“बुद्ध कबीर भिमराओ फुले .. या भूमी वर जन्मले .. त्यांनी जनजीवन फुलविले ग..!!”

With these rousing words of a song remembering the great progressive leaders Buddha, Dr. Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule and Kabir, a caravan of 50 young Bahujan, Bauddha, Nomadic, Adivasi women climbed the steps leading to the Kapichit Buddhist Caves in Junnar as part of our “Historical Ideological Journey” program or “History Caravan” in short. Otherwise commonly dominated by male voices and gazes as ‘tourist’ spots, as this large group of young women entered the premises, there was an impact on the entire region reminding others that these are historical places heavy with thousands of years of studying, research, society-building and activism.

As we walked through each cave, climbed each step and looked at the history meticulously documented through the beautiful carvings and inscriptions – the maximum Bahujan women felt a deep connection to their great Buddhist movement past. The nomadic women felt how their ancestors had been the stone sculptors, the adivasi women felt how their foremothers & forefathers had protected the sites and the Bahujan women felt their ancient generations studying and working at these centres of learning and action.

Next, the caravan moved to Shivneri Buddhist Caves in Pune which is today only known as Shivneri the birthplace of Shivaji Maharaj. Its Buddhist history is all but forgotten.

“दोनच राजे इथे गाजले ..! एक त्या रायगडावर , एक चवदार तळ्यावर !”

The fort premises rang with these lyrics singing about the two kings Shivaji Maharaj and Dr. Ambedkar as the women’s caravan took ahead their historical journey. At the Buddhist caves here, we realized how strongly Shivaji Maharaj and his legacy is connected to Buddhism.

Next, the caravan moved to Trirashmi Buddhist Caves in Nashik. Though with very few hours of sleep and two days of constant walking, there was no lack of energy as the rousing slogans of Jai Bhim rang around the site. Many people stopped their frivolous activities to listen to the experts who were sharing their knowledge with the young women about the caves. Some workers around the site paused to smile at the group and respond back with “Jai Bhim” – feeling happy to hear this term because now these Buddhist caves have been appropriated by religious temples.

We thank experts from ‘Maharashtra Buddhist Caves Preservation and Research’ team who shared their research with us over the two days. Their deep study and willingness to share their knowledge is commendable. One of them said how happy they were to hear the Bahujan Movement songs and slogans by our group – they thought this was necessary to reclaim these sites as ours that is as Buddhist and by the Bahujan, of the Bahujan.