Around 500 Dalits from various parts of Gujarat embraced Buddhism on Tuesday in three separate programmes held in Ahmedabad, Mehsana and Idar of Sabarkantha district on the occasion of Vijayadashami.
The first such function was held at Swastik Bungalows in Rakhiyal area of East Ahmedabad by the Gujarat Buddhist Academy. GBA Secretary Ramesh Banker said 148 Dalits gave up Hinduism and embraced Buddhism at the function.
One of the 148 persons is Vandana Parmar from Amraiwadi area who is pursuing her masters in science. Vandana converted to Buddhism along with her parents and a brother. “We have been influenced by Buddhism and the ideology of Dr Ambedkar in the recent past. Buddhism and the Ambedkar ideology of equality and scientific temperament make sense to me and my family. And therefore, we have taken the ‘diksha’ today,” Vandana said.
“Our entire family used to be a staunch Hindu religious family. My father used to observe fast on Navratri. But, now we have stopped worshipping gods and goddesses. And my father does not observe fast. We will not celebrate Diwali too,” she added. “We have adopted this new lifestyle because it makes sense to us. But, we are not opposing anybody who is following the Hindu faith.”
The reason for her to embrace Buddhism was discrimination towards the Dalit community in Hinduism, she said.
Vijay Vaghela is another Dalit from Navrangpura area of Ahmedabad who converted to Buddhism. Giving reasons for his decision to adopt Buddhism, Vaghela, who is an insurance agent by profession, said, “The fundamental principle of Buddhism is equality. And that has drawn me towards Buddhism while giving up Hinduism.” “There is no religion in the world (except Hinduism) which has Varna Vyavastha (caste-based hierarchy). People make statements of Hindu unity, but that is only during elections. After elections, the discrimination towards Dalits continues,” Vaghela said.
In another such function held at Chitrodapura Vasahat in Mehsana, around 310 Dalits from various parts of the state like Palanpur, Patan, Mehsana and Gandhinagar converted to Buddhism. The function was organised by practising Buddhists - Bodhiraj Vishwas and P M Parmar.
Speaking with The Indian Express, Vishwas said, “These people have embraced Buddhism under the influence of Dr Ambedkar and as part of a social and cultural revolution.”
The day of Vijayadashami holds a special significance in Buddhism in India. It was on a Vijayadashami day on October 14, 1956 that Dr B R Ambedkar famously embraced Buddhism along with lakhs of his supporters in Maharashtra.
The third conversion programme was held in Idar by Buddhh Saheb Dhamma Sangh, a Buddhist organisation.
Convener of the programme Hardik Chauhan said that 105 people - mainly Dalits - from Sabarkantha, Aravalli, Mehsana and Gandhinagar converted to Buddhism at the programme. “These people embraced Buddhism to get equality and to get rid of oppressive customs of Hinduism.”