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Tag Archives: Educational Biography of Dr B. R. Ambedkar
Also Watch – Tribute to Dr Ambedkar at Columbia University (USA)
By Prof. Eleanor Zelliot
A talk at the Columbia University Ambedkar Centenary, 1991
Dr. Ambedkar was one of the first (and one of the few) Indian leaders to be educated in the United States. I am not sure what influence his years at Columbia University in New York City had on his life, but I know we can be proud to claim some part of this remarkable man’s early development. Two of the qualities which mark his life and career – optimism and pragmatism – may have been enhanced by his contact with this country, which prides itself on its charactersitics of hope and practicality.
The three years Ambedkar spent at Columbia, 1913-1916, awakened, in his own words, his potential. Columbia was in its golden age, and a list of Ambedkar’s professors reads like a catalog of early 20th-century American educators. The transcript of Ambedkar’s work at Columbia reveals that he audited many classes, more than he could have taken for grades, including such subjects as “railroad economics.” Later, Ambedkar wrote, “The best friends I have had in my life were some of my classmates at Columbia and my great professors, John Dewey, James Shotwell, Edwin Seligman and James Harvey Robinson. II (Columbia Alumni News, December 19, 1930).
Although it was Edwin Seligman, Professor of Economics, with whom Ambedkar kept in touch after he left Columbia and to whom he sent students when he taught at Sydenham college in Bombay, John Dewey seems to have had the greatest influence on him. Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy, his theories associated with optimistic, pragmatic American democracy, which preached (although it did not always practice) equality, no barriers to upward mobility, the use of machinery to produce leisure, and an attitude of respect for every individual.
Ambedkar’s first political party, the Independent Labour Party founded in 1936, took its name from British politics. But two things lessened the importance of Britain for Ambedkar: the colonial presence of the British in India, and the preference of British liberals for Gandhi and his non-violent direct action campaigns for independence over Ambedkar and the slow parliamentary path. And it also seems likely that American optimism, and the lack of an obvious class system in America, met a natural response in Ambedkar.
Ambedkar’s American contacts did not end when he left Columbia University in June, 1916, although one must admit they became minimal. He continued to correspond with Edwin Seligman, his mentor in Economics at Columbia, and occasionally recommended Indian students to Seligman. In 1930, Ambedkar wrote an article for the Columbia alumni magazine which reveals quite a sentimental attachment: “The best friends I have had in my life were some of my classmates at Columbia and my great professors, John Dewey, James Shotwell, Edwin Seligman and James Harvey Robinson.” In 1952, Ambedkar went back to Columbia to receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws and it is clear that this recognition of his work meant much to him. It was in this period of the early 1950’s that Ambedkar was publicly critical of India’s foreign policy of non-alignment, which seemed to him to cut India off from American contacts.
Also Watch – Tribute to Dr Ambedkar at Columbia University (USA)
I shall end this introduction with two stories, since this is not so much a scholarly tract as an essay which attempts to explore an American-Indian cultural interaction in a personal way. Mrs. Savita Ambedkar tells a touching story of Ambedkar’s happily imitating John Dewey’s distinctive classroom mannerisms – thirty years after Ambedkar sat in Dewey’s classes. It is impossible to find in Ambedkar’s life story any hint of a guru or a personality which dominated him, but here at least is a suggestion that he was fond of both Dewey the philosopher and Dewey the man.
The other story concerns a letter of recommendation written about Ambedkar by Edward Cannon, Professor of Political Economy in the University of London, to the head of Sydenham College, where Ambedkar applied for a teaching position in 1918. Professor Cannon wrote: “I don’t know anything about Ambedkar except that he came to do a thesis and attacked it and me in a way which showed he had quite extraordinary practical ability…. I rather wonder if he is a pure Indian; his character is rather Scotch-American.” There is absolutely no doubt that Ambedkar was pure Indian, and no one who knew his background and the history of his caste would assign any other nationality to him. But this depiction of his character as “Scotch-American” rather delights me. Ambedkar’s pragmatism, his wide-ranging intellectual interests, his realistic approach to social matters, his uncompromising attitude toward those he felt were his opponents – all these factors make his character and work very understandable to an American. Even his bitterness can be understood by an American who has seen social injustice at work in the midst of American democracy. I am tempted to end this introduction to my essay with the thought that American influence on Ambedkar really counted for very little. It is more likely that in those early years in America his own natural proclivities and interests found a healthy soil for growth, and the experience served chiefly to strengthen him in his life-long battle for dignity and equality for his people.
