Bandarban’s famed ‘Swarna Mandir’ (golden temple) Buddha Dhatu Jadi, one of the largest Theravada Buddhist temples in Bangladesh, draws a large number of visitors throughout the year.
Located on top of a hill nine kilometers off Bandarban town near Balaghata, the temple gives a grand view of the area.
The temple was founded by U Pannya Jota Mahathero in 1995 to provide a prayer spot for the local Marma community. In 2004, the construction was finished, making it one of the largest Hinayana Buddhist temples in South Asia.
Buddha Dhatu Jadi is a shrine of Buddha’s relic (Dhatu) which is considered sacred and worshipped by the Buddhist community. The temple also holds the second largest Buddha statue of the country – an exemplary piece of woodwork done by craftsmen from Myanmar.
With a small entry fee visitors can enjoy the amazing architecture and sight. The temple has motifs and murals in golden texture everywhere including the gates and around the railings of the premise while the topside of the dome is gilded.
Outside the main temple, 12 standing Buddha statues made in different styles have added to the overall aesthetic of the temple. Each statue depicts different ‘Mudra’ to symbolise teachings of Buddhism.
Sitting 1,600 feet above the sea level, this temple is visited frequently by members of the Buddhist community from home and abroad.
Visitors are prohibited from entering the temple after 6pm except for offering prayers
From late January to early February, a fair is arranged at the temple premises. On the night of full moon, the temple is illuminated with thousands of clay lamps as part of Buddhist rituals.
It sees a great number of tourists now compared to early years.
But the growing number of tourists is becoming a matter of concern for the temple as many of them show little to no respect for the sacred site, locals said.
“Some tourists cross the line by disrespecting the relics and statues, forgetting that this is a sacred site,” one of the locals said.
In 2016, the temple was closed for nine months from February to November. According to the administration, they were forced to do it because of the tourists’ misconduct that hurt the sacredness of the shrine.
The situation improved a bit after the security around it was tightened but it reverted to its former state in recent months.
Jobayer Ahmed Shakil, a student of Dhaka University who was visiting the temple, said the grievance of the locals is understandable. He said people should be more careful about not hurting religious sentiments while visiting sacred sites such as the Golden Temple.
“Fortunately, people disrespecting the site are outnumbered by tourists who appreciate it,” a local said.
Read: Bandarban Tourist Spots.