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Jataka:see Pali canonPali canon
, sacred literature of Buddhism. The texts in the Pali canon are the earliest Buddhist sources, and for Theravada Buddhists, who claim to conserve the original teachings of the Buddha, they are still the most authoritative sacred texts.
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a genre of ancient Indian literature. In form the jataka is prose alternating with poetry (gathas). The oldest works of this genre are found in the collection Jataka, included in the Sutrapitaka, a part of the second book of the Buddhist canon in the Pali language, the Tripitaka (fifth to second centuries B.C.). Many plots of this collection subsequently became widespread in world literature.
In India, of the subsequent literary treatments of the jataka, the best known are the Jataka Mala (no later than the sixth century) of Aryasura and the Avadana Mala (17th century) of Kshemendra. Mostjatakas consist of fables and fairy tales about animals, many of which contain elements of social and even antireligious satire. Others consist of magic tales about sirens, cannibals, and fantastic serpents and birds and about sea voyages. One also finds stories of everyday life and adventure stories (sometimes of considerable length) that depict the life of the various classes of ancient Indian society. The legends and sermons that directly propagate Buddhist philosophy are relatively few. The jatakas were very popular in Asia, especially in the Buddhist countries, and had a marked influence on the development of the narrative literature of many peoples.
EDITIONSThe Jataka, vols. 1-7. Edited by V. Fausboll; translated by T. W. Rhys Davids. London, 1877-97.
Jatakam, vols. 1-7. Translated by J. Dutoit. Leipzig, 1908-21.
In Russian translation:
Aryashura. Girlianda dzhatak, Hi Skazaniia opodvigakh Bodkhisattvy. Moscow, 1962.
REFERENCESSerebriakov, I. D. Ocherki drevneindiiskoiliteratury. Moscow, 1971.
Winternitz, M. Geschichte der indischen Literatur, vol. 2, part 1. Leipzig, 1913.
I. D. SEREBRIAKOV