Studies in Ven. Buddhadatta’s Prosody
(Vinayavinicchaya; Uttaravinicchaya;
Abhidhāvatāra; Madhuratthavilāsinī)

An analysis and study of the metres in Ven Buddhadatta’s four main commentaries.




Html Table of Contents


1: Vinayavinicchaya

2: Uttaravinicchaya

3: Abhidhammāvatāra

4: Madhuratthavilāsinī (Buddhavaṁsa-aṭṭhakathā)



The following studies examine the prosody of the texts of the great Pāḷi commentator Ven. Buddhadatta. We find that the commentator had a very distinctive prosody which lies between the canonical and classical usages, but with its own distinctive features. This can help us in identifying the Madhuratthavilāsinī as being his work also, which has sometimes been doubted, as it shows the same characteristics. We also point out a number of mistakes in I.B. Horner’s edition of the latter work.


The texts examined in this series are as found on the Chaṭṭha Sangāyana Cst4, published by the Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri (no date given). The quotations from the text have been reformatted to comply with the standards employed on this website.

The analysis which follows is what we may call a rough analysis, as it has not proved possible to re-establish the text, owing to the time restraints involved in making these studies. To arrive at a complete and satisfactory text for examination would have required re-editing all four texts, which is obviously beyond the scope of the current enquiry.

I have therefore sometimes made changes to the texts when they seem to be me to be necessary, but they have been made on no other authority than their intrinsic likelihood. They do, of course, affect the description of the metres and their usage, but they are never so great as to affect anything fundamental. The greatest number of changes introduced was in the Vinayavinicchaya, where they amounted to just 18 in the whole text (containing 3,200 verses). Any changes that have been introduced into the verses that are quoted in the examples, have been noted in the appropriate place.

These studies, besides describing a more or less unique prosody, which seems to stand somewhere between the canonical and classical periods, also provide some excellent examples of classical metres, some of which are so rare in the literature that they haven’t even been described in the prosodic literature itself, so far as I am aware.

Abbreviations & Conventions


Chaṭṭha Sangāyana Cst4
















Madhuratthavilāsinī (Buddhavaṁsaṭṭhakathā)





In marking the metrical weights of syllables I use the western, not the eastern, system which means syllables are marked in this way:

light (laghu) syllables =
heavy (garu) syllables =
either light or heavy =
ancepts (either light or heavy, but always counted as heavy = ×
resolution is marked by two light syllables being underlined = ⏑⏑

I also make use of the following conventions:

structural dividers = ¦
a required end-of-word pause is marked by a comma
epenthetic (sarabhatti) vowels are set in superscript
when a vowel is read as light against its normal length I mark it with a breve


Canonical and commentarial works quoted all refer to the Chaṭṭha Sangāyana Cst4 ( edition, unless otherwise stated.

Horner, I. B. 1946, reprinted 1978. Buddhavaṁsa Commentary. Oxford: Pali Text Society.
Smith, Helmer. 1928-66, reprinted 2001. Saddanīti (5 volumes published in 3 parts). Oxford: Pali Text Society.
Ānandajoti, Bhikkhu. 2000, revised edition, 2007. An Outline of the Metres in the Pāḷi Canon. (
————. 2017. Vuttodaya, The Composition of Metre (
————. 2002, revised edition, 2016. Dhammapada, A New Edition. (
Horner, I. B. 1978. The Clarifier of the Sweet Meaning. London: Pali Text Society.
Sri Deepankara. 1925. “Vṛttodayapariśiṣṭaya”, in The Vuttodaya. Saddharamaprakasa: Alutgama.

September 2005. Revised for publication in the
Journal of Ñāṇasaṃvara Centre for Buddhist Studies
(JNCBS), 2019.