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Buddhism in Bangladesh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Somapura Mahavihara is the oldest Buddhist institution in Bangladesh.
Buddha Dhatu Zadi, a Buddhist temple in Bandarban

Buddhism is the third-largest religious affiliation and formed about 0.63% of the population of Bangladesh.[1][2] It is said that Buddha once in his life came to this region of East Bengal to spread his teachings and he was successful in converting the local people to Buddhism, specially in the Chittagong division and later on Pala empire propagate and patronized Buddhist religion throughout the Bengal territory.[3] About 1 million people in Bangladesh adhere to the Theravada school of Buddhism.[4] Over 65% of the Buddhist population is concentrated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, where it is the predominant faith of the Rakhine, Chakma, Marma, Tanchangya, other Jumma people and the Barua. The remaining 35% are Bengali Buddhists. Buddhist communities are present in the urban centers of Bangladesh, particularly Chittagong and Dhaka.

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  • Population trends for major religious groups in Bangladesh 1951–2021



The earliest statue of Buddha found in Mahasthangarh

Legend said that Gautama Buddha came to the region to spread Buddhism, and it was speculated that one or two individuals became monks to follow in his footsteps. However, Buddhism did not gain much support until the reign of Ashoka when Buddhism gained a toehold. The Pala Empire that controlled the Indian subcontinent spread many Buddhist ideologies in modern Bangladesh and built many monasteries such as the Mahasthangarh and the Somapura Mahavihara. During the Pala Dynasty, a famous teacher named Atisha was born in the city of Bikrampur and spread Mahayana Buddhism.

Chandra Dynasty's Puranchandra and Subarnachandra adopted Buddhism, as did their successors Trailokyachandra and Srichandra who ruled Harikel and Chandradwip (Barisal).[5] The Khadga Dynasty was a Buddhist dynasty of kings that carried the surname Bhatt. They made several temples and monasteries. King Rajabhata was for example a very committed Mahayanist Buddhist.[6]

Buddhism in various forms appears to have been prevalent at the time of the Turkic conquest in 1202.[7] The invading armies found numerous monasteries, which they destroyed. With the destruction of centres of Buddhist learning, such as Nalanda University, Buddhism rapidly disintegrated.[8] In subsequent centuries and up through the 1980s nearly all the remaining Buddhists lived in the region around Chittagong, which had not been entirely conquered until the time of the British Raj (1858–1947). During the 19th century, a revival movement developed[9] that led to the development of two orders of Theravada monks, the Sangharaj Nikaya and the Mahasthabir Nikaya.

In the Chittagong Hills, Buddhist tribes formed the majority of the population, and their religion appeared to be a mixture of tribal beliefs and Buddhist doctrines. According to the 1981 census, there were approximately 538,000 Buddhists in Bangladesh, representing less than 1 percent of the population.

Demographic overview

Historical Buddhist Population
1951 294,437—    
1961 355,634+20.8%
1974 428,871+20.6%
1981 522,722+21.9%
1991 637,893+22.0%
2001 862,063+35.1%
2011 898,634+4.2%
2022 1,007,468+12.1%
Source: Bangladesh government census authority[10][11]
Buddhism in Bangladesh by decades[10][12]
Year Percent Increase
1951 0.7%
1961 0.7% Steady 0%
1974 0.6% Decrease -0.1%
1981 0.6% Steady 0%
1991 0.6% Steady 0%
2001 0.7% Increase +0.1%
2011 0.6% Decrease -0.1%
2022 0.63% Increase +0.03%

As of 2014, followers of Buddhism are mainly people of Baruas living in Chittagong city, the business city of Bangladesh and indigenous Arakanese descent living in the sub-tropical Chittagong Hill Tracts. People who follow Buddhism in Bangladesh belong to the Barua people in majority with the percentage of 65% among the 0.07% population of Bangladesh, Chakma, Chak, Marma, Tanchangya and the Khyang, who had been since time immemorial have practiced Buddhism. Other tribes, notably those who practice Animism, have come under some Buddhist influence, and this is true in the case of the Khumi and the Mru, and to a lesser extent on the other tribes.

