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Reconnecting some Unknown Dots to Buddhism: An Ambedkarite Observation
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Reconnecting some Unknown Dots to Buddhism: An Ambedkarite Observation

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Subhransu Sekhar Harpal

There is not a single Non-Vedic reference point for Ram killing Ravana or Durga killing Mahishashur. This is more a political ploy than mythology, to disconnect the greatness of this day from Ashoka Vijaya Dashmi and to connect with Hindutva/Vedic Sanatan religion with mythical interpretation of Vijaya Dashmi.

 During this period there is also a wide presence of the celebration of indigenous women power, as festivals of local deities across the country. This is being highly neglected by so called historians (Brahmistorian) of India. Here, again, I don’t find any reference for Ravana or Mahishasur being killed. These local deity festivals are the oldest, longest, as well as widespread. It simply implies that Dashara/Vijaya Dashmi also has an independent presence in native social culture, celebrating woman as a power centre or liberator of society as a whole. This culture still survives and is struggling for its existence. Its forms are being highly sanskritised, so it needs an extensive research to revive their essence.
Matriarchy came to existence as a natural choice in the evolutionary process, which was well supported by the earth’s environment, whereas patriarchy is a man-made imposition on the earth’s environment. That is why we never see patriarchy in other species: it’s not found among animals, neither in the jungle nor any other environment.

