Chittagong-Arakan Modern Buddhist Reformation 1757–1947: Staging Buddhism in Extended Bengal with Transregional Connections

Principal Investigator: D. Mitra Barua , Research Fellow (2020–21), ACLS/Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies

Project Dates: 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 

Funding: Robert H. N. Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies, administered by the American Council of Learned Societies

Photo credit: D. Mitra Barua

This proposed monograph Modern Buddhism in Chittagong-Arakan will examine the processes of the reconfiguration and geographical spread of Buddhism in the region. It will focus on a set of questions: how did Bangla-speaking Buddhists in Chittagong dispel the shadow of Hinduism, claim Buddhist identity, and get dispersed in the wider region? Addressing these questions, the monograph will argue that the Buddhists in the region have successfully employed their oral tradition based identity (i.e., Mog/Maga/Magadhi Buddhists) as the descendants of extinct Indian Buddhists in Magadha to emerge as a distinct (non-Hindu) religious community in the region. It will also illustrate how this revived identity has enabled the Buddhists to establish translocal connections with other Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.