Remembrance of Maha Parinirvana Day: Homage to Boddhisattva Babasaheb
Our Saviour, Babasaheb Ambedkar, was just 65 and nobody thought that
he would leave us so suddenly. Everybody had great hopes of better future as he
had shown us the way of the Buddha and gave us a new identity as Buddhist.
The world to us was appearing anew, with new horizon, new expectations and new
hopes. Those, like me, who had just returned taking Diksha only six weeks
earlier at Nagpur, were projecting many things ahead.
We all thought Babasaheb will show us the light and would explain us the
path of the Buddha and His Dhamma and how to practice it, how it will brake the
shackles of slavish religious practices which made us to believe that we are
born slaves and that we cannot worship in any temple, any God which we could
We, one and all, were looking for the Star in the Sky to throw rays
lightening the path which we were eagerly waiting to follow. Our star was
messages from the capital New Delhi's Alipur Road that he has planned to
a mammoth Diksha Ceremony in Bombay, the citadel of his Depressed Classes
movement. Within the span of six weeks the Buddha shrines were coming up in
every colony, chawals, hutments, zuggis zopadies and even on roads in those
places. In BDT and Port Trust chawals of single rooms, Worli, Byculla, Nagpada,
Matunga, Naigam, Koliwada, Wadala and many places families were getting ready
the Day when they were going to take Diksha from the Saviour. Messages were
coming from villages to those who were in Bombay that families and relations
are coming for the Diksha. They were sending messages that they would come day
or two earlier because they want to buy white sarees and other materials as
they could not get one in their places. They were asking what they have to do,
will they get a chance to see Baba and bow to his feet? Many questions of
The Mumbapuri (Bombay) was in many moods; particularly:
1) Jubilation for the proud Mahars, Mangs, Bhangis and some
Chamars and some of our Brahmin friends too.
2) The majority Hindus, minority Christians and Muslims appeared
surprised and thought what will happen. Questions after questions.
The tradesmen were busy in replenishing their stocks with white garments.
The Mali brethren were ordering truck loads of flowers and decorations. The
South Indian poor men's restaurants were getting ready and cleaning more spaces
around their small restaurants. To those student activists like me, there
emerging new contacts and friends from non-Mahar Communities. The South Indians,
Biharis, Punjabis, Gujarathi and Kanaris were declaring and telling us, as never
before, that they too belong to our Kome or same caste, our Majjab and
grateful to Baba as they too are enjoying facilities which he acquired for all
The brotherhood was emerging fast in Mumbapuri and surrounding areas up to
Kalayan, Varsava, Vasai and Panvel, etc. Many were planning to make arrangements
for their relations. Most of them were planning to sleep in open in Parks and
on pavements too.
Such was the Jubilation, great were the efforts, unbound hopes to take
Diksha from the Saviour. They did not know what Disksha is, what it expects, how
it looks and what happens afterwards. They only knew that the saviour will
show the light through dark tunnels and will lead us to our spiritual home where
they will live with self respect and dignity. They will have shrines and
places for collective worship and talk about each others problems and get
organised for the next step the Saviour would expect them to follow.
Such was the jubilation, all eyes on the star, waiting and getting ready
for the day. But alas! the shadow of darkness fell suddenly on us, there was
darkness everywhere, there were tears and sadness. Instead of jubilant dancing,
women were fainting and falling, emotions were holding the breaths. The
message from Delhi was that the Star is no more, the Saviour, the Boddhisattva
embarked on the journey to Nibhana. The Boddhisatva, true in his compassion and
deeds, we heard was shading tears even on his last day for the poor of the
villages, his poor, oppressed and poverty stricken lot. That is the lot who was
planning to come to take Diskha from hundreds of miles and to see their star.
But the star was no more. Nonetheless many of them kept their plans to come
to Mumbapuri as there was announcement that Baba's Parthiv Deh will be flown
to Bombay for the last rituals.
