Buddha Purnima: A Day of Hope and Solidarity For The Ambedkarites

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The Ambedkarite community of India celebrates Buddha Jayanti or Vesak Day with great enthusiasm, with the hope of spreading the teachings of Ambedkar and Buddha.

New Delhi: For the past four years, on the occasion of Buddha Purnima, elders in the area where Parth who goes by the name of @empirewise_roman_ on Instagram lives, distribute books in their vernacular language, Gujarati, to people in and around the locality. 

While they have not decided which book they will be giving today, he recalls distributing books like Buddha sketching books and Mahāvaṃsa, a book about Buddha’s visit to Sri Lanka, in the last two years.

“Earlier, toys were given in our Ambedkar and Buddha Jayanti function and competition, which is held here (in Sajipur, Ahmedabad). But now, due to the growth of the Ambedkar Movement, our elders are giving books. It is meant to spread Ambedka’s learnings,” he said.

Even this year, he hopes to celebrate the occasion while keeping Covid norms in mind.

Buddha Purnima or Vesak Day is a holy day for millions of Buddhists around the world. In India, Buddha Jayanti is considered a day of strength and solidarity for the Bahujan and the Ambedkarite community.

On October 14, 1956, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, along with his 365,000 Dalit followers, had embraced Buddhism. 

For Dr. Sunil Kumar Acharya, a poet and an artist, Buddha is a symbol of freedom.

“In Nagpur in 1956, we were shown the way of Buddha by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. My community has accepted Buddha’s teachings as a life value, Buddha is not a symbol of god, but of Mukti (freedom or nirvana),” he said.

@Outcastritesh considers Buddha Jayanti at par with Baba Saheb’s (Ambedkar’s) or Phule’s or Periyar’s anniversary. 

“Buddha was the first and foremost part of this revolution. He is a teacher for us and every Bahujan icon,” they said.

Instagram artist, Abhishek Hadimani, believes that the Ambedkarite community thinks of Vesak Day as an important day to “preach and propagate the idea of Babasaheb Navayana Buddhism” (or Ambedkar’s Neo-Buddhism).

Through his artwork, he wants to create awareness about Babasaheb’s work among people who are still unaware of it. “If you look at my art, they are different from others. It tells stories of Babasaheb through pop-culture-movie-TV-music genre, so young folks get attracted to that and get curious to know more about Babasaheb’s life and anti-caste movement,” he said.

Over the past few weeks, many comedians and artists have been called out for using casteist slurs and expressions. @Outcastritesh who was at the forefront of bringing out this issue said, “These people claim that they were ignorant while saying this. They aren’t just being more ignorant, but arrogant too. Buddha said, “I can awaken a person who is sleeping, but how can I wake a person who is pretending to be asleep?”

On the day of Buddha Purnima, he wants the people to educate themselves by reading about Buddha and his teachings.

@Empirewise_roman_too, wants his community to learn and follow the path of the Buddha as it happens along the way, and leave anger as it would harm and hurt them only.

Surinder Singh Jodhka, professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, said those who tend to identify with Ambedkar, a large community of people, also tend to identify with Buddhism. 

“They also see their own tradition coming from a Brahiminacial tradition and this becomes an alternative tradition for them, which they can relate to,” he added.

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