Bengali Buddhists
বাঙালি বৌদ্ধ (Bangali Bouddho)
Total population
 Bangladesh 350,000
 India 408,080 (West Bengal (282,898) and Tripura (125,182))
Bengali (native), Sanskrit and Pali (liturgical), English and Hindi (secondary language for official purposes)
Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Bengali Muslims, Bengali Hindus, Bengali Christians

Bengali Buddhists (Bengali: বাঙালি বৌদ্ধ) are a religious subgroup of the Bengalis who adhere to or practice the religion of Buddhism. Bengali Buddhist people mainly live in Bangladesh and Indian states West Bengal and Tripura.

Buddhism has a rich ancient heritage in Bengal. The region was a bastion of the ancient Buddhist Mauryan and Palan empires when the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools flourished. South-Eastern Bengal was ruled by the medieval Buddhist Kingdom of Mrauk U during the 16th and 17th centuries. The British Raj influenced the emergence of the modern community.

Today, Bengali Buddhists are followers of Theravāda Buddhism.[1]


Somapura Mahavihara from the Pala dynasty, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Ancient Bengal was a center of Buddhist learning and art. Buddhist artifacts have been excavated throughout the region, particularly in Wari-Bateshwar, Chandraketugarh, Paharpur, Mahasthangarh and Mainamati. The Mauryan Empire led by Ashoka extended its suzerainty to the region in the 2nd century BCE. Ashoka played an important role in propagating Buddhism in his own empire and the wider ancient world.[2] Mauryan rule was succeeded by the Buddhist Samatata maritime kingdom in Bengal.

Successive Buddhist powers tussled for dominance with Hindu and Jain kings in the Indian subcontinent. Buddhism in Bengal experienced a revival under the Pala-Candra rulers. These rulers, who were Mahayana Buddhists, supported Buddhism vigorously and established renowned centers of Buddhist learning in eastern India.[3] The Bengali Buddhist Pala Empire arose during the 8th century. Founded by the election of a Buddhist chieftain Gopala circa 750 CE, the empire grew into one of the largest imperial powers in classical Asia. The Palas promoted Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism. They patronized the creation of many outstanding temples, monasteries, and works of art. The Palas enjoyed strong relations with the Abbasid Caliphate, the Tibetan Empire and the Srivijaya Empire. The empire reached its peak under Dharmapala and Devapala. They reigned for four centuries until being replaced by the resurgent Hindu Sena dynasty. According to Kunal Chakrabarty, Buddhism in Bengal declined due to loss of distinctiveness and lack of royal patronage, as the Senas imposed a new socio-religious order, leading to the decline.[3] According to Muhammad Ghulam Rasul, Brahmin persecution played a key role in the decline of Buddhism in India; followed by later Muslim conquest.[4]

The Mainamati Buddhist ruins in southeastern Bangladesh

Remnants of Buddhist communities continued to flourish in southeastern Bengal. The Buddhist Kingdom of Mrauk U ruled the region during the 16th and 17th centuries.

By the late 18th century, the region was ceded to the British Empire. During this period, a revival movement developed [5] that led to the development of two orders of Theravada monks, the Sangharaj Nikaya and the Mahasthabir Nikaya.


A Buddhist temple on Maheshkhali Island, Chittagong

Bangladesh is home to the predominant section of the Bengali Buddhist community. They usually enjoy a high literacy rate and are found in the Bangladeshi middle class, particularly in the port city of Chittagong. Many members of the community reside in Dhaka, Cox's Bazar, and Comilla. The eastern Indian state capitals of Agartala and Kolkata also have significant Bengali Buddhist communities.

Bengali Buddhists constitute 0.59% of the population in Bangladesh. According to the 2011 India census, Bengali Buddhists constitute 0.3% or 282,898 of the population in West Bengal. Buddhists constitute 3.41% or 125,182 of the population in Tripura.



Buddhist art flourished under the Pala rulers. The art for their period is termed Pala art.[6] It influenced art outside of India as well. The artistic tradition continued under the Sena rulers, and thus the term "Pala-Sena" is sometimes used.[7]


Buddha's Birthday is a public holiday in Bangladesh & state government holiday in West Bengal.

Bengali Buddhists also celebrate the festival of Madhu Purnima.\ Kathin civar dana(Holy robe offering ceremony)is celebrated month-long in October–November by Bengali Buddhists.


Bipradash Barua is a Bangladeshi author and novelist.


Mina Barua is one of the most renowned Bangladeshi Folk Singer of Bangladeshi Buddhist community.

Partha Barua is one of the pioneers of Bangladeshi rock.

Notable Bengali Buddhists


Pre-partition Indian subcontinent


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. ^ Bechert, Heinz (1970). "Theravada Buddhist Sangha: Some General Observations on Historical and Political Factors in its Development". The Journal of Asian Studies. 29 (4): 761–778. doi:10.2307/2943086. JSTOR 2943086. S2CID 154554678.
  2. ^ Bentley, Jerry H. (1993). Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times. Oxford University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-19-507640-0.
  3. ^ a b Chakrabarti, Kunal (2016). "A History of Intolerance: The Representation of Buddhists in the Bengal Purāṇas". Social Scientist. 44 (5/6): 11–27. ISSN 0970-0293.
  4. ^ Muhammad Ghulam Rasul. "Bengal Society before the Advent of Islam" (PDF). Bengali Muslim Research Institute.
  5. ^ "Jewel in the Crown: Bengal's Buddhist Revival in the 19th and 20th Centuries".
  6. ^ Leaves from the Bodhi Tree, Susan and John C. Huntington, Orientations, Oct 89. pp. 26-46
  7. ^ Huntington, Susan L.; Huntington, John C. (2014). The Art of Ancient India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 978-81-208-3617-4.
  8. ^ Jahangir, Apurba (6 March 2016). "A Free Spirit". The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 January 2016.