KANPUR, India -- On a day when the country was busy burning the effigies of demon king, the villagers of nondescript Pukhrayan village in Ramabai Nagar had gathered to worship Ravana and to embrace Buddhism on the occasion of Dussehra or Vijaya Dashmi on Sunday. Over 5,000 dalits embraced Buddhism in the presence of 12 Buddhist monks during Ambedkar Baudh Deeksha ceremony held at the Krishi Mandi Samiti `maidan' in Pukhrayan, 70-km from the city. In addition to the converts, several thousand other persons came to witness the ceremony. The converts were mostly from Allabahad, Hardoi, Azamgarh, Auraiyya, Kannauj, Unnao, Agra, Firozabad and rural pockets like Bhognipur, Akbarpur, Rura, Derapur, Sikandara and Shivli villages of Kanpur Dehat. Before taking the oath, they took out a long procession. A man seated on a chariot and depicting Ravana's character was hailed by them. They showered flowers and threw colours on the procession. Later, Bhante Angulmal, a Buddhist monk, along with many other monks delivered a sermon and made people take oath to follow principles of the Buddhist religion with utmost dedication. "From today onwards, we would only abide by the principles of Lord Buddha," said middle-aged Ram Vilas Sachan, who had travelled all the way from Fatehpur to attend the ceremony in Pukhranya. Dhani Rao Baudh Panther, president, Bharatiya Dalit Panther party, who has been conducting the annual ceremony against the discrimination in the society, said: "We believe that Ravana was a `Dravidian' king of `Gond' tribe and a learned person, well-versed in the vedas. We have been organising this Baudh Deekhsha ceremony every year so that the future generation can remember his (Ravana) sacrifice and continue the tradition." Retired IAS Chandrapal Arun, former vice-chancellor, Jhansi University, Anil Kumar and deputy general manager, enforcement, Base Yamuna Power limited, Ramesh Chandra were present on the occasion.
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