 This chapter of writings explores such an independent Dashra, known as “Bastar Dashra” and tries to connect some missing dots with Ashoka Vijayadasmi and Buddhism in Bastar.
“BastarDashra” where there is no Durga, No Rama, which oppose the burning of Ravana and killing of Mahishasur. In fact they consider Ravana, Mahishasur, HiranyaKashyap, Holika, Bali, Meghnad,Lankeshwari and many more as their forefathers and Hero of their social system. Bastar Dashra give its wider connection with western and southern Odisha as Chatar Jatra of Manikeswari,Patneswari,Danteswari,Bastaren Jatra, Lankeswari,Budhi gudi etc. This Jatra is not of 10 days as like brahmanik VijayaDasmi/Dashra rather Bastar dashra is so wide that it lasts for 75 days continuously, and each day has its own importance. When we joint all the cultural activities with respect to days (75 days, earlier it was more than 75 days) and involvement/meeting of local deities of more than 1000 villages respectively, one can easily connect the missing dots and say that this event is nothing but an episode of strategic preparation of war /fight against Vedic culture of Yagyan/Homa by which they were destroying the environment, killing innocent animals and indigenous peoples habitat/ecosystem. Let me explain as follow.
Each and every village has its own tuli /chatar/(pedestal) for their respective deity ,who is indifferently an women with specific power holder . all local deity in their chatar with respect to their location they meet each other , some meet in river bank, some inside jungle and some on the way and all together in different group with their individual chattar, they walk towards Dantewada . on the way they need to meet one important diety namely Kachhin Devi, earlier there was no specific place of Kanchin before 1772 when Chalukya king Dalpat Dev build Kachhan Gudi in Jagdalpur ,Patharguda. Kachhin Devi known as the champion of warfare or she was the strategist. This became a culture that without her permission the Bastar Dashra can’t be started. It is documentated that Kachhan Devi was an women-deity belongs to untachble Dalit community and also a KulDevi (main deity) of Untouchable Dalit (Panka Caste or Mirgano people) . KachhanGudi open only once a year during this Dashra and again closed down for rest the year. In this meeting of KachhanDevi and others, she shares the war strategy and provide war equipment like “Bow and Arrow”,Axes (Tangi) etc , all can be seen in present day KachhanGudi with some more indigenous materials which doesn’t have any specific English/hindi supporting word to explain. After having a full proved plan with all war equipment they walk towards special deity Mawoli, another women power, who has quite similar to the character of Mahamaya of Buddhism, hold an arrow and bow. Even today the chanting of Mawoli is in local indigenous language (GONDI) .Gradually it becoming sanskritised and appears as Mahalaxmi of Hindus. In continuation, some other important deity join hands in this war against Vedic Forces (Rishis and Vedic Kings), the deities are like Mahji and Budhi Maa . lastly they all meet with Danteshwari inside the forest (Northern Bastar, boarder area of undivided koraput of present day Odisha ) supposed to be the probable war field of then time. The Rishis and Vedic Kings were in Rathas. In this struggle the women power led by Danteswari won and they subdue the Rathas and drag it from dantewada to Jagdalpur with their signage of victory. Interestingly the shrine of BastarDashra shrine is similar to Busshist shrine. Even today also it’s a part of Bastar Dashra culture that, when the circumambulation of Ratha (chariot) is complete then the tribals steal this eight wheeled chariot and take in to Kumdakot (forest area of Jagdalpur,Bastar). After this kachhan Devi is honored again as kachhin jatra in the joy of completing the Dashra. Same day evening all local deities exchange ideas between common men. There was an open discussion to solve other various problems. This meeting is called Muria Darbar or Tribal court, still operates today. Here the farewell to the all local deity coming (from their respective village/area). Procession, parade, rally with the signage of Mahishasur continues for days. The smile of Bastar Dashara is its open symbolism of Mahishasur’s horns with indigenous outfits and music.
Author Michel Postel & Dr. Zarine Cooper in their book “Bastar Folk Art: Shrine, Figurines and Memorial” reveals, there are two underlying currents in the art of Basatr: the classical art which is mostly reflected in the stone sculpture and the purely local art which is tribal. The ruins of Bhongapal and Garh Gobrahin are estimated to be older and bear testimony to the transitory efflorescence of the Buddhist faith. Their influence on the socio-religious structure of the indigenous population is reflected in the village shrines, highlighting an on-going process of mutual enrichment.
The gravity of above exploration can be better understood when we study “Bastar with reference to Buddhism in India” a small narrative view as follow.
With limited research material, then contemporary Art and culture gives a fair understanding of the regional history of Bastar.
