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BuddhistEvidencefortheEarlyExistenceofDrama

Wijesekera,O.H.De.A.
IndianHistoryQuarterly
Vol.17No.2
June1941
P.196206

P.196
Inhismasterlysurveyoftheevolutionofthe
Sanskritdrama,ProfessorBerriedaleKeithsummarily
disposesoftherelevantBuddhistevidencewiththe
unequivocalstatementthat"Theextremedubietyof
thedateoftheBuddhistSuttasrendersit
impossibletocometoanysatisfactorydecision
regardingtheexistenceofdramaatanearlydate,
whilethetermsemployed,suchasVisuukadassana,
NaccaandPekkhaa,andreferencetoSamajjasleave
uswhollywithoutanygroundforbeliefinanactual
drama."(1)ButacriticalexaminationofthePaali
Nikaayasshowsusthattheevidenceaffordedby
thesecollectionsofdialoguesthrowsmuchmore
lightonthisobscureproblemthanmaybeimpliedin
acursoryallusiontotheoccurrenceofsuchterms
asVisuukadassanaetc.,and,thattheavailable
factsestablish,withanappreciabledegreeof
certainty,forthebeginningsofdramaticspectacles
inIndia,ifnotfortheSanskritdramaina
primitiveform,adarethatanticipatedtheone
assignedtoitbyKeithatleastbyacentury,if
notmore.
ProfessorKeithbaseshismainargumentforthe
conclusionthat"....theSanskritdramacameinto
beingshortlyafter,ifnotbefore,themiddleof
thesecondcenturyB.C.",(2)onthecriticismof
Kaatyaayana'sruleregardingtheuseofthe
imperfecttenseandtheoccurrenceandimportofthe
wordsNa.ta,'Sobhanika(or'Saubhika)andkathaka
etc,.asfoundintheMahaabha.syaofPata~njali
whomheplaces"withreasonableassurance"about140
"B.C.(3)Forhim,Indianliteraturebeforethetime
ofPata~njalicontainsnopositiveevidenceforthe
existenceofdramaeveninaprimitiveform.
Referringtothementionof`Na.tasuutras'in
Paa.nini(iv.3.110f.)whomheplacesinthefourth
centuryB.C.,heremarks:"Butweunfortunatelyare
hereaseverinnopositiontoestablishthemeaning
ofNa.ta,whichmaymeannomorethanapantomime."
(4)Itisregardedassignificantthatna.tadoes
notoccurintheYajurvedalistof"personsof
everykindcoveringeverypossiblesortof
occupations."IntheMahabhaa.sya,however,hesees
morecertainevidence;"Weseeminfacttohavein
theMahabhaa.syaevidenceofastageinwhichall

