Chaityabhoomi:Mahaparinirvan Din celebrated by lakhs of people; little national media attention

08/12/2010

Mahaparinirvan Din celebrated by lakhs of people; little national media attention
December 06, 2010 04:15 PM | Bookmark and Share
Raj Pradhan and Abhishek Rajak
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As 1,50,000 people converge at Chaityabhoomi to pay homage to Babasaheb Ambedkar, the architect of India’s Constitution on his 54th death anniversary

A sea of humanity descended from all over the country at Chaityabhoomi, Dadar, in central Mumbai, to pay homage to the architect of the Indian Constitution Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, on his 54th death anniversary today.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, passed away on 6 December 1956. The day is observed as Mahaparinirvan Din. The last rites were performed at Chaityabhoomi near Shivaji Park, Dadar.

As has been the tradition, hundreds of people began coming to the city some days ago and today the queues were unending. This has become possible with the growing support of all political parties. While arrangements for hygiene and sanitation still leaves a lot to be desired, the crowd management and overall discipline of the people has been commendable.

The queues of people looking forward to a glimpse of the statue of Dr Ambedkar in the sanctorum stretched for a few kilometres, around the historic Shivaji Park nearby, to adjacent Worli and disappearing into the fishing village there. Moneylife photographed images of the awe-inspiring occasion on a walkabout along the route the queues had formed and right into the inner sanctum, this afternoon.

The civic departments made elaborate arrangements for the convenience of the people converging at the Chaityabhoomi. Water tankers, wash rooms and about 200 toilets were set up and over 800 workers were engaged to maintan cleanliness in the area where the people have been camping.

Hundreds of volunteers were distributing food and water. Many were even busy helping families trace some members who were lost in the crowds.

With shops around Shivaji Park prudently opting to remain closed, the pavements were taken over by hawkers selling books, photographs, candles, flowers and a variety of charms and trinkets for out-of-town visitors.  Strangely, this gigantic annual gathering of over 1,50,000 (estimates by the police control room) found hardly a mention in the mainline English media this morning.

However, while the sponsored visit of the crowds to Mumbai may improve, it is clear that even the best civic and police administrators cannot prevent the accompanying chaos and hardship to those who live in the area. So, some residents even leave the area for a couple of days, to return after the crowds have departed. The one blessing this occasion does bring, is that during these days people in the area receive water supply round-the-clock.

Perhaps one solution that can be considered is to provide more space for this enormous gathering of people by developing a part of the neighbouring government-owned Indu Mills as a place of homage and remembrance for a leader, who seems to be growing in stature even decades after his demise. One blessing in the past year is the Worli-Bandra sealink that allows north-south commuters to skip the Veer Savarkar road, which runs through the area, and avoiding the previous nightmarish traffic jams on the day.

http://www.moneylife.in/article/78/11923.html


Two more Mayawati parks for 150 crores

08/12/2010

Lucknow: Caring little about allegations of misuse of funds for erecting parks and statues, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati will inaugurate two more as a tribute to Dr B R Ambedkar on his birth anniversary on December 6.

To be named after the architect of the Constitution, both the parks are coming up in the city’s Gomti Nagar locality, where a grand memorial in the name of Amebdkar exists already.

While one is being developed over a sprawling 22 acres of land featuring the city’s biggest and most spectacular musical fountain, the other is coming up over 23 acres on the banks of river Gomti ‘bandha’ and would have the first four-faced statue of the iconic leader, an official said.

“Cast in marble, the 18-ft high statue has been sculpted in Jaipur. Another 12 feet high statue of Dr Ambedkar has been put up inside a huge pavilion at one of the parks”, he said.

The state government has sanctioned around Rs. 150 crore to develop the two parks.

With well laid out pathways, flower beds and lights, the entire 45-acre stretch of Gomti Barrage is being beautified to provide a visual treat to visitors.

“There will be a mix of light, music and colours. The hi-tech musical fountain has cost Rs. 2.5 crore”, the official said.

The Lucknow Development authority (LDA) earlier wanted to sell this reclaimed land along the Gomti river for the construction of a hotel.

However, the idea was shelved after the High Court shot down the proposal on a public interest litigation challenging the move.

Opposition parties including Congress, BJP and Samajwadi Party have been alleging that Central funds were misused by Mayawati government for construction of parks and statues.

