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Rajban Vihara: Internationally Known Monastery in Rangamati
Rangamati Raj Bana Bihar, one of the internationally famous Buddhist temples in Bangladesh, is located in the Rangamati Hill District town. The Raj Bana Bihar was founded in 1975 on 10 acres of land. The Chakma Circle chief (Chakma King) Barrister Devashish Roy donated the land. Now it has become a most attractive spot for local and foreign tourists. Every day about three hundred devotees visit the Bana Bihar to worship the venerable spiritualist Bana Bhante, who is the chief monk of the Temple. This monastery was fully inaugurated in 1977 after two years of construction work.
The name of the Raj Bana Bihar has three meanings. Raj means King, Bana means forest and Bihar means temple. The word Raj comes from Raja who had donated the land and Bana comes from Bana Bhante. The Rajbana Bihar was built for venerable spiritualist Sadhana Nanda Mohasthabir (Bana Bhante), who is the head of monks in bihar at present. He is now 87 years of age and is well known to the devotees as Bana Bhante. In fact, people say that Bana Bhante brought back all Buddhists' trust in and reverence to the religion of Gautam Buddha. After nearly sixty years of spiritual meditation, that he started in 1949 at different temples and in different forests. Bana Bhante now lives at Raj Bana Bihar permanently at the request of the people from the Buddhist community. He has lived there since 1977. He is not only popular and venerable among the Buddhist but is also respected by people of other beliefs.
Murati Sen Chakma, secretary of the Raj Bana Bihar Upasak Upasika Parishad, said that on an average about eighty percent of total population of the Buddhist community in CHT have gained back the trust in religion after the appearance of Bana Bhante. Most people have started avoiding their bad habits like drinking wine, lying and gambling. They think Bhante to be the Lord Goutam Buddha himself and therefore try to overcome their bad habits. “I am relentlessly working for the welfare of Bihar and the revival of trust in religion,” said Murati.
Bana Bhante first took an order of the Buddhist religion at Nandan Kanan Buddha Bihar in Chittagong in 1949 and began his meditation at that time. After six months of meditation at this temple, Bana Bhante went to Dhanpata where he passed most his spiritual life till 1964. He then went to Dighinala Buddha Bihar and stayed there for about ten years. After that he came to Baghaichhari Buddha Bihar in 1970 where he spent his time in deep meditation till 1974. He is still continuing with his spiritual practice and preaching at the age of eighty seven and has been trying to convince sinner devotees to believe in religion and follow the rules of Buddhism.
The biggest religious festival of the Buddhist people “Kathin Chibar Dan” held at the Raj Bana Bihar is celebrated with great enthusiasm and religious fervour. Several millions of Buddhist devotees from the three hill districts and other parts of the country gather during the occasion. Moreover, Ministers, MPs and high officials also attend the festival. Apart from these, numerous Bangalees alongside the Buddhist people crowd at Bana Bihar to enjoy the festival. Devotees bring various gifts which sum up to about Tk 1 crore for Bana Bhante on this occasion. Kathin Chibar Dan means difficult (Kathin) cloth (Chibar: used by monks) donation (Dan). On this day, it usually takes 24 hours to prepare Kathin Chibar from thread processed by spinning jum cotton.
Initially, there were only five monks when the Bana Bihar was first introduced. Of them, two were senior monks and the remaining three were junior monks (shramon). Now the number has been raised into 133, of whom 71 are Bhante (monk) including few of chief disciples of Bana Bhante like Praggyabangsha Mohasthabir, and 62 are Shramon (junior monk). A total of 58 branches have been built under the Raj Bana Bihar in the three hill districts of Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari. Earlier on there were only three small earthen temples including the one served as the monks' living quarters. These earthen temples are called Kuthir. The number has now increased to twenty such earthen temples. Fifteen out of these twenty are Kuthirs (monks' living house) and five are temples (worship house). Among other sections of the Raj Bana Bihar, there is a weaving house (bainghar), a Swarga Ghar (building of an artificial heaven), 3 dining areas, a living house for junior monks, a mini hospital, a room where monks deliver religious speeches, a meeting shed, two sheds for devotees, a press house and a meditation area.
Respect for religion and reverence in Buddhism among members of the indigenous community have been encouraged by the efforts of the Bana Bhante. Their belief and trust in the religion are gradually being elevated by him and so donations are being made by different professionals and other influential people to help upgrade the Banan Bihar.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007