ABSTRACT

The history o f Theravada in India remains obscure, and perhaps impossible to extricate from the history o f Buddhism in general, although it is know n that it was the dominant tradition in a num ber o f im portant centres in the South-east o f the subcontinent, in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Thus at one time there were Tamils who were Theravada Buddhists. In Sri Lanka, however, where Theravada established itself firmly as the national religion, the historical situation is clearer. The major source for this history is the Pali verse chronicle, the Mahavamsa, or ‘Great Chronicle’, written by a Sinhalese monk late in the fifth century c e . This was based on another chronicle, the Dlpavamsa, compiled a century earlier, possibly by nuns. These are, o f course, essentially Buddhist histories, whose aim is to establish the inextricability o f Theravada Buddhism from Sinhalese

(or Sinhala) national identity. However, their account o f Theravada after its arrival in Sri Lanka is probably broadly accurate.