Dr Ambedkar Online Biography Project: Chapter2
Ch. 2 : Father and Mother
Ramaji, the father of Dr Ambedkar, was the youngest son of Maloji. Maloji had well-built body and attractive personality. After retirement, he was staying at Ramji`s with his daughter, Mirabai who was physically handicapped.The Mahars working in Army had two conspicuous hobbies. One was of taking liquor and another was of spirituality. Some of the Army Mahars were into drinking completely. Some of them were in both. But most of them have ruined their carrier and family life due to their hobbies. Maloji had longing for spirituality. To acquire spiritual knowledge of thousands of Mahars had taken efforts of lifetime. Among such people, there were three groups; first was Ramanand Panthi, second was Kabir Panthi and third was Nath Panthi. During spiritual discourses, Kabir Panthi`s would call Ramanand Panthi Ox , owing to their habit of nodding the head even if they didn’t know anything of spirituality. And Ramanand Panthi `s use to call Kabir Panthi`s as Half-bowl due to half knowledge of Hindu and Muslim religions. In both Panths Master-disciple relationship was very prominent. Both used to have debates that would sometimes lead to physical fights or abuses. Even though both Panthis use to fight for their Masters. .The people who would deep into spirituality were called as Saint, Mahant etc.
Maloji had accepted Ramanand Panth. His forefathers were also following same sect. After retirement Maloji would pray days and nights together as prescribed by Ramanand Panth. Seeing father accepted the Ramanand Panth two sons ordained in the same sect. But Ramaji did not follow the suit and till the last he did not do so. Ramaji saw the teachings of these sects though great but the followers would behave contrary in practice; like they would indulge in drinking liqueur, they may fight among themselves, their behavior would be mean. His only question was; ‘why to opt a spiritual path only for titular purpose when such act does not lead to good behavior?’ Therefore in early days of his life he engaged himself into Army service completely and carried honestly the family responsibilities in spite of pressure from Ramanand Panthi father.
At the age of 18, Ramaji was recruited in Army in 1866. The name of his regiment was ‘106- Sappers and Myers’. During the same time Sakharam, Laxman, Dharma, Janu, Shankar, Hari, Ragho Murbadkar were seven brothers working as Major in ‘Maratha’ regiment. Laxman Subhedar was transferred to ‘106 Sappers and Myers’ regiment as Major. His body built, his personality, his elegant face and his military discipline impressed Major Murbadkar. Though the formal relationship between them was of boss- attendant, still they use to share many personal thoughts. Major Murbadkar had two daughters a) Bhimabai and b) Bayjabai and a son named Ganpat. Bhimabai was the middle child. She was very sportive and talkative. Many times she would annoy elders at home with her straight talks. As females need to change their home after marriage such behavior is not regarded as good in Indian traditional society. In order to bring discipline, she was frequently punished. Habits die-hard; even after punishments she hardly changed her style of being talkative, sportive, up straight and stubborn nature. On the contrary due to her talks, she was favorite among villagers. She was not that beautiful in looks. Her nose was flat and two teeth were protruding out of her lips. But because of her body form like small palms, glazing eyes, streamlined eyebrows and well arranged hairs she would look attractive. Her fingers were small and splendid. The specialty of her palms remained life long. None other than Ramaji would suite best broom for Bhimabai, thought Majors Murbadkar. He spoke to Maloji. Maloji gave his consent immediately. Ramaji and Bhimabai married in Murbad (Dist.-Thane) in a grand ceremony. The condition of Murbadkar was so affluent that females in home would wear the Royal outfit. Females had lot of ornaments. Little girls would wear golden rings in leg fingers. On festive occasions they would dine in Silver plates. Their living standard was standardized like getting up early in the morning, taking bath before having prayer in assembly. Females should enter the Kitchen only after attending natures call. Due to the cleanliness and the high standard of living Major Murbadkar had major impression on high officers in Army and Brahmins. That times, the marriage between his nephew and niece was done in big celebration. Bhimabai-Ramaji marriage was also held in the same fashion. During marriage, Bhimabai was 13 and Ramaji was 19.
