Aṭṭhakathā (Pali for explanation, commentary)[1] refers to Pali-language Theravadin Buddhist commentaries to the canonical Theravadin Tipitaka. These commentaries give the traditional interpretations of the scriptures. The major commentaries were based on earlier ones, now lost, in Prakrit and Sinhala, which were written down at the same time as the Canon, in the last century BCE. Some material in the commentaries is found in canonical texts of other schools of Buddhism, suggesting an early common source.

As with the Canon itself, the contents of collected editions of the Theravadin commentaries, compiled from the fourth century CE onwards, vary between editions. The minimal collection, found in the Thai edition (1992) includes the following (Skilling 2002).

In addition, the following are included in one or both of the other two editions: the Burmese Chatthasangayana edition (a list of contents can be found in Thein Han 1981) and the Sinhalese Simon Hewavitarne Bequest edition.

Below is a listing of fourth- or fifth-century CE commentator Buddhaghosa's fourteen alleged commentaries (Pāli: atthakatha) on the Pāli Tipitaka (Norman 1983).

Only the Visuddhimagga and the commentaries on the first four nikayas are accepted by a consensus of scholars as Buddhaghosa's.[3]

The commentator Dhammapala's date is uncertain. He wrote after Buddhaghosa, and probably no later than the 7th century.[4] His Khuddaka Nikaya commentaries are Paramatthadipani comprising

Three books are included in some editions of the Khuddaka Nikaya: Nettipakarana, Petakopadesa and Milindapañha. Of these only the Nettipakarana has a commentary in any standard edition.