Dr BR Ambedkar Biography: bhimrao ramji ambedkar (april 14, 1891 – december 6, 1956), popularly known as dr. babasaheb ambedkar, was an indian polygyak, jurist, economist, politician, and social reformer. he inspired the dalit buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination against untouchables (dalits). it also supported the rights of workers, farmers and women. he was the first law and justice minister of independent india, the father of the indian constitution and one of the architects of the republic of india.
- Dr BR Ambedkar Biography
- BR Ambedkar Birth, Place, Early life
- Dr BR Ambedkar Education
- Post-secondary education
- Studies at the University of Bombay
- Studies at Columbia University
- Studies at the London School of Economics
- Dr BR Ambedkar Personal Life (Wife, Children)
- Ambedkar Conversion to Buddhism
- Ambedkar Death
- Ambedkar Legacy
Dr BR Ambedkar Biography
|Name||Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar|
14 April 1891, Mhow, British Indian Empire (present-day Madhya Pradesh, India)
|Died||6 December 1956 (aged 65) New Delhi, India|
|Resting place||Chaitya Bhoomi, Mumbai, India
|Political party|| • Independent Labour Party
• Scheduled Castes Federation
|Other Party||Republican Party of India|
|Relatives||See Ambedkar family|
|Residence(s)|| • Rajgruha, Mumbai, Maharashtra
• 26 Alipur road, Dr. Ambedkar National Memorial, New Delhi
|Awards||Bharat Ratna (posthumously in 1990)|
BR Ambedkar Birth, Place, Early life
Ambedkar was born on 14 April 1891 in the town and military cantonment of Mhow (now officially known as Dr Ambedkar Nagar) (now in Madhya Pradesh). He was the 14th and last child of Ramji Maloji Sakpal, an army officer who held the rank of Subedar, and Bhimabai Sakpal, daughter of Laxman Murbadkar.
His family was of Marathi background from the town of Ambadawe (Mandangad taluka) in Ratnagiri district of modern-day Maharashtra.
Ambedkar was born into a Mahar (dalit) caste, who were treated as untouchables and subjected to socio-economic discrimination.
Ambedkar’s ancestors had long worked for the army of the British East India Company, and his father served in the British Indian Army at the Mhow cantonment.
Although they attended school, Ambedkar and other untouchable children were segregated and given little attention or help by teachers. They were not allowed to sit inside the class.
When they needed to drink water, someone from a higher caste had to pour that water from a height as they were not allowed to touch either the water or the vessel that contained it.
This task was usually performed for the young Ambedkar by the school peon, and if the peon was not available then he had to go without water.
he described the situation later in his writings as “No peon, No Water”. He was required to sit on a gunny sack which he had to take home with him.
Ramji Sakpal retired in 1894 and the family moved to Satara two years later. Shortly after their move, Ambedkar’s mother died. The children were cared for by their paternal aunt and lived in difficult circumstances. Three sons – Balaram, Anandrao and Bhimrao – and two daughters – Manjula and Tulasa – of the Ambedkars survived them. Of his brothers and sisters, only Ambedkar passed his examinations and went to high school.
His original surname was Sakpal but his father registered his name as Ambadawekar in school, meaning he comes from his native village ‘Ambadawe’ in Ratnagiri district. His Marathi Brahmin teacher, Krishnaji Keshav Ambedkar, changed his surname from ‘Ambadawekar’ to his own surname ‘Ambedkar’ in school records.
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Dr BR Ambedkar Education
In 1897, Ambedkar’s family moved to Mumbai where Ambedkar became the only untouchable enrolled at Elphinstone High School. In 1906, when he was about 15 years old, he married a nine-year-old girl, Ramabai. The match per the customs prevailing at that time was arranged by the couple’s parents.
Studies at the University of Bombay
In 1907, he passed his matriculation examination and in the following year he entered Elphinstone College, which was affiliated to the University of Bombay, becoming, according to him, the first from his Mahar caste to do so. When he passed his English fourth standard examinations, the people of his community wanted to celebrate because they considered that he had reached “great heights” which he says was “hardly an occasion compared to the state of education in other communities”. A public ceremony was evoked, to celebrate his success, by the community, and it was at this occasion that he was presented with a biography of the Buddha by Dada Keluskar, the author and a family friend.
