The earliest attempt to compile a history of the Sāsana and the lineage of Kings in Sri Lanka was the Dīpavaṁsa, which was compiled around the early 5th c. CE. It was based on the Introduction to the Sinhala language Mahā Aṭṭhakathā, which is unfortunately now lost.
The work was edited and translated in 1885 by the great German scholar Hermann Oldenberg; and it is this edition that I am publishing in digital form now. The book was originally published with the Pāḷi text at the beginning of the book, and the translation at the end, making it hard to compare the two.
In the new edition I have arranged the material in interlinear format, with a verse in Pāḷi followed by its translation so it is easy for a student to follow both. There is also an English-only version of the text, for those who do not have any knowledge of Pāḷi.
The chronicle was later superseded by the far longer Mahāvaṁsa. There is no doubt that Mahāvaṁsa is by far the more polished of the works, and is written is very good Pāḷi. Dīpavaṁsa, on the other hand, is quite disorganised and the command of the Pāḷi is poor.
Still, there are some interesting differences between the two works. One thing is the inclusion of a whole chapter in Dīpavaṁsa given to the bhikkhuni lineages, which is omitted in Mahāvaṁsa, which only gives the bhikkhu lineages. The Dīpavaṁsa shows just how able and central to the success of the Sāsana the bhikkhunis were.
The Dīpavaṁsa also highlights the fact that when Queen Anulā and her 500 attendants attained sotāpatti during Ven Mahinda’s teaching, that they were the first people to attain Path and Fruit in the island of Laṅkā.
It also contains an account of the first three Councils; the earliest mention of the fourth Council; the arising of the various schools that were found in the early Buddhist tradition; and a short account of Asoka’s Missions.
I am very grateful once more to Donny Hacker for help in preparing the translation; despite having much other work on, and his studies as well, he always finds time for Dhamma work. I prepared the Introduction and the Pāḷi text myself, including the 700+ complex notes showing the variant readings. I hope the present work will help those interested in studying the history of the Sāsana, and its development in the early centuries of the Buddhist era.