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.
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.
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.