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Buddhism and Music
Ven.Inamanuwe Sri su

     In most countries  music has developed in  close affinity with religious observances. But the Theravada   ideology does not encourage sensual arts like music and dancing. That when Buddhism was   not only a religion. but the way of the life for the people. such performing arts received little patronage from the temple. The Buddhist clergy, who constituted   the main literati of the country. Declined to praise the role of the musician or musical   content in their documents, but on the country performing arts were treated as activities to be shunned by the bhikkhus and the even by the devout laymen. ( Sarachchandra, 1982, p9 ) Buddhism has no codification of any date pertaining to music and dancing in its worship. Even the chanting of the Buddhist sutras should strictly be non – musical ( Kulathilake , 1982 pp 19 – 30 )  such steps were considered necessary to maintain the purity   of Buddhist   discipline and orthodoxy of the temple. The annihilation of Buddhism in India. Its long of birth and the growth of the bhakathi    movement in Hinduism,  were music and dancing were integral pats of that worship, were some of other persons that caused apprehension among the Buddhist   clergy in Sri Lanka in the Bhakti Marge of Hinduism. Dedication of everything to God and ultimate position of the God by the devotee is the highest stringent of Moksha. Here Music and dancing is treated as a means to create love and passion in the God. Towards this manifestation the devadest cult advocated in Hinduism had to play a major role.

 In spit of all the  music and dancing have develop as falk arts among the Buddhist but not in the proper easuhevie  aspects. When the Buddhist temple became the intrincincallty  impotent  religious as well as the social central of activity to the village dancing with singing    development as most of the worship in the sub religions. Meanwhile the orthodoxy   of the Buddhist temple    licensed only that limited repertoires of these arts required for the exigencies of the temple festivals ( senevirathne 1973 )

We shall now see how the sub – religions which was patronized by the Buddhist themselves became the main institution of performing arts like   dancing and music , of which the former has today gained international recognition.

The social religious cultural sri Lanka has a music faceted nature tolerating and assimilating sub – cultural and sub – religions for this purpose the orthodoxy of the Buddhist temple and had to be relaxed to a certain degree so as to accommodate democratic thinking of the people. Something that didin’t happen in india in happened Sri Lanka. Where certain Hindus tic beliefs like the ad vocation of    deity worship was made possible with mahayanism, which stared seeping in to the main  religion from the mid Anuradhapura Period. Had it not been for this accommodation of mahayanic elements Buddhism, in its pure Theravada ideas could not have stood the intrigues of Hindustan in particular. Mahayanism gave licenses  for the lavish festivities and ceremonies as part of its worship, and was therefore favorable to the life style of the kings.  If accorded such privilege to the kings of stabilize their political position. Sanskurit learning gave access to the text of  Indian musical theory. which appears in rudimentary firms in some of the Buddhist text in Sri Lanka.

The  Musical aspect of the Sri Lankan pirith sajjayana. 

02.   Pirith is important part of the Buddhist sajajayana. Sajajayana means loudly expression and group  reciting. pirith is consider as giving of the safe guard, protection , prevention and emotive consolation by the reciting Buddhist Suthras. although this reciting is not established with the musical expectations there are  reasonable musical aspects of the  pirith sajajayana. Then pirith sajajayana is a very respectable  role among the Sri Lankan folk lives.  Prith sajajyana is based on suthras which adapted from Thripitaka. Those suthras as followings..

01.   Maha Magala         

02.  Rathna                 

03.  Karaneeyameththa       

04.  Dhadaggha                  

05.  Parabhawa                    

06.  Kaseebajathwaja     

07.  Meththanisansa          

08.  Dhammachakka     

09.  Maha samaya           

10.  Girimaanda           

Gathas are recited in the pirith sajajyana which is founded in viritha. Viritha is the meter of  gatha. Vritha is considered as combining of  short letters and sustainable letters. It called lagu and guru.

There can be seen ‘thristub’ and ‘anustub’ virith in the pirith sajajyana. Those virith created in the Vedic  period. When recites  with those instructor (virith ) it gives  some musical stimulations.


i.  ( Anushtub virith )           

Bahu Dewa manushasacha ………

mangalani achainayun…….

Akaknkaman sothanan….

Bauhi mangala muththman

 ii. There are four kind of parts in the maha piritha according to reciting styles. Here we do concentrated and attention to it. Because , it takes a major roll in the musical behavior.


          Reciting of suththra  


          End of reciting

These reciting styles are further the  distinguished  as extension of  the Sinhala music tradition. as a results of that there are  some musical  scales  in the Sri Lankan music. Such Falk musical scales are nourished and influenced by the pirith sajajayana.  Sri Lakan pirith sajajayana is peculiar to its own way. when it comes to end  allways it locates  beyond one octave that even to very difficult understand to musician. Today some of Sri Lankan musicians try to explore    musical combination of pirith sajajayana and allready they have been realized north Indian rag reflection in the pirith. Specially  they see some similar points  between north Indian music and pirith chanting.


 rag :  thodhi

The suthras which belongs to the pirith are fictioned  by the pali. The long usage of Sri Lankan Society now it became to independent recitting styles and  a devoting way. Late Mr . C. De.S. kulathilaka who is musicologist in the Sri Lanka keen observed Buddihist sajajayana and Sinhala music tradition . Tonal stimulation is the most important thing which he identified among those ( suththra gayanas )  reciting.

Here are some suggtions for the innovative development of the music. Those are as following:

01.  Identifying tonal performs of the pirith sajajayana. 

02.  Criticizing of the sajajayana scales according to ethnomusicological and musicological  discipline.

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