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RH-063 the Legend of Viśvantara - An Unpublished Version. Pages 211 - 230 in Philologos Godage International Publishers (Pvt.) Ltd. 2008

Oct 13, 2015




Ratna Handurukande,

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    K.N.O. Dhall11adasa

    There was one attempt though, in mid 20th century by some scholars, to adopt a literary idiom closer to the spoken standard. Significantly, among the leading figures in this campaign were some of the most erudite scholars in contemporary times, one was Rcv Yakkaduwe Praj narama, a senior teacher 111 Vidyalankara Piri vena and another was Professor Senarath Paranavitana, the doyen of Sri Lankan archaeology. But, in spite of the prestige of these scholars the movement did not gather momentum and by about the 1970's it was virtually dead. The classical literary form in Sinhala reigns supreme and the Sinhala diglossia continues. In the contemporary context of inter-ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, Sinhala national identity will hold on more and more persistently to a heritage of the pat such as the classical literary idiom.

    Conclusion: The comparison between Greek and Sinhala diglossic situations would reveal how powerful a classical literary heritage can be in making decisions on some of the most vital aspects of social activity such as education and administrative functions. The persisting strength of puristic attitudes towards language proves that language is not a mere medium of communication, and that it stands strongly as a treasured patrimony and an indispensable badge of identity. The particular form of the language one believes as the true representation of ones national identity is considered to be something worth fighting for and even dying for. Such sentiments can become sharpened and intensified by the socio-historical circumstances in which the language conununity is placed.

    (1978) 'The I deological Pinnacle of Sinhalese Language Nationalism: The Career of Cumaratunga and the Hela Identity" Ceylon lournal of Historical alld Social Studies, VII, 2: 1-16.




    The Legend of Visvantara -An Unpublished Version

    Ratna Handurukande

    The legend of Visvantara, said to be that of the last birth on earth of the Bodhisattva in which the Perfection of Generosity (danaparamitii) reached its culmination, is the best-known of all the former birth-stories of the historical Buddha Gautama. Its popularity among both the Theravada Buddhists of the Southern countries and the Mahayanists of the North is attested by many versions of the story extant in different languages and its

    1 numerous representatIOns 111 alt.

    The oldest known version of the legend, also said to be the longest and fullest literary version, is in Pali, the sacred language of the Theravada Buddhists in which their scriptures were written. Viggo Fausboll's edition of the Pali text of the story, the Vessantara Jataka, was published in London in 1896, and reprinted by the Pali Text Society, also in London, in 1964,2

    I Cf. ego S. Lienhard (1980) Die legend vom Prinzen Vis vall tara. Eine Nepalesische bilderrolle mrs der Sammiung des museums/iir fndische kunst, (Berlin): The introduction (: 9-13) & the bibliography (given on: 253-254) = (1980) VerofJentlichungen des Museums fiir Indische kunst, 5, (Berlin); and the references given by Dieter Schlingloff (1987) Studies in the Ajanta Paintings (New Delhi): Chapter 15, note 29. 2 Fausb611, V. , (1877-1896) ed. The latakatthavaT}1')ana: the lataka together with its commentary, being tales of the anterior births of Gotama Buddha for thefirst time edited in original pali. vols. I-VI,


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    Ralna Handurukande

    wh ile W. H. D. Rouse 's English translation was published i n Cambridge in 1907.1 The story i s the last being no. 547 i n Fausboll's edition o f t h e lataka and its commentary2 R. Spence Hardy gave a summary of the story under the title ' the Vessantara Jataka ' in his book, A manual of Buddhism in its modern development: translaled Fom the Sinhalese mss published i n London i n 18603 M alalasekara' s synopsis of the stOlY appears under the title ' Vessantara Jataka' in h i s Dictionary oj' Pali Proper names, first published in London in 1938.4

    A sccond Engl ish translation of the Pali Vessanlara lataka made by M argaret Cone incorporating a few suggestions from her coauthor, Richard Gombrich, was printed in their book, The Pelfecl Generosity of Prince Vessantara, a Buddhist epic published i n Oxford.s I n a prefatory note i n thi s publication, the authors state that Rouse ' s translation of 1907 is neither accurate nor attractive. A l l the points at which they have deviated from Fausbol l ' s printed text are given i n Appendix II o f thi s work. Cone ' s translation of the Vessantara lataka i s i llustrated by unpubl ished paintings from S inhala temp les, being the photographs taken by Gombrich on a vis it to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1969-70. A documentation of the S inhala version s of the legend and references to it in S inhala l iterary source s i s desirable.