Read more at: http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/two-more-mayawati-parks-for-150-crores-70150?cp

 


How Buddhists Invented Democracy

05/12/2010

 

Buddhists may not have invented democracy. History professors argue that the Athenians invented democracy ca. 500 BCE. However, as democratic government was getting underway in Athens, the First Buddhist Council convened in India. The Council, which met about 480 BCE, give or take, was an exercise in democracy.
According to tradition, the Council consisted of 500 of the historical Buddha’s disciples, who met after the Buddha’s death to discuss how to preserve his teachings. The assembly listened to the monk Upali recite the rules of the monastic orders and the monk Ananda recite the Buddha’s sermons. The assembly came to agreement that the recitations accurately reflected the teachings of the Buddha, and so they were preserved as the Vinaya-pitaka and Sutta-pitaka of the Pali Canon.
Historians, who often are no fun at all, argue that there is little corroboration that the Council took place, and if it did it was probably a smaller gathering than what is described in tradition. Even so, the Pali Canon, which reached final form before the Common Era, contains other descriptions of people making public decisions through assemblies, moots and parliaments.
Historian Steve Muhlberger argues that early Buddhist literature contains rich evidence that democratic governments flourished in India during the time of the Greek democracies and the Roman republic. So, while Buddhists may not have invented democracy, there is a tradition of democracy strongly rooted in the earliest days of Buddhism.
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http://globalbuddhist.blogspot.com/2010/12/how-buddhists-invented-democracy.html

 

 


Gulbarga is emerging as a major Buddhist centre in South India. The Buddha Vihar will be a new feather in Gulbarga’s cap

19/07/2010

Crtsy: Buddhist Channel

Gulbarga, India — Gulbarga is all set to emerge as a major Buddhist pilgrim centre in South India. The Buddha Vihar of Siddarth Vihar Trust will be formally inaugurated by the President of India tomorrow (January 7) and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, is scheduled to participate in the rituals on January 19.

 

Located six kilometres away from Gulbarga, adjacent to the Gulbarga University campus, the Buddha Vihar complex has been constructed in conformity with traditional Buddhist architecture. The imposing domed structure on elevated ground reminds one of the Taj Mahal.

But there are basic differences between the two. While the Taj is a white marble wonder, the Vihar’s dome is an RCC structure covered with Italian white marble chips. The Vihar blends the best of the architectural features of Buddhist centres of Sanchi, Saranath, Ajanta and Nagpur.

The construction of the Vihar, originally a small one, began in 2002. The Trust changed the blueprint to make it a huge complex making it one the best Vihars in the South.

Spread across 18 acres, it can be divided into the main building which has a meditation centre at the cellar and a Lord Buddha chaitya (temple in Pali) on the ground floor. The dome is 70 ft in height and 59 ft in diameter.

Besides, it has 48-ft tall four Ashoka pillars in the corners of the main building. It has an attractive Sankalpa stupa, 26 ft in length and 30 ft in diameter.

The other attractions are 100×100 ft open-air theatre with a 2,500-seat capacity, four large Mahadwaras (arches) known as Sanchi gates and a group of 11 cement statues led by a bronze statue of Dr B R Ambedkar indicating the Dhamma Kranti Yatra of 1956. Another feature is the U-shaped Dhamma complex housing a dormitory, a library, study centre, kitchen, dining hall, conference hall, exhibition hall and guest rooms. The Dhyana Mandir (meditation hall) in the main complex draws attention. It has a 6.5 ft tall black granite Buddha statue made in Bidadi by famous sculptor Ashok Gudigar. It is bliss to see the smiling face of Buddha while listening to the chanting of the mantra Buddham Sharanam Gacchami (I take refuge in the supreme knowledge).

The prayer hall is 15,625 sq ft with 170 pillars and 284 blocks. Each block has a carving representing the architecture of Buddha temples of Ajanta, Ellora, Nagpur, Bodh Gaya, Saranath, Rajgir, Lumbini, Kusinara, Thailand, Singapur, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Japan and Rome. The marbled floor of the hall has a seating capacity of 1500. There are 28 huge ventilators named after Buddhas of various eras.

