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History of the Buddha's Relic Shrine

Berkwitz, Stephen C.



Buddhist chronicles have long been a subject of central importance in the study of Buddhism. But while scholars have acknowledged the importance of Theravada chronicles for reconstructing the history of Buddhism and South Asia, they have relied almost exclusively on Pali works such as the Mahavamsa as sources of historical information. In this book, Stephen Berkwitz offers the first complete English translation of the Buddhist chronicle called the Sinhala Thupavamsa, composed by Parakama Pandita in thirteenth century Sri Lanka. One of the first Buddhist histories of its kind to be written in the language of Sinhala, this work represents a substantially longer and embellished version of an older Pali language work called the Thupavamsa. Unlike the Pali sources that were composed by elites for learned audiences throughout the Buddhist world, this text is an important example of the large number of Buddhist histories written in local languages for popular consumption. From this work, we learn how elite Buddhist narratives were often refashioned into Sinhala works that drew upon stories of the past to edify and entertain a wider audience. As a text written in a literary dialect of the vernacular Sinhala language, the Sinhala Thupavamsa contains a richly descriptive account of how Buddhism spread outside of India, replete with poetic embellishments and interpolations not found in other accounts of those events. Aside from being an important literary work, the Sinhala Thupavamsa is a text of considerable historical and religious significance. The text is also among those works that inform public discussion and debate over the place of Buddhism in the Sri Lankan nation state and the role of Buddhist monks in contemporary politics. The publication of this translation for the first time in the west adds to the knowledge of how local Buddhist communities imagined and represented their religious and cultural heritages in written works.

Additional Information

  • Hardback
  • 304 Pages
  • Published: December 2006
  • ISBN: 0195301390
  • Series: Texts & Translations

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