The city of Nagpur is the heart of the Buddhist movement in India, being the place that Dr. Ambedkar chose to convert to Buddhism in 1956, along with five hundred thousand followers.
Most of the first newly-converted Buddhists were concentrated in Maharashtra and from the so-called Mahar Scheduled Caste, Dr. Ambedkar’s own caste, found in every town and village in the State. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s the Triratna Bauddha Mahasangha (TBMSG) conducted Dhamma tours, established a number of Dhamma centres and two large retreat centres, and started social work projects in many places, mostly in Maharashtra. It also and developed a thriving publications wing, its quarterly TBMSG Marathi language magazine, Buddhayan, having a circulation of 25,000. Apart from Gujarat there was little activity outside of Maharashtra.
In 1991, the centenary year of Dr. Ambedkar’s birth, there was a surge of interest in Dr. Ambedkar all over India among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Many young people wanted to know why Dr. Ambedkar had converted to Buddhism and how it could help them transform their individual and social lives. Today there are over 230 million Scheduled Castes and over 175 million Scheduled and other Tribes. The Triratna movement was not in a position to go to all who were interested, and so the Nagarjuna Training Institute was developed to train young people in the basics of Buddhism ,which they could then share in their towns and villages.
The land was purchased in 1994, and first building, the Buddha Surya Vihara, completed in 1997, and other facilities were constructed gradually since then. Local Dhamma activities commenced in 1997, and in 2002 the one-year residential training programme was inaugurated. Since then over 1,400 students from all over India (25 different states) have attended the course. They now form an all-India network, many of whom are very active in Dhamma teaching and social action.