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The Spread of Theravada Buddhism in South India (3rd Century B.C. upto 14th Century A.D.)

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Item Code: NAQ490
Author: Ven. Dr. Hindagala Gnanadhara Thero
Publisher: Notion Press
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9781642492149
Pages: 358 (43 B/W and Color Illustrations)
Other Details 11.00 X 8.00 inch
Weight 700 gm
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About the Book
It is surprising that the chronicle Mahavamsa fails to make any reference to the son of Asoka, Arahan Mahinda and Sri Lanka Bhikkus (monks) and Bhikkhunis (nuns), who propagated Buddhism in Tamil Nadu. Scholars like I.K. Sharma and Sathian Nathan lyar stated that Atahanta Mahinda functioned as the head of Tondamandalam Vihara at Kaveri Pattinam.

Reference to the Theravada Buddhist concept paticcasamuppada (causality), four noble truths and Tilakkhana suggest the widely prevalent Theravada Buddhism in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Scholars Srinivasan and Nilakanta Sastri established the birthplace of Buddhagosa, who arrived here in the 5th Century and composed 14 Pali commentaries, at Mahavihara in Anuradhapura, from a village called Moranam in Kanchipuram.

Traveller Hiuen Tsang stated that 10000 priests were in 100 monasteries in Tamil Nadu. Thirty-five plates of Buddha statues unearthed there were included in the text.

Ilankilli, brother of Kanchipuram Chola king Killivalavam, constructed a Temple with a chetiya (pagoda). Many Chola kings had Buddhist names like Buddhavarman and Asokavarman. They extended their patronage to Buddhism. Vajrabodhi, Bodhidharma and Dhammaruci propagated Buddhism in China, translating the Mayana Buddhist text to Chinese. The text also includes information given by scholars, clergymen and laymen of the 9th century, who were witnesses to the existence of Buddhism in Tamil Nadu.

About the Author
Dr. Hindagala Gnanadhara hails from a hamlet called Hindagla, which is in proximity to the renowned Peradeniya University of Sri Lanka.

He has an honorary degree in Comparative Religions and Buddhist Philosophy from Peradeniya University in 1986. He completed his masters at the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka in 1990.

The Indian government awarded him a scholarship under (I.C.C.R.) in 1992 in recognition of his talents. He obtained his M.Phil and PhD degrees within a short period from the University of Delhi.

The Ethicon Psychological Basis of the Concept of Gods was presented by him to the University of Delhi and was published in England in 2000. The Spread of Theravada Buddhism in South India was awarded Presidential Literary and Buddhist literary awards in 2016. He researched the origin of Pali, ancient Buddhist ruined cities and the history of Ilavas in Kerala. He published The Rise and Decline of Theravada Buddhism in Tamil Country (Kerala) in 2017.

He worked as a casual translator-cum-announcer for two years at All India Radio. He is an assistant lecturer in the University of Colombo.

I have heard the only difference between India and our country is that of the udders and drop of milk. It is apparent this comparison suits considering the formation of the physical outlook as well as the qualities and values of both countries.

No other country in the world has exercised the impact on the basis of religion, culture and politics on us than South India. There are a plethora of studies undertaken on these relations and impact. Still studies undertaken on the subject of Buddhism are scare, with the exception to the classical work written by the most Venerable Hissalle Dhammaratana Thero on the basis of a book written by a Tamil Scholar. Venerable Dr. Hindagala Gnanadhara's work related to the above subject can be considered the newest work written by a scholar.

Venerable Gnanadhara's selection of the South Indian region remaining there nearly for a decade is actually daring since it was exceedingly a risky undertaking at a time when a ruthless ethnic war was raging in the North & East to be engaged in a research work in the hostile Tamil region as a Sri Lankan Sinhalese, particularly as a Buddhist monk. This Venerable priest didn't risk his life at such appalling time not only to complete the research for his doctorate, for which he could have selected a practically easy sphere without risking his life, for which on the other hand, there were ample number of lecturers and professors in Delhi university but to bring hidden historical relations between South India and Sri Lanka.

