The Mahavamsa


Book Details

Author  Douglas Bullis
Publisher  Asian Humanities Pr
Publication Date   January 1, 1999
ISBN  0895819430
Pages  439

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The Mahavamsa is the epic tale of Sri Lanka's founding and early history. It is the least known of all the world's great chronicles, and much less familiar than its Subcontinent forebears, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

The Mahavamsa or "Great Chronicle" describes the founding era of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Its sweeping relation of the period from 500 BC through 300 AD details the origins of virtually every religious practice and social institution in Sri Lanka and South India today. Some of these are:

A. The commonwealth that developed between ruler, religion and populace
B. Popular Buddhism's fusion with local shamanistic beliefs and practices
C. The dilution of the caste system after removing its religious proscriptions
D. The great reservoir based irrigation system which made a complex civilization on the island possible
E. The culture which developed from the cultivator mentality of the rice paddy and moral principles of Buddhism

The Mahavamsa's literary qualities place it alongside the best of the literature emanating from Subcontinent traditions. While the palace literature of the time was sparse and stilted, and monastic literature was confined to edifying stories about the Buddha, the popular oral storytelling tradition which was the ultimate origin of the Mahavamsa was a very rich brew of fables, folk stories, hearth and fireside songs, incantations worship, animism and the lore of paddy culture. All this life and liveliness found its way into the pages of Mahavamsa.

This edition contains the text of the Mahavamsa, plus numerous explanatory notes and commentaries that paint a broad picture of the era in which Mahavamsa was written.

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