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Flourishing standard of Pali and Buddhism in Tripura

by Rohan L. Jayetilleke, Daily News (Sri Lanka), Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The State of Tripura, one of the twenty-nine States of the Union of India, is situated in North East India, between the river valleys of Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh, encircled totally on three sides by Bangladesh and linked with Assam and Mizoram in the North - East.

Tripura has a long and chequered heritage. The long and significant and unique tribal culture and fascinating folklore are manifested in the Rajamala, a chronicle of the Kings of Tripura, Rajamala records, the rulers were called by the surname "FA" meaning "Father". This Chronicle further states the rulers of Bengal helped the Tripura kings in the 14th century A.D. when they faced frequent invasions from Maughal invasions, with varying degrees of success. The Tripura kings held their ground and in several fierce battles defeated the rulers of Bengal.

Modern era

Fortunately in the 19th century saw the dawn of the modern era in Tripura, when King Maharaja Birchandra Kishore Manikya Bahadur, redesigned the administrative structure on the British India model and brought forth reforms in numerous fields of socio-economic activity. His successors ruled Tripura till October 15, 1949, the time of India gaining independence from the British rulers. Thereafter Tripura merged with the Indian Union. Reorganisation of States were performed on September 01, 1956 and was officially declared as such on November 01, 1957. Tripura, thereafter attained the status of a full-fledged State of the Republic of India on 21, 1972.

Occasionally

Presently State of Tripura covers an area of 1,049,169 sq km, population of 3,191, 168 (according to 2001 Census Report of India, with its capital city Agartala and with Bengali and Kokborok as principal languages and Manipuri language was occasionally spoken language.

According to the Indian Census report of 1991, the Buddhist population of Tripura is 1,28,260. These Buddhists venerate the Buddha who, in the words of the Bengali Poet Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, a perfect man ever born on earth".

The State of Tripura consists of four districts, namely, North Tripura, area 2.820.63 sq km, population 5,90,655, Headquaters Kailashahar; South Tripura area 215,177 population 762,565, Headquarters Udaipur; West Tripura area 299,682 population 1,530,531 Headquarters (capital) Agaratala. Dhalai area 255,247, population 307,417, Headquarters Ambassa. (From India 2004 p. 829). Thus the Buddhist population is around 31 per cent of the total population.

Fertiled

In few of these facts, the State of Tripura is really a fertile land for the flourishing condition of Pali and Buddhism. In fact, the State of Tripura under the Union of India (Republic) bears a glorious legacy of Pali and Buddhism. During a visit to Tripura, on the invitation of His Highness Sri Radhakishore Manikya, the then king of the kingdom of Tripura, Rabindranath Tagore, the nobel laureate and Post and Savant of India, became aware of the flourishing condition of Buddhism in Tripura from Colonel Mahimcandra Dev Barman Bahadur and was astonished to see the rich collection of Pali and Buddhist texts very reverently preserved in Bhadur's library.

Marked tendency

With regard to Pali studies is concerned the Ramthakur College, Agaratala, capital city of Tripura, has been successfully teaching Pali upto the B.A. Pass level since the establishment of the College in 1967. The progress in Pali studies in the College in recent years has been sufficiently gained. The numerical strength of the Pali students, though insignificant in the past, shows a marked tendency to increase.

The gradual popularity of the subject (i.e., Pali) in the College may be traced to the efforts and patronage extended to the cause of Pali learning by the (Former) Principal Dr. Ranindra Nath Das (Shastri) who started the Pali classes at the very beginning and took the responsibility of the teaching work in Pali inspite of his multifarious duties to be performed as administrative Head of the Institution". (Journal of the Department of Pali, Vol, 1, 1982-83, p. 192 - Sengupta Sukumar, A Short History of the Pali Studies in the University of Cakcutta 1880-1983).

In Tripura, though not labelled as Buddhists, there is large percentage of people believed Hindus and Jains, and recognized Lord Gautama Buddha as the greatest son of India of the 6th century, unsurpassed by any other teacher.

The writer is a member of the Bhrathiya Kala Kendra of India.

source: http://www.dailynews.lk/2010/03/10/fea40.asp

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