MAHA BODHI SOCIETY OF INDIA, ITS HISTORY IN BRIEF

HISTORY IN BRIEF

The founding of the Maha Bodhi Society of India by the late Ven. Anagarika Dharmapala in 1891 is an outstanding event in the history of the revival of Buddhism in the land of its birth. As the Society completed more than hundred years of its service to mankind, we recall with utmost gratitude, the unique contribution of Anagarika Dharmapala and review briefly the activities of the Society since its inception.

David Hewavitarane, as Anagarika Dharmapala was named, was born on the 17th September, 1864 in the Hewavitarane family of Matara, Sri Lanka which was one of the wealthy families and was known for their unstinted devotion and dedication to the cause of Buddhism.

In 1884 Anagarika Dharmapala accompanied Col. Olcott and Madam Blavatsky to Adyar, the Headquarters fo the Theosophical Society in India.

In 1885, Sir Edwin Arnold, the well-knownauthor of “The Light of Asia” published a few articles in the “Telegraph” a London based periodical of which he was the Editor, drawing the attention of the Buddhism to the deplorable condition of the Buddha Gaya Temple and its surroundings.

When Dharmapala read these articles he was deeply noved.

On 22nd January, 1891 he visited Buddha Gaya for the first time. His heart broke when he saw th appalling condition of this holy spot. The strong moral urge which he instantly felt can be known in the following lines from his diary.

“As soon as I touched with my forehead on the Vajrasana a sudden impulse came to my mind. It prompted me to stop here and take care of this sacred spot so sacred that nothing in this world is equal to this place where Prince Sakyasinha gained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree.”

With obsolute dedication he resolved to start his great mission for the restoration of this sacred temple and regeneration of Buddhism in the land of its birth.

He returned to Sri Lanka determined to finalise his future plans.

He convened a meeting and founded the Buddha Gaya Maha Bodhi Society in Colombo on May 31, 1891.

The offer-bearers of this newly born society were elected with Ven. H. Sumangala Nayake Maha Thero as President, Col. H. S. Olcott as Director and Chief Adviser and H. Dharmapala as General Secretary.

With the object of drawing attention of the Buddhist world to the state of affairs at Buddha Gaya the Society convened on International Buddhist conference at Buddha Gaya in October, 1891.

THE MAHA BODHI SOCIETY AT CALCUTTA

The Maha Bodhi Society started its office in Calcutta in 1892 first at 20/1, Gangadhar Babu Lane, Bowbazar and then shifted to 2, Creek Row.

In May 1892 the Society launched its monthly journal, “The Maha Bodhi” and the “United Buddhist World” (later named as “The Maha Bodhi”) from Calcutta for the propagation of Buddha’s teachings in India and abroad and also for interchange of news between Buddhist countries.

WORLD PARLIAMENT OF RELIGIONS AT CHICAGO

 

In 1893 World Parliament of Religions was held at Chicago, which was one of the important events of the nineteenth century. The chairman of the organizing Committee sent an invitation to the Maha Bodhi Society to send a representative to attend this conference. The Society nominated Anagarika Dharmapala as its representative, Anagarika was one of the most popular speakers at the Parliament. His main paper on “The World’s Debt to Buddha” delivered on the 18th September highly impressed the representatives of world’s religions.

During his return voyage from America, Anagarika met Mrs. Mary T. Foster, a Theosophist and wife of Mr. T. R. Foster, a wealthy banker of North America. In this memorable meeting Anagarika Dharmapala’s short discourse made such a deep impression on her mind that she became one of the greatest benefactress of the Maha Bodhi Society. With her generous donations, temples, monasteries, schools and numerous other institutions were established in India and Ceylon.

In the meantime in 1904 the Headquarters of the Society were shifted to Sarnath and Buddha Gaya. Later on the Headquarters were reverted to Calcutta in the same year (vide Maha Bodhi Journal 1904)

In spite of the continuing legal disputes with the Mahant in connection with the restoration of the temple, with the help of the Maha Bodhi Society, particularly through the wide contact of Anagarika Dharmapala hundreds of pilgrims from Asian countries started visiting the BuddhaGayaTemple.

