Bengaluru- The Ashoka Ambedkar Dhamma Yatra, with a 10-feet bronze icon of Ashoka the great at the forefront is making its way into the towns and cities of South and Central India. The historic rally will conclude at Deekshabhoomi of Nagpur, Maharastra where Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar and three lakh sixty-five thousand other people left their faith to convert into Buddhism.
Buddhist Fraternity Council has framed a ‘National Dhamma Yatra Committee’ to organize this six-state yatra. The aim of the long rally is to bind everyone with peace and a feeling of fraternity.
The Mooknayak spoke to Bharathi Prabhu, who is one of the organizers, about the rally. Talking about the importance of Buddha in the march, Bharathi said, “Ambedkar gave the Buddhist people its ‘Bible’ in the form of the book ‘The Buddha and His Dhamma’. But there is still a lack of cultural awareness amongst the members of the community. The book is not just another work of Ambedkar but a way in which Buddhists live their life.” He added, “This book is very important for Buddhists of the nation. So, through our rally, we are creating awareness around the book and talk about every point mentioned in ‘The Buddha and His Dhamma’. That is what we have been doing in the last few days.”
Bharathi then spoke about the relation between Ambedkar and Buddha. According to him, Ashokha is the father of ancient India whereas Ambedkar is the father of Modern India. Both Ashoka and Ambedkar are fathers of the nation so this rally that they have undertaken ‘connects’ both of them together. The ten-feet tall bronze statue at the forefront of the yatra showcases the historic king. Ashoka is represented as holding a lotus. This act symbolizes the king appealing to everyone else to give up fighting and live in peace. Bharathi says, “So many people all around the globe are struggling. Palestine is fighting Israel. Ukraine is fighting Russia. There are children crying for a break from all the chaos. So, through Ashoka, our community is earnestly requesting for peace, in the name of both Ashoka and Ambedkar.”
“We have spent the last one-year visiting and talking to monks from the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal and Bihar. During this, we came to the realization that the last time it required a nationwide movement to bring people together under Buddhism. But right now, people are reaching out to Buddha on their own or through their relationships.” Bharathi added. He went on to explain, “Since there was no movement, our community has become scattered. So, this yatra will also try to bring everyone together under one umbrella.”
People and the community’s response to the yatra has been beautiful. Bharathi mentions that people are taking in inspiration from the Ashoka statue. Many had forgotten the great king even when the Ashok Chakra is in our flag and the Ashok Stambha is our national emblem. Ashoka is a part of our nation, yet people do not remember his deeds. Remembering his experience at the yatra, Bharathi mentions “Whenever we speak using our mics, we get to see people’s faces brimming with emotions. People have been very receptive of our goal. They are showering flowers and garlands at us which makes us feel proud of the rally we have undertaken.”
The yatra has been very influential. Calling it a “Buddhist Revolution”, Bharathi mentions how the Dhamma Yatra has no influential people or group attached to its name, but people are still flocking towards them, proving the power ‘dhamma’ holds.
The Dhamma Yatra started from Mavelikara in Kerala on 30th September and then went into Tamil Nadu. The yatra stopped in Madurai and in Theni district’s Periyakulam before going to Chennai through Puducherry. Their time in Karnataka has just gotten over and the people will now be reaching Andhra Pradesh.
The organization will be holding a programme at Amravati on 13th and 14th October and will be reaching out to Telangana on 15th morning. A Dhamma rally will be held underneath the 125-feet Ambedkar statue at Vijayawada. The march will then enter Ambedkar’s land of Nanded in Maharastra. After that, the yatra will be moving towards Nagpur on 25th morning. For a day, the people involved will move around the town of Nagpur with Ashoka’s statue while encouraging people to join their yatra. At the end, the responsibility of the statue will be handed over to Arya Bhadant Surai Sasai, the president of Deekshabhoomi.
According to Ambedkar, Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur is the home to ‘Nag’ community. They were primarily Buddhists, a relevance which made him choose the site for conversion. A memorial was built to replicate the Sanchi Stupa and is considered to be the largest Stupa in whole Asia. Per day, the yatra is covering approximately two hundred kilometres and in total will cover a distance of three thousand kilometres through six states of the nation. The total distance is going to be covered in twenty-two days. Two vehicles and one rath for the Ashoka statue are a part of the journey. At least forty-fifty people have decided to be a part of the glorious movement. After the Dhamma Yatra is over, the organization will not be sitting idle. They plan on more such having more events to bring people together. They will also be conducting a ‘Dhamma Meet’ every Sunday, a programme whose details have not be released yet.