The work The Glimpses of Pali literature' presents for the first time a critical study and translation of the Gandhavarpsa or 'Book History' of Nandapanna of Burma. This forest-dwelling Bhikkhu gives a brief history of the Canonical and Non- Canonical books written in Sri Lanka and India (including further India) in his Gandhavamsa. Thus this text becomes an important cultural link between India and Burma. and India and Sri Lanka.
Dr. Asha Das, Rtd. Reader. Department of Pali, Calcutta University, and also a member of the Governing Body of the Maha Bodhi Society of India, has contributed several research articles to various Journals in India and abroad. She is the author of-
(i) Baudha Dharma O Rabindranath;
(ii) Bangla Sahitye Bauddha Dharma O Samskriti :
(iii) Triser Sasastra Abhyutthan;
(iv) The Pajjamadhu – A Critical Study:
(v) Ananda- The Man and Monk.
(vi) A Literary Appraisal of Pali Poetical Works;
(vii) The Chakesadhatuvamsa;
(viii) Buddha Padamrta Madhuri :
(ix) Jatake Ram Katha O Bharat Kathar Swarup Vislesan ;
(x) Jataker Patabhumikaya Bangla Loka Sahitya :
(xi) Pancagati Dipanam :
(xii) Udakam Dehi (Pali trans. of Tagor's Chandalika).
She is now engaged in researches on the Maitreya Buddha in Art and Literature.
"The Chronicle of the Pali Book" is the title adopted for the present English translation of the Pali Gandhavamsa. It is a long-felt want of the students of Pali to go through and understand the subject matter of the Gandhavamsa composed by the Bhikkhu Nandapanna of Burma in the 18th century A.D. Being the first and only work of its type, it was well received everywhere in India, Ceylon and Burma and was quoted profusely in the publications of India and abroad. A very concise survey of all essential Pali books with the names of authors is given in the Gandhavamsa. The most interesting point to be noticed in the work is the 'Gandhakaralekhe lekhapananisamsadipana'. The author here justified that the spirited and wise persons who wrote the books or encouraged others to do it possessed boundless piety.
Some years ago, with a View to fulfill the urge of readers, I undertook the work of translation of the Gandhavamsa into English. Now I think that the work will present, at a glance, the full Vista of Pali literary domain in the light of the past historical research of the Bhikkhu Nandapanna and then I prepare my mind to publish the book. For the convenience of the readers I have added the Pali text in Roman script. I have also prepared three Appendices with the help of the "Index to the Gandhavamsa" by Mabel Bode from the JPTS 1896. In the present edition the basic study and analysis of the Text has been left in its original state although some minor corrections had to be made.
I am grateful enough to my honoured teachers Late Professors Dr. A. C. Banerjee and Dr. S. Sen Gupta for their interest they evinced in my works. My thanks are also due to Rev. Aggavamsa Mahasthavir. Dr. Dhrubabrata Bhattacharya ; Professor Dr. B. N. Chaudhury. Prof. B. M. Barua Senior Research Fellow. the Asiatic Society of Bengal; Dr. D. N. Banerjee, Reader, Burdwan University and Dr. B. Bhattacharya. Head of the Department of Pali, C.U. Finally, I take this opportunity to extend my heartfull thanks to Sri Prasanta Bhattacharya. Proprietor of Punthi Pustak for his Kind Co-operation in the quick publication of this noble book.
In Pali literature there is a quite well celebrated but brief text entitled as the "Gandhavamsa''. For the first time in 1886, it was published by Professor Minayeff in the Journal of the Pali Text Society, London. In his review the Editor remarked,
'The small but very interesting text called 'Book History' was found in Burma. In the present edition I have used two MSS".
(1) U. A manuscript is written in the Burmese character, and contains, besides the Pali text, a translation into Burmese. It belongs to the author of the translation-the monk U-khyen or Muninda, at Schwedowg near Prome. It consists of twenty seven leaves (ka-ji): ten lines to the leaf. The pali text ends on leaf Khah.
On leaf Ka are introduced the following verses, the work of the translator ;
Settham Sajjanasevitam Khemantabhnmanayakam /
Jatindaggam dhammam samgham vandami.
Sirasa m-aham // ma-kara-vipula pathyagatha /
samgitapotthakarulha vannita gandhakaraka /
yacera santavamsassa palaka mama garono // pathyavattam.
hatantarayam icc eva yam gandhavamsajotakam/
ajanam saramandehi tasma lekham tam nissayam //
Khantimettadupettassa niveravhassa uyyojam //
(2) M.A manuscript written in the same character, is the property of the editor, and comes from Prome. It is of twelve leaves (ka-kah), nine lines to the leaf, and contains only the Pali text without translation. It is full of clerical errors.
The present edition is taken chiefly from MS. U. The additions of MS. M, largely corrupted, are given in the notes.
This "Book History" relates in short the history of the Buddhist canons. Besides this it contains a sketch of the history of the more modern Pali works, for more detailed than that in the Sasana vamsa-dipo (Colombo, A. B. 2424) or in Sasana vamso". "(This list is published in my book "Buddhism" 1, P. 68.)"
Pali literature is marked by a significant richness, variety and continuity. From the 5th century before Christ to the 19th Century of the Christian Era, it has produced a wealth of literature, sacred and secular, poetic and Scientific, doctrinal and solemn. It has been directly or indirectly influenced the life and thought of the people of India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Tibet, Thailand, Japan, China etc. It has also given a new inspiration to modern European scholars.
It is unfortunate that before Nandapanna of Burma no history of Pali literature is available. As such, his most renowned work the Gandhavamsa ( the 'Book History') was a short but most necessary account of the Pali canonical literature and other Pali works of India, Ceylon and Burma based on Burmese manuscripts. One of the most serious researchers about the Pali literature of Burma is Mr. Bode. I quote here in support of my view, the following observations of this great scholar.
"Minayeff, to whom we owe the discovery and publication (to mention only one work) of the Gandhavamsa (Book History), written in Burma, a short but interesting account of the earlier Pali literature of Ceylon and Burma. The Gandhavamsa is unfortunately very sparing of details, and gives us little information as to the period of the works enumerates, but its help is most useful in settling some questions of authorship and place".
The Gandhavamsa falls into three main periods : (1) The first is Canonical which begins perhaps as early as 500 B. C. and extends in its latest phase to about 300 B. C. (2) The second stage is the Early Post -Canonical epoch. Early prose texts the Petakopadesa, the Nettippakarana, the Milindapanha and the early Commentaries are composed in this period. The character of its literature is creative, almost prosaic in form and theologically speculative in matter. They are final offshoots of canonical literature, (3) The third stage is the Later Post-Canonical period. The later chronicles, Atthakathas, Kavya works, medical texts, grammatical texts, poetics, prosody etc. are composed in this period. This was the era not only of reformation but also of new experiments. Many writers are influenced by Sanskrit language and literature at this time. A new horizon of thought is opened up ; a new order of writers are created.
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