Monday, October 14, 2019

A visit to Diksha Bhoomi in Nagpur

A  visit to Diksha Bhoomi in Nagpur

I spent most of my productive years in the diplomatic service of India and as such travelled widely outside the country, mostly on duty. I am not a keen traveler otherwise. Being a humble Ambedkarite, a visit to DikshaBhoomi lingered at the back of mind but on the basis of ‘as it comes’. In July this year, my wish was fulfilled, incidentally, on the invitation of RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat to visit their Headquarters in Nagpur as a Guest of Honour at one of their annual functions. My hosts asked me if I
would be interested in visiting some places in Nagpur as a sightseeing slot. Obviously, I told them that it would be an honour and pleasure to see and visit DikshaBhoomi as a pilgrimage for me. As such, a senior RSS functionary took me and my associate Rajesh Bagha of the BJP to DikshaBhoomi, where Babasaheb embraced Buddhism on October 14, 1956, in the afternoon of a hot and sultry day.

I will write separately later on my impressions and reflections on my visit to the RSS citadel. Today, I will limit myself to the DikshaBhoomi and register my take on the important site in the history of the revival of Buddhism in India, mindfully chosen by Babasaheb Ambedkar on his momentous and epoch-making decision to embrace Buddhism along with several hundred thousands of his followers. DikshaBhoomi is located in the heart of
Nagpur, not far away from the RSS home. Incidentally, the day of conversion on October 14, 1956 was the Dussehra Day itself which RSS celebrates and observes as their founding day every year since 1925. Was it a deliberate move by Babasaheb or was it just a co-incident?  The scholars and historians would deal with the question appropriately though Babasaheb Ambedkar in his address at the time of embracing Buddhism aptly explained as to why he chose Nagpur and the Dussehra Day for his far reaching decision.

Coming back to Diksha Bhoomi, frankly, I was disappointed to see the magnificent monument otherwise, in a bad shape. Starting from the alighting point, there was no designated and maintained parking.  The pathway leading to the great dome, Sanctum Santorum, was not clean and maintained. The front lawns were not maintained and manicured. In spite of the hot weather, there were hordes of people to see and pay their respect to the greatest son of India and their icon Babasaheb. There was no one to conduct and guide them. The photo exhibition was in disarray. One young man dressed in a coat in the hot weather tried to engage us and pretended to be some designated person to do so. Soon I realized that he was some self appointed man to make his bread and butter. When he found out that we were not much receptive, he could not refrain himself and asked for donations to maintain the place. I felt like crying in despair. Our RSS escort was quite and did not utter a word but I could read his inner feelings. I seek no pleasure in narrating this story. In contrast with the RSS complex and prominent sites pertaining to RSS and their icons, our holy place and a site of pilgrimage for the followers of Babasaheb and the Buddhist faithfuls was nowhere near them. We are to learn something if we want to remain in the run and mere criticism will not pay us any dividend.

On enquiry from my RSS escort, I was told that DikshaBhoomi was run by a private trust. Most of the finances come from either the Maharastra government or the Central government. Surprisingly, I think to gain some mileage and take credit, there was a board just outside the dome where some details of the finances were written. The figure was in several crores. It appeared that the trust responsible to manage and run the site must be a motley crowd of self seekers and vested interests as was the case of most of Ambedkar Bhawans and Dhams and may also be of Budh Viharas throughout the country, barring a few. There is no point in falling prey to the blame game. Let us do something to put the things on rail. It will be a true tribute to Babasaheb. I am sorry to write this with a sense of remorse and concern.

With this uncharitable narration, I, as a humble Ambedkarite, salute Babsaheb Ambedkar and wish his followers all the very best on this day of revival of Buddhism in India, October 14 and I conclude:

Postscript: The great and majestic Bodhi Vriksha (Piple tree) just outside the Great Dome of Diksha Bhoomi demonstrated the abundance of nature as compared to the human conduct and
delivery. One lade Bhikhu sitting the shade of the tree on the fence, on query, informed that the Bodhi Vriksha was planted by the Mahathero Bhandt Anand Kausalyayan subsequent to the great event of Dham-Chakra Parivartna on October 14, 1956