The monk who converted Babasaheb to Buddhism

Apr 14 2016 1:31AM


LUCKNOW: Looked after by disciples, Bhadanta Pragyanand remains confined to his bed for most part of the day. The 90-year-old Buddhist monk communicates using sign language and sometimes pens his thoughts. But the mere mention of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar gives him strength to speak loud and clear.

Pragyanand is the only surviving monk among the seven priests who witnessed the spiritual makeover of Ambedkar on October 14, 1956. The Dalit icon embraced Buddhism at the historic Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur on that day.

"I assisted Bhadant Chandramani Mahathero who formally inducted Babasaheb Ambedkar into Buddhism. Ambedkar's wife Savita was also present," said Pragyanand. Babasaheb was totally engrossed in the ceremony, it seemed he had lost all connection with the outside world, he recalled.

Hailing from Sri Lanka, Pragyanand is the senior-most priest at Buddh Vihar in Lucknow's Risaldar Park, which was visited by Ambedkar twice during his lifetime.

 It was after his Lucknow visits, said Badhanta Pragyanand, that Ambedkar's desire to embrace Buddhism grew stronger.

"If Mhow in MP is the janmabhoomi (place of birth) of Babasheb, and Nagpur is his Deekshabhoomi, then Lucknow was certainly the snehbhoomi (a place close to his heart)." Before turning to Buddhism, Babasaheb had visited Lucknow twice, in 1948 and 1951. A photograph taken on April 18, 1948 at Buddh Vihar is of a gathering where people from different religions exchanged views on various issues.


"It was perhaps here that the seeds of embracing Buddhism took some shape in Ambedkar's mind," Pragyanand said. Bhadant Bodhanand of Buddh Mandir, Risaldar Park, was to induct Babasaheb into Buddhism on October 14, 1956, at Deekshabhoomi.

"However, due to his untimely death, other monks conducted the ritual," said Pragyanand.

Source:-TOI

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