How is the Mahar revival of Buddhism in India indicative of the effects of “Protestant Buddhism”...

How is the Mahar revival of Buddhism in India indicative of the effects of “Protestant Buddhism” and the backlash from the colonial era within the Buddhist world?

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Answer #1

Mahar was a caste-cluster, or group of many endogamous castes, living chiefly in Maharashtra state, India, and in adjoining states. Traditionally, the Mahar lived on the outskirts of villages and performed a number of duties for the entire village. Their duties included those of village watchman, messenger, wall mender, adjudicator of boundary disputes, street sweeper, and remover of carcasses. They also worked as agricultural labourers and held some land, though they were not primarily farmers. Before his death in 1956, Ambedkar and hundreds of thousands of his Mahar followers converted to Buddhism in protest against their Hindu caste status.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to bear in mind that this movement was part of the widespread social transformations linked to the establishment of British power in India, which acted as a catalyst in modernization and Westernization of the country. The modern media, the press, the new means of communication, the colonial judicial system, industrialization, Christian missionaries, and educational reforms are factors that exercised a path-breaking influence on Indian society and contributed to the mobilization of several social and religious movements. These changes had considerable impact on the lives of the most marginalized castes. The new administrative methods and means of communication, for example, brought about a significant reduction in the area of traditional activities of the Mahars. Colonization decisively offered an elevation of social status to some Mahars. It opened new perspectives of action, which were conceptual, judicial, and political in nature. An awakening and a significant rise in political consciousness took place and found expression in the form of new associations and political parties. The face of Buddhism therefore changed as more people including the post colonial Mahars adopted it and gave it a different outlook with the more advacements that took place cukturally during that era.

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