Deekshabhoomi is a sacred monument of Buddhism located where the architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, converted to Buddhism with approximately 600,000 followers on Ashok Vijaya Dashami on 14 October 1956. Dr Ambedkar's conversion to Buddhism is deeply significant for millions of people in India.
Dr B. R. Ambedkar had declared in 1935 that although he was born as a Hindu, he would not die as one, as conversion was the solution to abandon the caste system. After this declaration and having extensively and exhaustively studied the doctrines of all the major world religions, Dr Ambedkar would choose Buddhism for himself and his followers. Buddhism was 2,550 years old in 1956, so it was a notable year of celebration for the Buddhist religious world globally and 14 October was the traditional date of conversion of King Ashoka Maurya, the great Indian Buddhist Monarch and the day is celebrated as Ashok Vijaya Dashmi. He selected Nagpur for his conversion ceremony, as he explained in his speech on that occasion because Nagpur was the homeland of 'Nag' people who embraced Buddhism, supported it with great efforts in its early period, and propagated it throughout India. The ground near the Ramdaspeth area in Nagpur was selected for the ceremony.
On 14 October 1956, Ambedkar and his wife took the oath of Three Jewels and Five Precepts from the Burmese monk Mahasthavir Chandramani from Kushinagar. Ambedkar then gave the oath of Three Jewels, Five Precepts, and 22 Vows to his thousands of followers. In this way, Nagpur became the birthplace of Neo-Buddhist movement. Ambedkar died on 6 December 1956, one and a half months after the Deeksha ceremony. However, this ceremonial conversion continued after his death, converting 15-20 million by March 1959. After his death the 'Dr. Ambedkar Smarak Samiti' was organised for the management of Deekshabhoomi. The committee decided to build a stupa at the place as a monument of that ceremony and a mass conversion of people to Buddhism.
Deekshabhoomi is spread over four acres of significant land in the city. The stupa was designed by architect Sheo Dan Mal. In 1968, Construction started with residential houses for monks, later on, P/G College. Construction of the stupa started in July 1978, but it took a long time to finish. The stupa was inaugurated on 18 December 2001 by the President of India K. R. Narayanan.
It comprises a large two storied hemispherical buildings with gates resembling a Sanchi gate. Five thousand monks can stay in each storey. The design of the stupa at Deekshabhoomi is based on the architecture of the world famous stupa of Sanchi. But unlike the stupa of Sanchi, Deekshabhoomi stupa is completely hollow inside. It is the largest hollow stupa among all Buddhist stupas in the world. The inner circular hall is spread across 4000 square feet with granite, marble and Dholpur sandstone used in its construction.
On the ground floor, there is a 211 x 211 feet large square hall. At the center of this hall, an image of Buddha is placed. This image was donated to Deekshabhoomi by Thai students studying at Nagpur University. There are a library and a photo exhibition of the events in the lives of Gautama Buddha and Dr Ambedkar. Above the hall, there is a hollow dome.
This dome is surrounded by a veranda. On all four sides, fountains are placed. Above the dome, there is a small slab and a little decorative umbrella. The stupa has doors facing four directions. The doors open in large arcs, which are decorated with Ashok Chakras, and statues of horses, elephants, and lions. Around the stupa, there is a garden that is maintained by the Nagpur Improvement Trust. Statues of Dr Ambedkar and images of Gautama Buddha are in front of the stupa.