On the Chronicles of Ceylon

Bimala Churn Law

A judicious appraisal of the various Chronicles that were written in Sri Lanka, assessing their chronology, literary and historical character.



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I. Chronological Position

II. Literary Position

III. Historical Position


Foreword to the Digital Edition

The Sri Lankan monastic tradition is outstanding in having kept good, and for the most part accurate, records of its history, particularly in regard to two types of lineage: that of its kings and that of its monastic elders, and recording their good works for posterity.

The great Bengali scholar Bimala Churn Law was renowned for his studies of ancient Indian history, and particularly for his Buddhist studies. He also made a number of very useful translations of texts, including three from the Vaṁsa literature, and so was very familiar with this area of study.

In the present work he has made a judicious appraisal of the various Chronicles that were written in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon, as it was known in his day), from different angles, assessing their chronology, literary and historical character.

What follows is a transcription by my good helper Donny Hacker of B. C. Law’s book as it was published in 1947. The final proofing and corrections were made by myself. I have made some small changes, like breaking up some of the longer paragraphs, and making headings of the works described and appraised, which was absent in the original, but otherwise the work is basically as published.

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
June 2017



[iii] In this treatise an attempt has been made to present a careful and exhaustive study of the chronicles of Ceylon in a spirit of scientific research. In 1908 Geiger made a critical study of this subject for the first time in his work on The Dīpavaṁsa and Mahāvaṁ and their Historical development of Ceylon. In 1928 G. P. Malalasekera published a book on the Pali Literature of Ceylon (J.R.A.S. publication, Prize Publication Fund, Vol. X) and in 1933 I, in my History of Pali Literature, dealt with the same topic. In the present book my treatment is different from that of the previous writers. In three chapters I have discussed the chronological, literary, and historical position of the chronicles in Pali and Sinhalese. I have tried to utilize all the available materials, which may be gathered from ancient and modern literature on the subject. This work is, I believe, new in its treatment, and will remove a long-felt want. I shall consider my labour amply rewarded, if it be of some use to scholars interested in the Ceylonese chronicles.

Bimala Churn Law,
43 Kailas Bose Street,
February, 1947.



