Jataka stories or birth-legends were widely known in the third century b.c. Each story, narrated by the Buddha, opens with a preface relating the particular circumstances in the Buddha's life, revealing some events in the long series of his previous existences as a bodhisattva. These stories magnify the glory of the Buddha and illustrate Buddhist doctrines and precepts by appropriate examples. The foremost interest of these legends lies in their relation to folklore giving a vivid picture of the social life and customs of ancient India.
The famous translations of the Jataka Stories from Pali
edited by Prof. E.B. Cowell are now once again being made available to the
general public in three volumes.