Close this search box.


Thousands of Dalits Embrace Buddhism in Gujarat on Birth Anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar


On the occasion of the 132nd birth anniversary on 14 April of the renowned social reformer and architect of India’s constitution Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, thousands of people from Dalit communities in the western Indian state of Gujarat converted to Buddhism at the Ram Katha Maidan in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar. According to local media reports, as many as 50,000 Dalits and members of tribal communities took part in the conversion ceremony and joined in a march to honor Dr. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary.

Dr. Ambedkar initiated the Dalit Buddhist movement by taking refuge in the Triple Gem alongside other thousands of other Dalits in Nagpur, Maharashtra, on 14 October 1956. Since that day, many thousands of Dalits have embraced Buddhism on different occasions, in acts of historic commemoration and in defiance of the caste-based hierarchy of traditional Hindu society.

Venerable Pragya Ratna from the Great Ashoka Buddh Vihar in the city of Porbandar presided over the event and administered the conversion ceremony. The gathering was organized by the Swayam Sainik Dal (SSD), a voluntary organization established by 50 like-minded Dalit social workers in Rajkot in 2006.

“While [hundreds of thousands] of people attended the rally, hundreds embraced Buddhism at our gathering,” said SSD official Ashvin Parmar. “While some of them have already submitted applications to respective district collector office to legalize their conversion, the others will do the same soon.” (The New Indian Express)


Those who embraced Buddhism on 14 April took the same 22 vows taken by Dr. Ambedkar. These vows effectively require that the individual accepting Buddhism reject all religions associated with Hinduism.

“I want to embrace Buddhism since I want a caste-less society,” said SSD volunteer Jaysukh, who embraced Buddhism at the event. “Buddhism is a religion which talks about equality and which does not discriminate human beings. And therefore I have decided to convert to Buddhism.” (The Indian Express)

“I did not get a job on [a] contract basis on three occasions. I underwent interviews on all the occasions and it went off very well. However, I did not get the job after the interviewer came to know about my caste,” asserted Jaysukh, who only gave his first name. (The Indian Express)

Shailesh Chauhan, another SSD volunteer who converted to Buddhism, has a nursing degree and is in charge of the operating room in a private hospital. Chauhan said that he had made the decision to devote himself to Buddhism because he desired to live in a society free from discrimination.

“I have experienced discrimination [on] numerous occasions,” Chauhan observed. “Before doing nursing, I used to work at a brick kiln. And there, I was not allowed to drink water from a common pot.” (The Indian Express)


Urvashi Rathod, an Ahmedabad resident who also became a Buddhist during the ceremony shared her own perspective: “We are converting to Buddhism today to embrace [the] culture of equality and fraternity. In Hinduism, at every step we are reminded of our caste. We want to shun it.” (The Indian Express)

According to Parmar, many people want to convert to Buddhism and have already applied to their respective district offices to have their religious conversions recognized as lawful.

There is a long tradition of religious conversion in Gujarat. According to converts, who shared their experiences with local media, Dalit boys in the state are still not permitted to ride horses or grow mustaches due to their “inferior” caste. Many have therefore decided to abandon Hinduism in order to avoid further humiliation.

See more

Dalits embrace Buddhism at a mega event in Gujarat (The New Indian Express)
Thousands embrace Buddhism in event organised by Dalit body (The Indian Express)
50,000 Dalits in Gujarat to Embrace Buddhism on Ambedkar Jayanti in One of the Largest Conversion Ceremonies Ever Seen (The Mooknayak)

Related news reports from BDG

1,500 Dalits Convert to Buddhism Seeking Social Equality
Experts Urge India’s Dalits to Register as Buddhist in 2021 Census
Buddhist-inspired Short Film Sparks Debate among Indian Buddhists
Ten Thousand Dalits Reportedly Embrace Buddhism During Dussehra Festival
India Honors Dr. B. R. Ambedkar with New Statue, Circuit Train, and Calls for Social Change
236 Dalits Convert to Buddhism on Anniversary of B. R. Ambedkar’s 1956 Conversion

Related features from BDG

An Ambedkarite Buddhist Today
Ambedkar in Seattle: The Annihilation of Caste
Revolution and Counterrevolution in Contemporary India
The Revival of Buddhism in India: An Interview with Prof. Milena Bratoeva, Part Two
Dalit conversions to Buddhism must not be due to hatred of mainstream Indian society
Buddhistdoor View: The Complexities of Buddhist Conversion and the Indian Dalit Movement

Related features from Buddhistdoor Global

Related news from Buddhistdoor Global

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments