LUCKNOW: Buddhist monk Bhadant Galgedar Pragyanand, youngest among the seven priests who had initiated Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar into Buddhism in 1956, died here at Lucknow’s King George’s Medical University(KGMU) on Thursday morning.
Just about 18 days short of this 89th birthday, the Sri Lanka-born ascetic had been undergoing multiple age-related medical problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
Head of Lucknow’s Buddh Vihar near Risaldar Park in Lal Kuan area, monk Pragyanand had come to India at the age of 13 and was visited by Ambedkar in Lucknow twice, in 1948 and 1951. Pragyanand was only 20 when Ambedkar first met him.
Disciples of the ‘gururji’ claimed that it was after his visits to Lucknow to seek blessings from Bhadant Boddhanant and Bhadant Pragyanand that Ambedkar was inspired to embrace Buddhism.
Final rites in Shrawasti after procession in city
A procession carrying the body of Bhadant Pragyanand in an open vehicle will leave Risaldar park situated Buddh Vihar at 9am. Following the Husainganj, Burlington, Odeon cinema route, the procession will reach Ambedkar Mahsabha where the body of its founder president will be kept for 15 minutes. The procession will then reach Hazratganj situated Ambedkar statue where a halt of 30 minutes will be made for tributes to be paid, when finally at 12 noon the body will be carried to Shrawasti for last rites as per Buddhist rituals.
‘Guruji spoke little but talking about Ambedkar would always energise him’
He was brought in on November 26 after complaints of fever and chest pain but had multiple age-related medical conditions,” said Prof SN Sankhwar, chief medical superintendent, KGMU.
Pragyanand was born on December 18, 1928, and had nephews and nieces in Sri Lanka who were in regular contact with monks in Lucknow, but could not come to India on Thursday. Followers and wellwishers of the old monk, including UP minister Swami Prasad Maurya, poured in at Buddh Vihar where his body was kept.
Bhikshu Pragya Saar, the oldest of Pragyanand’s disciple at Lucknow’s Buddh Vihar said, “When behenji (Mayawati) became CM for the first time in 1995, guruji asked her to go on a pilgrimage. When she asked to which place should she make the pilgrimage to, he replied Shrawasti. And she indeed did.”He added, “It was also around 1997 that on guruji’s persuasion Behenji declared Shrawasti a district and raised its political importance to match its religious significance.”
Six disciples of the monk lived with him at the Buddh Vihar, one of whom Bhikshu Dharam Priya said, “I came under guruji’s wings in October 1999 and it was from him that I imbibed the unending energy and will to work. He had published 62 books on Buddhist teachings and had authored some of them.”