Saturday, July 10, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Ambedkar’s first biography in Sanskrit

Published: July 10, 2010 09:47 IST | Updated: July 10, 2010 16:21 IST
Pune, July 10, 2010

Ambedkar's first biography in Sanskrit

Battling a visual handicap, an 84-year-old Vedic scholar here has
composed "Bhimayanam" , the first ever biography of the architect of
Indian constitution and icon of the underprivileged Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
in Sanskrit verse.

The exceptional feat of Prabhakar Joshi, who lost his sight completely
while still working on the biography undertaken in 2004, stands as a
testimony to his unflinching determination and will power that saw
recent publication of the book containing 1,577 Sanskrit 'slokas'
covering the life span of Dr. Ambedkar unfolded in 160 pages with 21
'Sargas' (chapters).

A victim of glaucoma, Mr. Joshi who has an illustrious background as a
teacher of Sanskrit in schools and colleges, was immensely influenced
by Dr. Ambedkar's mission to uplift the downtrodden.

When he started studying Dr. Ambedkar's life, he came across certain
facts that inspired him to take up the unique project of his Sanskrit
biography titled " Bhimayanam".

"Not many people know that it was an ardent desire of Ramji, father of
Dr. Ambedkar, that his son should learn Sanskrit.

When Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar opted for the subject after being enrolled
in the Elphinstone High School in Mumbai, he was in for rude shock as
the teachers there refused to allow him to study Sanskrit because he
was a Dalit.

Imparting knowledge of Sanskrit to 'lower caste' students those days
was something to be frowned upon", Mr. Joshi said.

After pondering over this episode, Mr. Joshi thought of an "atonement
of sorts" by way of versifying in Sanskrit, the life of Ambedkar whom
he reverently calls 'Mahamanav'.

A progressive glaucoma started affecting the vision of the
octogenarian even as he persisted with his writing, at times
overlapping words as a result of poor eyesight.

"I was losing my vision fast but my resolve to complete the work was
getting firmer notwithstanding the visual handicap.

My wife read the lines I had written and made them legible for further
processing. Many times, I got up in the middle of night to write the
words that came to my mind without knowing that ink had dried," Mr.
Joshi who has retained all his faculties at the ripe age recalled.

Explaining his method that led to completion of his work, he said "I
first summarised important milestones in Ambedkar's life and then got
it taped. Then I kept listening to the audio again and again,
pondering over my next verse".

According to Mr. Joshi, who taught Sanskrit at Fergusson College here
and was a guide at Pune University for many students doing their
doctorates in Sanskrit, Dr. Ambedkar was a great supporter of the
language which he regarded as mother of most of the regional tongues
in the country.

Despite his strong opposition to the Brahminical dominance in the
society and social discrimination that led him and his followers to
embrace Buddhism, Dr. Ambedkar himself had mastered Sanskrit, which
was identified with the upper cast, he said.

"Bhimayanam" was published under "Sharada Gaurav Granthamala" series
by Pandit Vasant Gadgil after six years of dedicated work by Mr.
Joshi, a recipient of Maharashtra government's 'Mahakavi Kalidas'

Maharashtra Governor Shankarnarayanan is expected to formally release
the biography.

As Mr. Joshi spoke, his unseeing eyes stared in a fixed gaze. But the
words came gushing lighting up his face as he dealt on the towering
personality so dear to his heart — Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar who bestowed
dignity on those who suffered from injustice.


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