The Pali language is unique insofar as it is the only language in the world that has been explained to signify the sayings of a single person, Gautama, the Buddha. This relationship with the founder of the Buddhist .sect has naturally determined the content of the vast body of literature known as the Pali literature. Historians have rightly classified its scope as canonical and non-canonical. Pali being the 'saying of the Buddha', literature in Pali could be nothing else than canonical in essence.
There is however no evidence to prove that the Buddha spoke Pali. The earliest inscriptional records of the great Buddhist monarch, Asoka are all in different Prakrit dialects. Still, on the basis of the Tipitakas, Pali has been recognised as the original medium of Buddhistic teachings. The entire canonical literature is composed in Pali and originated in India, the homeland of the Buddha. ln a general way we may hold that the canonical literature held sway in India till the 5th century A. D. Of the various sects of Buddhists, the Sthaviravadins or Theravadins were exclusively the up- holders of the Pali tradition.
The scene of the later development of the Pali literature shifts from India to Ceylon and Burma. lt was here that since circa 5th century A. D., a great literary activity was initiated, most probably by the great Buddhaghosa who went over from India to Ceylon and settled in the great Vihara of Anuradhapur. He was a prolific writer and composed the vast body of Atthakatha literature. Buddhaghosa was a great master of the Buddhist lore of India and that of Ceylon. He translated many tracts from the Ceylonese into Pali. Though far removed from the time and place of origin of Pali, Buddhaghosa was a perfect master of the Pali language. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it was chiefly his works, composed in Ceylon, that constitute the non-canonical literature in Pali, Buddhaghosa not only rejuvenated the Pali language but also set an example for others to emulate. As a result, new writings in Pali were attempted and apart from the earlier two varieties of canonical and non-canonical, a third variety developed which may be called the poetical literature.
Pali might have been limited in the beginning to the sayings of the great master but as soon as it developed as a medium of communication, its scope went on enlarging. In its course of development, the powerful Sanskrit played a role from the very beginning, however much the dogmatic adherents of Buddhism might attempt to negate this. Similarly, the languages of Ceylon, Burma, Thailand etc. also influenced its development. The poetic literature in Pali bears ample proof of these various influences both in its form and content Broadly speaking, Poetic Pali literature includes. in its scope, apart from typical poetic compositions viz: Jinacarita, Jinalamkara, Pajjamadhu, Telakatahagatha etc., the Vamsa literature and works on grammar, metrics, rhetorics and lexicography. Impact of Sanskrit is unmistakably clear on the design, style and execution of these works. Even on a cursory reading, the reader is reminded of the style of Banabhatta in prose and that of Bharavi and Magha in poetry.
Pajjamadhu, 'the Verse Honey' belongs to the 13th century and to Ceylon. The author Buddhappiya, like the great Buddhaghosa, migrated from the Cola country to Ceylon and composed 104 verses in praise of the Buddha and his wisdom. He definitely modelled his ornate poem on the Sanskrit stotra-kavya and utilised all the poetic embellishments in it. As a 'composition of the 13th century, the short poem deserves comparison with the contemporary Sanskrit poems. The poem could have been easily christened Buddha-Sataka after the Sataka variety of Sanskrit poetry.
Literary trends in later Pali literature deserves scholarly attention. Interaction of Sanskrit literary ideas over Pali and impact of indigenous languages of Ceylon, Burma and other countries in the shaping of Pali literature which originated in India but was transplanted to these soils, are definitely very interesting subjects of investigation and proper assessment.
Dr. K. C. Jain, the Head of the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies in the Banaras Hindu University deserves congratulations for his rendering of the Pajjamadhu in Hindi along with a very valuable introduction. While tracing the course of development of the Pali literature both in India and Ceylon, the learned author has touched all the salient points, and his assessment of the achievement of this body of literature is very valuable. Scholars, I am sure, will welcome this work as a first attempt at an evaluation of Ceylon's contribution to Pali literature.
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