Bastar situated between longitudes. Mahanadi basins in the north of the district, Godavari valley in the south Plateau and Sabri valley of Koraput (Odisha) and Vainganga Basin and Godavari in the west. The valley demarcates the division. The states of Orissa in the south are Orissa in the east and the states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh in the west. Bastar district has had a distinct and unique culture since ancient times. Any area in the study of special contemporary culture and civilization, there regional forms and Traditions have a significant contribution. References to the great culture and civilization of Bastar region.This fact is particularly noteworthy, because the literary evidence concerning it is absolutely is little known. Study of ancient scattered art remains are powerful means of Bastar region history. Like other regions of India here also the art of the crafts is directly related to the life of the society. Therefore, the social values of the erstwhile social values in relation to life of craftsmen,the expression of personal experience, etc., has found a place known and unknown in his works.
The statuses of Buddhism in Bastar, earlier to the Mauryan era are unknown. It is probably because by this time the Buddhist religion prevails in its original form. Hinayani were based on principles and policies. In this only symbol worship was valid. There was no place to see the idol craft of the erstwhile era in the region.The antiquities related to Buddhism are connected to the present Bastar border in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra ,Sirpur near Raipur, Malhar region of Bilaspur under South Kosal .
Hiuen Tsang (Xuanzang) was a a Chinese Buddhist Monk,Scholar,traveler, who traveled to india and South Koshal in 639 AD. He wrote in his travelogue (Si-Yu-Ki) that “Maurya King Ashoka built a stupa and other buildings in the south direction of the capital of South Kosala”. A short article of Ashoka is still present in Roopnath near Jabalpur.Two mural accounts of Ashoka’s time near Ramgarh near Lakhanpur in Surguja district. Apart from this, Punch-marked silver coin of Nanada&Mourya have been obtained in many places in Bastar and Orissa province. Again Hiuen Tsang wrote in his travelogue that “there was an existence of Saduh (set of seven) during the period of King Nagarjuna of South Bastar. Alexander Kaningham narrate this as satavahana. Major General Sir Alexander Cunningham KCIECSI was a British army engineer,who later tool an interest in the history and archaeology of India. Further in 1978, Archaeologist have excavate and found the brick build ruins along with the statue of Gautama Buddha and the Saptamatruka, between Kondagaon and Narayanpur Subdivision of Bastar Zone. The scholar estimates that the blast-built site here is Mauryan era. The statue of Saptamatruka is the middle Kushan carpet and the statue of Gautam Buddha is older to that. This site related to South Kosal connecting Mahakantar and other southern states located on this route. Dr. Vishnu Singh Thakur’s view is particularly noteworthy here- “From the primitive state to the rise of civilization, the core of its success is in maintaining the harmony with the life of ancient South Kosala. The base has been the link established by the Mahanadi and its tributaries. Coastal of this river, south by way of Mechaka-Sihawa, Kakraya (present Kanker) and Bhramarkotya (Bastar), It has been in constant contact with major cultural centers of India. Ancient south
Kosala established cultural ties with Kalinga and Odisha since time immemorial, no doubt Mahanadi had played a role as a liaison in development.” It is mentioned in the inscription of Emperor Ashoka about the conquered “Atvi” (wild region) states and by this, It is estimated that southern way of this Atvi (present Bastar ) was might be the way of Mauryan emperor Ashoka’s Kalinga invasion. At the same time this inscription also telling that Buddhism had entered the present Bastar zone much before Kalinga war. It is mentioned in the thirteenth inscription of Ashoka – At the time of the Kalinga invasion, people of all castes and creeds resided there. Referring to the “Ativi” tribes, he wrote that “Whatever the Atavis (The inhabitants of forested territories) are in the conquered (kingdom) also (he) calms them and meditate” (Dhyan Dixit) “. Consider thus as main victory only to calm all subject , coined as Dharma Vijay . It is mentioned in the eighth line of the inscription.
From the archival description it appears that the modern Bastar connected with the Orissa province was under Kalinga state at that time, it was known as “Attavi” state. After the Kalinga conquest, Ashok not only pacified these residents, but also turned them by the principles in Buddhism without altering their socio-culture life. The Chaitya Temple and The cells for the ShilaCharya (Buddhist Teacher) built in Chaitya found in Bhogapal, over the hill here many ancient ruins exist, this place located in the middle of ancient Indian Highway, connected to the historic city of Barsur Pass by crossing the Indravati River, Odisha.
After the fall of the Maurya Empire the influence of Brahmin religion started increasing in this forest of Dandakaranya. Hindu religion and culture Incarnation beliefs combined with. From the all above evidence it is clear that before to Mourya and during Mourya period Brahamnism was an unknown phenomenon for this region. Rockedicts 13th of Ashoka describe these people as Shraman or tribes. There is no doubt that the people of this area must had resistance to the Brahmanism, which can be easy seen in many writing /archives on Bastar Struggle.
There always being a healthy two was inter-sharing relationship between Buddhism and indigenous of this country. in fact both has substituted each other’s , since both were from one common believe system that was Shramanik. On the other hand, from ancient India to Modern Indian Democracy, Vedic (Brahmanik) have had been working as most destructive forces for Buddhist and indigenous of this country. Whether it’s a vedic literature (mythology, purans, granthas,hymns,Vedas ) or modern day research text of Brahmin Scholars’ both have substituted each other in interpreting “Indigenous Heroins & Heroes” as evil as possible without any reasoning and rationale.

