er betraute damit zwei gelehrte Mönche:

Abb.: Sumangala

"Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera: He was one of the pioneer monks of the Buddhist revivalist movement in the 19th century Sri Lanka. The service rendered by him to the Buddhist Education is unparalleled. He was the founder of Vidyodaya Pirivena Maligakanda.

The Ven. Sri Sumangala was born on 20th January 1827 at Hikkaduwa, in the Galle District. He was the 5th in the family. His Father was Mr. Don Johanis Abeyweera Gunawardhana. The name given to him by birth was Niculas. He received his primary Education from the village's Temple.

At the age of 13 he entered the Sasana at Totagamuwa Temple. From his childhood he was an eloquent speaker, and a very good writer. In 1848 he obtained higher Ordination from the Malwatte Chapter, Kandy.

He was well versed in Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit, English, Buddhism, History, Arithmetic, and Archaeology. He received his education from Parama Dhamma Cetiya Pirivena Ratmalana, under the guidance of Ven. Walane Sri Siddhartha Maha Thera. The Ven. Ratmalane Dharmaloka Thera was one of his contemporaries. As an erudite monk he has written many books. He was the main source for the success of the Panadura debate held in 1873. It was after reading the report of this debate that Col. Henry Steele Olcott came to Sri Lanka. He learnt Buddhism and Pali under the Ven. Sumangala Thera and together with him the Thera Ven. Hikkaduwa Sri Sumangala established the Ananda College, Colombo (1890), Mahinada College, Galle (1892) and Dharmaraja College, Kandy, for Buddhist Education.

The paper "Lankaloka" was started by Ven. Thera himself and afterwards he assisted in many ways to publish papers like "Sarasavisandaresa" and "Sinhala Bauddhaya". Awarded by many titles he was honoured not only by Sri Lankans but also by the people of Ireland, Italy, Hungeria, and many other countries in the East and the West. He was appointed as the Head of the Sripada (Adam's peak), the holy mountain of Sri Lanka. This Ven. Maha Nayaka Thera, Ven. Sri Sumangala passed way on 29th of April 1911."

[Quelle: -- Zugriff am 2003-05-06]

The Mahávansi, the Rájá-ratnácari, and the Rájá-vali : forming the sacred and historical books of Ceylon; also, a collection of tracts illustrative of the doctrines and literature of Buddhism: translated from the Singhalese / edited by Edward Upham ... London : Parbury, Allen, and Co., 1833. -- 3 vol.

Mahānāma <5. Jhd. n. Chr.>: The Mahāvamsa / translated by Geoge Turnour. -- 1837 

"George Turnour was the eldest son of the Hon. George Turnour, son of the first Earl of Winterton; his mother being Emilie, niece to the Cardinal Duc de Beausset. He was born in Ceylon in 1799, and having been educated in England under the guardianship of the Right Hon. Sir Thomas Maitland, then governor of the island, he entered the Civil Service in 1818, in which he rose to tho highest rank. He was distinguished equally by his abilities and his modest display of them Interpreting in its largest sense the duty enjoined on him, as a public officer, of acquiring a knowledge of the native languages, he oxtended his studies, from tho vernacular and written Singhalese to Pali, the great root and original of both, known only to the Buddhist priesthood, and imperfectly and even rarely amongst them. No dictionaries then existed to assist in defining the meaning of Pali terms which no teacher could be found capable of rendering into English, so that Mr. Turnour was entirely dependent on his knowledge of Singhalese as a medium for translating them. To an ordinary mind such obstructions would have proved insurmountable, aggravated as they were by discouragements arising from the assumed barrenness of the field, and the absence of all sympathy with his pursuits, on the part of those around him, who reserved their applause and encouragement till success had rendered him independent of either. To this indifference of the government officers, Major Forbes, who was then the resident at Matelle, formed an honourable exception ; and his narrative of Eleven Years in Ceylon shows with what ardour and success he shared the tastes and cultivated the studies to which he had been directed by the genius and example of Turnour. So zealous and unobtrusive were the pursuits of the latter, that even his immediate connexions and relatives were unaware of the value and extent of his acquirements till apprised of their importance and profundity by the acclamation with which his discoveries and translations from tho Pali were received by the savants of Europe. Major Forbes, in a private letter, which I have been permitted to see, speaking of the difficulty of doing justice to the literary character of Turnour, and the ability, energy, and perseverance which be exhibited in his historical investigations, says, " his Epitome of the History of Ceylon was from the first correct; I saw it seven years before it was published, and it scarcely required an alteration afterwards." Whilst engaged in his translation of the Mahawanso, Turnour, amongst other able papers on Buddhist History and Indian Chronology in the Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society, v. 521, vi. 299, 790, 1049, contributed a series of essays on the Pali-Buddhistical-Annals, which were published in 1836, 1837, 1838.—Journ. Asiatic Soc. Bengal, vi. 501, 714, vii. 686, 789, 919. At various times he published in the same journal an account of the Tooth Relic of Ceylon, lb. vi. 856, and notes on the inscriptions on the columns of Delhi, Allahabad, and Betiah, &c. &c, and frequent notices of Ceylon coins and inscriptions. He had likewise planned another undertaking of signal importance, the translation into English of a Pali version of the Buddhist scriptures, an ancient copy of which he had discovered, unencumbered by the ignorant commentaries of later writers, and the fables with which thev have defaced the plain and simple doctrines of the early faith. He announced his intention in the Introduction to the Mahawanso to expedite the publication, as " the least tardy means of effecting a comparison of the Pali with the Sanskrit version" (p. cx.). His correspondence with Prinsep, which I have been permitted by his family to inspect, abounds with the evidence of inchoate inquiries in which their congenial spirits had a common interest, but which were abruptly ended by the premature decease of both. Turnour, with shattered health, returned to Furopo in 1842, and died at Naples on the 10th of April in the following year. Tho first volume of his translation of the Mahawanso, which contains thirty-eight chapters out of the hundred which form the original work, was published at Colombo in 1837; and apprehensive that scepticism might assail the authenticity of a discovery so important, ho accompanied his English version with a reprint of the original Pali in Roman characters with diacritical points. Ho did not live to conclude the task he had so nobly begun; he died while engaged on the second volume of his translation, and only a few chapters, executed with his characteristic accuracy, remain in manuscript in the possession of his surviving relatives. It diminishes, though in a slight degree, our regret for the interruption of his literary labours to know that the section of the Mahawanso which he left unfinished is inferior both in authority and value to the earlier portion of the work, and that being composed at a period when literature was at its lowest ebb in Ceylon, it differs little if at all from other chronicles written during the decline of the native dynasty."

