A Brief Introduction to Barua Community of Bangladesh

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This article on 'Baruas' or 'the Barua Community of Bangladesh' is written by Ven. Upali Sramon. Anybody can send his/her comments on this article. Although there are many Baruas in India, the Baruas in Bangladesh are different from them. Baruas in Bangladesh are Buddhist by birth. This article is good for knowledge and citations in academic works. This article is also available in the following webpages - kabyasikhari.wordpress.com. There are many other good articles on Barua community in this website.

 

Barua community in Bangladesh is one of the several communities who had been following Buddhism since long in the history of past Bangladesh. Among the other communities are Tangcangyas, Chakmas, Marmas and several indigenous tribes in Chittagong hill tracts. These communities who live in Chittagong Hill Tracts; have distinct languages and interesting culture.

Depending on the occupational, social and economical status although some Buddhist people use titles like ‘mutsuddi’, ‘choudhuri’, ‘talukdar’, ‘sikdar’, ‘hajari’, ‘sinha’ etc. all in fact are Baruas. Analyzing, the term Barua as derived from bara (big/great) + ariya (Arians), a general interpretation of the origin of this community is traced back to the first Buddhists who were converted during Buddha’s time. The account of a Buddhist monk named Vang?sa (vanga- Bengal +?sa – the lord, chief or great) in Samyuttanik?ya, an ancient Pali book, is indicated to support that argument. However scholars are not unanimous to the above explanation as that does not provide enough evidence to trace the origin of the community particularly the term. Another explanation to the term is that Barua or “Baruah” or “Barooah” (meaning leader of hundred men) – as an honorary appellation given to distinguished officers in the Ahom kingdom of medieval Assam [Barua, Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia].

 

According to myths, it is said that ‘Amor Manikya’ of the Tripura Kingdom became a king with the title ‘Barua’. It is mentioned in ‘Rajamala’, the chronicle of Tripura kings;


“I am the zemindar [landlord] of the king Bijoy Manikya;
You, being a ‘Barua’ of that king, became a king.”


[as quoted by Mr. Suniti Ranjan Barua, Bangladesh Barua Jatir Itihas O Oitijyo, p. 9.]

 

Baru Can?idas – a 14th century poet in his ‘Srikrisna’, a devotional poem, used the term ‘Barua’ in the sense of ‘great’. Even the poet was called ‘Baru’ meaning great.
As there was always some conflict among Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina kings and later Muslim colonizers, the lives of general public too was in great difficulty considering their religions. However, the Baruas, as the historians believe, were firm in their beliefs in Buddhism and fled to hilly regions for the sake of protecting the originality of this religion. Therefore, most Baruas even now are to be seen in Chittagong which then was a Hilly and forest area. Aladin, a respected writer, says that the high-land (of Chittagong) was the ancient dwelling place of Barua-s. There are several other opinions with regard to the term “Barua”.

Opinions with regard to the term “Barua”:


1. According to the Bengali Encyclopedia ‘Baruas are the descendants of a powerful dynasty of Buddhist kings’.


2. In 1891, the English Census superintendent Mr. Hunter also conforms to the above fact in his ‘Statistical Account of Bengal’.


3. Some opine that ‘Barua’ which means ‘great’ is a Apabhra?sa [derivative] of the Sanskrit term ‘ba?uk’.
4. Late Beni Madhab Barua, the former Prof. of Pali, Sanskrit and ancient Indian history of the University of Kolkata in 1938 says the term ‘Barua’ is a derivative from ‘Brijjiya’ which is derived from ‘Brijji (in P?li language Vajji)’. Pandit Dharmadhar Mahasthavir agrees with Dr. Barua.
5. The former vice chancellor of University of Chittagong Dr. Abdul Karim says, “The Baruas of Chittagong are the earliest inhabitants, examining the history, whose influence is evident from the education, culture, and heritage of ancient Chittagong.”