Bhimabai had come from a rich family whereas Ramaji was from poor household. ‘A girl who grown up among ornaments and several sophistication how can live in such a family?’ was Maloji`s doubt. Ramaji also felt same. But that matter less as most of the Armymen had elevated their standard of living due to military discipline and etiquette. And among them father, Maloji was hardcore Ramanand Panthi. Therefore the house had high culture of spiritual purity. Within such culture Bhimabai entered and devoured into Queen’s role. Reason being she never listened to anybody, she did things according to her wish. She never tolerated any interference in her work. Even if Ramaji was to provide his views Bhimabai use to discard them. These kinds of incidences could happen at times and there were some usual frictions but Ramaji sensibly took away his part slowly during quarrel. Ramaji was pensive, compassionate yet aggressive in nature and he would finish the given work at any cost in the said time. He was of jolly nature. He used to tease his wife a lot by provoking with some piquant and deliberate words. But when the wife got instigated and would open the floor for debates, he could easily move out of the scene and laugh loudly. Seeing the deliberate attempt to tease her, Bhimabai would then calm down. Yes; Bhimabai could only bow in front of Mirabai, sister-in-law because of her compassionate nature, accommodative style and intelligent being. She never would interfere in the internal matter of the Bhimabai or would not pronounce her authority. On contrary, she would give right advises at right time to Bhimabai. However, if disliked Bhimabai would never tell Mirabai about it. But she would definitely do the things that she wanted to do without hurting Mirabai. Therefore, there was very cordial relation between them. Mirabai was physically handicapped. In this conditions Bhimabai always took great care of her.
After 1857 Sepoy mutiny of 1857, East India company was replaced by British government. British government reorganized the Indian Army as follows:
Company composition was of four sections. Each section to have 25 soldiers. Hawaldar was head for every section whereas Color Hawaldar for two sections. Battalion or regiment is composed of 8 companies. Solder or Sepoy was taken as `recruit ‘on salary 7 Rs/month (Post 1895 it was 9Rs/month). LanceNaik is the first promotion for Sepoy. He would have 3 Sepoy under him. He was to have one small a sticker on his shirt as grade token with no-increase in salary.
Naik had 6 Sepoy under him with two stickers on shoulders and salary of 12 Rs/month.
Hawaldar (constable) had 24 Sepoy with him and 3 stickers with 14 Rs /month salary whereas as Color Hawaldar (head constable) would have 3 stickers and a crown with salary of 16Rs/month.
Jamadar (Jamedar) was officer-incharge of half of the company,. He would enjoy one star on his shoulders and a sword along waist side. His salary would be 40-50 Rs/month.
Subhedar was Company officer-in-charge with two stars on shoulders and sword along waist side with salary of 80-100 Rs/month.
Subhedar Major was Company officer with Crown on Shoulder and sword along waist side. His salary was 150 Rs/month. His typical job was to send the confidential report of company Sepoy to higher officers and to keep company rightly managed. All the above posts were meant for Indian people whereas Private, Corporal, Sergeant, Sergeant Major, Quarter Master Sergeant, Second Lieutenant, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Kernel and Kernel were coming prominently from British background. In British army many Mahars and Chambhars reached till Subhedar Major post. Among them some have shown courage and bravery in battlefield by which they got award such as Bahaddar and Sardar. 3-4 Mahar officers were members of Court-Marshal and they had also given verdicts in trials against White officers.
The Armymen took interest in Cricket, Hokey, Football and Wrestling. In these sports, Mahar soldiers and officers would have leading role. Most of the times, Mahar team could play against European officers in which Mahars won. Ramaji had right skills in Cricket and Hokey. He also earned medals in Long March and wrestling. Keeping Pigeon on left and gun on right hand, then making bird fly and shooting it down ; was one of the favorite game-competition for European Officers and Indian officers. Many Mahars would compete. Ramaji never participated in such competition due to his religious attitude. Even if he was not ordained into Ramanand Panth or Kabir Panth, he got knowledge from close association with these people. He had learnt Kabirs couplets, Tukaram’s, Ekanath’s, Dhyaneswar’s, Chokhoba’s devotional songs. Therefore he could understand the difference between Violence and Non-violence effectively thaswhy he could say no to such competition. However he received accolades from European officers in shooting competitions during monthly military training camps.