theelementsofdramawerepresent;wehaveacting
in

1.SanskritDrama,p.43.
2.Ibid.,p.45.
3.ibid.,p.31.
4.Ibid.,p.31.
p.197
dumbshow,ifnotwithwordsalso;wehave
recitationsdividedbetweentwoparties.Morever,we
hearofNa.taswhonotonlyrecitebutalso
sing...Wecannotabsolutelyprovethatin
Pata~njali'stimethedramainitsfullformof
actionalliedtospeechwaspresent,butweknow
thatallitselementsexisted,andwemay
legitimatelyandproperlyacceptitsexistenceina
primitiveform."(5)
Now,itisdifficulttounderstandhowtheimpor
tantwordNa.tawhichoccursanumberoftimesin
thePaliliteraturehasescapedthenoticeofProf.
Keith.intheNikaayastherearereferencesto
Na.tasandevenNa.tagaama.niswhowerenotmerely
mimesordancers,butwereclearly`comedians'who
bymimicryandwordsdelightedaudiencesatfairs
andshows.IntheGaama.niSa.myuttawemeetwith
thefollowing:
"Ekamanta.mnisinnokhoTaalapa.toNa.tagaama.ni
Bhagavantametadavoca:Sutammeta.mbhante
pubbakaana.maacariyapaacariyaana.mNa.taana.m
bhaasamaanaana.m:Yosona.tora^ngamajjhesamajja
majjhesaccaalikenajana.mhaasetirametiso
kaayassabhedaaparammara.naaPahaasaana.m
devaana.msahavyata.mupapajjatiiti.IdhaBhagavaa
ki.maahaati."(6)"Thentaalapu.ta,thechiefof
thevillageofdancers,cametotheExaltedOne,
salutedhimandsatdownatoneside.Soseated
taalapu.tasaidtotheExaltedOne:`Ihaveheard,
lord,traditionalteachersofoldwhowereactors
speaking(inthiswise):"Aplayerwhoonthestage
orinthearenamakespeoplelaughanddelightsthem
withtruthandfalsehood,onthedissolutionofthe
bodyafterdeath,isreborninthecompanyofthe
LaughingDevas."WhatdoestheExaltedsayregarding
thismatter?.'
Itgoeswithoutsayingthattheabovepassageis
ofgreatimportanceforthesubject,originof
dramas,inthatitcontainsnotonlytheimportant
wordNa.ta,butalsoreferstoanumberofother
facts.Oneimportantfactthatemergesfroma
carefulscrutinyoftheabovequotationisthatthe
Na.tawasoriginallyafigureofmirth(haaseti,
rameti),therebysupportingthecontentioninfavour
ofanatleastpartlysecularoriginforthedrama.
Letustaketheimportanttermsonebyone.Firstof
all,thenameoftheinterlocutoritselfishighly
suggestiveofthesourceofthemaininspirationof
comedy.Thenametaalapu.ta(notTalapu.ta,Taala
beingsupportedbytwoBurmeseMss.andCy.;cp.
alsoTh.1.1145,p.103)alludestothecustomquite
commoninancientIndia

5.SanskritDrama,pp.36,37.
6.S.IV.p.3063.

p.198
ofusingnicknamesforreputedpersons(cp.
`Ka.naada,'nameoftheauthoroftheVai'se.sika
Suutras,whichliterallymeans`atomeater').Here
`taala'mustmean`musicalrhythm'or`beating
time'asfoundintheancienttextsonmusical
theory.Thesecondmemberofthecompoundviz.
`pu.ta'means`thehollowofthefoldedpalm.'(7)
Thereferenceisnodoubttothepracticeprevalent
eventodayamongIndianmusiciansofbeatingtimeby
clappingineitherleadinganorchestraorteaching
pupilstherudimentsofrhythm.thissenseagrees
perfectlywellwiththeconnotationoftheword
Na.tagaama.nior`leaderofNa.tas,'atermthat
laterobtainedvogueindramatictheoryasa
designationforSuutradharaorNaa.tyaacaarya.(8)
ThisidentificationofNa.tagaama.niandSuutradhara
leavesnoroomfordoubtastotheformer's
connectionwithdramaproper.Moreover,wemay
dismissthesuggestionofthecommentator
Buddhaghosaasunwarranted,thoughhighlyamusing,
whenheexplainstaalapu.taasreferringtothe
person's"brightcomplexionwhichwaslikethe
colourofaripepalmyranutseveredfromthe
stalk"(bandhanaamuttataalapakava.n.noviya
mukhava.n.novippasannoahosi,Saarattbappakaasinii,
III.102).Woodward's"basketofwovenpalmleaves"
for`Taalapu.ta'isclearlybesidethepoint.(9)
Next,thephrase`pubbakaana.maacariyapaacariy
aana.mNa.taana.m,'despiteitsstereotyped
phraseology,mustbetakeninthiscontexttorefer
toagenuinetraditionregardinggenerationsofsuch
`Na.tapreceptors'ofthepast,afactthat
cannotbeignoredindiscussingthenatureofthe
Na.tasuutrasmentionedbyPaa.nini.Asforthe
keywordNa.taitself,thesucceedingsentence
proveswithoutashadowofdoubtthatthepersons
referredtoherewereatleastcomediansifnot
actorsofcomedies,whoenteredthestage(ra^nga)
todelightandmakepeoplelaugh,withandthis
isthemostimportantfacttruthandlies
(sacaalikena;Buddhaghosa:`saccenacaalikenaca,'
Saaratth.,III.193,whichalsoshowsthat
Woodward's"counterfeitingofthetruth"fallsfar
shortoftheactualsignificance).SotheseNa.tas
weremuchmorethanmeremimesordumbactors.
Furthermore,wemaysuggestwithsomeplausibility
thattheword`alika'heremightcontainanimplicit
referenceto'fiction,'thatistosay,fabricated
anecdoteswhichformpartofthestockintradeof
comedianseverywhereintheworld.Importantalsois
theword`ra^nga'(10)inasmuchasitmustneeds
referin