In 1915 the Maha Bodhi Society of India became a registered body. A Governing Body was formed with Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, the Chief Justice of the High Court at Calcutta

and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta and real builder of the edifice of higher education in India as President, Anagarika Dharmapala was elected the General Secretary.

SRI DHARMARAJIKA VIHARA

 

In 1914 Anagarika Dharmapala purchased a plot of land at College Square and at this plot the foundation stone of the Sri Dharmarajika Vihara was laid on the 16th December, 1918.

In 1916, the Government of India agreed to offer the Maha Bodhi Society a sacred Holy Relic of the Buddha which had been discovered during the excavations of Bhattiprolu stupa in Madras Presidence provided the Society erected asuitable Vihara in Calcutta.

Shri Dharmarajika Chetiya Vihara was opened on the 26th November, 1920 at an impressive ceremony.

 

CALCUTTA HEADQUARTERS

Anagarika Dharmapala with his keen foresight set up the Society’s headquarters at Calcutta and obviously chose this place as the main centre of his activities.

At that time, the people of Bengal particularly the Buddhists had the sense of a kinship with the Buddhists of Sri Lanka through Buddhism. It is a common belief that Prince Vijaya Sinha of India, who, according to the Ceylon chronicles, after his accidental conquest of Ceylon in the 5th century B.C. become in first king and laid the foundation of a royal dynasty, hailed from Bengal.

When Anagarika came to Calcutta towards the end of 1891 a limited number of original Buddhists from Chittagong, the then eastern border of India, were available here to give him their preliminary basic support.

Later on, as his contact grew, wider, eminent educationists, scholars and social reformers were associated with the Society. As the years passed by more and more people came forward to extend their co-operation to the Society.

 

 BUDDHA GAYA TEMPLE AFFAIRS

The Society continued its all-out efforts for the restoration of the Maha Bodhi temple. Attempts were made to convince the national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Babu Rajendra Prasad, Deshbandhu C. R. Das, Rabindra Nath Tagore and other eminent persons about the legitimate claim of the Buddhists in this regard.

Rabindra Nath Tagore expressed his opinion as follows : “I am sure, it will be admitted by all Hindus who are true to their own ideals, that it is an intolerable wrong to allow the Temple raised on the spot where Lord Buddha attained His Enlightenment to remain under the control of a reival sect, which can neither have an intimate knowledge of, nor sympathy for, the Buddhist religion and in rites of worship” (vide M.B.Journal, 1922).

MULAGANDHAKUTI VIHARA AT SARNATH

Meanwhile, the expanding activities of the Society were continued through the ceaseless effort of its founder.

The outstanding achievement of the Society and the last glorious monument work of Anagarika Dharmapala was the completion of the Mulagandhakuti Vihara at Sarnath, where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after his Enlightenment.

The opening ceremony of the vihara was celebrated on the 11th November, 1931. The then Viceroy and Governor General of India, Lord Willingdon presented the Bone Relics of the Buddha to the Society through the Director General of Archaeology.

RELICS OF SARIPUTTA AND MOGGALLANA

The home-coming of the relics of Sariputta and Moggallana, the two principal disciples of Lord Buddha was another historic event in the regeneration of Buddhism in India.

As a result of the continuation persuation of the General Secretary of the Maha Bodhi Society of India, Devapriya Valisinha since 1938, the Govt. of India ultimately accepted his claim to bring back the Relics for enshrinement in India.

On the 13th January, 1949 at a large and colourful gathering held at the Calcutta Maidan and attended by distinguished dignitaries and delegates, Prime Minister, Pandir Jawaharlal Nehru ceremoniously handed over the sacred relics to Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, President of the Maha Bodhi Society of India.

Finally, the sacred relics of Sariputta and Moggallana were enshrined in the specially built Vihara of the Maha Bodhi Society of in Sanchi.

CENTENARY

In the month of September, 1991, the Society celebrated in Centenary in a befitting manner with the participation of international delegates.

CONCLUSION

In the 21st Century the Maha Bodhi Society of India undertakes fresh responsibility for the expansion of humanitarian service to fulfil the dedicated mission of its revered Founder Ven’ble Anagarika Dharmapala with the goodwill and co-operation of its friends and well-wishers and solemnly rededicates itself to the noble task of disseminating to the world Buddha’s message of peace, love and harmony.

