Dharmapal, Anagarik

Dharmapal, Anagarik (1864-1933) Buddhist scholar and one of the leading figures of the Buddhist revival, was born Don David Hewa Bitaran on 17 September 1864 in an affluent family in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In 1886, he assumed the name 'Dharmapal' and dedicated himself to the service of buddhism.

In 1891, accompanied by a Japanese Buddhist monk, Dharmapal travelled to various Buddhist religious sites, including Buddha Gaya. Pledging to restore the lost glory of Buddhism, he established the mahabodhi society in Sri Lanka on 3 May 1891.The next year, Anagarik established the Mahabodhi Society of India at Kolkata with Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee as its organising president and himself as its secretary. Among others involved with the Mahabodhi Society were Mahatma Gandhi, Deshbandhu chitta ranjan das, rabindranath tagore, S Radhakrishnan, Raja Gopalachari. Its chittagong representative was Krishnachandra Chowdhury. Dharmapal laid the foundation stone of Mulgandhakuti Vihara (monastery) at Sarnath on 3 November 1922. He also set up a dharmashala (a shelter for monks), an international Buddhist institute and a university at Sarnath. In 1893, Dharmapal attended 'The World's Parliament of Religions'; held in Chicago, where he delivered a speech on 'The World Debt to Buddha'. He also visited England, Germany, France, Italy, Thailand, China and Japan. In London he set up a Buddhist mission, which is still functioning.

For his part in the anti-British struggle, Dharmapal was interned at Kolkata during the First World War. Although a Sri Lankan, he worked for the spiritual and material welfare of Indians, setting up a trust fund for the purpose. He started the Mahabodhi Journal (1892), which played an important role in the Buddhist revival. Dharmapal died at the age of 70, on 29 April 1933. [Rebatapriya Barua]