7.Cp.Miln.p.87,`hathaputa'.
8.VideKeith,ibid.,p.360.
9.BookofKindredSayings,p.214,fn.1.
10.Cp.Vinaya,II.10,12.
P.199
thecontexteithertoanarenaingeneralortoa
playhouseortheatre.ThetermisfoundinPaa.nini
(vi.4.27)andthePetersburgDictionaryhas(s.v.)"
Theater,Schaubhne,Schauplatz,Arena";inthe

technicalliteraturera^ngaisuniversallyusedfor
`stage.'(11)Similarly,thispassagemakesit
certainthattheword`samajja'denotesaconcourse
ofpeoplecometogetherforamusement,a`show'
wheretheNa.tastookaleadingre.Inthis
connectionwemayobservethattheRaamaaya.nain
oneofitsgenuineportions(ii.67.15)refersto
`samaajas'whereNa.tasandNartakas,comediansand
dancers,delightthemselves.(12)AccordingtoProf.
Winternitz,(13)thispartmusthavebeencomposed
earlierthanthethirdcenturyB.C.,andasweshall
seelatertheBuddhistreferenceisequallyold,if
notolder,fromwhichitmaybeinferredthatat
thistimethesamaajasorsamajjaswerearecognized
institution.Itmaybementionedthat`Na.ta
nartakaa.h'occursintheAnu'saasanaParvanofthe
Mahabhaarata(xiii.33.12),andthatthe
commentatorNilaka.n.thatakesthecompoundtomean
`comediansanddancers'asensethatmaynotseemso
imporobableasKiethsupposes(p.28)whentakenin
thelightoftheSa.myuttapassage.Wemaysuggest,
enpassant,thattheolderrootn.rt(videna.ta,
PetersburgDict.)withitsderivativesnartaka,
n.rtyaetc.inSanskrit,andna.t.taka,na.t.takii
(Th.I.267),nacca,naccakaetc.inPaalireferred
todancing,whereasitslaterdialecticalformna.t
whichgivesNa.ta,Na.tanka,na.tii(alsonaa.tyain
Skt.)etc.signifiedgesticulationandincourseof
timecametobeappliedtotheartofthe`comedian'
andthenceto`acting'proper.AsforPaali,the
distinctionseemstohavebeenpreservedatleastin
preChristiantimes,(14)thoughthecommentators
oftenconfusethetwo(VvA.210Na.tari=naccati).
Inthefaceoftheabovefactstheconclusionis
irresistiblethattheNa.tanswereoriginallya
classofcomedianswhoperformedonthestageorat
assembliesusingwordstodelighttheiraudiences,
andthatPaa.nini'sNa.tasuutrasmay,therefore,
legitimatelybetakentorefertosomethingmore
thanmererulesregulatingthemodeofgesticulation
ofthepantomime.
Anotherimportantpassagebearingonthesub
jectisfoundintheBrahmajaalaSuttantaofthe
DiighaNikaaya,containingasitdoesalistof
termsdenotingvariousamusementsandshows
(visuukadassana):

