Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, who fought a lifelong battle against the deep-rooted caste divide in Indian society, embraced Buddhism on October 14, 1956.
The Dalit icon went through the spiritual makeover in the presence of seven Buddhist monks at the historic Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur on that day.
His embracement of Buddhism triggered a mass conversion movement by Dalits.
Many Dalits employ the term “Ambedkar(ite) Buddhism” to designate the Buddhist movement, which started with Ambedkar’s conversion.
Among the seven priests, Bhadanta Pragyanand is the only surviving one who is bed-ridden and communicates in sign language but a mere mention of Babasaheb brings voice to his vocal cords and gives him strength to speak loud and clear
Pragyanand hails from Sri Lanka and is the senior most priest at Buddh Vihar in Lucknow’s Risaldar Park
“I assisted Bhadant Chandramani Mahathero who formally inducted Babasaheb Ambedkar into Buddhism. Ambedkar’s wife Savita was also present,” Pragyanand told Times of India.
It was in Lucknow that seeds of embracing Buddhism took some shape in Ambedkar’s mind, the monk added.
“If Mhow in MP is the janmabhoomi (place of birth) of Babasaheb, and Nagpur is his Deekshabhoomi, then Lucknow was certainly the snehbhoomi (a place close to his heart),” he added.