(Extract from an article written by Mr. Santosh Bikash Barua, Treasurer and Trustee of the Maha Bodhi Society of India and published in the Centenary Volume of The Maha Bodhi, 1991).

PAST PRESIDENTS OF THE MAHA BODHI SOCIETY OF INDIA

(1891-1998)

1891-1911           : Most Ven’ble Hikkaduwe Siri Sumangala Pradhana Nayake

Mahasthavira

1911-1924          : Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, Judge, High Court, Calcutta

1925-1942         : Hon’ble Justice Manmatha Nath Mookerjee

1942-1953         : Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee

1953-1982         : His Highness Polden Thondup Namgyal

1982-1989         : Mr. P. K. Thungon

1989-1993         : Most Ven’ble Palipana Dharmakirthi Sri Gunarathana

Chandananda Maha Nayaka Thero.

1993-1995        : Most Ven’ble L. Ariyawansa Nayake Maha Thero

1996-1998        : Most Ven’ble Dr. Mapalagama Wipulasara Maha Thero

1998-2001       : Most Ven. Dr. Bishop Kyuse Enshinjoh

2001-2004      : Ven. Dr. Rastrapal Maha Thera

2004-2007      : Dr. B. K. Modi

2007-2010       : Mr. Prasanna Jayasuriya

PAST GENERAL SECRETARIES OF THE MAHA BODHI SOCIETY OF INDIA

(1891-1996)

 

1891-1933              : Anagarika Dharmapala, Founder of the Maha Bodhi Society

of India

1933-1968              : Brahmachari Devapriya Valisinha

1968-1983              : Most Ven’ble Neluwe Jinarathana Nayake Maha Thero

1983-1984              : Ven’ble Dr. Uruwela Dhammarathana Thero

1984                          : Ven’ble Dr. Pothuwila Gunarathana Thero

1984-1985              : Ven’ble Dr. Ellawela Nandissara Maha Thero

1985-1995              : Ven’ble Dr. Mapalagama Wipulasara Maha Thero

OFFICE BEARERS OF THE MAHA BODHI SOCIETY OF INDIA

(For a term of 3 years from 2010 Sept to 2013)

 

PRESIDENT :

H.E. Jigmi Y. Thinley

Hon’ble Prime Minister of Royal Government of Bhutan

VICE-PRESIDENTS :

Ven. Dr. Akuratiye Nanda Nayaka Thero

Ven. Dr. Varasambodhi Thera

Aggamahapandita Ven. A. B. Gyaneshwar Maha Thera

Ven. Gyomay M. Kubose

Hon’ble Justice Mr. Arunabha Barua

Mr. Lalit Mansingh

Mr. Pasong Namgyal

Shri Hemendu Bikash Chowdhury

Miss Rekha Talukdar

Mrs. Rekha Mody

GENERAL SECRETARY :

Ven. Dr. D. Rewatha Thera , chief Sanga Nayaka of Indai

JOINT SECRETARY :

Ven. M. Sudhammalankara Thero

Ven. P. Seewalee Thero

 

TREASURER ;

Shri Dipak Kumar Chowdhury

GOVERNING BODY MEMBERS :

