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The Buddhist Revivalist of India

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956)

Rohan L. Jayatilleke
In India

 “Though I am born a Hindu, I would not die a Hindu but as a Buddhist”. This Dr. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism on October 14, 1956 with one hundred thousand of his Mahar caste members.

My social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Let no one, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I have not. My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my Master, The Buddha’’. ‘‘In his philosophy, liberty and equality had a place; but he added that unlimited liberty destroys equality, and absolute equality left no room for liberty. His philosophy and law had a place as a safeguard against the breaches of liberty and equality; but he did not believe that law can guarantee for breaches of liberty and equality. He gave the highest place for fraternity as the only safeguard against the denial of liberty or equality or fraternity which was another name for brotherhood or humanity, which was again another name for religion”, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

This far-reaching and laconic statement was not made by one who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth or from the highest caste of Brahmins, or one who had his early education in India in a prestigious aristocratic school.

This was the statement made by B. R. Ambedkar, who was born in Mhaw in Central India in the so-called low caste of Mahars, as the fourteenth child of Ramji and Bhimabhai Sakpal on April 14, 1891. In India every fourth person out of one point five billion total population belongs to the lowest caste and generally collectively called Dalits in Hindi meaning ‘broken people’ or untouchables.

Ambedkar’s father was a teacher in an army cantonment of sepoys (Indians in the British army). He had his primary education in a school in Dapoli and later with his elder brother Anand joined the army cantonment Government High School. When Ambedkar who was first called as Bhim by name, lost his mother at the age of six and Meerabai brought him up along with her three sons and two daughters.

In school, Ambedkar had to sit in a corner of the class on a piece of gunny and teachers because of his low caste would not touch his notebooks. When Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was thirsty and when a good-hearted high caste classmate offered him water he had to open his palms to have the water, as he was denied to use a glass or a cup to drink. Teachers refused to ask him questions or to permit him to read or recite from his books.

One summer day Bhim and his elder brother Anand with their three nephews set out to visit their father when their father was working as a cashier after retirement from his teaching career in Goregadi. The father had not received in Mumbai the message that his sons were visiting him. There was nobody to receive them at Mumbai railway station and engaged a bullock cart to reach their father’s residence. The carter agreed to take them on the full hire as the children were well dressed.

The carter having come to know of their low caste, in a fit of rage put them on the ground. Thereafter, with a great deal of leading and promise of a double fare the carter, allowed them to sit in the cart and the carter in order to be not made impure by sitting with them condescended to walk behind the cart. The children had to drive the cart. Far into the night with no water and when they asked the carter for water from his pitcher he scolded them saying, “help yourself from ditches, drains and muddy ponds”. This episode made Bhim to realise what it is to be an untouchable.

Then in a fit of thirst Bhim stealthily began to drink from a public reservoir and was mercilessly beaten by a high caste Hindu. The local barber, in his father’s place who even shaved buffaloes refused to defile himself by touching Bhim’s hair. This was his life and times as an untouchable in India, which caste divide still exist in India, though the third economic giant in Asia, after China and Japan.

On completion of his secondary education in India, the Maharaja of Baroda, Sayaji Rao granted him a scholarship to proceed to USA in 1912 to further his studies. In 1913 July Ambedkar reached New York and obtained a Doctorate in Economics from Columbia University, and later moved on to London and obtained a D.Sc from London School of Economics for his seminal contributions to the subjects of public finance and monetary economics respectively. He then studies law in London and was called to the Bar. On his return to India he undertook legal practice in the High Court of Bombay.

He was also a Professor of Political Economy and also served as Principal of a Law College in Mumbai. He being a visionary educationist established the People’s Education Society and thus opened the doors for disadvantaged sections of the Indian society.

Gandhi called the Untouchables, `Harijana’ people of the God. But Ambedkar held the view the eradication of the Hindu caste system was the via media for the progress of the less privileged and marginalised people of India. In order to gain these ends he established in 1936 the Independent Labour Party. Ambedkar realised as far back as 1927 Buddhism was the panacea to rid India of castism. In 1935, at the Yeola Conference in Nashik District of Maharashtra State he declared, “Though I am born a Hindu, I would not die a Hindu but as a Buddhist”. This Dr. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism on October 14, 1956 with one hundred thousand of his Mahar caste members.

Thus culminating the rise and growth of Buddhism in Maharashtra State. In 1947 he happily joined the Constituent Assembly and was made the Chairman of the Drafting Committee due to his unrivalled skills in Constitutional Law and ultimately piloted the independent India’s constitution providing annextures to the constitution for the safeguard and promotion of downtrodden tribes and scheduled castes in order to transform India into an egalitarian social order with a strong sense of patriotism, and to eradicate untouchability from the Indian socio-economic spectrum. He was also for some time the Minister of Law as well.

The year 1956 marked a milestone in the chequered history of Buddhism in India. In order to celebrate this great event the central government of India and the State governments drew up far-reaching celebrations in India. The Prime Minister of India while laying the foundation stone of the Buddha Jayanti Memorial Park on the New Delhi Bridge on May 23, 1956, Sri Jawaharlal Nehru observed, “The 2500th Buddha Jayanthi Celebrations signify the home-coming of the Buddha”. The most outstanding event of 1956 Maha Buddha Jayanthi Celebrations that took place at Nagour in Maharashtra State on October 14, 1956, was Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar embracing Buddhism along with a half a million, followers of his caste at the impressive Deeksha (Embracing) Ceremony of embracing Buddhism.

Addressing the mammoth gathering on the occasion, Dr. Ambedkar in an emotional voice said, “I started the movement of renouncing the Hindu religion in 1935, and since then I have been continuing the struggle. This conversion has given me enouromus satisfaction and pleasure unimaginable. I feel as if I have been liberated from hell “Thus was born the `Ambedkar Era’ of Indian Buddhism”.

Unfortunately, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar passed away just 52 days after the Great Conversion Ceremony at Nagpur on October 14, 1956. This was a great loss to his followers who felt orphaned but they faced the tragedy with great courage, fortitude and magnanimity.

අව අටවක පෝය

මැදින් අව අටවක පෝය මාර්තු 18වන දා බදාදා පූර්ව භාග 10.5 ට ලබයි. 19 වන දා බ්‍රහස්පතින්දා අපර භාග 12.36 දක්වා පෝය පවති. සිල් සමාදන්වීම මාර්තු 18 වනදා බදාදා ය. මී ළඟ පෝය මාර්තු 26 වන බ්‍රහස්පතින්දාය.

පොහෝ දින දර්ශනය

Second Quarterඅව අටවක

මාර්තු 18

New Moonඅමාවක

මාර්තු 26

First Quarterපුර අටවක

අපේ‍්‍රල් 02

Full Moonපසෙලාස්වක

අප්‍රේල් 09

2009 පෝය ලබන ගෙවෙන වේලා සහ සිල් සමාදන් විය යුතු දවස

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