Buddhist population across Bangladesh[13]
Division Percentage (%) Buddhist population (
Total population
14,348 8,173,818
1,719,759 24,290,384
152,274 39,044,716
99,995 14,705,229
58,877 16,354,723
47,080 13,847,150
1,621 8,107,766
27,999 11,370,102

Buddhist sites

Somapura Buddhist Vihar dates back to the 8th century AD during the rule of the Pala empire


Atisha is one of the ancient priests from the Pala dynasty who is followed within the Bangladeshi Buddhist sects.

There are several active monasteries in the Chittagong, and in most Buddhist villages there is a school (kyong) where boys live and learn to read Bengali (national language) and some Pali (an ancient Buddhist scriptural language).[7] It is common for men who have finished their schooling to return at regular intervals for periods of residence in the school. The local Buddhist shrine is often an important center of village life.

Buddhism outside the monastic retreats has absorbed and adapted indigenous popular creeds and beliefs of the regions to which it has spread.[7] In most areas religious ritual focuses on the image of the Buddha, and the major festivals observed by Buddhists in Bangladesh commemorate the important events of his life. Although doctrinal Buddhism rejects the worship of gods and preserves the memory of the Buddha as an enlightened man, popular Buddhism contains a pantheon of gods and lesser deities headed by the Buddha.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs provides assistance for the maintenance of Buddhist places of worship and relics.[7] The ancient monasteries at Paharpur (in Rajshahi Region) and Mainamati (in Comilla Region), dating from the seventh to ninth century A.D., are considered unique for their size and setting and are maintained as state-protected monuments.

Persecution of Buddhists

List of massacres targeted at Hindus and Buddhists minorities by radical Islamists and Razakar:

Prominent Bangladeshi Buddhists

Historical figures
Bhikkhus (monks)
Dipankara Srijan, president of the Chittagong Buddhist Association, as leader of a delegation at the 6th Buddhist council in Rangoon.
Freedom fighters
Arts and literature

See also


  1. ^ "Census 2022: Bangladesh population now 165 million". 27 July 2022. Archived from the original on 27 July 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  2. ^ "Bangladesh : AT A GLANCE". Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Bangladesh Buddhists Live in the Shadows of Rohingya Fear - IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters". Archived from the original on 2020-11-17. Retrieved 2020-12-09.
  4. ^ "Census 2022: Bangladesh population now 165 million". 27 July 2022. Archived from the original on 27 July 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  5. ^ P. 22 European Trade and Colonial Conquest: Volume 1
  6. ^ P. 261 Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism: The Mahayana Context of the Gau?apadiya By Richard King
  7. ^ a b c d Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain. Bangladesh: A Country Study. Federal Research Division. Buddhism.
  8. ^ "Caryagiti". Archived from the original on 9 March 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  9. ^ "Jewel in the Crown: Bengal's Buddhist Revival in the 19th and 20th Centuries | Buddhistdoor". Archived from the original on 2016-06-10. Retrieved 2016-06-03.
  10. ^ a b "Bangladesh- Population census 1991: Religious Composition 1901-1991". 2 August 2016. Archived from the original on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  11. ^ "Census 2022: Bangladesh population now 165 million". 27 July 2022. Archived from the original on 27 July 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  12. ^ "Census 2022: Bangladesh population now 165 million". 27 July 2022. Archived from the original on 27 July 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  13. ^ "Mymensingh District - Banglapedia". Archived from the original on 2021-05-02. Retrieved 2021-04-25.
  14. ^ Jahangir, Apurba (6 March 2016). "A Free Spirit". The Daily Star. Archived from the original on 29 September 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
This page was last edited on 13 June 2024, at 00:53
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