Ven. G. Prajnananda Maha Thero

Ven. G. Saddatissa Thero

Ven. E. Uparathana Thero

Ven. H. Saddhathissa Thero

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhipala

Ven. Dikpal Bhikkhu

Mr. Prasanna Jayasuriya

Shri Shyamal Baron Chowdhury

Dr. Brahmanda Pratap Barua

Shri Sourendra Kumar Mahapatra

Mrs. Dipa Barua

Sri Asis Kumar Chaudhuri

Shri Tshering Dorjee

Ngudup Dorjay Bhutia

Sonam Dorjee

Major Chhumbe Tshering Lama

Mingma Tshering Bhutia

Dr. Jayantha Gunasekara

Shri Ugen Chencho Lama

Ms. Snigdha Barua

Ven. Lama Chosphel Zotpa

Mrs. Sina Chaudhuri

Prof. P. G. Jyotikar

Dr. Harish B. Rawaliya

Mr. Tribhuvan Shiva Tathagat

Mr. Girishchandra Solanki

Mr. Dasho Passang Dorji

Mr. C. P. Shailani

Mr. Rahul Barua

Miss Asmita Barua

Sri Ananda Kumar Basrua

Sri Sujit Kumar Barua

Sri Nirode Baran Barua

Mrs. Basanti Gorsia

Prof. Ram Mohan Pathak

Dr. Kailash Prasad

Shri Ashok Chattopadhyay

Shri Sudhir Bhatnagar

Mrs. Parul Dey

Dr. (Mrs.) Prabha Thakur

Dr. Bimalendu Mohanty

Sri Arya Kumar Jnanendra

Mrs. Namrata Chaddha

Shri Abasar Beuria

Sri Dilip Kumar Ghosh

Sri Ananda Hari Paul

Sri Siddhartha Mukhopadhyay

Sri Shankar Prasad Yadav

Sri K. L. K. Chandani

Dr. Indu Pati Jha

Sri P. N. Upadhyay

Sri Chirantan Dawn

H. H. Maharani Bibhu Devi of Tripura

Sri Sudhansu Kumar Ghosh

Sri Gangesh Bhattacharya

Sri Kalinath Dutt

Sri Tribikram Mohanty

BHIKKHUS-IN-CHARGE OF CENTRES OF MAHA BODHI SOCIETY OF INDIA

 

Sarnath                        :         Ven. P. Seewalee Thero

Buddhagaya              :         Ven. H. Saddathissa Thero

Kolkata                        :         Ven. E. Uparathana Thero

New Delhi                   :         Ven. Sumithnanda Thero

Lucknow                     :          Ven. G. Prajnananda Maha Thero

Orissa                           :          Ven. M. Athulasiri

Lumbini                      :           Suddhamika Bhikkuni

MAHA BODHI SOCIETY OF INDIA CENTRES & THEIR ACTIVITIES

 

 Activities of the Maha Bodhi Society of India Centres & Branches

 

Headquarters: Kolkata

 

*    Sri Dharmarajika Chetiya Vihara

*    Arabinda Barua Library

*    Dharmapala Institute of Culture & International Guest House

*    Maha Bodhi Nursery & Primary School

*    Maha Bodhi Yoga Class with World Yoga Society

*    Sri Jinaratana Memorial Free Homeopathy Dispensary

*    Morning chanting & evening Dhammachakkapavattana sutra chanting everyday

*    Buddha Jayanti Celebration

*    Birth Anniversary of the late Ven’ble Anagarika Dharmapala, Founder,

Maha Bodhi Society of India.

*    Kathina Chiva dana celebration

*    Seminar

Sarnath

*    Mulagandhakuti Vihara

*    Maha Bodhi Inter College

*    Maha Bodhi Girl’s College

*    Maha Bodhi Private School

*    Free Medical Service

*    Free Ambulance Service

*    Sunday School

*    Maha Bodhi Birla Dharmasala

*    Mulagandhakuti Vihara Library

*    Daily Dhammachakkapavattana sutra chanting in the evening

*    Every year Kartika Full Moon day the Maha Bodhi Society of India, Sarnath

Centre are celebrating the Mulagandhakuti Vihara anniversary and

exposition of relics.

Buddhagaya:

*    Jayasri Maha Bodhi Vihara

*    Junior High School

*    Free Homeopathy Dispensary

*    Free Ambulance Service

*    Free distribution of Dhamma books

*    Every year February 1st, 2nd and 3rd the Maha Bodhi Society of India, Buddhagaya

Centre is celebrating Jayashree Maha Bodhi Vihara anniversary in this occasion the sacred relics of Buddha, Sariputta and Maha Moggallana was also open for public exposition.

Bhubaneswar :

*     Buddha Vihara

*     MahaBodhiPublic School

*     Maha Bodhi Yoga classes

*     MahaBodhiNursery School

All other Centres are organizing function & seminars & publishing Dhamma Books.

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2 responses to “MAHA BODHI SOCIETY OF INDIA, ITS HISTORY IN BRIEF

  1. education, social, and religiously honestely hard working monestri in india. All the hmember’s of gove.mbody and the life member’s of the Society has suport for
    establised more and more, Ven. Thero D. Ravata have done very good work for the Society. So give ven. d. revata tuero Big hand. He is on path of Anagarik Dhammapala. Vanami Bhate Ven. D. revata Thera.

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