[Quelle: Tennent, James Emerson <1804-1869>: Ceylon: an account of the island. --  2nd ed. --  London : Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1859. --  2 Bde. : Ill. ; 23 cm. -- Bd. 1, S. 312 - 314.]

Mahānāma <5. Jhd. n. Chr.>: The Mahavamsa or, The great chronicle of Ceylon / translated into English by Wilhelm Geiger ... assisted by Mabel Haynes Bode...under the patronage of the government of Ceylon. -- London : Published for the Pali Text Society by H. Frowde, 1912. -- 300 S. -- (Pali Text Society, London. Translation series ; no. 3). -- [Unentbehrlich]

Abb.: Wilhelm Geiger (1856 - 1943) und Frau Magdalene (geb. Grobe) (1977 - 1960)

"Geiger, Wilhelm (Ludwig), Iranist, Indologe, geb. 21.7.1856 Nürnberg, gest. 2.9.1943 Neubiberg bei München

Geiger wurde nach Abschluss des Studiums der klassischen und orientalischen Philologie in Erlangen, Bonn und Berlin 1876 promoviert, habilitierte sich 1878 in Erlangen und war 1880-84 als Lehrer tätig. 1891-1920 o.Prof. in Erlangen, wurde er anschließend Nachfolger Ernst Kuhns in München und 1924 emeritiert. Geiger verfaßte grundlegende Arbeiten zu den Sprachen, Literaturen und Religionen des Iran und Indiens. Er erforschte als erster Herkunft und Grammatik iranischer Sprachen, veröffentlichte u.a. ein Handbuch der Avestasprache (1879) und gab 1895-1904 zusammen mit E. Kuhn einen Grundriß der Iranischen Philologie und Altertumskunde heraus. 1916 erschien Pali. Literatur und Sprache. Geiger war der Vater von Hans [Physiker, Erfinder des Geigerzählers] und Rudolf Geiger [Meteorologe]."

[Quelle: Deutsche biographische Enzyklopädie & Deutscher biographischer Index. -- CD-ROM-Ed. -- München : Saur, 2001. -- 1 CD-ROM. -- ISBN 3-598-40360-7. -- s.v.]

Zu Wilhelm Geiger siehe:

Bechert, Heinz <1932 - >: Wilhelm Geiger : his life and works. -- Colombo : Gunasena; Tübingen : Erdmann, 1976. -- 153 S. : Ill. ; 19 cm

Über die Ceylonreise, die er 1925/26 vor Abschluss seiner Mahāvamsa-Ubersetzung zusammen mit seiner Frau unternommen hat, berichtet Geiger lesenswert in:

Geiger, Wilhelm <1856 - 1943>: Unter tropischer Sonne : Wanderungen, Studien, Begegnungen in Ceylon und Java. -- Bonn : Schroeder, 1930. -- 231 S. : Ill. ; 22 cm.

Mahānāma <5. Jhd. n. Chr.>: Mahavamsa, the great chronicle of Sri Lanka : chapters one to thirty-seven : an annotated new translation with prolegomena / by Ananda W.P. Guruge ; with introductions and appendices by T.W. Phys Davids ... [et al.]. -- Colombo : Associated Newspapers of Ceylon, 1989

Mahānāma <5. Jhd. n. Chr.>: Mahavamsa / translated from Pali by Ananda W.P. Guruge. -- Calcutta,  : M P Birla Foundation, 1990. -- 225 S. -- (Classics of the East). -- [Sehr gute Übersetzung]

"Desamanya Kalakirti ANANDA W. P. GURUGE B. A. (Hons.); Ph. D.; D. Litt. Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of the International Academy of Buddhism, Hsi Lai University, Los Angeles County, California, USA Formerly Senior Special Adviser to the Director General of UNESCO and Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary of Sri Lanka to UNESCO, France and USA with nonresident accreditation to Spain, Algeria and Mexico."

[Quelle: -- Zugriff am 2006-03-03]

Abb.: Ananda W.P. Guruge, geb. 1928

"Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge, formerly the Director of Religious Studies, is now the Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of the International Academy of Buddhism at UWest. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Ceylon. Dr. Guruge has authored 40 books, including a biography of King Asoka entitled Asoka the Righteous: A Definitive Biography and What in Brief is Buddhism? and over 150 research papers. A former Sri Lankan Ambassador to France and to the United States, Dr. Guruge is proficient in English, Sinhala, French, Pali, Sanskrit, Tamil and Hindi."

[Quelle: -- Zugrif am 2006-03-03]

Mahānāma <5. Jhd. n. Chr.>: The Mahavamsa : the great chronicle of Sri Lanka / originally written by Thera Mahanama-sthavira, 5th century ACE ; modern text and historical commentary by Douglas Bullis. -- Fremont, CA : Asian Humanities Press, ©1999. -- 439 S. -- ISBN 0-89581-943-0. -- [Als Übersetzung unbrauchbar!]

3. Literary questions concerning Dīpavamsa and Mahāvamsa / by Wilhelm Geiger

In der immer noch grundlegenden Einleitung zu seiner Übersetzung des Mahāvamsa

The Mahāvamsa or The great chronicle of Ceylon / translated into English by Wilhelm Geiger ... -- London : Pali Txt Society, 1912

schreibt Wilhelm Geiger <1856 - 1943>, der beste westliche Kenner der ceylonesichen Chroniken [S. IX - XII]:

"THE LITERARY QUESTIONS connected with the Mahāvamsa and the development of the historical tradition in Ceylon have been thoroughly discussed in my book Dīpavamsa and Mahāvamsa

Dīp. und Mah. und die geschichtliche Überlieferung in Ceylon, Leipzig, 1905. Translated into English by E. M. COOMARASWAMY, Dīp. and Mah., Colombo, 1908. Quotations in the following pages follow the English edition. I may also refer here expressly to OLDENBERG'S remarks, Dīp., ed. Introd., p. 1 foll. (1879), as the starting-point for my own.

I believe that I have there demonstrated that the two Ceylonese Chronicles are based upon older materials and for this reason should claim our attention as sources of history.

Now, however, R. O. FRANKE has taken a decided stand against my inferences. 

Dīp. und Mah. in the Wiener Zeitschr. f. d. Kunde des Morgenl. 21, pp. 203 foll.; 317 foll.

