On October 14, 1956, Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar converted from Hinduism to Buddhism. This date is believed to be associate with the conversion of Emperor Ashoka to Buddhism. The day is also known as the Great Conversion or Mass Conversion or Dharma Deeksha. About 3,80,000 people belonging to the so-called âlower castesâ among Hindus embraced Buddhism that day in Nagpur, Maharashtra. Notably, the city is associated with Buddhist folklore and history. The day is celebrated as Dhamma Chakra Pravartan Din.
The next day, those late for the event also converted to Buddhism. The total number of people converted during the Great Conversion is between 6,000,000 and 8,000,000 according to various reports. Deekshabhoomi, a sacred monument, was built where the event took place.
During his conversion to Buddhism, Dr. Ambedkar made 22 vows. In these vows, he pledged to have no faith in the Hindu belief system and swore to deny any religion or religious practice related to Tridev, Ram, Krishna and other Hindu gods and goddesses. I will have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and I will not worship them. The wishes read:
- I will have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara, and I will not worship them.
- I will have no faith in Rama and Krishna who are supposed to be the embodiment of God and I will not worship them.
- I will have no faith in ‘Gauri’, Ganapati and other Hindu gods and goddesses and I will not worship them.
- I don’t believe in the incarnation of God.
- I do not and will not believe that Lord Buddha was the incarnation of Vishnu. I think this is sheer madness and false propaganda.
- I will not sing “Shraddha” and I will not give “pind-dan”.
- I will not act in a way that violates the principles and teachings of the Buddha.
- I will not allow any ceremony to be performed by Brahmins.
- I will believe in the equality of man.
- I will strive to establish equality.
- I will follow the “noble eightfold path” of the Buddha.
- I will follow the “paramitas” prescribed by the Buddha.
- I will have compassion and kindness for all living beings and I will protect them.
- I won’t steal.
- I will not tell lies.
- I will not commit carnal sins.
- I will not take intoxicants like alcohol, drugs, etc.
- I will strive to follow the Noble Eightfold Path and practice compassion and loving kindness in everyday life.
- I renounce Hinduism which harms mankind and hinders the advancement and development of mankind because it is based on inequality, and I adopt Buddhism as a religion.
- I firmly believe that the Buddha’s Dhamma is the only true religion.
- I believe that I am being reborn.
- I solemnly declare and affirm that I will henceforth lead my life according to the principles and teachings of the Buddha and his Dhamma.
On October 14, millions of people gathered in Nagpur to celebrate Dhamma Chakra Pravartan Din. According to the 2011 census, more than 87% of Buddhists in India are the Ambedkarites. On December 6, 1956, six weeks after Dharma Deeksha, Dr Ambedkar died in his sleep at his home in Delhi. He had suffered from heart disease and diabetes since 1948.