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Jataka


Jataka Buddhist literature concerning the collection of tales and anecdotes about the Buddha's reincarnations. The Jataka forms part of the tripitaka. The narrator of the stories purports to be the Buddha himself, with each jataka being told by way of reference or to illustrate some moral point.

Jatakatthabannana, compiled by Buddha Ghosh in the 5th century, includes 547 jatakas. The same number are included by Professor Fausboll in his 6-volume The Jataka which was published, along with an English translation, by Pali Book Society, London, in the 19th century. According to commentaries on the Tripitaka, Buddha underwent 550 rebirths. Accordingly, there should have been 550 jatakas.

The jatakas were originally passed down orally. They were first compiled in a book in the 3rd century BC on the occasion of the third grand conference of Buddhist monks under the patronage of Emperor Ashoka. The jataka stories were recorded then in pali. They were subsequently translated into other languages. Ishanchandra Ghosh translated the stories into Bangla. The translation was published in 6 volumes.

Each jataka has three parts. The first part describes the background of the story, that is, when, where, why, the Buddha narrated the story and to whom. The second part, which is the main part, narrates a story of the Buddha's past life. The last part identifies the characters of the main story as previous incarnations of the characters of the present. The Jataka stories, like Aesop's fables or the tales of the Panchatantra are instructive. Their lessons do not apply to the Buddhist community alone, but are universal. The stories also provide a picture of ancient religious rites, society, culture, education and justice. The narrative technique is very interesting. Bangla literature and many other literatures of the world have benefited by drawing upon the Jataka. [Suman Kanti Barua]