Bangladesh Buddhist Association

History of CTG Buddhists

Bangladesh is the country of multi-religion, race and population. Beside Hindu-Muslim community Buddhists are a small community in this country and the number of this population is about above 1 million. The history and heritage has enriched and differentiated Bangladesh. So, Buddhists are an important community for this country. From 7th to 12 century, this Indian Sub-Continent was in a dark age for Buddhists and Buddhism. At this time the whole India stirred up by the religious revolution. Then many parts of Hindu and Vedic religious preacher appeared. From 7th century Sankaracharya, Kumarilbhatta etc Vedic religious preacher forced to the Buddhists to convert their religion to Hinduism by crucial torturing with the help of Kings of India. And after that again Hindu culture spread and many Buddhists religious books, Stupas, temples ect. had burnt. They also tortured many renowned Buddhist monks. Between these five hundred years there was also the oppression of Muslims in India. They too forced both Hindus and Buddhists to convert them to Muslim by taking Quran in one hand and sword in other hand. Actually, at the end of 11th century the Muslims established their reign in India. Before that, Muslims used to take the riches and resources from India by ruining the temples and other buildings and preaching their religion. About this incident Sir Charles Elliot wrote- “But where as Hinduism was spread over the country, Buddhism was Concentrated in the great monasteries and when these were destroyed there remained nothing outside then capable of with standing either the violence of the Muslims or the assimilative influence of the Brahmins.” At this time, falling in the opposite stream of Brahmin’s & Muslim’s religion, Indian Buddhists were not able to maintain their own religion. Most of them converted into either Muslims or Hindus. The whole West and South India became the area of Hindu and Muslim. For this reason at the last part of 11th century the original Buddhists, who wanted to remain in their own Buddhism religion, took shelter in Bodhgaya by advancing East side of India gradually. Seeing the same aggression there also, a group of pure Buddhists along with their family and some little amount of precious jewels ran away toward Aasam through present Rajshahi division. In that group there was also some learned Buddhist monks. At that time, in present Gouhati province and places beside it there was the power of Brahmins and Kumarilbhatta religion. The next priests and their followers caught those fugitive pure Buddhists near Gouhati and forced them to convert in Hinduism. The other Buddhists who were not been caught, disguised themselves and gradually advanced in the south-east side and reached in Chittagong division. It is worth of saying that, on the way of coming in Chittagong from Magadha or Bhihar through Aasam many of them died due to disease, being attacked by ferocious animals and starving for a long time. Present Chittagong division was them ruled by the Arakanese Buddhist King. His Capital was in Mihong City of Arakan. Chittagonians call it Pathorikilla. The ruins of East Palace surrounding 7 strong walls can still be seen here. As under ruled by Arakanese King, there lived many Arakanese and Moghs in Chittagong, Dhaka and Presidency division. The Buddhist people form Bhihar started to live with Moghs as they were also from the same religion. Here they had no fear of taking away their religion and gradually they made good friendship with Arakanese. Arakanese or Moghs used to call “Marmagree” to the people from Bhihar or Magadh. The word “Marmagree” means high caste and it can also be said that the people of Bhihar were the high caste because they came from that place where the Buddha gained his Enlightenment and became the Buddha. In the North side of Aburkhil village there is Moghdari canal and in South is Boriakhali. The Moghs dug the canal so it named Moghdari canal.

