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.
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.
In the month of September, 1991, the Society celebrated in Centenary in a befitting manner with the participation of international delegates.
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
1891-1911 : Most Ven’ble Hikkaduwe Siri Sumangala Pradhana Nayake
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
1891-1933 : Anagarika Dharmapala, Founder of the Maha Bodhi Society
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)
H.E. Jigmi Y. Thinley
Hon’ble Prime Minister of Royal Government of Bhutan
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
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
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
* 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
* 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.
* 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.
* Buddha Vihara
* MahaBodhiPublic School
* Maha Bodhi Yoga classes
* MahaBodhiNursery School
All other Centres are organizing function & seminars & publishing Dhamma Books.