    (London), vol. Vi (1896): 479-596. Reprinted by the Pali Text Society in 1964. I Cowell, E. B., & Rouse, W. H. D., translated (1907) The Jataka vol. VI (Cambridge): 246-305. Cowell, E. B., ed. (1990). The first Indian edition of The Jataka or storics of the Buddha 's formcr births (6 vats ill 3 parts) (Delhi) vol VI: 246-305 contain the translation of the Visvantara story, reprinted in Delhi, 2004. 1 The Jataka collection is conventionally said to contains 550 stories but has in fact only 547. 3 (London: Williams and Norgate): 116-124. 4 Volumes I, II London 1937, 1938, reprinted in London 1960: 944-947. 5 (1977): 3-96.





    The. Legend of Vis van lara -An Unpllblishd Version

    The story of Vessantara in barest outline given in the introduction (: xv-xvi) of the Cone and Gombrich publication is as follows:

    Prince Vessantara, the son and the heir of Safijaya, king of the S ivis and of queen PhusatT, lives in the capi tal with his wife MaddI and their small son and daughter. His munificence is unique. He has a magic white elephant which ensures adequate rainfall, but he gives it away to Brahmin emissaries from another kingdom. The c itizens are enraged and force Safijaya to banish him. MaddI chooses to share his exi le with the children. Before leaving he gives away all his possessions, making the 'gift of the seven hundreds.' After a long journey the family reaches a mountain glen, where they settle down. A vile old Brahmin called Jujaka, harried at home by a young wife who demands servants, arrives to ask him for his chi ldren and Vessantara gives them while Madill is away gathering food. Next morning Sakka, the king of the gods, fears that Vessantara may yet give away his wife and be left all alone; he, therefore, disguises himself as a Brahmin and asks her from Vessantara. On receiving her, he gives her back immediately (As he now has her as a gift, Vessantara is no longer entitled by convention to dispose of her). Jiljaka and the children come to Sanjaya' s court where Sanjaya ransoms his grandchildren and Jujaka dies of overeating. Full of remorse, Sanjaya takes his retinue to the mountain and invites Vcssantara and Madill to return. The family is reunited, Vessantara becomes king and all live happily ever after.

    The vrsions of the Vessantara lafaka found in Pali, B urmese, Chinese, Khotanese, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Sogdian, Tibetan and Toeharian are listed by Cone and Gombrich i n the bibliography of their publication. The Sanskrit versions listed are those in


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    Ratna Handurukandc

    Aryasura's J iitakamCil ii, K$emendra 's Avadiinakalpalatii, and Somadeva' s Kathiisaritsiigara, while a note appearing on page xxxvi i i of the introduction indicates that the authors were aware of a Sanskrit version found at Gilgit edited in Berlin. This probably is a reference to Kabita Das Gupta's edition of the Visvantariivadiina, information about which is given below:

    A number of manuscripts found beneath a stUpa situated ncar Gilgit (Kashmir) in India in 1931 are referred to as G i lgit manuscripts. Kabita Das Gupta presented the Sanskrit text of the Visvantariivadiina, from a facsimile edition of a manuscript found in the Gilgit collection in New Delhi, accompanied by an English translation of it and the Tibetan text from the Sa1J1ghabhedavastu of the Mllasarviistiviidavinaya, preceded by an Introduction, as the dissertation for a doctoral degree at the Freie University in Berlin in January 1977.1 She also added three appendices to her study, viz. I. Avadiinakafpafatii of K$emendra (A.D. 1052) Chapter 23: (a) Sanskrit text and (b) an English trans lation of it . II . A catalogue of Stereotype Phrases and I I I. Sanskrit text of the Sa1]1ghabhedavastu (extracts from Gnoli's edition, which she says was avai lable to her only after the completion of the press-copy). Here, Das Gupta states that the Visvantariivadiina appears on pages 119-133 of part I I of Gnoli 's edition.2 An entry in her bibliography indi cates that a German

    I Gupta, K. D. , (1977) Visvantariivadiina, Eine Buddhistische Legende Edition eines Textes auf Sanskrit Lind aujTibetisch Eingeleitet lind iibersetzt. Inauguraldissertation zur erlangung des Doktorgrades dem Fachbereich Altertumswissenschaften der Freien Universitat Berlin. 2 Gnoli, R., ed. With the assistance of T. Venkatacharya (1977) The Gilgit manuscript o{rhe Sa11ghabhedavastu Serie Orientale Roma vol. xlix (Rome) part l, (1977) Part II (1978).



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    The Legend ofVisvantai3 -An Unpublished Version

    translation of the Pali Vessanlara Jataka was published It1 Le ipzig in 1916.1

    In a discussion on the Uddiilla (summary) under the keyword 'Jujjuka', J. Panglung states that ' there arc obviously four