11.VideKeith,p.359;cp.Manu,iv,215`ra^ngaava
taraka,""stageplayer"accordingtoBhler.
12.Keith,p.29.
13.HistoryofIndianLiterature,vol.1,p.516.
14.Miln.,p.359`Na.tanaccaka'.
P.200
"Yathaavaapan'ekebhontosama.nabraahma.naa
saddhaadeyyaanibhojanaanibhu~njitvaateevaruupa.m
visuukadassana.manuyuttaaviharantiseyyathiida.m
nacca.mgiita.mvaadita.mpekkha.makkhaana.m
paa.nissara.mvetaala.mkumbhathuuna.m
Sobhanagaraka.m...itivaaitievaruupaa
visuukadassanaapa.tiviratoSama.noGotamoti"
(D.I.,p.6,13).ProfessorRhysDavidsrendered
thispassageasfollows:"Orhemightsay:
`WhereassomereclusesandBraahma.nas,whileliving
onfoodprovidedbythefaithful,continueaddicted
tovisitingshows;thatistosay,nautchdances,

singingofsongs,instrumentalmusic,showsat
fairs,balladrecitations,handmusic,thechanting
ofbards,tamtamplaying,fairyscenes,...Gotama
therecluseholdsalooffromvisitingsuchshows."
(15)
Here`nacca.mgiita.mvaadita.m'refertothe
oldconceptionof`sa.mgiita'or`triplesymphony',
via.,dancing,singingandinstrumentalmusic.Such
entertainmentsaresaidtohavebeenheldatpublic
assembliessuchasthosealreadyreferredto,
concoursesorfairs,samajjas(16)andatthe
socalledmountainfairsorgiraggasamajjas(17)
saidtobefrequentedevenbyministersandother
highpersonages.(18)Theword`nacca'mayreferto
thedancingofbothsexes;femaledancesare
specificallycalled`laasa'(19)andthefourare
sometimesmentionedtogther.(20)Thelastnodoubt
referstoanoldpracticeanditisofsignificance
forthelaterdivisionintotaa.n.davaandlaasya
typesattributedto'SivaandPaarvatii
respectively.(21)
Ofdoubtful,butnotnegligible,importanceis
theword`pekkha.m'whichisclearlya
collectiveabstractformationwiththesuffix`a'
from`pekkhaa'(Skt.prek.saa>*praik.sa.m)asmost
wordsinthelistare(cp.paa.nissara.m<
pa.nissaro).TheSanskritisnotfoundinanywork
earlierthanManusm.rti(22)andHariva.m'sa.(23)
RhysDavidsrefusestoagreewithWeber,Neumann,
BurnoufandotherswhosawinthePali`pekkhaa'
"theatricalrepresentations",andremarks:"Butit
ismostunlikelythatthetheatrewasalreadyknown
inthefifthcenturyB.C."(24)Itissignificant
thoughthatBuddhaghosaequatesthewordto
`Na.tasamajja.m'(25)aglossthatestab

15.DialoguesoftheBuddha.Pt.I,pp.7,8.
16.VideD.III,183.
17.Vin.II,107.
18.Vin.II,150.
19.Skt.laasah;cp.Miln.p.331,`laaska'=female
dancer.
20.Vin.II,10"naccantipigaayantipivaadenti
pilaasentipi."
21.Naatya'saastra,1.2;Keith,p.12.
22.`Prek.saasamaaja.m'ix.84;ix.264.
23.`Prek.saasutusubahvi.su'8702,8685.
24.Dial.I.7.fn.4.
25.Sum.1,84;cp.III.946.
P.201
lishestheconnection,atleastintradition,
between`pekkhaa'and`samaaja'asevidencedbythe
quotationsfromtheSanskritsources,andalso
connectstheseshowswiththeactivityoftheNa.tas
who,asseenfromtheSa.myuttapassage,performed
alsoatsamajjas.
Commentingon`akkaana.m'theexegetistsays
thatitrefersto"recitationsofBhaarataand
Raamaaya.na"(`BhaarataRaamaayanaadi,ta.myasmi.m
thaanekathiiyarti...'Sum.I.84);theword
`kathiiyati'nodoubtreferstotheworkofthe
KathakasmentionedbyPata~njali.But,ifthese
recitationswereofany"epics",itisclearon
chronologicalgroundsthatthereferenceisnotthe
MahabhaarataandRaamaaya.naaswenowhavethembut