The American Experience of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
Very few of India’s leaders have been educated in America. In the British period, England and to a lesser extent France and Germany were the focal points for overseas study. Even today, when Indian students flock to America, their education is generally in the field of technology or science, and they do not enter politics. As far as I have been able to find out, only three men well known in public life have been thoroughly exposed to an American experience: Jay Prakash Narayan; the late Chief Minister of the Punjab, S. Pratap Singh Kairon; and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. An American inevitably wonders what effect his country has had on the lives and thinking of these men.
It is clear that J. P. Narayan’s direct contact with Amecican poverty during the Depression era and with American radical thinkers somewhat influenced the development of his socialist attitudes. It is possible that Kairon learned some of his expertise with mass politics from his interval in America. In the case of Dr. Ambedkar, the influence seems to be chiefly in developing his commitment to a pragmatic, flexible democratic system. Ambedkar spent the years from 1913 to 1916 at Columbia University in New York City. There is little material on his political thought from the pre-1913 period with which to compare his post-1916 writings, but even so I would like to suggest that the American experience did influence the thought and action of this unusually gifted and innovative son of Bharat.
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5 January 1905: Birth of Dr. Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan
Dr. Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan was a Buddhist monk, Scholar, Traveller and a prolific writer from India. He is considered as one of the great activists of Buddhism of the 20th century. He was influenced by Great Buddhist Scholar, Social Reformer Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan and Dr. Ambedkar.
Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan was born Harnam Das on January 5, 1905 in Sohana Village of Ambala District in Punjab. He did B.A from National College in Lahore. His travels took him to different parts of World for promoting Buddhism just like his mentor Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan. He devoted his full life to serve Buddhism. He always wanted to have experience of traveling far distances across many countries and discover new things. His aim was to continue the tradition started by his inspirations.
He contributed a lot to Indian Travel Literature (यात्रा वृतांत) and Hindi. He loved Hindi as a child loves his mother and supported it in many ways. He worked for Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, Prayag, Rastrabhasha Prachar Samiti, Vardha etc. He used very simple language in his books that every one can easily understand. He wrote many Essays, Novels, books on his travel to different places. Many of his books were also written on Buddhism. More than 20 of his books were published.
Dr. Ambedkar left behind lacs of Buddhist followers who were in need of strong Buddhist (religious) leader particularly in Maharashtra. So Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan travelled and guided Maharashtra dalit Buddhists. He also translated Dr. Ambedkar’s monumental work ‘The Buddha and His Dhamma’ in Hindi for the benefit of people. He also traced and collected original resources from Pali Tripitika and other Buddhist literature, which Dr. Ambedkar had not done.
Dr. Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan was the Chief Officiating Priest at the funeral ceremony of Dr. Ambedkar on 7 December 1956 at Dadar, Mumbai. He has solemnized the spontaneous ‘Diksha’ ceremony that was moved by Dadasaheb Gaikwad by the monk by making the whole assembly recite the sacred Buddhist hymns and 22 vows. He had declared that Dr Amabedkar had attained nirvana. It was under his guidance that the cremation ceremony was performed.
The books that he has authored are: Bhikkhu Ke Patra, Jo Bhula Na Saka, Aah! Aisi Daridrata, Bahanebazi, Yadi Baba Na Hote, Rail Ke Ticket, Kahan Kya Dekha, Sanskriti, Desh Ki Mitti Bulati hai, Bauddha Dharma Yek Buddiwadi Adhyayan, Shri Lanka, Hindi translation of Buddha and His Dhamma by Dr B R Ambedkar, Manusmriti kyon Jalai Gai?, Bhagwad Gita ki Buddhiwadi Samiksha, Ram Kahani Ram ki Jabani, An Intelligent Man’s Guide to Buddhism, ‘ ‘Bodhidrum ke kuch panne, Dharm Ke Naam par, Bhagvan buddha aur unke anuchar, Bhagvan buddha aur unke samkalin bhikshu, Boudh dharma ka sar a hidi translation of essence of buddhism by P l Narsu, Bhadant Anand Kaushalyan jeevan va karya – by Dr. M.L. Gautam (Life and work of Ven. Dr. Bhadant Anand Kausalyan), Avashyak Pali (Basic Pali) – by Ven. Dr. Bhadant Anand Kaushalyayan, The Gospel of Buddha : Translation by Ven. Dr. Bhadant Anand Kaushalyan of the book – The gospel of Buddha by Paul Carus, ‘ ‘Dhammapada Hindi translation, ‘Riddles of Hinduism hindi translation of Dr. Ambedkar’s book
5 January 1938: Speech of Dr, Ambedkar in Sholapur
This was the second day of Dr. Ambedkar’s visit to Sholapur where he made made another important speech. The local Christians were eager to hear his views on religion. So he addressed a meeting of the Christians under the Presidentship of the Rev. Gangadhar Jadhav.
