Why Ambedkar left Hinduism and became a Buddhist? In fact, to understand this, one has to look at a speech of politician and social reformer Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in 1935. This was his very aggressive speech. Then Ambedkar, for the first time, had agitated the downtrodden castes by giving a powerful speech. His speech turned into reality after almost 20 years of this. Then Dr. Ambedkar left Hinduism and accepted Buddhism with 3.85 lakh followers, not alone.
In this speech, the pain and feeling of the whole society was so hidden that a historical event had to be born. Watch these excerpts from that memorable speech:
Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar had to face such conditions, high and low and untouchables while living in Hinduism in childhood that he could not forget this struggle in his life. However, this struggle also created a new kind of consciousness and passion in him and the oppressed class.
Mahatma Gandhi completely disagreed
While this speech made Ambedkar famous at the national level, many leaders also came against him. Ambedkar was accused of instigating more than 20 percent of the country’s population. To which he said, ‘For those who are exploited, religion should not be considered as a matter of destiny but a matter of choice’. When these things reached Mahatma Gandhi, he objected to this.
What did Gandhiji say about this then?
Gandhi had said, ‘Religion is neither a house nor a robe, which can be taken off or changed. It is more associated with any person than with his body’. Gandhi was of the view that it was better to choose the path of social reform and change of thinking, not change of religion. But, Ambedkar, who had become a staunch casteist and exploited the backwards in every way, was so accustomed to Hinduism that in his view the only way to achieve equality was to change religion.
20 years between leaving Hinduism and becoming a Buddhist
‘I was born in Hinduism, but I will not die while being a Hindu.’ In 1935, Ambedkar had announced to leave Hinduism with this statement. But, no other religion was formally adopted at that time. Ambedkar understood that it was not just about his conversion but about the whole society, so he intended to understand the history of all religions and to awaken and agitate the exploited society by writing many articles.
Dr. Ambedkar with Mahatma Gandhi at the Round Table Conference in London.
Ambedkar’s Buddhist theory gradually formed
Based on his study in 1940, Ambedkar wrote in “The Untouchables” that the untouchables in India were basically followers of Buddhism. Brahmins hated him for this reason. After this theory, Ambedkar said in a speech in Madras in 1944 and proved that Buddhism is the most scientific and logic based religion. Overall, Ambedkar’s inclination and faith in Buddhism continued to grow. After becoming the head of the Constituent Assembly after independence, Ambedkar had chosen the symbols associated with Buddhism.
Again the historical conversion took place
Ambedkar duly accepted Buddhism at Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur on 14 October 1956. On the same day in Chandrapur, Maharashtra, Ambedkar also organized a program of mass conversion and administered 22 oaths to his followers, the essence of which was that after adopting Buddhism, no Hindu deity and worship would be believed in them. There will be no rituals of Hindu religion and no worship of any kind will be offered to Brahmins. Apart from this, there were also vows to adopt equality and morality.
conversion and after
Ambedkar’s conversion was actually recorded in history as the Dalit Buddhist Movement, according to which lakhs of people left Hinduism and became Buddhists on Ambedkar’s path. But, after the death of Ambedkar on 6 December 1956, this movement slowed down. According to the 2011 census, there are about 8.4 million Buddhists in the country, out of which about 60 lakh are in Maharashtra and they make up 6 percent of Maharashtra’s population. While the population of Buddhists in the country’s population is less than 1 percent.
The famous Stupa of Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur, where Ambedkar accepted Buddhism. (Photo: Wikipedia).
Ambedkar again followed the teachings of Buddhism throughout his life. He wanted that high and low and untouchability should end from the country. Although there has been a lot of improvement in the country in this matter, but still a lot remains to be done.
Source : BR Ambedkar and Buddhism in India (PDF) : Oxford University Press, tricycle.com, census2011.co.in
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