In the both side of that canal the Moghs lived. The name Boriakhali came from Baruakhali where on the both side of that river there may be Baruas lived. There are also many places like- Khulna, Cox’s Bazar, Ramu, Harbang, Palang, Teknaf and Bandarban where many Arakanese Moghs are still living. The people of Magadh or Bhihar are presently known as “Barua” in Chittagong. In this Barua group there were many pure Buddhists. They are called Barua Because they are from mainly Bhihar and also different parts of India. The word “Baura” means “Boro Arya”, that is highly respectable caste. Most of the Chittagonian Bauras were used to say many Pali words which prove that they were form Bhihar and no one of Chittagong use Pali words. The Bauras of Bhihar used to live in Chittagong after ran away from Bhihar. The monks started to establish monasteries & temples and from those old monks, more people started to take the wandering asceticism. Living together with Moghs, a good relationship had built up and sometimes started to marry with each other. Like this Baruas and Moghs have become one. For many years Chittagong is a frontier region. Here many was has taken place. Portuguese, Moghs, Muslims and Hindus had battles here. Chittagong city’s Anderkilla is the bearer of that history. Cause of living closely with each other Arakanese language began to practice in Baura community. Specially, Arakanese language is the language of king. Till now the people of Baura community say most of that language. Beside this language similarity there are many similarities between Baruas and Arakanese. But still Baruas and Arakanese are not the same community. In Barua community there is no discrimination of caste. There is appreciation of quality. In the field of education the Barua Buddhists are in a very advanced place in Bangladesh. At the time of Arakanese reign Barua Buddhists were used to do high official jobs. They also took different jobs in the reign of Indian Muslim Kings and gained several titles- Chowdhury, Mutsuddi, Talukdar etc. Some Sthavirs and Mahasthavirs were in the group of that people from Bhihar or Magadh. Gradually from those monks more people took wandering asceticism. This way, somehow Baruas were saving their Buddhism religion. As they were fugitive Buddhists, they were not able to bring the Holy Tripitaka which was then written in Palm leaves or bark of Birch tree. They were mainly tried to rescue/save themselves. So, the only resource of practicing religion was their memorized religious words. For that reason, the monks were not fully able to understand the substance of the Buddhism and later started to forget that also. Like this, not been able to understand any substance of the Buddhism, people began to attract in Hinduism in 7th century. Cause of this, the Buddhism was somewhat faded from the mind of the Buddhists. In this auspicious moment Sangharaja Saramedha Mahasthavir of Arakan Sangharaj Vihar came to Chittagong and started to pour the bright light of Buddhism in the Buddhist community. He came here in 8th century. Before that, for the lack of religious education the Buddhist monks of this region not able to lead themselves by abiding the rules of monk life. They used to eat foods after 12 pm. Then there were 3 classes of monks and they were continuously breaking the rules of monkship. Like this there was disorder of rules of Buddhism. After the arrival of Sangharaja Saramedha Mahasthavir from Akiab to Chittagong, he leered about the rules which the monks were following and told them to take upasampada (wandering asceticism) according to the original rule and follow them properly. From this Sangharaja, some received initiation newly. They are at present the “monks of Sangharaj group” of Chittagong. And those who were not received initiation they are now the “monks of Mahasthavir (Mathe) group” of Chittagong. At the time of Magadh Emperor Ashoka the wise Buddhist monks divided into eight groups for propagating the Buddhism in all over the world. Among them, Mahendra, Hattiya, Uttiya, Sambal and Vaddasal these 5 monks came to Burma or Myanmar. At first they propagated Buddhism in the Thatan region of Burma. That time the King of Thatan was King Manuha. Having a war with him the King of Pegan region King Anawratha brought the Holy Tripitaka from the capital of Burma to the Pegan City riding on the back of the elephant. After that the real Buddhism spread all over Burma. Near the Pegu City there was a large university named “Kaliyani Chong” or “Kalyani Vihara” like Nalanda. From here the Burmese civilization flourished and the Arakanese monks gradually initiated in Buddhism. And from these Arakanese Sangharaj monks the Sangharaj of monks of Chittagong re-initiated. Before going to Chittagong, those monks who were in that fugitive group of Buddhists, the Baruas’ are very greateful to them. Because, those monks saved the forefathers of the Barua Buddhists of present Chittagong and whole Bangladesh from many unfavorable situation. Presently the Buddhists not only live in Chittagong but also live in different regions of Bangladesh like- Rajshathi, Dhaka, Sylhet etc division. But mainly Bangladeshi Buddhists are residing from Chittagong division.

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