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The Path to Nibbana (Bangladesh)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

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Brief History of Buddhism in Bangladesh

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Bangladesh is a new nation in a political sense,having been created in its present form after the war 1971 for independence. its culture and civilization,however, go much further back in history,spanning over 3000 years.

Early Civilization:

The earliest references to areas in Bangladesh can be found in the ancient texts of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.But these references are mythological rather than historical. Reliable accounts became available only early in the fourth century B.C. It was around this time the historians  of Alexander the Great recorded accounts of a powerful civilization inhabiting  the lower Ganges region,the Gangaridai .Greek geographer Ptolemy, who lived in the second century A.D. also made references in his works that can be traced to modern day Bangladesh.  

Emperor Ashoka

Emperor Ashoka 
From the fourth to the second century B.C. the region was dominated by the Mauruyan Empire, of which Ashoka was the last major emperor.Little is known about the next few centuries until the rise of the Gupta Empire. Ashoka reigned from 265 BC.  to 238 BC.  and was one of the greatest and noblest rulers the Indian subcontinent ever known. It was his patronage of Buddhism that enabled the then fledgling religion to spread throughout  India and eventually to east Asia. His conquest of kalinga on India's east coast in 261 BC. marked a turning pointing his life.He was sickened by the death and suffering he caused ,and it was the last was he ever fought. Ashoka embraced Buddhism and put the humane  and benevolent ideas of Buddhism into practice, including the appointment of “officers  of righteousness” who saw that the local authorities prompted welfare and happiness among his subjects.His famous edicts,carved on rocks, in caves and on specially erected pillars, still survive today.





Gupta Period:

Gupta Dynasty
The Guptas ruled the region until the dynasty’s collapse in the seventh century and the rise of the first independent king of Bengal, Sasanka(ruled 600-625). The Gupta period was notable for its artistic development, much of which originated in the Bengal region. Gupta art later influenced the people of Southeast Asia. Renowned Chinese Pilgrim Hsien Tsang,who visited the Bengal region between 639 and 645, wrote of the flourishing Buddhist states he found there.










Pala Sasana

In the eighth century, following a century of chaos in Bengal, a warrior named Gopala was elected to the throne in an attempt to impose some semblance of order. Gopala reigned from 750 to 770. He founded the Pala dynasty, which brought prosperity and stable government to the region for more than four centuries. Its patronage nurtured the arts and sheltered the remnants of the of the Buddhists  in the Indian subcontinent where Hinduism was becoming a powerful force. The Palas were the last powerful Buddhist Monarchs on the subcontinent.They also established diplomatic relations with kingdom of Srivijaya,which controlled much of the Indonesian archipelago.  
The Palas were succeeded by the Sena Dynasty at the end of the 1st century. The Senas ruled Bengal until the early 13th century. Under the Senas, Hinduism replaced Buddhism as the main object of royal patronage.




Floundering period of Buddhism

In the early 13th century, invaders from Afganistan and central Asia who were sweeping across the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent and had established the Mamluk Dynasty in Dilhi, overthrew the the sena dynasty and converted most of the population to Islam  Thus began the Turkic domination of the region. Waves of Turks, Arabs,Pakhtuns,Persians,and others began migrating to Bengal, and a period of vigorous cultural and architectural achievement took place.

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