By 1912, he obtained his degree in economics and political science from Bombay University, and prepared to take up employment with the Baroda state government. His wife had just moved his young family and started work when he had to quickly return to Mumbai to see his ailing father, who died on 2 February 1913.
Studies at Columbia University
In 1913, at the age of 22, Ambedkar was awarded a Baroda State Scholarship of £11.50 (Sterling) per month for three years under a scheme established by Sayajirao Gaekwad III (Gaekwad of Baroda) that was designed to provide opportunities for postgraduate education at Columbia University in New York City. Soon after arriving there he settled in rooms at Livingston Hall with Naval Bhathena, a Parsi who was to be a lifelong friend. He passed his M.A. exam in June 1915, majoring in economics, and other subjects of Sociology, History, Philosophy and Anthropology. He presented a thesis, Ancient Indian Commerce. Ambedkar was influenced by John Dewey and his work on democracy.
In 1916, he completed his second master’s thesis, National Dividend of India – A Historic and Analytical Study, for a second M.A. On 9 May, he presented the paper Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development before a seminar conducted by the anthropologist Alexander Goldenweiser. Ambedkar received his Ph.D. degree in economics at Columbia in 1927.
Studies at the London School of Economics
In October 1916, he enrolled for the Bar course at Gray’s Inn, and at the same time enrolled at the London School of Economics where he started working on a doctoral thesis. In June 1917, he returned to India because his scholarship from Baroda ended. His book collection was dispatched on a different ship from the one he was on, and that ship was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine. He got permission to return to London to submit his thesis within four years. He returned at the first opportunity, and completed a master’s degree in 1921. His thesis was on “The problem of the rupee: Its origin and its solution”. In 1923, he completed a D.Sc. in Economics which was awarded from University of London, and the same year he was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn.
Dr BR Ambedkar Personal Life (Wife, Children)
Ambedkar’s first wife Ramabai died in 1935 after a long illness. After completing the draft of India’s constitution in the late 1940s, he suffered from lack of sleep, had neuropathic pain in his legs, and was taking insulin and homoeopathic medicines. He went to Bombay for treatment, and there met Sharada Kabir, whom he married on 15 April 1948, at his home in New Delhi. Doctors recommended a companion who was a good cook and had medical knowledge to care for him. She adopted the name Savita Ambedkar and cared for him the rest of his life. Savita Ambedkar, who was called also ‘Mai’, died on May 29, 2003, aged 93 in Mumbai.
Ambedkar Conversion to Buddhism
Instead, around 1950, he began devoting his attention to Buddhism and travelled to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to attend a meeting of the World Fellowship of Buddhists. While dedicating a new Buddhist vihara near Pune, Ambedkar announced he was writing a book on Buddhism, and that when it was finished, he would formally convert to Buddhism.
He twice visited Burma in 1954; the second time to attend the third conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Rangoon. In 1955, he founded the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha, or the Buddhist Society of India. In 1956, he completed his final work, The Buddha and His Dhamma, which was published posthumously.
After meetings with the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Hammalawa Saddhatissa, Ambedkar organised a formal public ceremony for himself and his supporters in Nagpur on 14 October 1956. Accepting the Three Refuges and Five Precepts from a Buddhist monk in the traditional manner, Ambedkar completed his own conversion, along with his wife.
He then proceeded to convert some 500,000 of his supporters who were gathered around him. He prescribed the 22 Vows for these converts, after the Three Jewels and Five Precepts. He then travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal to attend the Fourth World Buddhist Conference. His work on The Buddha or Karl Marx and “Revolution and counter-revolution in ancient India” remained incomplete.
Since 1948, Ambedkar suffered from diabetes. He was bed-ridden from June to October in 1954 due to medication side-effects and poor eyesight. His health worsened during 1955. Three days after completing his final manuscript The Buddha and His Dhamma, Ambedkar died in his sleep on 6 December 1956 at his home in Delhi.
A Buddhist cremation was organised at Dadar Chowpatty beach on 7 December, attended by half a million grieving people. A conversion program was organised on 16 December 1956, so that cremation attendees were also converted to Buddhism at the same place.