Some think in the 6th century A.D. with the arising of Brahminism, Buddhism declined and Barua-s from India then came to Chittagong. Others believe in the 12th century when Iktiyar Uddin Bakhtiyar Khilji conquered Magadha, from Vriji community a prince with his 700 relatives came to Chittagong and they are the ancestors of Barua. Mr. Suniti Ranjan rejects both the ideas mentioned above. According to him, these incidents are not real but just beliefs for there is not a single copper-inscription, rock-inscription etc. to support those ideas. He thinks during the reign of Mughal kings whole of Pakistan, India, Bengal, Burma was considered as one large kingdom in which people, especially business men, could easily move around different states without any obstacle. But the title ‘Barua’ used as surnames of some people did not begin earlier than 150 years. He says, in one word Baruas are those who are ‘honourable’.

 

Considering the statements of Mr. Hunter and the Bengali Encyclopedia and looking at the history of Buddhist kings in Bengal it becomes clear that Barua-s are the descendants of the medieval Buddhist kings of Bengal. Following dynasties of Buddhist kings were said to have ruled Bengal from 6th up till 13th century A.D.

 

1. Sinha Dynasty (6th B.C. to 1st A.D.) ruled from Banga [presently Faridpur and Bakargunj]


2. Barmo dynasty (2nd to 5th A.D.) ruled  from Banga [ Faridpur, Bakargunj, and Mymensing]


3. Shal dynasty (5th to 6th A.D.) ruled from South East Bengal


4. Kharga dynasty (7th to 8th A.D.) ruled from As above


5. Pala dynasty (8th to 12th A.D.) ruled from North Bengal


6. Candra dynasty (10th to 11th A.D.) ruled from East Bengal


7. Candra’s (Deva Dynasty) 11th to 13th A.D. ruled from South-east Bengal

 

The Dev-Pahar of present Chittagong was said to be the capital of Deva dynasty. Many ancient Buddhist ruins are found here. Mr. Suniti opines that these lineages of king are the ancestors of Bengali Barua-s.

 

The title of Manik Candra from the Candra Lineage was ‘Barua’. His subsequent generations dwelt in a place near Lalmai which is named after ‘Barua’. At present Barua is a name of a district. The descendents from the Candra-lineage could be seen even today. They are the people who use ‘candra’ after their names such as Satish candra Barua, Sunil Candra Barua etc.

 

Baruas in Chittagong

 ‘Chittagong’ is said to be a misrepresentation introduced by British as they found uneasy to pronounce the original name ‘caittagram’ (cetiyag?ma – meaning the village of stupas) which suggest how Buddhism once flourished there. The region is also known by many other names among the dwellers therein as – cattragram, cottol, cnatga. Their spoken language is the Chittagong (chittagnongian) dialect of Bengali – the official language of the country. “However, the two languages are not mutually intelligible, meaning that those who only know how to speak Standard Bengali will not understand Chittagonian speakers” [Chittagong, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia] There are many Baruas living in various states in India like Kolkata, Assam, and Silaguri. Many Baruas living in India follow Hinduism. Baruas in Chittagong are Bengali by nationality and Buddhists by religion.

 

The Baruas are spread in various divisions known as thanas. Dwellers of various thanas in Chittagong too have distinct differences in their languages. However, they follow the same family or kinship pattern, religious ceremonies, New Year festivals and various celebrations.

 

According to the history of Buddhism in Bangladesh there was once a deformation of the religious system; particularly the role of priests who were not recognized by the State and had no sponsors. As there was no government supports much of their cultural ceremonies and religious festivals were incorporated with Hindu system. Outside they were like Hindus but among themselves they retained the Buddhist identity which is significant mainly by names. Priests were a set of people known as ‘raoli purohits’. The term ‘purohit’ is still used by Hindus to refer to a class of their priests. Ven. Saramedha (Saramitra) who was trained according to Burmese Buddhism played an important role in early 19th century for the revival of this religion and establish in the original form. However, even today, many of their cultural aspects including the form of dresses they maintain Hindu influence. The form of Buddhism among them is according to Therav?da tradition. They believe that every Buddhist male should be ordained as a Buddhist monk at least for a weak. Otherwise, he will never be reborn as a human and hence no probability of his liberation from sams?ra. In fact, when such people die their corpses are not carried by shoulders but holding the coffins above the knee level.