If he selected a topic which could have been dealt within a library, the tedious and perilous South Indian sojourn would not have been necessary. Even the Venerable bhikkhu himself would recollect the exceeding danger to his own life roaming around Tamil Nadu where the people had deep hatred against every single Sinhalese. He as a true descendent of the Balagalle versatile generation, may have entertained the noble duty of seeing things for himself in the related historical sphere, while undertaking the research work leading to his doctorate. It is through these risks and commitment to carry out the noble duty of the Balagalla traditions the present classical work saw the light of the day.

The Venerable priest has been extremely successful in presenting several novel historical discoveries. We have to be grateful to him for bringing in to light the facts that remained in oblivion regarding the Arahat Mahinda, Theravada in South India and the clan of the Ilavas. So far our attention was drawn only to Kerala over-their religious, philosophical and political impact on us. The Venerable author has gone deeper in to Kerala to reveal the region's cultural force on us too. We in a post war era, have to be aware of the historical transactions with South India and Kerala in particular. It is of timely relevance since we exist in a period in which the South Indian intimacy is an absolute necessity.

The timely necessity is not a politically motivated Hippocratic, deceitful diplomacy with South India but one which is based on mutual trust and understanding reinforced by heart rooted sensitivity and deep love with not covetousness of grabbing each others' land and soil. If one were to put it into practice that noble sentiment our Venerable priest's endeavor would be certainly fractioned.

I consider this opportunity relevant to pen a few words of appreciation of his unparallel classical composition to pronounce to the whole world the versatility of a fellow student who sat next to me in the sacred premises of the Pirivena at Balagalla as far back as 1978. I express my most sincere wish, that the Venerable monk be blessed with strength & courage to enrich our "Sasanic" and Buddhist expectations with his blossoming intellect and extensive knowledge in future as well.

No comprehensive study of the Theravada Buddhism, which took root in the regions of Andra, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala as a result of the missionary work of the Emperor Asoka and Arhath Mahinda, has been initiated so far, in the absence of "Vamsakatha" of unbroken continually in India, unlike in Sri Lanka. In the absence such details of the propagation of Buddhism in the above regions in the sub-continent of India. I had to spend over two years in the university of Delhi closely scrutinizing classical writing by the scholar’s magazines and encyclopedia and almost one year in the archeological museums and libraries in South India.

Though certain clues regarding introduction of Buddhism to South Indian region are found in the classical works such as Manimekalai and Silappadikaram composed in the second century A.D. the conclusion of the exact time duration could be asserted only with the references found in historical works and Inscriptions.

The close relation of our island with the neighboring South Indian region dates back to the marriage of the king Vijaya (483-445 BC) with a princess from South Indian Pandya country' and is said Vijaya and his retinue of seven hundred reached the port of Supparaka and sailed down to Ceylon reaching Tambaparini coast'. These companions of Vijaya spread out forming villages and cities desired to have their leader as 'king' which couldn't be achieved in the absence of a queen from a noble royal family in terms of the traditions available at the time. Accordingly a daughter of the Pandya clan was brought down as his chief consort. This princess was accompanied by a large number of virgins and thousand families specialized in 18 crafts.

According to Mahc7vamsa these princesses were married by Vijaya's companions, according to Mahavamsa Panduvasudeva, a nephew of Vijaya, married a princess related to Buddha of the Sakya dynasty by the name Bhaddakachchana. Later on her brothers came to the island and established colonies in different parts of the country. Pandukabhaya a nephew of Dighayu one of the brothers of Bhaddakachayana happened to be one of great ancient kings of the country.

These proceedings prove both North Indian Aryans and South Indians had contributed to the beginning and the development of the Sinhala race in this country.4We can conclude the Sinhala race in this country was a mixture of the mingling of these invading forces and the local "Naga" and "Yaksha" tribes.

The above historical facts are further proved by the statement of K.K. Pillai that the original inhabitants, Vaddas of this country had close relation with the "Yaksha" and "Naga" tribes and the South Indian elements.

