Ramkot Banashram

Ramkot Banashram is a noted Buddhist monastery located in the forest east of the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar highway in ramu upazila in cox's bazar district. At one time this monastery was the centre of Buddhist education and culture in the area.

Ramkot Banashram is flanked by 17 small and large hills. There are piles of old bricks, relics of the statue of the Buddha and earthen plaques scattered over a large area. The present-day monastery, spanning a rectangular area of 34 feet by 19 feet, stands on a hillock. It is built with bricks, each measuring 9" x 77" x 72". Its dome is 40 feet high.

According to available accounts, in 1930 a Burmese monk named Jagatchandra Mahathero discovered a stone inscription in Sri Lanka that pointed to this monastery. A search was carried out on the basis of this information and Ramkot Banashram was found. An image of Buddha, inlaid on a large abhayamudra, was found during the excavation. The image has been kept in the Banashram monastery and is open to devotees.

On a hill east of the monastery are ruins of a large building, flanked by remains of sandstone sculpture. Some of the relics have footprints and handprints ascribed to the Buddha. The round pile of ruins south-east of the monastery are also important archaeologically as they suggest that the place was once used as a sangharam or monastery.

Keyakchu or Keyanjul, son of Chendi, king of Chittagong and Arakan, took monastic vows and became known as Chandrajyoti. After learning the tripitaka well, he set out to preach buddhism. He established a monastery on the Lalmai hills in comilla with the help of the king of Agartala. Later, on his way to Ramkot, he set up monasteries at Sitakunda and the villages of Chakrashala and Chendirpuni. He spent many years of his life at Ramkot and established a monastery and seven dhatuchaityas, the ruins of which can still be seen.

One monk and four shramans or ascetics now live at the monastery to conduct religious rites. To the north of the monastery is the village of Bauddhagram. The residents of this village bear the expenses of the monastery. There is also a library named Ariyadhamma Pathagar at the monastery.

Jagajjyoti Shishusadan (a children's home) has been set up Ramkot Banasharam to work for the welfare of children. An Italian humanist, Father Luigi Lufi, laid the foundation stone of the home on 8 January 1994. An organisation named Sharan is in charge of the home. Children aged between 5 and 11 years can stay at the home. [Rebatapriya Barua]