Few days back, I watched the episode “Untouchability – Dignity For All” on the Satyamev Jayate show on 8th July, 2012. Many people rated it as a ‘great’ show but I don’t accept it as a ‘great’ show. It was just another show made with the intention of earning profits and TRP. There was nothing on the show which common public didn’t know apart from the clippings from Stalin K’s documentary – India Untouched. (And if you are a bit conscious on human rights, you would have already seen that documentary!) We all know Dalit students face discrimination; Dalit couples are killed because of inter-caste marriages, who doesn’t know that caste remarks are not uncommon in India? (Read “I have a Dream” for more detail, describing where Dalits face discrimination and what a Dalit dreams about.)
The episode started with the heart touching story of Dr. Kaushal Panwar, professor at Delhi University. She spoke about her upbringing and the caste discrimination she faced during her childhood and during her student life. Her life story is no different from that of most of the Dalits in India. Discrimination that Dr. Kaushal faced at JNU is of no surprise because even today Dalit students are murdered in professional colleges due to caste discrimination.
Next on the show comes Stalin K– he was the only man, apart from Bezwada Wilson, who impressed me on the show. Stalin K is the director of the documentary named “India Untouched” created in 2007 and he also runs an organisation named Video Volunteers. He has done a remarkable job, has travelled more than 25,000 km in India covering caste discrimination. The show took the readymade clippings from his documentary and presented it! I don’t think Aamir Khan and his team would have put any effort in producing this episode as everything was readymade and conveniently available. At one point Stalin K rightly pointed out – if you don’t know your caste you must be from upper caste because society don’t leave a single chance to remind you that you are from lower caste.
At another point on the show, someone from the audience compared ‘ragging’ to ‘caste discrimination’ and that point was praised by the host! What a joke! Unless ragging is based on caste it can’t be compared to caste discrimination. And ragging with Dalit students, unlike with other students, is played only on caste lines, so comparing ragging with caste discrimination is completely illogical and out of context when we are discussing caste based discrimination. For most of the times on the show, the host seemed to me an ignoramus. Was he pretending to be ignorant of all the facts, or didn’t he really know about all the discrimination– I couldn’t figure that out. I seriously doubt if Aamir Khan has read or knows anything about the Sachar Report!
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Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (MA., Ph.D., M.Sc., D.Sc., Barrister-at-Law, L.L.D., D.Litt)
1. Elementary Education, 1902 Satara, Maharashtra
2. Matriculation, 1907, Elphinstone High School, Bombay Persian etc.,
3. Inter 1909, Elphinstone College,BombayPersian and English
4. B.A, 1913, Elphinstone College, Bombay, University of Bombay, Economics & Political Science
5. M.A, 1915 Majoring in Economics and with Sociology, History Philosophy, Anthropology and Politics asthe other subjects of study.
6. Ph.D, 1917, Columbia University conferred a Degree of Ph.D.
7. M.Sc, 1921 June, London School of Economics, London. Thesis – ‘Provincial Decentralization of Imperial Finance in British India’
8. Barrister-at- Law 30-9-1920 Gray’s Inn, London Law
(1922-23, Spent some time in reading economics in the University of Bonn in Germany.)
9. D.Sc 1923 Nov London School of Economics, London ‘The Problem of the Rupee – Its origin and its solution’ was accepted for the degree of D.Sc. (Economics).
10. L.L.D (Honoris Causa) 5-6-1952 Columbia University, New York For HIS achievements, Leadership and authoring the constitution of India
11. D.Litt (Honoris Causa) 12-1-1953 Osmania University, Hyderabad For HIS achievements, Leadership and writing the constitution of India
Check also – Books written by Dr. Ambedkar