Day 2 – Q 1. With the help of suitable examples, discuss the key features of Buddhist literature. (10 Marks)

  • IASbaba
  • February 1, 2022
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Art & Culture, GS 1, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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1. With the help of suitable examples, discuss the key features of Buddhist literature. (10 Marks)

उपयुक्त उदाहरणों की सहायता से बौद्ध साहित्य की प्रमुख विशेषताओं की चर्चा कीजिए।


Candidates need to write about the Buddhist literature, highlighting its key features with suitable example is the demand of question. 


The earliest Buddhist texts were passed down orally in Middle Indo-Aryan languages called Prakrits, including Gāndhārī language, the early Magadhan language and Pāli through the use of repetition, communal recitation and mnemonic devices. These texts were later compiled into canons and written down in manuscripts. 


Key features of Buddhist literature:

  • Vernacular: During his lifetime the Buddha taught not in Vedic Sanskrit, which had become tough to the people, but in his own Indian dialect, he also encouraged his monks to propagate his teachings in the vernacular. For example language of Pali and other local languages developed through the teachings of Buddhism.
  • Folklore: Jatakas are very much close to folklore literature and they contain the tales of previous births of Buddha in poems. The Jataka have also been mentioned in the Khuddaka Nikaya.
  • Based on discipline and rules: The subject matter of Vinay Pitaka is the monastic rules for monks and nuns. It can also be called as Book of Discipline. Its three books are Suttavibhanga, Khandaka and Parivara.
  • Biographical: In Sanskrit Lalit is a Lotus. Lalitvistara is a Sanskrit text that deals with the biography of Buddha. Buddha Charita is an epic style Sanskrit work by Ashavaghosa. It mainly deals with Buddha’s Life.
  • Discourse and dialogue: Milinda Panha literal meaning is Questions of Milinda contains the dialogue between the Indo-Greek King Menander I or Milinda of Bactria, and the sage Nagasena. It is in the question answer format related to Buddhism.
  • Adoption of different technologies: Asian Buddhist institutions were at the forefront of the adoption of technologies related to bookmaking, including paper, and block printing which were often deployed on a large scale. First surviving example of a printed text Diamond Sutra (c. 868).
  • Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit (BHS): Sanskrit Buddhist literature refers to Buddhist texts composed either in classical Sanskrit, in a register that has been called “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit” or a mixture of the two. Most prominent among which was the Sarvāstivāda.


Buddhism literature arose to suit the needs of a changing society, patronized by an emerging class and left an indelible mark on India’s culture, philosophy and way of living. These literature also found their influence in neighboring countries and helped India expand its footprint in these regions, paving way for a cultural connect to this day.

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