 

Most of the religious festivals among baruas are common to other Buddhist countries. New Year festival gained religious importance among them. The kathina festival (after three months of rainy season) is celebrated and regarded as a joyful event. They also developed a form of unwritten devotional songs known as k?rtan (or samk?rtan singing together) in praise of Buddha and good principles of life. In most of the Buddhist festivals k?rtans are sung either by a single person, in a group or only by two persons who debate taking two roles (popularly Siddhartha and Devadatta) and capturing a historical incident in Buddha’s life. S?vali p?ja – offering of a large number of food and fruit items in name of Arahanth S?vali is one of the festivals not much popular among Sri Lankan Buddhists. Offerings in name of Ven.Upagupta who appears as a prominent figure in the Sanskrit avad?na literature and believed still living in n?galoka is significant among the Baruas and Buddhists in Bangladesh as a whole. Ven. Sadhanananda – popular as ‘vanabhante’ (a still living forest monk, who meditated in deep forest for 12 years) from Chakma community is also venerated with great respects by them. There are many great Buddhist scholar monks from Barua community, who played responsible roles for the propagation of Buddhism in and outside the country. Ven. Atisha D?pamkara sr?jñ?na – the founder of Tibetan Buddhism in 10th century B.C. is interpreted by many scholars as from Barua community. Ven. Karmayogi Kripasaran mahasthavir with many others was a close associate of Anag?rika Dharmapala in reviving the Bodhgaya Buddhist Temple and Buddhism in India.

 


Submitted: July 01, 2009

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Buddhist Psychology

also see - kabyasikhari.wordpress.com
to know more about the Barua community

Wed, July 1st, 2009 6:51am

Chloe the guitar girl

wow, thats really cool, well for the fact that i really love learning history about places far away from me. i plan on visiting bangladesh as well as moscow(russia), Amsterdamn(europe), and ireland. but this is really cool

Sun, December 20th, 2009 8:24am

Author
Reply

thank u very much for the appreciation. bangladesh is a beautiful country, although media reports spoil the image sometimes. you will really love to travel by boat in the rivers of b.desh, to eat muri, sunbath in cox's bazar, the great museums on our liberation war... and so many things. above all these is the friendly attitudes of local people. you can't imagine their reaction. when the see a foreigner the would admire him or her like an angel. so pack your baggage and set off at the earlpiest. life is too short isn't it?

Thu, January 6th, 2011 11:57am

Mangala Priya

nice one ...^_^....

Tue, June 29th, 2010 6:07am

Author
Reply

thanx...

Thu, January 6th, 2011 11:43am

Shellie Burg

I love travelling and learning about different cultures. This article made me want to take a trip to Bangladesh.

Sat, September 4th, 2010 11:09am

Author
Reply

thank u very much. i am really very happy being able to make u wish to visit bangladesh. i think what i said to CHLOE the guitar girl, applies to u also. so u are welcome to bangladesh.

Thu, January 6th, 2011 12:48pm

Shilabrata Barua

This is a very informative article. I have a doubt about the origin of Baruas of Chittagong. Their racial characteristics are similar to Mongolians. So I think they came from neighboring Arakan, not from ancient Magadha.

Fri, March 16th, 2012 4:28pm

arabinda

I think shilabra barua is right,Peoples are always making mistake calling themselves as Bengali.Racial characterstics eating patterns are not link with any kind of aryans,In my earlier days I heard that few barua who considered themselves educated gave the wrong picture to the govt.Actually all baruas are in tribal nature who are buddhist.Recently I started to study barua community.My observation is that all people of arakan chakma and baruas are same clan .