He disputes the existence of an older historical work as foundation of Dīp. and Mah.

The former appears to him to be only a botched compilation of Pāli quotations from the Jātakas and other canonical works. But the author of the Mah. has merely copied the Dīp. and the same applies to Buddhaghosa and his historical introduction to the Samanta-Pasādikā. I have however, I hope, succeeded in combating the doubts and objections raised by FRANKE.

Noch einmal Dīp. und Mah.; Zeitschr. d. D. morgenl. Gesellsch. 63, P. 540 foll. I note that OLDENBERG in the Archiv f. Religionswissensch. 13. p. 614, agrees with my inferences against FRANKE.

The defects of the Dīp., which naturally neither can nor should be disputed, concern the outer form, not the contents. But that the author of the Dīp. simply invented the contents of his chronicle is a thing impossible to believe.

Thus it is our task to trace the sources from which he drew his material. This is made possible for us by the Mahāvamsa-Tīkā, i. e. the native commentary on our chronicle which, under the title Vamsatthappakāsinī, was composed by an unknown author.
I will then here briefly sum up the principal results of my labours, referring, for confirmation, in detail, to my earlier works.

  1. In Ceylon there existed at the close of the fourth century A.D., that is, at the time in which the Dīpavamsa was composed, an older work, a sort of chronicle, of the history of the island from its legendary beginnings onwards. The work constituted part of the Atthakathā, i. e. the old commentary-literature on the canonical writings of the Buddhists which Buddhaghosa took as a basis for his illuminating works. It was, like the Atthakathā, composed in Old-Sinhalese prose, probably mingled with verse in the Pāli language.
  2.   This Atthakathā-Mahāvamsa existed, as did the Atthakathā generally, in different monasteries of the island, in various recensions which diverged only slightly from one another. Of particular importance for the further development of the tradition was the recension of the monks of the Mahavihāra in Anuāadhapura, upon which the author of the Mah. Tīkā drew for his material.
  3. The chronicle must originally have come down only to the arrival of Mahinda in Ceylon. But it was continued later and indeed, to all appearance, down to the reign of Mahāsena (beginning of the fourth century A. D.), with which reign the Dīpavamsa as well as the Mahāvamsa comes to an end.
  4. Of this work the DÎPAVAMSA presents the first clumsy redaction in Pāli verses.

    So far as language is concerned, the author's sources have been indicated, for numerous verses, by FRANKE ; and herein lies the merit of his work, although I cannot consent to his conclusions.

    The MAHAVAMSA is then a new treatment of the same thing, distinguished from the Dīp. by greater skill in the employment of the Pāli language, by more artistic composition and by a more liberal use of the material contained in the original work. While the authorship of the Dīp. is not known, the author of the Mahāvamsa is known as Mahānāma.

    See RHYS DAVIDS, Journ. Roy. As. Soc. 1905, p. 391.

  5. It is also on the Dīp. that BUDDHAGHOSA bases his historical introduction to the Samantapasādikā;

    Edited by H. OLDENBERG, The Vinaya Pitakam, iii, p. 283 foll.

    but he completes and adds to its information with statements which could only have been drawn directly from the Atthakathā.

  6. The MAHÂVAMSA-TÎKÂ brings to the contents of the Dīp. and Mah. further additions, taken from the original work. It was certainly not composed till between 1000 and 1250 A. D. But there can be no doubt that the Atthakathā-Mahāvamsa lay before the author, as he also supposes it to be known to his readers and accessible to all.

    I have indicated in Z.D.M.G. 63, p. 549 foil., passages in the Mah. T. which undoubtedly bear this out.

    For this reason his statements as to the original work, its form and its contents, naturally acquire particular importance.
    These conclusions are not in any way altered if I am now inclined to consider the relation between Mah. and Dīp. as a closer one than in my first work. That the author of the former knew the latter and used it I have naturally never disputed. But I should now wish, in agreement with FLEET, to go much further and regard the Mah. as a conscious and intentional rearrangement of the Dīp., as a sort of commentary to this latter. I also think now that the quotation of the 'Mahāvamsa of the ancients' in the prooemium of our Mah. refers precisely to the Dīp. I have besides already indicated the possibility of this view in my Dīp. and Mah., p. 17. 

    FLEET then translates the well-known passage of the later Cūlavamsa (38. 59) datvā sahassam dīpetum Dīpa-vamsam samādisi in very illuminating fashion: 'he (king Dhātusena) bestowed a thousand (pieces of gold) and gave orders to write a dīpikā on the Dīpavamsa.'

    J.S.A.S. 1909, p. 5, n. 1.

    The interpretation hitherto given: that this is an allusion to a public recitation of the Dīp. must then be abandoned. But this dīpikā, which was composed by order of Dhātusena, is identified by FLEET with our Mahāvamsa. Thus, at the same time, the date of its origin is more precisely fixed. Dhātusena reigned, according to calculations which are to be confirmed further on, at the beginning of the sixth century after Christ. About this time the Mahāvamsa was composed."

4. The Pali chronicles / by G. P. Malalasekera

Nach Wilhelm Geiger soll der bedeutendste Pali-Gelehrte Ceylons (Sri Lankas) zu Wort kommen.

Abb.: G. P. Malalasekera (1899 - 1973)
[Bildquelle: -- Zugrif am 2006-03-03]

"Remembering Dr. G. P. Malalasekera - an outstanding Lankan

by Stanley E. Abeynayake

The 30th death anniversary of Dr. G. P. Malalasekera, scholar, professor, Buddhist leader and diplomat, fell on April 23. His excellent store-house of knowledge regarding Pali, Buddhism, Buddhist Civilisation, not to mention English, Latin, Greek and french languages, was unique.

Born on November 8, 1899 at Malamulla, Panadura, his father was a well-known Ayurvedic physician, Ayur. Dr. M. S. Pieris Malalasekera.

As a school boy, young George Pieris Malalasekera as he was known then, was sent to St. John's College, Panadura, for his English education. It was a leading college in the English medium under the principalship of Cyril Jansz, an educationist of repute during the colonial era.

At present it is named after him as a mark of respect - Cyril Jansz Vidyalaya. After receiving his education in that school from 1907-17, he joined the Medical College, Colombo to qualify as a doctor with the then diploma - L.M.S. (Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery, equivalent to the present degree of M.B.B.S).