The main attraction in the complex is a gold coated 8.5 ft tall panchaloha statue of the seated Buddha. This is supposed to be the tallest Buddha statue in the South. Imported from Thailand, it was consecrated in September last year. Statues of Buddha’s disciples Ananda and Kashyapara are also part of the complex. The hall has a seating capacity of 500. The walls have cement carvings depicting the jataka tales, Tipitaka and Buddha charite.

There are three huge arch-shaped entrances to the basement and the ground floors. In the corridors of the ground floor there are cement statues of Buddha. The entrance door is made of rosewood. The dome is 75 ft from the ground and has a 10-ft-tall panchaloha kalasha.

The white arch is in the shape of a peepal leaf (Bodhi tree) which symbolizes enlightenment. A beautiful landscaped garden stretches from the Mahadwara to the temple.

This is divided into three stages representing the Buddha’s three basic natures of world. The first stage is Anichcha Lakkana (unstable), the second Dukka Lakkana (sorrow) and the third Anantha Lakkana (without soul or ego). The first stage indicates that nothing is permanent in this world. The past is symbolised in the form of the stupa, the theatre complex indicates the present and the Ambedkar statue symbolizes the future.

Visitors have to pass through five dwaras (gates) from the Sedam road side, to reach the temple. The gates symbolise Ahimsa Valaya (non-violence zone); Achora Valaya (no-theft zone); Susheela Valaya (good character); Suneeti Valaya (no lies) and Suchitta Valaya (good thoughts). This is based on Buddhism’s Panchasheela tatva.
The Ashoka pillars in the four corners are symbols of four noble truths or Arya Satya – suffering; attachment, which is the origin of suffering; cessation of suffering and path to the cessation of suffering.

In keeping with the principle that a Vihar should essentially have a peepal tree, a sapling has been planted and one more may come from Bodh Gaya.

Architect K Uday, engineers R Rudraiah, Ramachandra D R, Prakash Shreehari and late R A Audhi worked on the project.

Rudraiah points out that he was put on the job when he was executive engineer in Yadgir in 2002. “I studied books on Buddhism before taking up work. I visited famous Buddha temples across India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand to study the structural aspects,” he says.

Work remains to be done at the Vihar. Public toilets have to be constructed; provisions for rainwater harvesting and solar lighting have to be made.

The building has no ramps for people in wheel-chairs to go around. A lot more greenery needs to be added around the Vihar too.

The Buddha’s tryst with Karnataka

Gulbarga offers a rich history of the earliest Buddhist settlement of Satavahana period, the beginning of the Christian era. One of the ancient sites here is in Kanaganahalli near Sannati, a famous Buddhist heritage site on the banks of river Bhima in Chitapur taluk.

The remains of stupas, major rock edicts of King Ashoka, mounds, slab inscriptions and statues are all found scattered in a small area within the revenue limits of Kanaganahalli. About five to six stupa remains are found in and around Sannati.

Both Kanaganahalli and Sannati offer rich Buddhist cultural material for archaeology and history students, says Prof R M Shadaksharaiah, Director, Kannada Research Institute, Karnataka University, Dharwad.

Sculptures of Ashoka and his queen flanked by female attendants are found near the stupa in Kanaganahalli.

Ashoka’s name is inscribed on it. Ashoka’s inscriptions are also found in Chandrala Parameshwari temple in Sannati. It formed the base to the idol of Parameshwari, and was found while renovating the temple. Buddhist jataka stories are inscribed on stones around the stupas. Literary accounts indicate that Ashoka sent missonaries to propagate Dhamma, the truth taught by Buddha. The images of Adi Buddhas are found near the stupa at Kanaganahalli. “This is the biggest and earliest Buddhist site in inscriptional material, sculptures and stupa remains in Karnataka,” says Shadaksharaiah. The construction of the stupa in Karnataka began from Gulbarga but over the last 1,700 to 1,800 years, the tradition was stopped. But the construction of Buddhist monuments like viharas and chaityas continued up to 12th century AD in Karnataka. There are a many Buddha temples, monasteries and Viharas in Karnataka.

Mahobodhi Society

But Bangalore’s Mahabodhi Society has a special place. It is a charitable organisation set up in 1956 by Acharya Buddharakkhita and is engaged in rendering spiritual and humanitarian services. It has established monasteries, hospitals, meditation centres and publishes Dhamma books and magazines. It is also a Bikku training centre. As many as 120 Bhanteji (monks) are being trained here.