1. Academy, September, 1874.
2. Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arrian (J. W. McCrindle, 1926).
3. Asoka (D. R. Bhandarkar, 2nd Ed., 1932).
4. Asoka (Radhakumud Mookerji, 1928).
5. Asoka and His Inscriptions (B. M. Barua, 1946).
6. Aśvaghoṣa (B. C. Law, R.A.S.B. Monograph Series, Vol. I, 1946).
7. Buddhadatta’s Manual (A. P. Buddhadatta, 1915).
8. Buddhaghosa (B. C. Law, Bombay Branch Royal Asiatic Society, Monograph No. I, 1946).
9. Buddhavaṁsa (J.P.T.S., 1882).
10. Buddhist India (T. W. Rhys Davids).
11. Buddhist Records of the Western World (S. Beal).
12. Buddhist Suttas (Rhys Davids, S.B.E., Vol. XI).
13. Cambodian Mahāvaṁsa (J.R.A.S., 1902).
14. Catalogue Du Fonds, Tibetan (Cordier).
15. Catalogue of Sinhalese Manuscripts (Wickremasinghe).
16. Catalogue of the Chinese Translation of the Buddhist Tripiṭaka (Bunyiu Nanjio).
17. Ceylon Lectures (B. M. Barua).
18. Cūḷavaṁsa (Ed. Geiger, P .T .S.).
19. Dāṭhāvaṁsa (Ed. and Tr. B. C. Law, 1925).
20. Dāṭhāvaṁsa (Tr. M. Coomaraswamy, 1874).
21. Debates Commentary (Eng. Tr. of Kathāvatthuppakaraṇa-aṭṭhakathā by B. C. Law, P.T.S.).
22. Dhātumālā.
23. Dhātuvaṁsa.
24. Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, 2 Vols. (G.P. Malalasekera).
25. Dīpavaṁsa (Ed. and Tr. Oldenberg, 1879).
26. Dīpavaṁsa (Tr. E. M. Coomaraswamy, 1908).
27. Dīpavaṁsa and Mahāvaṁsa (Geiger).
28. Dīpavaṁsa und Mahāvaṁsa und die Geschichtliche überlieferung in Ceylon (Geiger, Leipzig, 1905).
29. Divyāvadāna (Cowell and Neil).
30. Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon (E.W. Adikaram).
31. Epigraphia Zeylanica, Vols. I and III.
32. Extended Mahāvaṁsa (Ed. G. P. Malalasekera, R.A.S. Ceylon Branch).
33. Gandhavaṁsa (J.P.T.S., 1886).
34. History of Pali Literature, 2 Vols. (B. C. Law).
35. Holy Bible – St. Matthew.
36. India as described in early texts of Buddhism and Jainism (B. C. Law).
37. Indian Antiquary, Vol. XXXV.
38. Indian Culture, Vol. XII.
39. Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. VIII.
40. J.A.S.B., 1837.
41. J.B.B.R.A.S., XI, 1875.
42. J.P.T.S., 1886, 1902-3.
43. J.R.A.S., 1896, 1898, 1902, 1905, 1906.
44. J.R.A.S., Ceylon Branch, XXIII.
45. Jātaka (Fausböll).
46. Journal of the Department of Letters, Vol. I (Calcutta University).
47. Kathāvatthuppakaraṇa-aṭṭhakathā (J.P.T.S., 1889).
48. Le Dāṭhāvança: On Histoire de la dent relique du Buddha Gotama. 1884.
49. Legend of the Topes (Eng. Tr. of Thūpavaṁsa by B. C. Law, Bibliotheca Indica, 1945).
50. Mahābhārata (Vaṅgavāsi Ed.).
51. Mahābodhivaṁsa (P.T.S.).
52. Mahāvaṁsa (Geiger’s Ed. and Tr., P.T.S.).
53. Mahāvaṁsa (Tumour’s Ed. and Tr., 1837).
54. Mahāvaṁsa (H. Sumangala and Baṭuwanṭudawe, Colombo, 1905).
55. Mahāvaṁsa (Eng. Tr. by L. C. Wijesinha, 1909).
56. Mahāvaṁsa (Sinhalese Tr. by Wijesinha, 1889).
57. Manorathapūraṇī (P.T.S.).
58. Manual of Buddhist Historical Traditions (Eng. Tr. of Saddhammasaṅgaha by B. C. Law, 1941).
59. Manual of Indian Buddhism (Kern).
60. Milindapañho (Ed. V. Trenckner).
61. Minor Anthologies of the Pali Canon, Pt. III – Buddhavaṁsa and Cariyāpiṭaka (Eng. Tr. by B.C. Law, S.B.B.,Vol. IX, 1938).
62. Nalāṭadhātuvaṁsa.
63. Nikāya Saṅgrahawa (Tr. C. M. Fernando, 1908; edited by Gunawardhana).
64. On Yuan Chwang’s travels in India by Thomas Watters (edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and S. W. Bushell, 1904).
65. Pali Literature of Ceylon (G. P. Malalasekera).
66. Paramatthadīpanī on Therīgāthā (P.T.S.).
67. Paṭisambhidāmagga (P.T.S.)
68. Petavatthu (P.T.S.)
69. Points of Controversy (P.T.S. Tr. Series).
70. Pūjāvalīya, Colombo Ed., 1897.
71. Rājāvalīya (Tr. by B. Guṇasekara, Colombo, 1900).
72. Rājaratnākaraya, Colombo, 1887; edited by Simon de Silva, Colombo, 1907.
73. Saddhammasaṅgaha (Ed. N. Saddhānanda, J.P.T.S., 1890).
74. Samantapāsādikā (P.T.S.).
75. Sāratthappakāsinī (P.T.S.).
76. Sāsanavaṁsa (P.T.S.).
77. Some Ksatriya Tribes of Ancient India (B. C. Law).
78. Study of the Mahāvastu and its Supplement (B. C. Law).
79. Sumaṅgalavilāsinī (P.T.S.).
80. Thūpavaṁsa (Ed. B. C. Law).
81. Thūpavaṁsa (Sinhalese Ed. Dhammaratana, 1896).
82. University of Ceylon Review, Vols. II and IV.
83. Uttaravihāra Mahāvaṁsa.
84. Vaṁsatthappakāsinī, 2Vols. (P.T.S.).
85. Vimānavatthu (P.T.S.).
86. Vinaya Piṭaka (P.T.S.).
87. Vuttamālā (Upatapaasī).
88. Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, Vol. XXI.
89. Zeitschrift den Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 63, 1909.