Lakhs of Dr BR Ambedkar’s followers visit the Chaityabhoomi at Dadar in Mumbai to celebrate his remarkable life and legacy on December 6 every year.
December 6 is observed as the Mahaparinirvan Divas by millions of followers and admirers of Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. After a brief illness, Dr Ambedkar passed away on this day in 1956. As the most recognised leader of Dalits and the chief architect of the Constitution of India, Dr Ambedkas’s contributions to the country’s social polity are unparalleled.
Every year on December 6, his followers assemble at the Chaityabhoomi at Dadar in Mumbai to remember him and celebrate his legacy. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) would not allow his followers to visit the site and attend the celebrations this year. The programmes at the Chaityabhoomi will be telecast live on Doordarshan and various social media channels instead.
Born in a Dalit Mahar family in 1891, Dr Ambedkar was the 14th child of Ramji Maloji Sakpal and Bhimabai Ramji Sakpal. He faced discrimination while growing up owing to the stratified caste division in the society. He was the first person from his community to complete high school education and then, he went on to the Bombay University to study BA in Economics and Politics.
It was at the University of Bombay that Dr Ambedkar met Sayaji Rao III, the Maharaja of Baroda. As an advocate for social reform and opponent to the abominable practice of untouchability, the Maharaja sponsored Dr Ambedkar’s education at the Columbia University and later at the London School of Economics. Dr Ambedkar was not only the first Indian to pursue an Economics doctorate abroad but he was also the first South Asian to be a double doctorate holder in Economics.
One of the most remarkable events of his life, Dr Ambedkar held a satyagraha at Mahad in Maharashtra for Dalit emancipation. The matter at the heart of the campaign was the access to drinking water. Dr Ambedkar struck a blow to untouchability and caste hierarchy by leading a group of about 2500 Dalits to drink water from the Chavdar Tale (or lake) at Mahad.
Dr Ambedkar was a champion of labour rights and played an instrumental role in the reduction of working hours from 14 to eight hours. He promoted the establishment of employment exchanges and introduced reforms like equal pay for equal work, employee insurance, and dearness allowance. As an upholder of gender equality, Dr Ambedkar resigned from the post of the law minister when the progressive Hindu Code Bill, that gave unprecedented rights to women, was dropped by the Parliament.
Dr Ambedkar is known as the champion of Dalit rights as he challenged the practice of untouchability and the caste order in the Hindu society. In 1936, he published his text Annihilation of Caste which came from an undelivered speech. He considered inter-caste marriage to be the remedy to destroy the scourge of caste. Arguing that conversion to Buddhism was the only way for the Untouchables to be equal in the Indian society, he publicly converted to Buddhism on October 14, 1956.
Dr Ambedkar breathed his last on December 6, 1956, and his death anniversary is today recognised as the Mahaparinirvan Diwas every year. Lakhs of followers visit the Chaityabhoomi in Mumbai amid a celebration with hundreds of stalls selling his books, posters, calendars, t-shirts, and other merchandise. Due to the pandemic, Dr Ambedkar’s followers will have to mark the occasion virtually this year. (Image: Reuters)
B. R. Ambedkar, Mahaparinirvana, India, Chaityabhoomi
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