Concept

Mahāvaṃsa

Summary
Mahāvaṃsa (Sinhala: මහාවංශ (Mahāvansha), Pali: මහාවංස (Mahāvaṃsa) is the meticulously kept historical chronicle of Sri Lanka until the period of Mahasena of Anuradhapura. It was written in the style of an epic poem written in the Pali language. It relates the history of Sri Lanka from its legendary beginnings up to the reign of Mahasena of Anuradhapura covering the period between the arrival of Prince Vijaya from India in 543 BCE to his reign and later updated by different writers. It was first composed by a Buddhist monk at the Mahavihara temple in Anuradhapura in the 5th century CE. The Mahavamsa first came to the attention of Western researchers around 1809 CE, when Sir Alexander Johnston, Chief Justice of the British Ceylon, sent manuscripts of it and other Sri Lankan chronicles to Europe for translation and publication. Eugène Burnouf produced a Romanized transliteration and translation into Latin in 1826, but these garnered relatively little attention. Working from Johnston's manuscripts, Edward Upham published an English translation in 1833, but it was marked by several errors in translation and interpretation, among them suggesting that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka and built a monastery atop Adam's Peak. The first printed edition and widely read English translation was published in 1837 by George Turnour, a historian and officer of the Ceylon Civil Service. A German translation of Mahavamsa was completed by Wilhelm Geiger in 1912. This was then translated into English by Mabel Haynes Bode, and revised by Geiger. In 2023, the Mahavamsa was listed an item of documentary heritage on the UNESCO’s Memory of the World International Register. The Buddhist monks of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya maintained chronicles of the island's history starting from the 3rd century BCE. These annals were then combined and compiled into a single document in the 5th century while King Dhatusena was ruling the Anuradhapura Kingdom. It was written based on prior ancient compilations known as the Atthakatha (sometimes Sinhalaatthakatha), which were commentaries written in Sinhala.
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