Jasim Majumder & Zahidul Naim Zakaria
Danutthum Kathin Chibor Daan is one of the biggest Buddhists festivals. Organized every year in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the month-long programme begins from the day of Ashwini Purnima and ends on Kartik Purnima.
Every year, both male and female devotees of all ages throng the different Bihars during this time and observe the occasion through prayers and ceremonies. Although the ceremony comprises of various activities, its name 'Chibor Daan' is primarily derived from weaving pieces of cloth or 'Chibor' from scratch (using thread) for Buddhist religious leaders of the region, namely 'Bantee' and 'Sramon' leaders. According to stories about the origin of the tradition, this very special part of the ceremony honours the memory of how the Lord Buddha's disciple Bishakha had new robes made for Buddha and his monks within a single day as proof of her devotion. The robes are usually any one of the following six colours: those of a tree's roots, trunk, bark, dry leaves, fruit or flower. Furthermore, this practice represents the effort of the community to eliminate everyone's sins. Devotees also offer money, books and other goods of daily life as penitence for their sins.
The centerpiece of the festival were the eight hundred Buddha Keyang or Buddhist prayer houses - decorated with colorful paper, different types of flowers, tree leaves, grass, cloth, and flags. The month-long festivities create a sense of enthusiasm in Buddhist people who have congregated from Khagrachhari, Rangamati and Bandarban districts.
'Danutthum Kathin Chibar Daan' includes 'Maitree Sutra Path' (rendering of religious songs), which starts in the early morn and gradually moves on to 'Austrabingshati Buddha Puja', 'Panchhashil' (offering of 'Pancha-shilla' prayer), 'Austrashil Grahan', 'Autrapariskarak Daan', 'Pradip Puja' (lighting of candles), 'Pindhu Daan' (offering of meal to monks) and finally concludes with 'Chibor Daan'. Both 'Bantee' & 'Sramon' Buddhists from the three hill districts took active part in the activities.
The 'Pradip Puja' (lighting of candles) was celebrated in front of Buddha Bihar in the evening, where the crowd of devotees, reciting religious chants, released hundreds of balloons. These balloons, each with a lit candle powering it, are locally called 'Fanus'. The religious leaders were present during the event to encourage the devotees. Anutosh Chakma, Assistant Teacher of Khagrachhari Adarsha High School, said that by releasing the balloons, they were symbolically letting go of the sorrows, pain, sins and sufferings that human beings inevitably face in life. “These are traditions from a long time ago used to make society more compassionate and peaceful”, he said. The burning candle inside the balloon is seen to symbolize enlightenment.
'Pindhu Daan' (offering of meal to monks) is another important religious activity. The objective is to satisfy the 'Bantee' or 'Sramon' leaders to gain heavenly blessings. Sumolakar Mohatharo, President of Parbattya Buddha Mission (PBM) informed that sometimes the whole village offers meals to the religious leaders in their 'Keyangs' or open spaces, in order to earn blessings and remove all curses from the village. They believe that appeasing the leaders will bring peace to the environment and their villages, and they will live happily.
The Principal of Janabal Buddha Bihar Ven.Chandramoni Mohasthabir offered 'Chibor' to Bantee and Sramon leaders. This occasion, on top of its traditional religious remembrance, also brings to mind the Four Noble Truths of Lord Buddha that can alleviate the suffering of humans: (a) The nature of suffering (Dukkha), (b) The origin of suffering (Samudaya), (c) The cessation of suffering (Nirodha), (d) The path to the cessation of suffering (Marga). The Principal said that Lord Buddha's teachings can help disciples attain 'Nirvana' - a state where the mind is perfectly at peace and free from all worldly cravings. He urged the community to avoid discrimination and malice and channel their spiritual energy towards leading a peaceful life.
Many national and international Buddhist religious leaders, along with tourists visited the Buddha Bihar to be a part of the occasion. Praggalankar Mohasthabir, the Principal of Khagrachhari Arjabon Bano Bihar, said that the month long religious festival reinvigorates the minds of the participants, and gives the devotees a chance to spread the teaching of Lord Buddha.
Lord Buddha taught his disciples to take care of their living environment just as sincerely as they took care of their own bodies. The wasteful consumption of natural resources and destruction of ecology are caused by humankind's incessant craving for convenience and wealth. If we can practice Buddha's teaching of “leading a contented life with few desires” and if we are willing to use our intelligence to deal with problems, and not undermine the need to live in harmony with nature, then we can have happy and sustainable lives. In today's world, where development without concern for the nature have led to the rapid consumption of natural resources, the speedy deterioration of the natural environment, and the extinction of many species, maybe it is Buddha who the world should really be listening to.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009