Monday, July 15, 2024

Buddhism in Modern India

Buddhism | Expansion and Development | Buddhism in Modern India | Sects Of Buddhism | Sacred Scriptures | Sacred Shrines| Principles, Customs and Manners

The Buddhist revival in India practically took shape under Anagarika Dhammapala (1864-1933), who established the Mohabodhi society in India in 1891. A definite turn to the Buddhist revival movement was given by Dr.B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956) who embraced Buddhism, at an impressive and historic ceremony at Nagpur on October 14, 1956.

In modern India, both the Theravada and the Mahayana traditions of Buddhism are prevalent. Of about 4 million Buddhist in India, 94 percent follow the Theravada tradition, and the remaining 6 percent are Mahayanists. The Indian Buddhists can be further divided into four distinct groups. Firstly, there are survivors from the Buddhist period. Mainly this type is represented by the Barua Buddhist of Bengal, the Chakma tribe of Tripura and Mizoram and the Buddhist of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh. Secondly, there are the ethnic over laps from Nepal, Thailand and Burma. The third category is represented by those who are attracted towards Buddhism as a result of the missionary movement spearheaded by the Maha Bodhi society in India. The followers of Dr. Ambedkar who adopted the Buddhist way of life, form the fourth group. Of all the groups, the followers of Dr. Ambedkar or the neo-Buddhists form the most dominant group.

According to1971 census, the total population of the Buddhists in India is 38,12,325 and they constitute 0.70 percent of the total population of India. Of them 0.62 percent live in the rural areas and 0.08 percent  in the cities. With a population of 32.64 lakh Buddhists, Maharashtra has the largest population (85.62%) of the Buddhists in India.

By now Buddhism in India has regained much of its lost prestige. Besides the manifold increase in population, the Buddha and the Buddhist heritage now command respect and reverence, which was long their due.