The death of his father cut short his medical studies. Circumstances compelled him to give up his hopes of becoming a medical doctor. By following a correspondence course from England, he passed the B.A. (London) examination, 1919 externally in the first division. His subjects were English, Latin, Greek and French. He was the youngest candidate to obtain the Bachelor of Arts degree in the British empire in that year with a first class.

Coming under the influence of Buddhist renaissance of Srimath Angarika Dharmapala, he changed his foreign names of George and Pieris to those of Gunapala Piyasena and henceforth came to be known as G. P. (Gunapala Piyasena) Malalasekera. He took to teaching at Ananda College, Colombo, with his B.A. (London) under the principalship of P. de S. Kularatne. Both of them were the architects of the Sinhala national costume.

In quick succession Malalasekera rose up to be the Vice Principal and acting Principal of Ananda. In 1923, he proceeded to join the University of London and obtained the two post-graduate degrees of M.A. and Ph.D simultaneously in 1925, in oriental languages majoring in Pali.

His thesis was 'Pali Literature in Sri Lanka'. On his return to the motherland in 1926, he was appointed Principal of Nalanda Vidyalaya, Colombo.

Shortly afterwards, he succeeded Ven. Suriyagoda as lecturer in the then University College, Colombo to lecture in English on Sinhala, Pali and Sanskrit for the London degree examinations. When the University of Ceylon was founded in 1942, he became the Professor of Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit and Buddhist Civilisation. In course of time he was the Dean, Faculty of Oriental Studies and Editor-in-Chief of the Buddhist Encylopaedia. His research on Buddhism and Buddhist Civilisation is a class by itself - excellent - locally and abroad.

His contribution by way of research papers and publications to the Pali Text Society of London under the distinguished patronage of scholars like Rhys David and Miss I. B. Harner are stupendous, voluminous and highly knowledgable. From 1927 twice he was elected the Joint Secretary of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress. Thrice he was the Vice-President and functioned as its President from 1939-1957.

During his tenure of office, he saw to it that this congress got constructed a magnificent-storeyed building for its headquarters at Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo-7. He took a delight in the activities of the Viharamahadevi Girls' Home, Biyagama and was responsible for the establishment of boys' homes at Panadura and Ja-Ela. During his presidency of the Buddhist Congress for 25 years, he was fortunate to address 20 of its annual sessions. His 'magnum opus' or great work is the famous 'Gunapala Sinhala-English Dictionary'. Of equal importance is the Pali dictionary - Sinhala-English. An ardent member of the Ceylon Asiatic Society, he was conferred honorary degrees from the reputed universities in the UK, France, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma). He represented our country at several parleys abroad notably, Conference on Living Religions (1924 - London), Conference on World Religious (1936 - London), Association of Occidental (Western) and Oriental Philosophers (Hawaii - 1949), Association of Indian Philosophers - India, meeting of the Pakistani Philosophers (1953 - Karachi), and the Seminar on Religions for Peace, (San Francisco, USA, 1965). So numerous were the essays, write-ups, literary contributions he made and radio talks delivered over Buddhist, religious and cultural matters and Social service assignments. He was the founder president of the World Fellowship of Buddhists inaugurated within the hallowed precincts of the 'Sri Dalada Maligawa' (Temple of The Tooth Relic) Kandy in 1950 at the suggestion of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress.

From 1950-58, he held that exalted position in that internationally famous institution. Dr. Malalasekera was appointed the first High Commissioner for Sri Lanka to the USSR (Soviet Russia) in 1958 by Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike when he opened up ambassadorial or diplomatic connections with socialist countries such as Russia, China, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia etc.

Subsequently, he functioned as the High Commissioner in Canada and was our UN Representative in New York. Finally, he was the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in the UK.

In 1967, he returned to the motherland to accept the highest post in the field of higher education as the chairman of the National Higher Education Commission which responsible post he held till 1971.

A virtuous, erudite, unostentatious, religious-minded, pious, mild-mannered gentleman with an impeccable character, he breathed his last on April 23, 1973, - 30 years ago. Of his brilliant three children - two daughters and one son, one daughter excelled in Western music (piano) and the other daughter became a science graduate whilst the only son Vijaya studied law at the University of Cambridge and was called to the English Bar as Barrister-at-Law. He hold a very high position in the sphere of personnel management in a reputed mercantile establishment.

May Dr. G. P. Malalasekera attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana."

[Quelle: -- Zugriff am 2006-03-03]

In seiner Dissertation

Malalasekera, G. P. (Gunapala Piyasena) <1899 - 1973>: The Pāliliterature of Ceylon. -- Colombo : Gunasena, 1928

schreibt der Autor zu den Pāli-Chroniken [S. 130 -146]:

"Buddhaghosa and his fellow-labourers were exploring the field of commentarial literature, and compiling the result of their researches so that the word of the Buddha might be known in what they held to be its pristine purity, not only by the people of Ceylon -- who were specially favoured by the presence in their midst of a genuinely orthodox and traditional interpretation of the Dhamma, handed down in their own vernacular -- but also by the many millions in other countries, another type of literary effort was slowly evolving in the shape of Pāli chronicles, recording the history of Lanka, and, what was much more important to the chroniclers themselves, the vicissitudes and the triumphs of the Buddhist faith. Many centuries later, after the labours of these historians had been almost forgotten and had sunk very largely into oblivion, a great stir was caused among students of historical research, when about the year 1826 the discovery was made and communicated to Europe that, whilst the history of India was only to be conjectured from myths and elaborated from dates on copper grants, or from fading inscriptions on rocks or columns, Ceylon was in possession of continuous and written chronicles, rich in authentic facts, not only presenting a connected history of the island itself, but also yielding valuable materials for elucidating that of India. At the moment when Prinsep was deciphering the then mysterious inscriptions of Hindustan and Western India, and when Csoma de Koros was unrolling the Buddhist records of Thibet, and Hodgson those of Nepal, a fellow-labourer of kindred genius, indefatigable in his energy and distinguished equally by his abilities and by his modest display of the same, was successfully exploring these Pāli chronicles of Ceylon. He was George Turnour of the Ceylon Civil Service, and the annals of historical research in later years bear ample testimony to the remarkable evidence his work furnished in elucidating the earlier history of Southern Asia. Since Tumour's day many scholars of repute, both in the East and in the West, have devoted their time and energies to the task of learning more about these chronicles, testing the accuracy of their statements and trying to unravel with their aid something of the earlier history of the Indian Peninsula. What is attempted here is merely to give a brief outline of the researches of such scholars.