I was at my desk in PMG's office (GPO) when our office superintendent, a
Parsi Bawaji, came and stood behind me. Before he could tell me the sad news, I
was surrounded by half a dozen men and women. One Mrs Desai holding me and
in her tears said, 'Shekhar, Babasaheb is no more with us, he has passed way,
my husband heard the news on radio.' I knew the lady but we never had a chance
to talk. I thought she is from Brahmin caste. So also one Mr Prasad from UP,
another Sidhaye from Andhra and Vhatkar from Karnataka came and stood with
others with tears. I never thought these (non-Marathi) are my people. Baba
brought brethren together even in his death. I was shocked, lost my voice. Our
Superintendent, though a strict disciplinary, told us that we could go home, he
too was in tears seeing our grief. I rushed towards Dadar Rajgriha with one or
When that news came, there was about 10 hours gap before the plane could
land at Santacruz airport with Baba's parthiv Deh. Many started to go to the
airport. It was obvious that Baba's, the Boddhisatva's Parthiv Deh would be
brought to Rajgriha, his home where he meditated, contemplated, read and wrote
most of the treatises. At that time Rajgriha was turned into a hostel for
Siddharth college students. I was a frequent visitor there to see my classmates
friends. I rushed there with my friends, others were already there. There were
many people there. We were there almost 5/6 hrs before Boddhisatva's Deh was
We occupied one room on the second floor. We looked through the windows,
people were coming not one by one but by loads and loads. Crying and sobbing
with emotions. Women were beating their heads and scratching their faces. So
great was the grief, many men and mostly women fainted. Within an hour or two
the surrounding area and the streets were full of people, men women and
children. The Road from Dadar Rly station to Matunga was fully packed. The
opposite Rajgriha was covered inch by inch. Road to the right side of the
Rajgriha and the girls school was fully packed so also the surrounding roads. In
the Hindu Colony all the houses are of affluent people. They were locked. They
could not get out or get in. Nonetheless the mourners were considerate and
were giving way to them.
We looked through the windows again and again, whole surrounding area was
covered. Looking at the gathering we could not stop our tears too. What an
irony; the women, men and children were dressed in all white. They bought their
sarees, dhotis and shirts bright and whiter white for the Diksha Ceremony but
they had to wear them for Parinirvana Day. When I looked outside the window,
the whole area was in white just like a flamingo colony, calm but simply the
tears running from every eye.
By this time local leaders gathered in Rajgriha claiming their places. We
did not move and locked the doors of our room upstairs. The leaders were
squabbling for their places, rights and duties and preferences, who should seat
where. There were messages coming every minute. One message was that Baba's
Parthiv Deh is already on a special flight with handful of close ones. It was
also announced that Sohanlal Shashri, Shankaranand Shashri and other trusted
disciples of Baba were also on that plane.
At this time I had an opportunity to make announcement for a minute or two
as the main lot was holding their places in the main hall where Baba's Deh
would rest for DARSHAN. There was calm silence. There were trouble makers and
speculators too. I had to simply announce that the people should keep calm and
stay where they are. Every one gathered would get a chance of Baba's Darshan.
In that calmness and grief, the speculators were causing more anxiety.
There were rumours after rumours about Baba's sudden death. Evening papers were
adding fuel to these rumours. Everybody's thoughts were flying wild about
Baba's sudden death. Some thought it was a conspiracy at the higher level to
sabotage the scheduled Dhamma Diksha programme in Bombay and spread of Dhamma
over India. As Baba did proclaim that he would make all India a Buddhist
nation. The wrath was falling on the poor Brahmins and the Hindu houses around
Rajgriha were all worried. No wonder they were shut and there was no IN or OUT.
When I looked out again, I saw one Mr Deshpande with a huge bouquet of flowers
in the shape of a car wheel. To me it looked like a Dhamma Chakra. Many
people knew him as a Hindu activist. I sent a word inside and one leader came
the window and announced that people should give way to him, he is Deshpande.
People quickly gave way and he was coming in. At this time situation became
tense as one leader inside said he should not be allowed as he is General
Secretary of Hindu Mahasabha. But others ruled him out and Mr Deshpande was
From suburbia many families went direct to Santacruze airport hoping that
they will get the first glimpse of Babasaheb's Parthiv Deh. I don't know if
hey could manage that. They travelled back to Rajgriha. There were not much cry
and tears. They were all dry after about 10 hours waiting without food.
