[Editorial Analysis] Embedded in Ambedkar’s historiography

Mains Paper 4: Ethics
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators

Context:

• The author in the given article talks about a poem Published in 1879, The Light of Asia by Sir Edwin Arnold, a poem on the life and teachings of the Buddha.

What India learnt?

• It contributed greatly to the international community’s knowledge of Buddhism and also played an important role in India’s cultural awakening and social transformation.

• The author highlights the influence it had on the subcontinent’s leaders from Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

• The Light of Asia or The Great Renunciation (Mahabhinishkramana) being the Life and Teaching of Gautama Prince of India and Founder of Buddhism (as told in verse by an Indian Buddhist).

• Author brings to life the character and philosophy of Prince Gautama of India, the founder of Buddhism, are being depicted ‘by the medium of an imaginary Buddhist votary’.

Impact on Ambedkar:

• The biggest political event of 1956 and indeed amongst the biggest ever in twentieth-century Indian history was the conversion of Dr Ambedkar to Buddhism, with lakhs of his followers, on 14 October of that year.

• Dr Ambedkar was very familiar with Arnold’s work is evident from the fact that he had two copies of it in his personal library, now at Siddharth College in Mumbai.

• Akshay Singh Rathore, a noted scholar, says “Ambedkarite Buddhism are the points of rupture (with the Buddhisms of his day) and the points of continuity with the classical literature, and primarily the Pali canon. So, coming then to indirect influence. Arnold awoke Kosambi and Kosambi had a huge impact on Ambedkar”

Revisionist account:

• Kosambi’s ( Buddhist monk and the first modern Indian scholar of Pali) late-life rejection of the conventional wisdom on the motives for Prince Siddhartha’s renunciation was fully shared by Dr Ambedkar.

• There is absolutely no doubt that Dr Ambedkar challenged the mainstream historiographies of Indic civilization through a revisionist account of the social and political role of Buddha and Buddhism in India’s past.

Conclusion:

• The Light of Asia was embedded in that historiography. This set him apart from others in India who were also great admirers of Buddha, like Tagore, Gandhi and Nehru.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the SDG India Index and Dashboard 2020–21, consider the following statements:
1. India saw significant improvement in the SDGs related to clean energy, urban development, Health, eradication of poverty and hunger in 2020.
2. Among states, Sikkim retained its position at the top of the rankings in the third edition of the index.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Equality is the essence of an Ethical society. Highlight Dr. Ambedkar’s contributions of moral philosophy stating your view

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