Thu, May 10th, 2012 8:32am

scythian

Hello Everybody,
First of all let me thank Ven.Upali Sramon for his effort and time that he spent on writing this article. I am a research scholar and my topic deals with the barua Buddhist community and as it is really hard to get any detail and data on this community, this article is a worthwhile piece of information although there seems to be some amount gap in the theory of origin of this fascinating community, for eg:although some say that baruas are from magadh or descendants of Buddhist rulers of Bengal but still they do not answer as how this community suddenly appeared in the pages of history. Because a community cannot just appear in a place out of thin air!Moreover the Buddhist kings of the period mentioned in the article were all followers of either Mahayana or Vajrayana school of Buddhism and the present baruas are adherent to the Theraveda school of Buddhism,so why, when and where did this sudden change take place(an effort of chakma Queen Kalindi?).I shall be really obliged if someone could provide me an e-copy(or a hard copy)of the book tiled "Bangladesh barua jatir itihas ebong tader oitijyo" and any piece of information that can be substantiated on this community(martin4u@gmail.com). I partially agree with Shilabrata Barua and Arabinda on their observation about the similarities that the baruas share with the chakma community regarding their common heritage. The chakmas have a number of kinship groups called Goza and in this group one of the kinship group is named Barbua/Borbwa/Borwa(Ref:Ethnicity of chakma and tanchangyas by Rupak Debnath,Wikipedia:Chakma,Goza or chakma septs)which is phonetically similar to the word barua.Sujit Baruah too have made an interesting observation about the similarity of language between the Assamese and Baruas. Assamese branched out from old bangla in around 8th to 1300 CE and interestingly Charyapada(Vajrayana Buddhist songs)was written in this period time and Kamrupi language had a great influence on the languages and scripts of this period. Chittagonian(language of baruas) and Assamese language have more similarity in terms of structure and phonetics. And if we assume that the written language of baruas(now extinct)was same as that used in Charyapada then the grammar and morphology too should be similar and these(phonetics,grammar,morphology and structure)are the basic criteria for establishing a common ancestry in linguistic terms as we have already seen that both of them come from Kamrupi language.Thus Sujit is quite right in his observation and our author is slightly mistaken in his reply. Apart from this anthropologically too the author has made an error in his reply because Indo-Aryan is a language group. To categorize this group ie 'Aryans' in terms of a race is inaccurate as their racial identity is unknown(Ref:The Penguin History of Early India,Romila Thapar,Introduction ,pg xxiii ).A quick look in the present day area of Central Asia from where the Indo-Aryans have spread will reveal that most of the current dwellers in this area have mongoloid features. And if the author was referring to the facial features then, among many Buddhist baruas including the Simha-barua this same mongoloid feature can be seen still today. So, a direct denial of a common ancestry, heritage and lineage with the Chakmas and Assamese cannot be out-rightly rejected but a more open minded approach is desired.
"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it" Buddha(563-483 B.C.E). My comments are not meant to hurt anybody and I apologies if they have for I want to seek out the truth about the intriguing community of Baruas and their origin. I welcome suggestions from everyone so that the truth can be uncovered not only for the Baruas but for the sake of the future generations and for their enhancement of knowledge. I can be reached at martin4u@gmail.com

Fri, May 18th, 2012 4:46am

SHIV SHANKAR DAS

Very Informative Article. Could u please send me this piece (or other one in more details and if published) to me at shivshankarjnu@gmail.com
Thank you very much.