“DhammaChakra Pravartan Day-14th October 1956”, this is the most revolutionary contribution of Babasaheb Dr.Ambedkar who gave us as “A new way towards emancipation”. Though he embraced Buddhism on 14th day of October 1956, but it was the final reflection of his 40 years of research. His acceptance was based on scientific research, which reflects in writings and speeches of Babasaheb Dr.Ambedkar. His engagement with Buddhism was original as well as critical, whenever he speak or write on Buddhism, he never hesitate to expose the truth of Brahmanical politics behind ancient Indian history. In one of his hand written notes (Revolution and Counter-Revolution in ancient India, chapter 5 of W&S V-3,pn-151) Babasaheb writes “Much of the ancient history of India is no history at all. Not that ancient India has no history. It has plenty of it. But it has lost its character. It has been made mythology to amuse women and children”… again in the same chapter he writes “Ancient Indian history must be exhumed. Without its exhumation Ancient India will go without history. Fortunately with the help of the Buddhist literature, Ancient Indian History can be dug out of the debris which the Brahmin writers have heaped upon in a fit of madness. The Buddhist literature helps a great deal to remove the debris and see the underlying substance quite clearly and distinctly. In the very next chapter, Babasaheb introducing the essay as “Buddhism was a revolution .it was as great a Revolution as the French Revolution”. By these lines one can imagine the gravity of his research and the commitment he gave for the Buddha and his Dhamma. Babasaheb was such a person whose writing reflects in his speech. He never fails to remind us our stolen/erased history. On 24th September 1944, Madras Rational Society invited Babasheb Dr.Ambedkar for one speech on “rationalism in India” where by presenting a different view on Ancient Indian History Babasheb said “Students of Indian History, in my judgment must bear one fact in mind and it is the one which has been completely neglected by the historians who have written about history of India. it is a fundamental fact and unless that was borne in mind, no one can understand the history of India. The fundamental fact is that there has in ancient India, a great struggle Buddhism and Brahmanism. The history of India is nothing if it is not one of great struggle. It is not even a struggle as has been repeated by professors of philosophy but a quarrel over some creed. It was not only a revolution in doctrine but a revolution in the political and social philosophy”.
This is what I totally endorsed the word by word of Dr.Ambedkar and tried to portrait the whole concept. This is how, may I conclude my topic. There are so many unknown facts (unknown dots) of indigenous tradition and their believe system which are well connect to Buddhism and at the same time opposite and anti-vedic in nature. So long as the work to connecting these missing dots will not be excercised by our present generation scholar, we continue to remain unconnected to the message of Babasheb Ambedkar and his vision of “Prabuddha Bharat”. So far as our struggle is concern I must end this by saying that “The Future of Indian History will also be nothing but the struggle between Buddhism and Brahmanism”.
Here I must carry the words of Babasaheb’ speech as an way forwards , which he delivered In a conference on 30th and 31st May 1936 at Dadar Mumabi , in support of the conversion movement and in front of more than thirty-five thousand untouchable Mahars. Babasaheb said “if we look into the real conditions, it will be clear to us that our ancestors were compelled to live in that religion. Thus this Hindu religion is not the religion of our ancestors, but it was slavery thrusted upon them. Our ancestors had no means to fight this slavery and hence they couldn’t revolt. They were compelled to live in this religion. Nobody can blame them for this helplessness. Rather anyone will pity them. But now nobody can force any type of slavery upon the present generation. They have all sorts of freedom. By availing of such freedom, if they do not free themselves, most gratefully, as being most mean, slavish and dependent people to have lived on earth.

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References

1.बस्तर एक अध्ययन:1995-by Dr.Rajkumar Behar,President of Research institute Chhattisgarh.
“An Exploratory/Research Study of Buddhism in Bastar District”-S.P.Tiwari.
2. Collection from Dandakaranya Samachar 18 March 1979.
3. Adivashi struggle in Bastar (in hindi):-By Jabbar Dankbala
4. satyaketu vidyalankar:- Histry of Mourya Empire,page-493.
5. Key Records of ancient India:-Vol-1,p37 to 39.
6.”Banpakhi”;-Annual journal of Danteswari Women’s College,Jagdalpur,Bastar 1983-84
7. Travels of Huein Tsang:-Samual Bill part-4.
8. Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Writing and Speeches Vol-3, Vol-17 part3, Vol-17 part2,

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Subhransu Sekhar Harpal is an Independent Researcher and an Editorial Board Member of Nirveda Magazine, Odisha.

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