The two chief chronicles of Ceylon are the Dīpa-vamsa and the Mahā-vamsa, the former by an unknown author in the fourth century, and the latter by an Elder of the Buddhist Church, Mahānāma by name, and written in the fifth century A.D. We saw, in the second chapter of this treatise, that  members of the Sangha had been, from the earliest times, in  the habit of recording noteworthy events in the Order, and  attempting to keep a continuous history of their activities. Such, for example, are the records of the last two chapters of the Cullavagga. When Buddhism was introduced into Ceylon  and a branch of the Sangha established in the island, the Ceylonese Bhikkhus followed the example of their predecessors in Jambūdvīpa and handed down, in succession in the Church, historical accounts of the Order. The zeal for keeping such  records of their doings does not seem to have been confined to the Order alone ; from time to time archaeologists have discovered, amongst the cherished possessions of distinguished  families of the Sinhalese gentry, authentic accounts of their doings handed down from father to son, faithfully preserved and brought up to date by each succeeding generation. Thus, in a copy of the Rājāvaī-sangraha (which is an abridged Rājāvaliya) written down to the reign of Kīrti Srī Rājasimha, and now forming part of the library of the late Hugh Nevill,  there is attached to the end of the book a separate account of the family of one Yatihelagala Polvatte Vidāne, in whose possession the copy was found. The Vidāne's family holds descent from the Bodhidhara princes who accompanied the branch of the Sacred Bo-tree to Ceylon, and settled down there. The present account is composed in much later language, but it is clearly based on older records and contains accounts of the doings of the family from quite early times. It is useful as showing the nature of personal records kept by the Sinhalese, from which the various histories were afterwards compiled, suppressing matter of private interest alone.

4.1. Dīpavamsa

The Dīpa-vamsa, as was mentioned above, is not associated with the name of any special author, and represents the earliest of the chronicles now extant. It is, as we shall see presently, the outcome of a fairly large number of previous works, no one of which had any special author, and is the last of the literary works of Ceylon which can be assigned to a period during which no books had special authors. Every ancient country, at the beginning of its literary activity, has such a period, and the Dīpa-vamsa marks the close of a very important epoch -- important for us in settling the literary chronology -- an epoch of universal anonymity, when every work was the outcome of the literary industry of a whole school. After the date of the Dīpa-vamsa, books, as a rule, were written by one man, and his authorship was openly acknowledged.

There is an interesting passage in the introduction of the Mahā-vamsa-tīkā which sheds considerable light on how the chronicles, as we have them now, came to be composed in Pāli verse. The author tells us that up to the time when the Mahd-vamsa was compiled there existed in the Mahāvihara, written in Sinhalese, a Sīhala-Mahāvamsatthakathā, beginning from 

"the visits of the Buddha to Ceylon, accounts of the arrival of the relics of the Bodhi-tree ; the histories of the convocations and of the schisms of the Theras ; the introduction of Buddhism into the island, the colonization by Vijaya and all that was known and recorded by the pious men of old (Porānā) connected with the supreme and well-defined history of those unrivalled dynasties". 

And the Mahā-vamsa itself was an attempt at 

"an imitation of the history composed by the Mahāvihāra fraternity ... In this work the object aimed at is -- setting aside the Sinhalese language (in which the former history was written) -- to write in Māgadhi. Whatever the matters may be which are contained in the Atthakathā. without suppressing any part thereof, rejecting the dialect only, this work is composed in the supreme Māgadhi language, which is thoroughly purified from all imperfections ... I will celebrate the dynasties (vamsa) perpetuated from generation to generation ; illustrious from the commencement and lauded by many bards ; like unto a garland strung with every variety of flowers ". 

The main record on which the Dīpa-vamsa (and later the Mahā-vamsa) were based was this Sīhala Mahāvamsatthakathā, sometimes referred to as the Sīhalatthakathā and the Porānatthiakathā, sometimes referred to simply as the Atthakathā.

Besides this the Mahā-vamsa-tīkā mentions also the following works which contained historical materials : 

  1. Uttaravihāra-atthakathā and the Uttaravihāra-mahāvamsa
  2. Vinayatthakathā
  3. Dīpavamsatthakathā
  4. Sīmā-kathā, 
  5. Cetiya and Mahā-cetiya-vamsa-atthakathā
  6. Mahābodhi-vamsakathā, 
  7. Sumedha-kathā, and 
  8. Sahassavatthu-atthakathā

As far as we know, none of these works are now extant, but their names give some indication of the nature of their contents.

  • The first were the chronicles of the Uttaravihāra fraternity, 
  • the third a commentary on the Dīpa-vamsa
  • the fourth evidently a description of the boundaries of the Mahavihāra, 
  • the fifth accounts of the dagobas erected in Ceylon, especially the Mahāthūpa of Dutthagaāani, 
  • and the last a collection of legends and folk tales. 
  • The Sumedha-kathā was, perhaps, a life-history of the Buddha, from the time when he received vivarana as the ascetic Sumedha at the hands of the Dīpankara Buddha many, many aeons before.

If that surmise be correct, the later Buddhavamsatthakathā was evidently based on the Sumedha-kathā. The presence of an Uttaravihāra-mahāvamsa in the list is very interesting, because it shows that each of the Sangha communities was in the habit of preserving special records of their own community. Judging from the quotations given of it in the Mahā-vamsa-tīkā, the Uttaravihāra-mahāvamsa seems to have differed from the Mahavihāra chronicle not so much in its general scheme as in matters of detail, and it also, apparently, contained much historical material not found in the other. The numerous references made in the Mahā-vamsa-tīkā to these works lead us to conclude that, even at the time of the composition of the tīkā, there was still in existence a rich literature of collected works, carefully preserved in the different monasteries, most of them forming part of the Atthakathā, the commentaries to the canonical scriptures. And quite early in the literary history of Ceylon a secondary literature had sprung up, where single subjects, such, for example, as the history of the Bodhi-tree or the erection of the thūpas, were taken out of the original works, and made the theme of connected, continuous chronicles.

The Dīpa-vamsa represents the earliest attempt, so far as we know, to treat of these subjects in a compact, concise manner, forming one continuous story. It is a conglomeration of myths, legends, tales, and history, and the further we go back in time the more mythical it becomes, put together from various traditional sources, in an unaided struggle to create a composite whole from materials existing scattered in various places. This accounts for the outward form of the Dīpa-vamsa, its clumsiness and incorrectness of language and metre, its repetitions, omissions and general fragmentary character. And this very incompleteness of its composition, and its want of style help us in fixing the date of its compilation. It contains whole series of verses giving the main parts of the story, arranged as mnemonics and inartistically put together, called by Geiger Memory Verses (Memorial verse).