totheoriginal"ballad"fromoftheselegends.In
thecaseoftheformer,Winternitzcallsit"the
oldheroicpoem"whichhebelieves(26)iscontained
inthesocalled"nucleus"oftheMahabhaarata.The
latter,accordingtohim,"....wascomposedinthe
thirdcenturyB.C.byVaalmiikionthebasisof
ancientballads"(27)Theword`vetaala.m'meaning
`thechantingofbards,'(28)alsoalludesto
similarrecitationsofwanderingminstrels.the
occurrenceofthesetwotermsinthelistisof
considerableimportanceforthesubjectofthe
originofdramafor,asKeithhimselfpointsout,"
whiletheepicscannotbesaidtoknowthedrama,
thereisabundantevidenceofthestronginfluence
onthedevelopmentofthedramaexercisedbythe
recitationoftheepics"(p.29).TheSigaala
Sutta(29)gives`akkhaana.m'asoneofthesix
featuresofthesamajjaswhere,aswehavealready
seen,theNa.tastookaleadingpart,and,thereby
establishesthecontactbetweenthe`comedians'and
the`balladreciters.'Moreover,ourpassageproves
thattheseballadrecitations,fromwhichprobably
developedinthecourseoftimethevocationofthe
Kathakas,wereatleastasoldastheoldest
dialoguesofthePaaliCanon,iftheywerenot
alreadypopularinthetimeoftheBuddha.
Consequently,theimspirationfortheoriginof
dramafromthissourcemustbeadmittedtobemuch
olderthanthemiddleofthesecondcenturyB.C.as
hasbeensupposedbyKeith(p.45).
Butthemostimportantwordinthelistis
undoubtedlytheterm`Sobhanagaraka.m'aterm
thathasintriguedboththeoldandthenew
commentators.Thereadingitselfisfarfrom
settled.TheSinhaleseMss

26.Sum,I.p.459.
27.Ibid.,p.517.
28.RhysDavids;cp."na.tavaitaalikastotra
nartakaahsuutamaagadhaa.h"M.Bh.i.940,Hariv.
8575,referredtosubNa.tainthePetersburgDict.
29.D.III.183.
P.202
read`Sobhanagaraka.m,'`Sobhanakaaraka.m'and
`Sobhanagarana.m,'whereasaBurmeseMS.ofthetext
has`Sobha.naka.m.'TheSinhaleseMS.ofthe
commentarygivesthereading`Sobhanagaraka.m,'a
BurmeseMS.ofthesamehavingavariant
`Sobha.naga.m.'ItmaybeobservedthattheBurmese
MSS.oftextandcommentarydoactuallyagree,for
thegofthelattercaneasilybeexplainedas
phoneticvariationofkintheformer,the
presenceofthecerebralized.ninboth(as
opposedtothedentalinallSinh.MSS.)supporting
theidentification.Thesevariantsmaypointtotwo
maintraditions:`Sobhanagaraka.m'amongthe
Sinhalese,and`Sobha.naka.m'amongtheBurmese.Now
whatisimportantisthatboththeseformscanbe
satisfactorilyexplained,thoughthelatterisby
farthemorelikelyhistoricaloneasweshall
presentlysee.Ifthereadingistakentobe
`Sob.hanagaraka.m'theallusionmaybetothecity
ofSobhawhich,asWeberdiscovered,(30)mayrefer
tothecityoftheGandharvasbythatname.He
quotesfromacommentaryon'Satarudriya:`Sobhaiti