Thu, June 28th, 2012 12:06pm

raju barua

According to B.K. Gogoi's literature "Buddhism in Assam and its Surrounding Areas" has mentioned that Buddhism became popular in the Kamrupa, Tezpur, Goalpara and nearby areas during the reign of Asoka (3rd century B.C.). From The archaeological evidence from Sri Surya Pahar we learned that "... The stupas and also the terracotta plaques with figure of Buddha found in regular excavation indicate that Buddhism flourished in lower Brahmaputra valley, especially in and around Surya Pahar during the early part of the Christian Era and continued up to the 10th Century A.D. In the 9th- century A.D.the Pala Dynasty (who were followers of the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism) stretched to a large part of India including Assam resulting in spread of Buddhism throughout the length and breath of Brahmaputra Valley (undivided Assam). Buddhist remains found in some nearby areas like Pancharatna, Barbhita village and Bhaitbari (now in Meghalaya) in the southern Bank of the lower Brahmaputra valley also strengthen the fact...".[4] From the above facts and evident can be proved that the Barua surname holders in Assam were Buddhist in the ancient period. During Maurya Empire Ashoka 265 BCE, his territory was spread in eastern side Brahmaputra Valley to Chittagong. Migration was common during those time because of conflict among local tribes[5] in Brahmaputra Valley and surrounding of Arakan. There was some ethnic community had migrated Brahmaputra valley and remaining in hill track of Chittagong from southern Barma (Myanmar). Probably Barua's are among them.[6]
Now, if we go down (merely distance of 400 km.)from Brahmaputra Valley to the southern part of Bangladesh, we find Baruas are still following the ancient Buddhist ritual and customs and "... People who follow Buddhism in Bangladesh belongs to the Barua people in majority with the percentage of 65% among the 0.07% population of Bangladesh ...".[7] If you compare archaeological point of view, Namghar (literally: Name House) are places for congregational worship associated with the Ekasarana religion of Assam and Barua Buddhist Montessori's are symmetrical in foundation.In physically appearance - Assamese Barua's and Chittagonian Barua's are similar. In 15th-16th century Assamese Vaishnavite saint-scholar, playwright, social-religious reformer Srimanta Sankardeva had covered Buddhist Barua in Assam into Hindu religion as he started is named as Eka-Sarana Hari-N?ma Dharma, also referred to as Mah?purusism or Assam Vaisnavism.[8]

Now, next question arises that what was the ruler name, who had offered this surname? How many of them had received the surname at that time? Although there is ambiguity on offered the title "Barua" by Ahom king or Arakan king? Although, it is true that Ahoms are arrived from Myanmar (Barma)and Arakan is the part of Myanmar [9][10]. Therefore both Barua's from Assam and Chittagong are originated from southern part of Mayanmar. Later some Barua's had migrated to lower Brahmaputra valley and remaining Barua's were settled in Chittagong.

It is also to be consider “…The Buddhists of Bangladesh belong to four groups of Nations who have been gradually mixed together. The groups are the Austic, the Tibeto-Burman, the Draviyans and the Aryans… “ [11]. That is Chittagonian Barua's can be noticed with above group with their present anatomy and in Barau's from Assam can be identified with their Hindu cast i.e.,Brahmins and Kayastha as well as from their anatomy.

In present situation, there are majority of migrated Chittagonian Barua people in India and some of Barua in Chittagong are acknowledge that Barua are want to be identified as Magh that may prove their origin of being from Magadah (Bihar) State of India.[12][13]

From the historical supporting document it revels that both the Chittagonian and Assamese Barua community have been amply contributed towards society and religion from the ancient period. Unfortunately those entire stories were not documented properly.

Thu, November 15th, 2012 3:51am

mitaky

As a Barua buddhist from Kolkata i am very interested in the fascinating history of Baruas from Chittagong area where my parents and ancestors came from. Thank you very much for this content rich article. I received an article recently by Dr. Mohammad Yunus. He gives a detailed history of Arakan including migrant Magh buddhist from Magadha, whom the Baruas claim to be their ancestors.

-----
Excerpts: "Influx of Magadah Buddhists into Arakan
Arrival of Buddhism into Arakan, as stated earlier, bagan around first century Christian Era. In 8th century under the Hindu revivalist l leader, Sankaracharijya, Buddhists in India were persecuted in large-scale. In Magadah, old Bihar of India, Buddhists were so ruthlessly oppressed by chauvinist Hindus and rival Mahayana sect of Buddhists that large numbers of Hinayana Buddhists had been compelled to flee eastward
23
who ultimately found shelter in Arakan under the Chandra kings. also, Buddhist refugees from Bengal, during the Tibeten conquest in the eighth and ninth centuries, crossed over to the nearest place viz. Arakan where they could preserve their religion.
24
It is to be noticed that Magadah in its pristine days included Bengal. These Buddhist immigrants assumed
the name Magh as they have migrated from Magadah. By this time, in Arakan, all the three religions -- Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam -- flourished side by side, but there had been large-scale conversion to Islam."