Volunteers, though, made arrangements of water at various places. Even families
Hindu Colony served some food and gave water to those who were around their
When Baba's Deh arrived at Rajgriha, all stood in silence folding their
hands in respect. Many of them have their little one's on their shoulders.
tears could not stop but they were silent tears. They thought the good earth
has given the way and taken their Saviour away from them.
I had a glimpse of Babasaheb's Deh. It looked quite different from that I
use to see him often in the past. It was calm and still as if the wisdom was
radiating from his forehead. Baba was no more crying for his poor brethren who
were gathered outside and lined up for the last Darshan. There was good
discipline, the calm silence, simply wiping the tears while going in for
I saw through the window ladies coming out, many of them started crying and
many fainted. I don't know but somebody said one had died crying.
The procession started in silence. Baba's Parthiv Deh was placed on
specially arranged desk top of a bus or a lorry so that everybody on the way
see; people on the foot path, on the road and in the surrounding buildings.
Bhaya Yashwant, Mukund, Mai, Dadasaheb Gaikawad, Shashri and prominent leaders
were seated around Baba's Parthiv Deh. It was a long journey to Dadar seaside.
My fiends and I walked from Rajgriha through main Road (now Dr Ambedkar Marg)
to Naigam point. Many people, irrespective of heir caste or religion were
offering flowers. When the procession came to Naigam point, myself and my
friends pushed close to the Rath (carrier). There, one Dr More, an OBC, admirer
Baba had a bagful of flowers hanging on the high rope line across the road
(just like at the Ganesh Utsav they hang madaki top on the rope and devotees
clime to reach it). As soon as Baba's Deh reached there, with an accurate
precision the bagful of flower petals were dropped on Baba's Deh. It was an
extraordinary sight. The silent procession proclaimed at the top of their voice
'Babasaheb Ki Jai, Babasaheb Amer Rahe, Jai Bheem. Jai Bheem'
As our brigade knew all the roads, we took a short cut and reached the
Chaupati (now Chaitya Bhoomi) to find the nearest place. Well, there were
many people there. We told them the procession is at Naigam/Parel and it
would be here in a couple of hours or so. We captured the spots from where we
could see the pier clearly. While on the road, from Parel to Shivaji Park, we
could not fail to notice the situation very calm but tense. Evening papers were
already rolling across Bombay. Shivaji Park being dominant Brahmin area, we
could notice their fears too. May be it was the Bania dominated papers writing
and speculating about Baba's sudden death. may be they wanted to instigate
some troubles between Mahars and Brahmins. But Baba's followers were calm and
serene, did not want any trouble on that day. Otherwise, it was feared, the
roads of Hindu colony would have turn into rivers of blood.
When we reached Dadar Smashan bhoomi, there were many volunteers doing
their jobs. Many of them with water containers ready to serve water to
of mourners. At the time there was no provision of water and the houses were
far away from the smashan except one or two tin shade restaurants, they
immediately ran out of their supplies and started serving water only.
When procession arrived at Chaitanyabhoomi, Baba's Deh was unloaded from
the Chariot. We could see beloved Bhaya Yeshwant with his family, Mukund,
Maisaheb and other prominent leaders around. The rituals and chanting of
Saranam Gachami' were going on non-stop. A silence, a deep silence, only
tears were flowing from thousands of eyes. The sky was calm too and felt it too
was shading tears. The sea, just a few yards away, was calm too but the waves
were rising and engulfing the sand and lashing the water as if it was showering
rain flowers on Baba's Deh. It was also making big noise, we thought the sea
is also crying too.
Once Deh was on the pier there were chanting by Bhikkhus and by all around.
As soon as the pier was lit, the silence was broken. All raised their voice
proclaiming 'Babasaheb Ki Jai, Long live Babasaheb.' People's emotions burst,
they could not control, staring at burning pier, I too burst into
I had a habit, for those las last ten years, to see Babasaheb wherever and
whenever I could hear or read that Babasaheb was coming or going. Once I took
a train without ticket and reached Igatpuri station where a ticket collector
caught me and said 'not you again, where you are going? Babasaheb has gone to
Aurangabad, you should have changed train at Manmad.' (He knew for sure that
I wanted to see Babasaheb.) Whenever Baba was in Bombay I use to stand in
front of Rajgriha just to have Darshan. I had no courage to talk to him. Anyway
he was always surrounded by leaders. When he came to open the new building of
our Vidyarthi Ashram at Manmad, I had an opportunity as an SSD volunteer, when
Baba exchanged a couple of words with me. I could not open my mouth, just kept
looking. His words were about the discipline the SSD volunteers were expected
to observe. On that day when Baba came near to our batch, I just broke the
chain and fell on his feet. Baba moved a step back and said 'I am not a God,
you should not bow to my feet but keep your discipline of SSD sainik.' Suddenly
as lightening, I stood up and joined the chain of some ten sainiks of which I
was in-charge. Baba going yard or two further looked back and saw us at
standstill. He gave a smile, which I can never forget in my life.