gandharvanagaram;referredtoalsobyRhysDavids.
(31)Sothiscompoundviz.`Sobhanagaraka.m'may
mean`acollectionofSobhadenizens,'i.e.,`a
troupeofGandharvas,'withaprobablereferenceto
thetraditionalconnectionofthesecelestial
musicianswiththedrama.OntheotherhandRhys
Davids'translation'fairyscenes'isonlyasurmise
basedonthegloss`patibhaanacitta'ofthe
commentary,whichasweshallseebelowisnotwhat
Buddhaghosaconsideredasthemoreprobablesense.
Nowtotaketheotherreadingviz.`Sobhanaka.m,'
thisisgrammaticallytobeexplainedasa
collectiveformation,ofthesameorderas
`pekkha.m'discussedabove,fromaPaalimasculine
noun`Sobhanaka.'Thisbringsustothemost
importantobservationthatthisisnootherthanthe
paalicounterpartofSanskrit`Sobhanika'asfound
intheMahabhaa.syaofPata~njali,thesuffixesaka
andikabeingsyntacticallyinterchangeable.Now,
Pata~njali,injustificationoftheuseofthe
presenttensefordeedsoftheremotepastasfound
insuchsentencesas`Hecausesthedeathof
Ka.msa'etc.,saysthatthepresentispermissible
"becausethesenseis,notthattheyarebeing
actuallydone,butthattheyarebeingdescribed."
(32)Hethensetsoutthreesuchmodesof
descriptionofwhichthefirstreferstothe
professionofthe'Sobhanikas:`yetaavadete
'sobhanikaa(v.i.'saubhikaa)naamaitepratyaksa.m
Ka.msa.mghaatayantipratyaksa.mBali.mbandhayanti'
(iii.1.26).HereKeitharguesthatthesewere
pantomimists:"Theobviousview,thatof

30.IndischeStudien,II.38.
31.D.I,6fn.1.
32.Keith,p.32
P.203
Weber,thatwehaveareferencetoapantomimic
killingandbinding,seemsirresistible"(p.33).The
onlydoubtaccordingtohimiswhetherthe
'Sobhanikasusedwords(p.34).Anywayheleavesthe
questionopenwhetherthereferenceisto`actors'
inthepropersense.Whatevertherealsenseofthe
termmaybe,thefactisclearthatthePaaliword
`Sobhanaka'alsoreferstothesame,oratleasta
similar,classofperformers.Oncethis
identificationisregardedasplausibletheword
`Sobhanaka.m'intheDiighapassagemustbetakento
mean`atroupeof'Sobhanikas,'and,thisisexactly
howBuddhaghosaseemstohaveunderstoodit,forhe
comments:`Sobhanagaraka.m(v.1.Sobha.naga.m)ti
Na.taana.mabbhokira.na.m,Sobhanagaraka.m
(v.1.Sobha.nakara.m)vaapa.tibhaanacittanti
vutta.mhoti.'(33)thehesitancyoftheeditors
regardingthereadingandsyntacticalconsiderations
inclineonetotheviewthatwhatprobably
Buddhaghosameanttosaywas:`Sobha.naganti
Na.taana.mabbhokira.na.mSobhanagaraka.mvaa(sci.
tipipaa.tho),pa.tibhaanacittantivutta.mhoti,'
thefirstword`Sobha.naga.m'occuringinthe
BurmeseMS.ofthecommentarybeingonlythe
phoneticvariantof`Sobha.naka.m'foundasBurmese
variantforthetext.Inanycase,theimportant
factisthatBuddhaghosawasmoreinclinedtofavour
themeaningna.taana.mabbhokira.na.m;thanthe

sense`patibhaanacitta.m;'henceheplacesthe
formerphraseatthebeginningandgivesthelatter
onlyasapossiblealternativeintroducedby`vaa.'
Asfortheexactsignificanceof`Na.taana.m
abbhokira.na.n'itseemsfairlylikelythatwhatis
meanthereis'atroupe(lit.crowd,concourse)of
actors.'Theverbalnoun`abbhokira.na.m'isformed
fromtherootk.r,toscatter,withtheprefixes
abhiandava.Syntacticallywemayregardthisas
equalinsensetoaakira.na(cp.aaki.n.na,
crowded),foritisobservedthattheuseofthe
compoundprefix`abhi+ava'corresponds,probably
withslightlymoreintensivesense,tothatof
(34)Hencewemayconcludethattheterm
`Sobhanagaraka.m'or`Sobha.naka.m'oftheDigha
Nikaayaalludes,asisimpledintheglossof
Buddhaghosa,tosomeclassofNa.tasan
interpretationthathasthesupportofIndian
traditionasrecordedbykaiya.tainhiscommenton
theword`Sobhanika'oftheMahabhaa.sya(35)and,
thattheseNa.taswereeitherthesamepersonsas
referredtobyPata~njali's`Sobhanikaa.h'orat
leastweretheirprecursorsintheart.