http://rohingyasocietyinmalaysia.org/wp-content/download/History%20Of%20Arakan%20By%20Dr.%20Mohd%20Yunus.pdf

Susmita Barua
www.seek2know.net

Wed, December 5th, 2012 4:39am

djbangall

Very good article, Kudos. some of my personal inputs. Both my grandparents were from caittagram (Chittagaon). However i have been in Delhi since birth. I was always fascinated for my religion and my community. I have heard stories that barua have a strong root connection to Nepal and than Bihar (India) before becoming Buddhist and settling to Chittagaon. I have also heard stories that barua were from Kapilavastu, ruled by Gautam Buddha's father Suddhodana. We became barua when we followed shakyamuni from kapilavastu to boddhgaya and finally settled to India. But, as we were the minority like always, so to protect our religion and clan, we had to settle down far from the mainstream Hindu dominated land and there we moved to the hills of chittagaon. Also, the barua who were not able to make to Bangladesh settled in North east india and adapted hinduism, so to reflect that they put a "H" at the end of "barua".

Fri, December 18th, 2015 12:27pm

barko

Hi All... It is really nice to read so many opinion and research from so many. Even i have been working on it for a long time, to find the roots of our Great Grand Fathers. So far the analyses from me and after reading some of the articles and reviews from many person, who like me are in search of the roots of our Community. I believe like many other does, we are a mixtured bread of Aryan and Mongoloid, coz in my own family and many other families i have seen and noticed that two different features (Aryan and Mongoloid). I very much believe we do have a good connection with Bihar and Assam, where we might get the answer to our biggest Question. And I strongly believe that we have nothing connected to Bengali until our great grand fathers moved to East Bengal and adopt to their life style to save DHAMMA.

Once i was travelling in a train in Assam. I was reading one book from Taiwan of Buddha and its short stories with moral.(Which help me in a great deal to Live a great life, even in the worse time of my life). I was 16/17 yrs old i guess. There was one old Assamese person seat opposite of me, who said he was professor. He asked me for the book to see and asked me what is my name. When i told i am a Barua, he said that we were from Assam and one of the oldest Buddha's followers settled in Assam, who later marched to down hills to Chittagoan and Burma to save their families and Religion. And who didn't move, converted to Hindu (Baruah and so on). Which i believe started with one of the Asoka's grandson.
Anyways this was just observation and some imput from Me. All the above comments really helped. Thank you all

AGAIN

"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it" Buddha(563-483 B.C.E)

Wed, March 2nd, 2016 1:13pm

Ajanta

Thank you for this read! Very interesting. And interesting comments.
I was fascinated by our history ever since my dad told me about our family. He told me that our family was originally from India and were Buddhists since it came to be. But in time, the persecution of Buddhists started happening and so the Baruas fled to Bangladesh. He said half of the Baruas stayed in India or traveled back in fear of getting killed, thus converting back to Hinduism.
It's interesting to read about our origin or find out more about it. Especially when it's shrouded in mystery.
I can say that most of my relatives look Indo-Aryan but there are a couple that look more Mongoloid. But only time and more evidence would be able to tell us where and how we actually came about. Especially when cultures intermix all the time.
I, myself am mixed. My father is a Barua and my mother is from Cambodia with Chinese ancestry (both my grandparents were half Chinese). I recently submitted a DNA test to find out what ancestry is in my DNA. The results weren't too surprising, a couple of things were. I think I cab distinguish between what's mostly from my dad or mom, although tests from them would be better. For my dad, I had a small amount of Siberian and Baloch, then some western Indian and the rest was southern Indian (Dravidian). My mom had a small amount of Oceania, some northern Chinese and most was southeastern Asian, which includes southern China.
I uploaded my raw DNA test to a couple different DNA tests that separate cultural categories even further. Interesting comparisons.

Wed, April 26th, 2017 2:27am

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