Ambedkar was survived by his second wife Savita Ambedkar (known as Maisaheb Ambedkar), who died in 2003, and his son Yashwant Ambedkar (known as Bhaiyasaheb Ambedkar), who died in 1977. Savita and Yashwant carried on the socio-religious movement started by B. R. Ambedkar. Yashwant served as the 2nd President of the Buddhist Society of India (1957–1977) and a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council (1960–1966). Ambedkar’s elder grandson, Prakash Yashwant Ambedkar, is the chief-adviser of the Buddhist Society of India, leads the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and has served in both houses of the Indian Parliament. Ambedkar’s younger grandson, Anandraj Ambedkar leads the Republican Sena (tran: The “Republican Army”).
A number of unfinished typescripts and handwritten drafts were found among Ambedkar’s notes and papers and gradually made available. Among these were Waiting for a Visa, which probably dates from 1935 to 1936 and is an autobiographical work, and the Untouchables, or the Children of India’s Ghetto, which refers to the census of 1951.
A memorial for Ambedkar was established in his Delhi house at 26 Alipur Road. His birthdate is celebrated as a public holiday known as Ambedkar Jayanti or Bhim Jayanti. He was posthumously awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1990.
On the anniversary of his birth and death, and on Dhamma Chakra Pravartan Din (14 October) at Nagpur, at least half a million people gather to pay homage to him at his memorial in Mumbai. Thousands of bookshops are set up, and books are sold. His message to his followers was “educate, agitate, organise!”
Ambedkar’s legacy as a socio-political reformer had a deep effect on modern India. In post-Independence India, his socio-political thought is respected across the political spectrum. His initiatives have influenced various spheres of life and transformed the way India today looks at socio-economic policies, education and affirmative action through socio-economic and legal incentives. His reputation as a scholar led to his appointment as free India’s first law minister, and chairman of the committee for drafting the constitution. He passionately believed in individual freedom and criticised caste society. His accusations of Hinduism as being the foundation of the caste system made him controversial and unpopular among Hindus. His conversion to Buddhism sparked a revival in interest in Buddhist philosophy in India and abroad.
Many public institutions are named in his honour, and the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport in Nagpur, otherwise known as Sonegaon Airport. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar, Ambedkar University Delhi is also named in his honour.
The Maharashtra government has acquired a house in London where Ambedkar lived during his days as a student in the 1920s. The house is expected to be converted into a museum-cum-memorial to Ambedkar.
Ambedkar was voted “the Greatest Indian” in 2012 by a poll organised by History TV18 and CNN IBN, ahead of Patel and Nehru. Nearly 20 million votes were cast. Due to his role in economics, Narendra Jadhav, a notable Indian economist, has said that Ambedkar was “the highest educated Indian economist of all times.” Amartya Sen, said that Ambedkar is “father of my economics”, and “he was highly controversial figure in his home country, though it was not the reality. His contribution in the field of economics is marvelous and will be remembered forever.”
Indian Post issued stamps dedicated to his birthday in 1966, 1973, 1991, 2001, and 2013, and featured him on other stamps in 2009, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2020.
Ambedkar’s legacy was not without criticism. Ambedkar has been criticised for his one-sided views on the issue of caste at the expense of cooperation with the larger nationalist movement. Ambedkar has been also criticised by some of his biographers over his neglect of organization-building.
Ambedkar’s political philosophy has given rise to a large number of political parties, publications and workers’ unions that remain active across India, especially in Maharashtra. His promotion of Buddhism has rejuvenated interest in Buddhist philosophy among sections of population in India. Mass conversion ceremonies have been organised by human rights activists in modern times, emulating Ambedkar’s Nagpur ceremony of 1956. Some Indian Buddhists regard him as a Bodhisattva, although he never claimed it himself. Outside India, during the late 1990s, some Hungarian Romani people drew parallels between their own situation and that of the downtrodden people in India. Inspired by Ambedkar, they started to convert to Buddhism.
External Link (Source)
- Ambedkar: The man behind India’s constitution
- Dr. B. R. Ambedkar: Timeline Index and more work by him
- Exhibition: “Educate. Agitate. Organise.” Ambedkar and LSE
- Writings and Speeches of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
- Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s related articles
- Works by B. R. Ambedkar
- ‘Babasaheb’ Dr. B.R. Ambedkar: Maker and conscience-keeper of modern India
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