33.Sum.I,p.84.
34.Cp.Paaliabbhokaasa,openspace,=aakaasa,
space;Skt.abhyavaskandana=aaskandana,attacking;
abhyavahaara=aahaara,food,etc.
35.`Ka.msaadyanukaari.naa.mNa.taanaa.mvyaakhya
anopaadhyaaya,videKeith,p.33,fn.ii.
P.204
WehaveseenthatProf,Keith'sreluctanceto
discusstheBuddhistevidenceisbasedontwo
presuppositions:first,tousehisownwords,"the
extremedubietyofthedateoftheBuddhistSuttas,"
andsceond,thesupposedpaucityofinformation
containedinthePaaliliteratureherefersonly
toNacca,PekkhaaandVisuukadassanaconcerning
thequestionofdramaticorigns(p.42).Wehopethat
thesecondpointhasbeensomewhatsatisfatorily
answeredbytheforegoingdiscussion.Nowitremains
tobeseenhowfartheexpression"extremedubiety
oftheBuddhistSuttas"ishistoricallyjustified.
ItisadmittedonallsidesthatthePaaliCanonen
masseisagrowthofconsiderabledurationandthat
thelastwordisyettobesaidonthequestionof
chronology.Butthisoranysuchconsiderationmust
notblindustotheimportantfactthat,sofaras
theearlyNikaayasandtheVinayaareconcerned,
thereisenoughevidencetoprovethatinsubstance,
apartfromtheirliteraryform,theygobacktoa
periodconsiderablyanteriortothethirdcentury
B.C.withcertainreservationsandlimitations,we
maysaywithWinternitz"thatourPaaliTipi.taka,
atleasttheVinayaandSuttaPitaka,does,onthe
whole,correspondtotheMaagadhiiCanonofthe
thirdcenturyB.C."(36)Thisisprovedbythe
edictsofA'soka,particularlytheBairaator
BhaabhruuEdict(249B.C.)whichshows,inthe
opinionofthesameauthority,thatthePaaliCanon
onthewholeispreA'sokan(p.25).Nowthis
`MaagadhiiCanon'musthavetakenatleastacentury
tohaveevolvedintothehypotheticalforminwhich
weconceiveit,andthelanguageitselfmusthave
closelyresembledthecanonicalPaali.Indeedwe

mustnot,asisusuallydone,undulyexaggeratethis
linguistic,properlydialectical,difference
because,asWinternitzhimselfadmits,the`Canonof
theVibhajjavaadins',acenturyaftertheBuddha's
demise,wasprobablyinanolderformofPaali
(p.130.Furthermore,wemaynowacceptasa
historicalfactthatMoggaliputtaTissa,236years
afterthedemiseoftheMaster,convenedanassembly
ofmonksatPatna"withtheobjectofcompilinga
Canonoftextsofthetruereligionorthe
Theravaada"(p.6),andthattheKathaavatthu,
ascribedtoTissahimselfwhopresidedatthe
Council,presupposesnotonlythetextsofthe
VinayaPi.takaandofalltheNikaayasoftheSutta
PitakabuttheotherbooksoftheAbhidhammaPi.taka
aswell."Itwouldbequitefeasible,"says
Winternitz,"toassumethatthebook(Kathaavatthu)
wasnotwrittenuntilthetimeofthecompilationof
theCanonbyTissa

