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Buddha Jayanti and its political significance – Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar


(Published in Janata in Marathi on 17th May 1941: BAWS, Vol. 20, pp. 327-335, translated by Mangesh Dahiwale)

image005There is no need to tell that Indians love festivals. They spend half of the year in festivity and religious rites. They also give great importance to celebration of birth and death anniversaries of great people. The celebration of Krishnajanmastami, Ramanavami and Hanuman Jayanti are testimony to these mental attitudes of the Hindus. It will surprise the foreigners that Indians do not celebrate the Buddha Jayanti in the same spirit though the Indians are fond of such celebrations. Of all the great people born in India, the status of the Buddha is the highest. The followers of the Buddha regard Him as the great Sun who illuminated this world. Christians, though envious they are of the Buddha, compare Buddha with the Light of Asia. Hindus also regard the Buddha as the tenth incarnation of Vishnu. This famous person was buried in the memories and Indians do not remember him at all. There are many people who will know the name of Bajirao’s harlot, Mastani. But I guess that the numbers of people who are familiar with the name of the Buddha are far less than this. This famous person has been forgotten to this extent is a matter of great shame and surprise. In this situation, it is a matter of joy that in Bengal and other provinces the celebration of the Buddha Jayanti has been started. This is very praiseworthy. But we think that this event has a great political significance. Therefore in order to make people aware of this significance we have planned to introduce people the importance of the life and mission of the Buddha.

Before 2500 years, King Suddhodhan of Sakya clan was ruling Kapilvastu. The name of the family was Gautama. Kapilvastu was located in what is now called United Province. It was located between Shravasti and Ayodhya and 50 miles east of Faizabad. Suddhodhan had two wives. One of them was Mayadevi and another was Prajapati. After marriage of Suddhodhan and Mayadevi, Mayadevi conceived after some days. According to social tradition, the first delivery was to be carried out in her maternal home and therefore her father Subuddha sent a message to his son in law for sending Mayadevi. Therefore Mayadevi and her sister Prajapati left for her maternal house with retinue. On the way they halted in Lumbini forest. On that place Mayadevi underwent labour of birth of a child and she gave birth to a boy in that forest. After giving birth to the boy, Mayadevi died in a very short time. The boy was nurtured by Mayadevi’s sister Prajapati. The boy was named as Siddhartha. Later on he became famous as the Gautama Buddha.

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