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Pali, Buddhism and Christianity

Buddhism, one of the ancient religions, flourished in India in about fifth century B.C.

About 2000 years back Pali, the language, gained popularity. In fact, Pali had a big role in the spread of this religion. Most of the Buddha's teachings as we know were through Pali. Pali is a Middle Indo-Aryan language of North Indian origin. It is also known as Magadhi, although it was spoken, or at least well understood, in almost the whole of Northern India in the Buddha's time. Pali language is called "the language of mankind's philosophy". This is because it has the most voluminous literature on religion and philosophy in the entire world. Pali is a written language, but it has no special script. Although trade-links were developed first, Buddhist monks and Kings' emissaries throughout the region developed its use. It was the "Lingua Franca" of the Buddhist countries of south and south-east Asia for well over a thousand years.


Each country subsequently developed its own Pali literature and chronicles. It is sonorous, rhythmic, mellifluous and pleasing to hear, especially when chanted properly by monks and is kept alive by Buddhist scholars, monks and devotees of Buddhism.

As we know from historic records that a huge collection of Pali literature, mainly Buddha's invaluable teachings, were kept in the library of the ancient Nalanda University in Bihar India. Legends say that a fire destroyed all those precious scripts and thus, Pali literary works received a very big setback in the middle ages. However, much Later, a version of these valuable works were retrieved from Ceylon, all written in Sinhalese script and these works were then translated and rewritten in Roman script, thus restoring an invaluable wealth of knowledge.

Pali was so popular, that it was also spoken in Tibet, an adjoining country of India. In fact, many historic events of that time have been recorded in Pali language. One such interesting finding was made by the Russian doctor Nicolas Notovich, in1887 when he came across a rare written record in Pali language, the Himis manuscripts, which revealed that Jesus had been to India. These ancient documents were viewed later by Nicholas Roerih and Swami Abhedananda, a disciple of Shri Ramakrishna. As the Bible has no accountability of the whereabouts of Jesus after he was crucified, this evidence revealed significant information on the lost years of Jesus. It is widely speculated that Jesus during this period had been to Srinagar in the happy valley of Kashmir in India and had been living there in one of the Tibetan monasteries. Some say that the reminiscence of this "Healer" still persists there in the form of "Isaih-e-malam" i.e. a pain balm.

Pali is one of the richest languages which records social evolution in India and also other parts of the world. This language can thus unravel a wealth of historic information so far unknown to us. Considering the varied applicability of this ancient language, Pali certainly merits more attention.

Contributing Author: On an over-the-tea chat with Shri Ashim Kumar Mukherjee, who has been teaching Pali language for more than 37 years. His keen interest in nature led him to scale great heights of the Himalayas. His passion for mountaineering led to the establishment of The Himalayan association in 1960 in Kolkata. Later on in 1968 this association formed the Council of Himalayan Exploration and Research and conducted many important Himalayan expeditions unveiling a wealth of rich information. Presently, the eighty year old retired teacher is residing at his house at central kolkata. Email: [email protected]





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