The society celebrated its golden jubilee in 2006.

It is in the process of constructing a Buddhist Open University in Bangalore. Spread over two acres of land at Gandhingar in the heart of Bangalore, it has a beautiful statue of Buddha, a stupa and a Bodhi tree, which was planted in 1956. The Society has brought out Kannada version of Pali Tipitaka (pure teachings of Buddha) in 13 volumes. Acharya Buddharakkhita, the man behind building the Society, is now 87 and leads a life of solitude.

Kharge’s take

It is largely to senior Congress leader from Gulbarga Mallikarjun Kharge’s credit that the development of  the Vihar started. He is the chairman of the Siddarth Vihar Trust established a decade ago.

Though a Buddha disciple, Kharge had not conceived a Buddhist temple on such a large scale. He just wanted to construct a stupa. But over the years, the project kept growing.

Why did he build the Vihar when Sannati is already there?

“Sannati is 80 km from Gulbarga and is under the Archaeology Department. Gulbarga and Bidar districts have several Ambedkar followers. They go to Mumbai and stand in queues to pay their respects at the Ambedkar samadhi on December 6 every year. On Vijayadashami, lakhs of people visit Nagpur’s Deeksha Maidan. Many people suggested that Gulbarga should have a Buddha temple.”

He says the Vihar “should grow as a research and cultural centre. Many Ambedkar followers have no idea about the cultural aspects taught by Ambedkar.”

Rising numbers

Buddhist writer Buddhaghosh Devendra Heggade says Buddhist population is growing significantly in Karnataka.

The state has the second highest population of Buddhists in India after Maharashtra. According to the 2001 census, there were 3.9 lakh Buddhists in the state, while it was 70,000 as per the 1991 census and 42,251 in 1981. There are more Buddhists in Bidar and Gulbarga districts. Heggade says the Gulbarga Vihar should offer normal education as well as Buddhist philosophy to students. Its faculty should include Pali, Dhamma and Tipitaka scholars, he adds.

Major Buddhist sites in Karnataka are: Mundgod Tibetan camp, Golden Temple, Bylakuppe, Sleeping Buddha, Dhammagiri, Shahapur, Jetavana, Kollegal, Naragetanahalli, T Narasipur, Dhammankura mount, Humnabad, Waladoddi & Morkhandi, Bidar, Vihar at Nagasena Vidyalaya, RMV Extn, Bangalore, Sariputra Buddha Vihar, Bijapur, Ramai memorial vihar – Bijjargi – Bijapur, Mahabodhi Society – Hubli & KGF

 


Deekshabhoomi

19/07/2010

The Heart of Nagpur – Deekshabhoomi

Deekshabhoomi is a sacred monument of Buddhism in Nagpur the City of Oranges. Deekshabhoomi is a place where Dr.Baba Saheb Ambedkar converted into Buddhism and so did his thousands of followers. This conversion of religion took place on October 14th 1956. In the present scenario thousands of people come to Deekshabhoomi and convert into Buddhism.

Deekshabhoomi is situated in Nagpur, Maharashtra, India. Nagpur is the largest city in the state of Maharashtra and is also very famous for “Zero Milestone”. The centre is regarded as the pilgrimage center of Buddhism in India. Thousands of pilgrims visit Deekshabhoomi every year on the occasion of Ashok Vijaya Dashmi and on 14th October. Pilgrims from across the world come and visit Deekshabhoomi.

Ashok Vijaya Dashmi


In other parts of India it is known as Vijaya Dashmi / Vijayadashmi or Dussehra / Dasara. The Ambedkarite people in India, especially from Maharashtra celebrate this festival as Ashok Vijaya Dashmi. It is believed that the Mauryan Emperor Asoka converted to Buddhism on this auspicious day. Later in 1956 Dr. Ambedkar also converted to Buddhism on this day at Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur. In 1956 Ashok Vijaya Dashmi fell on October 14. Since then thousands of tourists visit Deekshabhoomi on Vijaya Dashmi as well as on 14th October each year. People from all over the country (mainly China, Japan and Thailand) who follow Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Buddhism gather at Deekshabhoomi. Deekshabhoomi is the main tourist attraction in the month of October as tourists from Japan, Thailand, China and other countries visit Deekshabhoomi to pay their homage.