Often different versions are given of the same story, showing that they were derived from different sources and also, possibly, because of a desire to keep the various traditions as they had been, more or less authorized, with due reverence for their antiquity, and to hand them on unaltered to later generations. 

The Dīpa-vamsa was not the work of a single author, but of several generations, a succession of rhapsodies, added to by succeeding authors, as the Introduction tells us, 

" twisted into a garland of history from generation to generation, like flowers of various kinds." 

It was, perhaps, originally meant for oral recitation, and so arranged that several of the more important subjects came up before the listener again and again, gradually impressing the full facts on his memory. If that were so, what appears inartistic and clumsy in the written work would appear highly natural when it was handed down orally. There was also, evidently, a commentary to the Dīpa-vamsa, giving details of the points raised in the mnemonic verses, for the Mahā-vamsa-tīkā refers to a Dīpavamsatthakathā, and mention is made of it by the Mahā-vamsa author himself, as having been recited for him by order of king Dhātusena at the festival of Mahinda.

Nevill, in his Manuscript Catalogue referred to above draws attention to the "unique consequence given to nuns " all throughout the Dīpa-vamsa, and is of opinion that it seems to afford a clue to its authorship.

 "It can scarcely be a record of the Theravāda fraternity of the Mahāvihāra, because in the very reign in which it was put forward by royal patronage (Dhātusena's) Mahānāma set about to supersede it by his Mahā-vamsa. It certainly is not a record of the Dhammaruci sect of the Abhayagiri community, because it passes over the history of that wealthy, royal foundation with a well-calculated but short notice that could offend no one. But it dilates on a third society, the community of Theravādin nuns. It would seem that Mahānāma was jealous of their fame, for he tells us nothing even of the still famous Mahilā, daughter of Kāvantissa and sister of Gemunu. ... In chapter xv there is a detailed account of original missionary nuns coming from India, learned in the Dhamma and the Vinaya; in chapter xvii unusual stress is laid on previous Bo-trees brought by Rucanandā, Kanakadattā, and Sudhammā, although Mahānāma pays them no attention. In chapter xviii there was evidently a list of Bhikkhus preceding that of the Bhikkhunīs. If this was recited by the monks, it could scarcely have dropped out, while it would naturally be omitted by the nuns who wished to impress on the audience the importance of their Order.

The poem goes on to describe how the missionaries from India taught Vinaya, Sutta, and Abhidhamma. In the reign of Abhaya, however, Sumanā taught Saddhamma-vamsa (religious history), and Mahilā was also learned in it. In Saddhātissa's reign no historian is mentioned among the Bhikkhunīs; but in Valagambā's reign the nuns boasted of Sivalā and Mahāruhā from India, who were both historians. In the reigns of Kutikanna and his son Abhaya they were proud of Nagamittā, ordained in Lankā, and also described as well-versed in religious history. After her and before the conclusion of the poem in Mahāsena's reign there flourished among the nuns Sanhā and Samuddā, distinguished for their knowledge in the Saddhamma-vamsa. The book Saddhamma-vamsa gives the names of eight historians and rhapsodists among a list of seventy-two nuns who taught the Dhamma and the Vinaya. I take it as almost certain that, in the reign of Gemunu, Sumanā taught the vamsa for the first time among the nuns. Princess Mahilā embodied the Sinhalese tradition of her family with other traditions handed down from Sanghamittā and her companions. Sivalā and Maharuhā from India revised this, and very probably formed it into the unpolished almost aboriginal Pāli we now possess, to which additions were made by Nāgamittā, and later by Sanhā and Samuddā."

This suggestion about the authorship of the Dīpa-vamsa is very ingenious and deserves careful consideration. I am not aware of its having been published anywhere yet, and hence I have quoted it in full. It is not possible with the information at our disposal to come to any definite conclusion. There are certain minor points -- which do not affect the main argument at all -- in Nevill's statements which are not strictly correct, e.g. that Mahānāma composed the Mahā-vamsa out of jealousy of the reputation of the nuns. Mahānāma lived in an age when the clumsy, inartistic diction of the Dīpa-vamsa, with its faulty arrangement, would not suffice for the edification of the learned, and he set about to compile a work which was more in keeping with the literary development of his time.

The Dīpa-vamsa, like, the Mahā-vamsa, finished its record with the death of king Mahāsena. Whether this was due to the Mahā-vamsa having superseded it after that date, or whether, as Oldenberg suggests, the authors stopped at the epoch of Mahāsena's reign, where the past destinies of their spiritual abode, the Mahā-vihāra, were divided from the present by the success of a hostile party in obtaining the king's sanction for destroying the Mahā-vihāra, we cannot say. I am inclined to the former view. The Mahā-vamsa fulfilled all the purposes of the Dīpa-vamsa, and better, and there was no reason for its further continuance in the old form. I agree with Oldenberg in assigning some time between the beginning of the fourth and the first third of the fifth century as the date of the completion of the Dīpa-vamsa in its present form. It could not have been closed before the beginning of the fourth century, because its narrative extends till about A.D. 302. Buddhaghosa quotes several times from the Dīpa-vamsa, but his quotations differ in some details from our version. In the Mahā-vamsa we are told that Dhātusena (459-77) ordered the Dīpa-vamsa to be recited in public at the annual Mahinda festival, so that by that time the Dīpa-vamsa had been completed. After that date it fell into disuse, its glory outdone by the more brilliant work of Mahānāma; but it seems to have been studied till much later, because Dhammakitti III of the Âranyakavāsi sect, quotes it in his Saddhamma-sangaha with great respect as a work of much merit and immense importance.

4.2. Mahāvamsa

The beginning of the fifth century saw an important development in the literary life of Ceylon through Buddhaghosa's activity. Pāli was once more definitely established as the ecclesiastical and literary language of the Buddhists. Buddhaghosa himself mastered the language fully and wrote in it fluently and voluminously. His works soon found their way into every monastery, where they were assiduously perused, portions of them being learned by heart. Buddhaghosa's works marked the turning point between the ancient and the modern epochs of Pāli literature in Ceylon, and with his compositions as their model his successors were soon able to master Pāli grammar and style with perfect ease, and, with his compilations as their background, even to improve upon them. Many fruitless attempts at Pāli composition must have marked the transition from the inartistic stilted metre of the Dīpa-vamsa to the elegant, literary fluency of the Mahā-vamsa verses. And once the mastery over literary form had been attained, its possessors were anxious to use it. Materials for the exercise of their powers were at hand in plenty. Pāli had once more gained its ascendency over Sinhalese, and it was their ambition, as so many authors of this period tell us, in the process of their works, to set aside the Sinhalese language, reject the dīpa-bhāsā, and compose their works in the

"supreme Māgadhi language, which is the mother of all tongues, sweet to the ear and delightful to the heart, and cooling to the senses". 

