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Epigraphy: South Asia

(6,012 words)

Author(s): Richard Salomon
Inscriptions are an indispensable source for the study of Indian Buddhism. Buddhist inscriptions number in many thousands from all parts of South Asia, from the 3rd century bce until the early centuries of the 2nd millennium ce. The main languages are Prakrit, Sanskrit, Gandhari, and Sinhala; Pali inscriptions are virtually nonexistent in South Asia, though common in Thailand. There are few, if any, Buddhist inscriptions in Tamil. The scripts are Brahmi and its many varieties and derivatives, and Kharoshthi in the northwest. Buddh…

Narratives and Long Poetry: Aśvaghoṣa

(5,652 words)

Author(s): Richard Salomon
Aśvaghoṣa (c. 2nd cent. ce) was a prominent author of Buddhist poems and dramas in Sanskrit. His most influential and popular works were two epic poems, classics of refined poetic style ( mahākāvya), the Buddhacarita (Life of the Buddha) and Saundarananda (Handsome Nanda or Sundarī and Nanda), which are acknowledged masterpieces both of Sanskrit poetry and of Buddhist didactic literature. He was also the author of a Buddhist drama, the Śāriputraprakaraṇa (The Drama of Śāriputra), preserved only in fragmentary form. According to the generally accepted chronology o…