Hindu festivals and dilemma among the Ambedkarites.
It’s a festival season. Time for celebrations, get-togethers, delicacies and wait, *rituals*. Here begins the confusion among some groups. What do they mean by rituals. When the word *rituals* gets attached to all the fun, another word must be added. Yes the rituals are indeed *Hindu rituals*. In Marathi, the same can be called *Karma kaand.*
Here the confusion begins among the Non-Hindu groups viz: Muslims, Atheists and Ambedkarite Scheduled caste groups.
These groups are often fine with the celebration and fun part of the festivals. While they even participate with extra-zeal and enthusiasm in these Hindu festivals, there has been a long-run dilemma among the Ambedkarite groups in particular about the Hindu festivals.
The educated Ambedkarites who have read Ambedkar find it very difficult to explain and convince their fellow Ambedkarite friends, relatives etc who still follow – some superficially and some in full-fledged manner- not to follow the Hindu rituals. It is indeed not that difficult to convince the fellow Ambedkarites that the giving away of the Hindu rituals is not a forced or coerced act. With an argumentative discourse, it could be easily explained to them that this giving away of the Hindu rituals or the Spiritual transformation of the Ambedkarites is not out of some hate but has a sound logic, reasoning and good conscience associated with it.
The enlightened groups among the Ambedkarites anyways don’t give a damn about the Hindu festivals. But there are some not-so-aware groups who still follow the rituals of the Hindu festivals. And as a paradox they also do not deny that they are Ambedkarites.
The root of this dilemma arose when Ambedkar in 1956 along with lakhs of his followers denounced Hinduism and embraced Buddhism at Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur. The conversion was one of a kind. The peculiarity of it was that only adults above 18 were allowed to participate in the conversion ceremony. Which clearly indicates that it has to be a sanctioned act and not a forced or coercive conversion.
After the conversion, Ambedkar pledged 22 vows for all those who converted to Buddhism. Some of the 22 vows included vows like:
- I shall have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara, nor shall I worship them.
- I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna, who are believed to be incarnation of God, nor shall I worship them.
- I shall have no faith in Gauri, Ganapati and other gods and goddesses of Hindus, nor shall I worship them.
It is amptly clear from these three vows that the Ambedkarites shall not worship the *Hindu gods* thereon. Though the idea sounds radical, it was an obvious gesture of the group exploited for generations in the name of religion. In the name of Gods. In the name of the worshipping the Hindu gods in particular.
Chaturvarna has been a religious code sanctioned by the gods. Through various codes and mythologies, the institution of the caste system and inequality perpetuated for thousands of years in the Indian subcontinent. The inhuman Laws of Manu which treated Shudras and Women to the level of animals enjoyed the religious patronage until the implementation of Constitution lately. And all of this perpetuated in the name of worshipping gods and performing the Karma kaand.
Some Elite and learned Ambedkarites who have not read and understood Ambedkar still argue against this ‘that being liberals we should not be aloof and separated from the fellow-Indians’. Therefore they still do not hesitate in celebrating the Hindu festivals.
How does not following the rituals the others follow would make a group aloof from another group? If only the group which follows these rituals is *not intolerant to boycott the people with a different view in matters of following rituals and customs*. Therefore, if the majority has mutual respect for the views of the minority, the argument of turning aloof doesn’t hold true.
Some argue ‘that religion and beliefs are private matters and nobody else has any right to interfere into ones personal beliefs’.
The mostly *elite* Ambedkarites or for that matter the Hindus also argue that the relation between an individual and God is a private affair and nobody has a right to intervene into ones in individual beliefs. Sure, that’s a sound argument. Ambedkar has been one of the outright liberals the Indian intelligentsia has ever produced. How can Ambedkar therefore talk of interfering into an individual’s personal beliefs.
When we properly examine the 3 vows mentioned above, Ambedkar is not addressing the question of Atheism or Theism. Of whether to believe in *existence of God or not*. Ambedkar clearly mentions the names of the Hindu gods (Read, Brahminical). And pledges to refrain from worshipping the Hindu Gods. Another name of worshipping Hindu gods is Karma kaand. In the name of which, these people have been exploited for generations. Therefore the question of interfering into ones person beliefs doesn’t hold in this context. If it does,the spirit of it is questioning the belief of following a custom of Caste, Inequality and Male chauvinism.
Reasoning and Conscience obviously remain one of the important aspects of Ambedkar’s teachings. However in context of worshipping Hindu gods through the vows, his idea and duty was to make the people aware about what is good and what is bad for them. In fact once Ambedkar also appreciated Jews for their belief in God which according him created a plus condition of mind and body which ultimately won them a war. In the context of the vows however, Ambedkar is not talking of believing in God or not. Ambedkar is talking about *whom not to believe as God*. His exhaustive works like Philosophy of Hinduism, Riddles in Hinduism and Revolution and counter revolution in Ancient and Medieval India justify quite in detail his stand.
Therefore while arguing on this matter, we must understand the difference between an Open mind and an Empty mind. In Rohith Vemula’s words, Being an Open Mind and vouching for Individual freedom does not mean following an atrocious religion (at least for a large group) and the rituals attached to it. Therefore, it is only safe for these people to keep away from atleast the the Rituals/Karma kaand associated with the festivals. For the following of the rituals and Karma kaand has been the primary pretext under which these groups lost the status being humans. Being suspicious about the cause of slavery is only wise and there is no reason to observe it as some hatred.
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