During British period, the children and close relatives of the Armymen should take education was an unwritten rule. People who did not send their children to Military schools or Normal schools, they had to bear monthly penalties. Company and British government made many useful things for Indian people in which Education is the most important thing. Mahars in Army benefited a lot due to education. It was so that some of them took benefit of it and rose to higher echelons in army. Many females form Mahar families would learn religious texts and could speak out. Many men and women could give discourse in spiritual traditions. Because of the services in Army, many Mahars changed their lifestyle whereas it also changed schoolteacher’s attitude towards Mahar students. They improved their economic conditions and social status. Because of education they could become conscious of their social and religious rights. They could then aspire for life with dignity.
Maloji had taken education in normal school and Ramaji also went to normal school. After entering Army, Ramaji pursued English education. To accomplish any task that is taken up in hands with sheer honesty and integrity was his cardinal policy, which concretized due to his spiritual inklings. He increased his knowledge of English by practice and reading and passed Normal school examinations properly. Normal school examination was equivalent to today’s Matriculation. He earned distinctions in Hindi, Mathematics and English. He also studied astrology too. He mastered Palmistry. For suh consultations, he would never charge single penny.
While talking about his father, once Dr Ambedkar said…
“My father was a teacher. East India Company had one rule, too well, which was not continued further unfortunately. It was about strict education; especially for Armymen sons and daughters and for old people night schooling. Every regiment has its own school. In such school my father was Head Master in one of such schools for 14 years. There was one Normal School in Poona to offer good education to Armymen. In that school my father studied and earned a Teacher’s diploma. His teaching methodology was excellent; consequently he had special regards and love for quality education. In our family all males and females could read and write, even more than that my elder sister could read religious texts thoroughly due to fathers encouragement. He being Kabir Panthi, many of of Kabir couplets he could sing thoroughly (Prof. Satyabodh Hudlikar MA: Talks with Dr Ambedkar Date 13-4-1947 Pg.28).
Ramji climed up from post of Recruit of ‘106 Sappers and Myers’ Regiment to post of Naik that time in ‘106 Regiment’ which was decommissioned. Soon Ramaji got transferred to ‘107 Pioneers’ regiment later on which was named as ‘7th Bombay Infantry’ when ‘106 Regiment’ was decommissioned. Major Murbadkar retired and settled in Murbad. His brothers also retired subsequently as Subhedar from different regiments, they also settled in Murbad. They had big family for which they built a big royal bungalow(Wada). Bhimabai`s father was the eldest. His duty was to protect the household and participate in the management of routine tasks. He had installed a big bell in front the bungalow. Servants used to ring the bell in the morning that time. The code was that everybody had to get up , to take bath and to assemble in front corridor for group prayer. One who does not obey this code was sure to get punishment. The penalty was also applicable to other Mahars in the village too. First they resisted. But seeing Subhedar would not allow such people to enter in his bungalow, they disciplined themselves. Females started cooking the food only after attending natures call. In couple of months the Maharwada of Murbad tuned into Brahmanwada. Noticing the transformation, the caste Hindus also stared getting up with the sound of the bell and later bath. Subhedar was fond of pet animals. Dears, Rabbits, Cows, Ox, buffaloes, horses etc were reared in his premises. Monkeys, Parrots, Kakakuva, Saluki etc birds had special cages. Also there were dogs of exotic variety and Indian species too. They had big cultivable land and also many servants and attendants for the same. They would provide informal loans to 10-15 nearby villages. Subhedar would ride a horse or a Bullock-Cart for moving out to different destinations always accompanied by attendants.
After Maloji`s death, the meetings of the four son and doughtier stopped happening. Among them the eldest brother took renunciation by premature retirement and started roaming along with Sadhus throughout India. Other two brothers roamed around with their respective regiments. Maloji till that time did not ordain into Ramanand Panth, he used to visit his village Ambawade and their Family goddess`Bhavani’. After getting ordained he left this practice of goddess visits. Ramaji never ordained into any Panth so he could visit his village and family goddess `Bhavani’ quite often along with family. His other two brothers after father`s death settled in a place that remained unknown to Ramaji for life.
Good qualities like integrity in services, performance in Sports, knowledge about English language etc made Ramaji cynosure of every eye particularly higher officials in Army. Result: gradually from lower ranks he rose to Subhedar in 1896. By that time his Father-in-law had died much after becoming Subhedar.
Source: Dr Ambedkar Biography by Khairmode ( In Marathi)
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