They found the works of the old authors full of imperfections ; defects as well of prolixity as of brevity and inaccuracies of detail. They had all respect for the old wine, but it was contained in primitive jars, antiquated, out of fashion, and covered with cobwebs, and they desired to put it into new bottles, polished and shining and full of artistic decoration. But it was old wine all the same, and a certain flavour of conservatism remained for quite a long time. Thus, when Mahānāma came to write his work the Mahā-vamsa

"replete with information on every subject, comprehending the amplest details of all important events, like unto a splendid and dazzling garland strung wit.i every variety of flowers, rich in colour, taste and scent . . . avoiding the defects of the ancients,"

we find that he could not quite rise above his material. He strove to confine himself to his sources to the best of his power. Often he adopted the Pāli verses of the originals unchanged in his work, especially when they appeared to him to be of an authoritative character. He went to the same sources as the Dīpa-vamsa, and in many passages the two works agree word for word.

Very little is known of the author of the Mahā-vamsa. In the concluding passage of the Mahā-vamsa-tīkā, he is named Mahānāma, and it is said of him that he lived in a cell built by the General Dīghasanda who was the commander of the army in Devānampiya-Tissa's reign, and the vihāra founded by him bore the name of Dīghasanda-senapati-parivena, and belonged to the Mahāvihāra. Ceylon tradition assumes that this Mahānāma was the uncle of king Dhātusena, who is said to have lived in the habitation of Dīghasanda. Turnour (Introduction, liv) accepts this tradition, but Geiger is convinced that Tumour was mistaken. 

"I am fully convinced," says he, " that' we must entirely separate the Mahānāma, author of Mahā-vamsa, from the uncle of Dhātusena."

I am not so " fully convinced ". Geiger's chief argument is chronological. Dhātusena entered the monastic life under the protection of his uncle (Mahānāma) in the reign of Damila Pandu. The uncle was "at that time a Thera" (italics are mine), and "thus in all probability considerably older than his nephew". Dhātusena came to the throne in 436. The transference of Sīhagiri Vihāra to Mahānāma, presbyter of the Dīghasanda Vihāra (M. V., xxxix, 42) was early in the reign of Moggallāna I (497-515). Geiger's objection is that the reign Mahānāma to whom the Sīhagiri Vihāra was transferred, and who was our author, cannot be the same as Dhātusena's uncle, because the latter could not have lived so long. Why ? Because he was already a Thera when Dhātusena entered the Order somewhere between A.D. 436 and 441, and must therefore have been comparatively old. I believe that this inference is unjustified, for, though Dhātusena's uncle is referred to as Thera, that does not prove he was then a Thera. When the verses came to be written he had come to the Thera age and was naturally referred to as such. (If we say that when King George was five years old he was a boy of sweet temper, it does not necessarily mean that he was king at the age of five.) If Mahānāma had been, say, thirty years old at the time of Dhātusena's Ordination, he would have been about ninety, at the most, when Sīhagiri Vihāra was transferred to him, an age by no means impossible. So, while I agree, therefore, that the evidence at our disposal is not sufficient to establish the identity, I hold that the Ceylon tradition has not yet been proved false.

Nothing further is known about the Mahā-vamsa author. An inscription at Buddhagayax mentions a Mahānāma among Ceylon teachers in the following succession : Bhara, Rāhula, Upasena, Mahānāma, Upasena (II), Mahānāma (II). The first Upasena may well refer to the author of the Mahā-Niddesa-Atthakathā, and the first Mahānāma to our author. The date of this inscription is not. however, definitely known. Of Mahānāma's work Geiger says : 

"The Mahā-vamsa is already worthy the name of a true epic. It is the recognized work of a poet, and we are able to watch this poet at work in his workshop. Although he is quite dependent on his materials,, which he is bound to follow as closely as possible, he deals with them critically, perceives their shortcomings and irregularities, and seeks to improve and to eliminate."

But though the level of epic poetry was reached with the Mahā-vamsa, the process of literary development had not yet come to its highest attainment. It was still too early for that to be possible, so soon after Buddhaghosa's work had given fresh impetus to Pāli studies. Even the materials of the old chronicles yet remained unexhausted, and later authors seized upon them and continued what Mahānāma had begun so well. Mahānāma was no genius, he was too much hidebound by tradition, and his work cannot rank as a literary performance of the first order ; yet his services to the cause of Pāli literature, and to historical studies of later generations, were immense, and to us invaluable.

After Mahānāma's death the chronicle was continued by later authors. The history of the island from the reign of Mahāsena, A.D. 302, to the time of Pandita Parākramabahu of Dambadeniya (1240-75) was compiled by Dhammakitti II under royal patronage. Rhys Davids questions the accuracy of this statement.

"Each new chronicler hurried over the kings preceding the one under whom he wrote, and then enlarged at length on the events of that monarch's reign. There seems to be a break at the eventful chapter of Parākrama the Great's reign, while the following kings are hurried over until Parākrama of Dambadeniya, who occupies seven chapters. Perhaps there is some confusion between the two Dhammakittis, the one the author of Dātha-vamsa in Parākrama the Great's reign, and the other the author of a part of the Mahā-vamsa in the reign of Parākrama of Dambadeniya. The latter seems evidently later in style."

There is no evidence to support this contention, and until such evidence is forthcoming, we shall have to rest content with tradition. The name of the author by whom the history of Ceylon was written from the reign of the Dambadeniya king to that of Pandita Parākrama-Bāhu of Hastisailapura (modern Kurunegala) has not yet been ascertained. The chronicle from that date until A.D. 1758 to the death of Kīrti Sri Rājasimha was compiled by Tibbotuvāve Sumangala Thera, and it has since been continued to 1815 (the date of the cession of Ceylon to the British) by the late Hikkaduvê Sri Sumangala and Batuvantudāve Pandita.

