Dalits of Maharashtra looking towards Jainism
-Prof. Pradeep Phaltane, Pune
A Dalit caste in Maharashtra, which is in search of a new religious identity, is looking towards Jainism! This caste is second largest one in Dalit community in Maharashtra. It has a good population in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh also. Interestingly, its population in Maharashtra alone is about 65 Lakhs. This number is larger than the official number of Jain population in entire India!
In marriage ceremony rituals in this community, they have started to remember Teerthankar Suparshwnath and Mahaveer in the Mangalashtakas. In a latest development, activists from this community have started to put picture of Teerthankar Mahaveer on their letterheads, posters etc. A renowned journalist and writer from this community is presently writing a novel on an ancient Jain Acharya, who belonged to them.
A leader of this community, who is a professor with Doctorate, said to this author, “Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar connected his people with Gautam Buddha. I want to connect my people with Teerthankar Mahaveer”.
An interesting fact is that this Dalit community was follower of Jainism in ancient times. Not just follower, but it gave many monks, great Acharyas and even a Teerthankar! We can find many literary proofs in Jain canonical texts and elsewhere about it. As this community was staunch Jain, and even savior of Jainism, the Brahmanical forces banned it and declared it as untouchables after decline of Jainism.
I myself am writing a book on their Jain tradition and their history, which will be published soon.
This community is poor and their literacy rate is lower. In last few decades many people of this community have got converted to Christianity and Islam. Many became victims of Hindutwa forces. But now the intellectuals and activists from this community have found their origin. In near future, their will be a socio-religious revolution in this community. This revolution will change their lifestyle. It will also affect the political and social scenario of Maharashtra.
I have talked about this subject with many Jain monks and Acharyas. There was a positive response from some of them. I am regularly in touch of activists from this community. Now I am working on action plan. This community needs a psychological support from Jain community.
For more details, please contact:
Prof. Pradeep Phaltane, Pune
Institute for Jain Social Studies
163 Yashwant Nagar
Dist Pune 410507
Mobile Phone: 91 988 152 5766
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