36.HistoryofIndianLiterature,II,p.5;cp.p.
608.
P.205
himself....''(pp.11,12).Theseconsiderationswould
sufficetoshowthatBhlerwasnotfarwrong,
when,inthelastworkhepublished,heexpressed
theopinionthattheNikaayasaswehavetheminthe
Paali"aregoodevidence,certainlyforthefifth,
probablyforthesixth,centuryB.C.,"aconclusion
thatwasendorsedbyProf.RhysDavidswhoadded:
"....thatwillprobablybecome,moreandmore,the
acceptedopinion.Anditisthiswhichgivestoall
theytellus,eitherdirectlyorbyimplication,of
thesocial,political,andreligiouslifeofIndia,
sogreatavalue."(37)Itis,ofcourse,truethat
thesestatementsmustnecessarilybemodifiedinthe
lightoflaterresearch,butnosuchconsideration,
webelieve,caninvalidatethemainpropositionthat
theearlyNikaayas,atleasttheDiigha,Majjhima
andSa.myutta,do,onthewhole,contain"good
evidence,"ifnotfortheperiodofBuddha'sown
activity(c.535485B.C.),atleasetforthatof
hisveryearlydisciplestowhommustbeascribed
thecreationoftheoriginaltraditionembeddedin
theseworks.Asforthegenuinenessofthe
particularpassagesformingthesubjectmatterof
ourpresentinvestigation,wemaywithouthesitation
observethatneithertheBrahmajaalaSuttanorthe
Gaama.niSa.myutta,fromwhichwehavequoted,
bettraysanyevidencewhatsoever,whetherlinguistic
orotherwise,oflatnessorspuriousnessof
composition;ontheotherhand,theNa.tagaama.ni
dialogueshowseverysignofbeingarecordofan
actualeventbothbythetoneofnaturalnessrunning
throughthewholenarrativeandalsoinpointof
styleandmethod,whiletheBrahmajaalaSutta,
thoughobviouslyaresumeoftheexisting
philosophicalandreligiosocialinstitutionsofthe
time,containsmaterialthatisprovedtobeoldby
theveryobscurityofitsterminologyandtheclose
resemblanceofdoctrinesdiscussedtotheideasof
theancientUpani.sads.(38)
Nowtosumup:Wehopewehavesucceededinprov
ingthattheevidenceaffordedbytheNiikaayasis
ofconsiderableimportancefortheproblemofthe

evolutionofdramainIndia,particularlyforthe
historyofthekeywordNa.taandalsoof
'Sobhanika,and,thattheavailableevidencewould
takebackitsorigintoatleastthethirdorfourth
centuryB.C.,iftheydonotconclusivelyprovethat
thereweredramaticspectaclesofsomekindprobably
comedyinnuce,inthetimeoftheBuddhahimself.
Thisconclusionissupportedbythefurther
considerationthatif,asProf.Keithhimselfadmits,
"theVedicritualcontainedwithinitselfthe
germsofdrama'

37.Dial.1,p.xx.
38.Cp.RhysDavids,Dial.1.p.xxvi.
P.206
(p.23),andif,asWinternitzhasshownwithgreat
plausibility,thebeginningoftheVedicliterature
wasnearerto2500or2000B.C.thanto1500or1200
B.C.asgenerallyheld(39)thenitmakesthebelief
wellnighimpossiblethat,withsuchmaterialsas
presentintheVedicculture,theballadrecitations
whichseemtobepreBuddhistic,asshownabove,and
othertendenciesreflectedbothinSanskritand
Paaliliterature,thedrama,atleastinsomecrude
form,couldnothavecomeintobeingallthroughout
thecourseofawholemillennium.Thefactthatthe
Na.taoftheSa.myuttaisa`comedian'showsthatin
itsoriginthesecularinfluenceonthedramawas
alsoconsiderableandthatitwasnotevokedsolely
"bythecombinationofepicrecitationswiththe
dramaticmomentoftheK.r.s.nalegend,"(40)a
contentionthatgainsstrengthbythefactthatthe
earliestdramaswepossess,viz.,thoseof
A'svagho.sa,haveverylittleincommonwiththe
epicsortheK.r.s.nalegendinpointofthemeand
subjectmatter.

39.CalcuttaReview,Nov.1923.
40.Keith,p.45.