4.3. Mahāvamsatīkā

There is extant a tīkā on the Mahā-vamsa, written by an author of whom we know nothing. In the closing words of his work he calls it the Vamsattha-ppakāsinī. The Ceylon tradition assigns it to Mahānāma, author of the Mahā-vamsa itself. But it is improbable that the two authors were identical. On the other hand, Geiger assigns it to the tenth century. The author of the tīkā distinguishes himself quite clearly from the older writer by calling the latter ācariya. It is clear that many years had elapsed between the original work and its tīkā, sufficiently long to allow the name of a village to have undergone change. The tīkā also mentions the king Dāthopatissa II (" the nephew " to distinguish him from the older king of the same name), and it cannot, therefore, have been composed earlier than, roughly speaking, A.D. 670. But I cannot agree with Geiger in saying that the Mahā-vamsa-tīkā belongs to the period between the years 1000 and 1250. In my opinion the date is far too late. Geiger's one argument for so late a date is a quotation from the Mahābodhi-vamsatthakathā (the only one so far traced) found in the Mahā-vamsa-tīkā. He identifies this atthakathā with the Mahābodhi-vamsa of Upatissa, which he assigns to the tenth century. Now the Mahābodhi-vamsa, as we have it, is admittedly a translation of an original work. Upatissa says so definitely in his proem, and there is no means of ascertaining whether the Sīhala Mahābodhi-vamsa referred to there was identical with the atthakathā mentioned in the M.V. tīkā, or whether it was not itself a later compilation in Sinhalese of an earlier Mahābodhi-vamsa-atthakathā. There is no need to deny that the Pāli Mahābodhi-vamsa is a later work, written, perhaps, as late as the tenth century, and the language certainly points to some such date, as we shall see later. It is quite possible that both the quotation in the M.V. tīkā and the passage in the Mahābodhi-vamsa were drawn from the same source directly or indirectly (if indirectly, through the Sinhalese Mahābodhi-vamsa). I think, therefore, that the date assigned to the M.V. tīkā by Geiger rests on very slender evidence.

And not this alone. A perusal of the M.V. tīkā shows that it adds to the Mahā-vamsa a not inconsiderable amount of material of legends, as well as of folklore, and these were drawn, as we saw in our discussion of the Mahā-vamsa originals, not only from the sources whence the author of the Mahā-vamsa derived his materials, but from others equally old -- like the Mahāvamsatthakathā, Dīpavamsatthakathā, and the Uttara-vihāratthakathā. We saw how very soon after Buddhaghosa compiled his commentaries in Pāli from the materials he gathered out of the exegetical works written in Sinhalese the original Sinhalese commentaries fell into disuse, and, before long, completely disappeared, because it was found that they no longer served any useful purpose, their function having been taken up by Buddhaghosa's works. Now the Mahā-vamsa bore to the Sinhalese vamsatthakathā exactly the same relation as Buddhaghosa's commentaries did to the scriptural atthakathā. It was 'a concise and relatively accurate compilation from various sources, avoiding their imperfections and containing practically all their details.

We may, I think, legitimately presume, therefore, .that the Sinhalese vamsatthakathās did not long survive Mahānāma's work. And in view of the fact that at the time the author of the tīkā compiled his work the original sources were still being studied, or, at least, were extant, his- period could not have been as much as five centuries later than Mahānāma's. Since Mahānāma lived in the sixth century A.D., I would assign the author of the tīkā to the seventh or eighth century. I am also supported in this by the name of a second Mahānāma appearing in the Buddhagaya inscription referred to above, in the succession Upasena I, Mahānāma I, Upasena II, Mahānāma II; I believe, also, that the later Mahānāma was identical with the author of the Patisambhidā-magg-atthakathā. The identity of the name, and the proximity in time, of the two authors would account for the Ceylon tradition which regards the Vamsattha-ppakāsinī (M. V. tīkā) as a work of the Mahā-vamsa author himself.

Much has been written on the value of the Dīpa-vamsa and the Mahā-vamsa as works of historical accuracy and on their usefulness in unravelling the history of Southern Asia. The greater the care and the attention that have been given to the statements in these works the more evident has it become to students of historical research, that they are of immense importance in arriving at a correct understanding of the mysterious mazes of Indian chronology. Vincent Smith early in his career called both works "silly fictions of mendacious monks ", and wrote of them : 

"I reject absolutely the Ceylonese chronology prior to the reign of Dutthagāmini in about 160 B.C. The undeserved credit given to the statements of the monks of Ceylon has been a great hindrance to the right understanding of ancient Indian history."

 ut he was sufficiently convinced before his death to write about the date of the Buddha's death, which forms one of the most important cruces of Indian chronology : 

"The new reading of the Khāravela inscription ... if correct, obliges us to move back all the Saisunāga dates more than fifty years, and therefore supports the Ceylon date for the death of the Buddha, viz. 544 or 543 B.C. It may be argued that traditions preserved in Māgadha should be more trustworthy than those recorded at a later date by monks in distant Ceylon ; but there is ample evidence of the fact that Gautama Buddha was contemporary with both Bimbisāra or Srenika and his son Ajātasatru or Kūnika, and, this being so, I feel compelled, until further light is thrown on the subject, to accept, tentatively, the earlier date,. 543 B.C." 

Geiger, in his invaluable Introduction to his translation of the Mahā-vamsa, has brought together ample evidence from external sources to justify the faith which later-day scholars have been induced to place in the Ceylonese chronicles. In their details, it is true, they manifest the same love of the marvellous, the same credulity and superstition, the same exaggeration in description, the same adulation of kings and princes, as is met with in the annals and religious history of nations called civilized, Christian and non-Christian, of ancient and modern Europe. Their chief defect, in my opinion, is that, while they inform us of the history of monarchs and their deeds, and their endowments for the glorification of the religion, they make no mention of the everyday lives of the people, the many millions who made history in those ancient times. But that would not permit us " to throw away the child with the bath ". With all their drawbacks, common, however, to annals and religious histories of all nations, their chronology is admirably accurate, and neither Brahmanism nor even the Sanskrit language can show any work of an unquestionable date with the shadow of a claim to their honesty of intention and their accuracy of chronological record."

[Quelle: Malalasekera, G. P. (Gunapala Piyasena) <1899 - 1973>: The Pāliliterature of Ceylon. -- Colombo : Gunasena, 1928. -- S. 130 - 146.]

Zu Einleitung, Teil 2: Mahāvamsa und Tradition/Ideologie