Deeksha in Sanskrit means acceptance of religion and Bhumi means Land, the meaning of Deekshabhoomi is “The land where people accept another religion”. The other way to explain the simple meaning and significance is, Deeksh in Buddhism is similar to Baptism in Christianity. There are places of major significance in Dr. Ambedkar’s life they are Deekshabhoomi and Chaityabhoomi situated in Mumbai.

Deekshabhoomi is not only famous for its architectural beauty and historical importance, but is also a major tourist attraction in the state of Maharashtra. The Indian Government also started a train in between Gaya and Nagpur as these are the main Buddhism Pilgrim centers in India and named the train as Deekshabhoomi express.

History:
In the year 1935 Dr. Ambedkar in one of his speech had declared that though he is born as a Hindu but he’ll not die as one. After this declaration he aggressively studied various major religions and finally chose Buddhism for him and his followers.

There is a reason for choosing Nagpur as the center for the conversion to Buddhism. Nagpur in early days was homeland of “Nag” people who were supposed to be believers of Budhhism and had a strong support for this religion. After 21 years of his declaration he then chose a piece of land near Ramdaspeth in Nagpur for the conversion ceremony to take place. The ceremony held on 14th October 1956. He along with his wife Mrs. Savita Ambedkar and thousands of his followers converted to Buddhism. They both took oath of “Three Jewels” and “Five Precepts” and “22 Vows” from Mahasthavir Chandramani. Then, Dr. Ambedkar gave the same oath was given to thousands of his followers.

Just one and a half months after this ceremony Dr. Ambedkar died on December 6, 1956. After his death his followers decided to appoint a management committee in order to control and manage Deekshabhoomi. The committee was named “Dr. Ambedkar Smarak Samiti”. The committee then decided to build a Stupa at the place as a memorial of that ceremony and a mass conversion of people to Buddhism. Soon the construction started

The Deekshabhoomi Architecture:
The construction of the stupa started in July 1978 and was designed by famous architect Mr. Sheo Dan Mal. It took near about 23 years to to complete the construction. The structural work was completed by Sagar Enterprise of Mumbai (Mr. H. C. Vakharia and Mr. Sandip Vakharia). The Stupa was inaugurated by the then President Dr. K.R. Narayanan on 18th December, 2001 and was opened for general public.

Stupa
To some extent Deekshabhoomi is the replica of the famous world heritage site “The Sanchi Stupa”. The major difference between Sanchi Stupa and DeekshaBhoomi Dome is, deeksha Stupa is hollow from inside whereas sanchi stupa not. It is the largest hollow stupa amongst all Buddhist stupas in the world. The ground floor has a 211 square foot floor. An idol of Buddha is placed in the center of the hall. This idol was donated to Deekshabhoomi by Thai students studying in the University of Nagpur. There is also a library and a photo exhibition of the events in the lives of Gautama Buddha and Dr. Ambedkar.

Above the hall, lies a hollow dome surrounded by a veranda. There are four fountains that surround the stupa on all four directions. Above the dome, there is a small slab and a little decorative umbrella. The marble used in construction is one of the premium quality marble imported from Dholpur, a place in Rajasthan. The stupa has four doors that open in all four directions. The doors open in large arcs, which are decorated with Ashok Chakras (the symbol of Mauryan Emperor Ashok) and statues of lions, horses and elephants. All these artifacts give it an ancient look.

The stupa is surrounded by a huge garden which is maintained by Nagpur Improvement Trust. On Ashok Vijaya Dashmi and on 14th October this garden and the place around is jam packed with thousands of people.

Buddha Vihar, Bhikku Niwas and the Bodhi Tree
The Bodhi tree is the sacred fig tree of Buddhism. It is believed that Gautam Buddha used to meditate under the Bodhi tree. In Deekshabhoomi besides the Buddha Vihara, there is the Bodhi Tree. Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan, a Punjabi Buddhist Monk had contributed greatly to make Deekshabhoomi a religious place for Buddhists across the world. So he established Buddha vihara, Bhikku niwas and planted the sacred Bodhi Tree. It is believed that He collected three branches from the tree at Anuradhapuram in Srilanka and planted in Deekshabhoomi.