The relations between India and Sri Lanka during the reign of Emperor Asoka (169-232 BC) were through the sea route. The leader of deputation sent by the king Devanampiyatissa to the Emperor Asoka was Arittha his nephew and chief minister (Bhagineyyath maha Aritthath amaccath pamokkham.)6 E.W. Adikaram states the name Arittha occurs in Mahavamsa and in Samantapasadika several times'.

Immediately after the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka a Sinhala prince by the name Arittha entered the Sasana (Buddhist order) for the first time followed by prince Mattabhaya.

They extended their assistance to Arahhant Mahinda to carry the message of Buddhism to distant villages and also helped to translate Pali commentaries to Sinhala. There are ample historical evidence to sustain, the fact that these two Sinhala Bhikkus assisted Arahant Mahinda to propagate Buddhism in Tamil Nadu too'. There is a village named 'Aritthapatti' between the hills Malur and Alakaramalai in Madurai district. The name `Aritthapatti' exists even today as a gratitude towards the monk Arittha for his service in spreading Buddhism in the area. There are a large number of caves in the hills Kalukumalai in the proximity of Aritthapatti. There are several caves with the 'Brahmi' letters in them in the districts of Madurai, Tiruchi Tirunavali and Cingalpetti in Tamilnadu quite similar to the letters engraved in the caves here offered to the priests after the advent of Arahant Mahinda9 T.V. Mahalingam states those letters are different from the Asoka letters but quite similar to those found in the caves in Sri Lanka.

In the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C. several caves where the Buddhist priests dwelt have been discovered at Arikkalar in the Koimbathur district In Kaliyugamalai (Giridhajakuta) too several caves belonging to Buddhist traditions have been found and the Indian archeologists also have uncovered several such caves in 'Malakonda' in Nellur district in which both Buddhist an Jaina priests have lived.

The identity of a donor of the cave to the Buddhist priests in hill of Tiruppirankulam in the proximity of Madura has been established as "Ila kutumpikan". The 'ha' here refers to Sinhala or Sri Lanka. ' Kutumpikan' is the Tamil equivalent to sankrit 'kutumbhaka' . Accordingly 'ila kutumpikan' means 'kelambiya' in Sinhala. This cave has been offered to the priest arriving there from four directions by a Sri Lankan Buddhist devotee.

Furthermore the inscriptions in the vicinity carry Buddhist terms like 'Dhamma, dana and upasaka. Manjulika Svarlipa herself admits the terms 'ha' found engraved on a bed cut over of living rook at 'Paficapandavamalaf as a refernce to Sri Lanka."

G.V. Saroja points out, quoting Peter Schalk it was the 'Theraveida' sect that was introduced to Tamilnadu by the Emperor Moka in about 253 BC. An inscription in Prakrit unearthed at Nagarjunakonda refers to the Buddhist priests of the 'Theriya' sect from Sri Lanka created a renaissance in Buddhism in the 3rd century BC, immediately following Buddhism to that country13. The terms 'tavira' and 'tavirai' in Brahmi letters found engraved in the rock stand in evidence to the followers of Buddhism both in Tamilnadu and Kerala.

According to Valmiki's Ramayana Rama's powerful messenger Hanuman flew to Sri Lanka from the mountain 'Poythil' known today as Mahendragirf . In ancient times this mountain was known as 'Potikai' and was held in great veneration by the Buddhists, according to Shu Hikosaka15. Jackson mentions Asoka's brother Mahendra was dwelling in a temple at Tanjore. R Sathia Nathan Iyar too states that Arahant Mahinda had been functioning as the Chief Incumbent of the Tondamaijoala in Tamilnadu."

Waters who translated a Chinese Traveller's accounts .. mentions; Arahant Mahinda constructed a temple by his brother's Nome Dharmasoka Maharaja Vihara in Kafichipuram.18 I.K. a's view is Arahant Mahinda reached Keveripattanam on - way to Sri Lanka and before arriving in Sri Lanka constructed temples there.'9 Substantiating this fact S.R. Rao confirms ruins of temples belonging to 2nd and 3rd conturies were found these areas'.

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