That day at Chaytya Bhoomi Baba was not smiling at me. While standing near
Baba's pier and paying last respects, just 3/4 yards away, all these thoughts
and memories were coming before my eyes. I knew, I would not get that chance
again. I was planning to see Babasaheb next year when I was planning to take
Buddhism for my B.A. course. I wanted to tell him that I was at the Dikha
Boomi in Nagpur and I made up mind there and then to study Dhamma. I was going
ask for his blessings. While standing there, I pledged, taking last glance
at Baba, that I will keep my pledge to study Buddhism.
As soon as the pier was lit, my thoughts were broken and there were cries
every where. People were falling on the ground with grief. Some women tried to
push through and wanted to burn on the pier. They were crying uncontrollably
and saying 'Baba who is going to look after us, who is going to protect us,
what we could do without you.' There were tears, uncontrollable tears
everywhere. Grief had no bound as the Light had Gone and everybody saw darkness
It was almost midnight, we friends, we moved towards the sea
(DadarChaupati)and decided to spend night there slipping on the sand. It was
cold but we
didn't care. We had some idea. We were sleeping just 8-10 yards away other
of the wall. We woke up in the morning. There were a few people and guards
who were looking after the pier. We came to the pier, it was almost to the
grounds. We started collecting some ashes, they were still hot and burning.
our noise the guards got up and were going to give us beating or throw us
out. But one was there who saw us standing near the pier from the beginning to
end. He realised that we were sleeping there in the cold all night. I told
the guard that even if he beats me, I was going to take handful of Baba's
raksha. I told the guard to do me a favour and let me have a handful of Ashes.
felt sympathetic to my urge and let me have some. I had nothing to take the
Ashes in. He gave me a clean new piece of cloth from the bag. They had
already had new cloth and containers there to collect Baba's ashes.
We left the Chaitanyabhoomi early in the morning and walked back through
the same rout of procession. We could see the road was still littered with
flowers and petals offered to Baba on the way to Chaitanyabhoomi. I thought
were millions tear drops there too.
Every paper in Bombay was full of Babasaheb, his scarifies, his devotion,
his wisdom, his compassion for he spurned all the temptation to serve his
beloved poor depressed masses and the nation as a whole.
I don't know why the scene of that day resurrects often before my eyes and
in my mind as it was on that day of 6 December 1956.
In the evening I went back again to Chaitanyabhoomi. There were already
many women, men and children there. Most of them were those who could not reach
earlier, nonetheless they wanted to visit there and put raksha on their
foreheads as Baba's blessings. I heard some women were singing a grief song.
by one Waman Kavi (Waman Kardak). They were singing 'Bheemai, Bheemai,
Dalitanchi Ai keeti Humberave, keeti humberave. Bheemai Bheemai Dalitanchi Ai,
wasarachi Gai, tujbin nahi koni Data. Amha Garibanche Jag he sune tujbina.
Bheemai Bheenai kitee humberave, kitee humbarave.…'
It could, somewhat, be translated as 'Mother Bheema, mother Bheema, how
much we can cry, how long we can cry. Bheema, O'Bheema the mother of Dalits,
are mother to us like cow to calfs. Without you there is no one for us, our
leader, our protector. The world of we poor is now empty without you. Bheemai,
Bheemai how long we will cry and how long we will suffer.'
That was the day that was when I had last Darshan of my Saviour Babasaheb,
the Mahakarunee, the compassionate, the Boddhisatva of many koti of Dalits.
Homage to Baba, homage to Boddhisatva, the compassionate one, the Saviour
of millions of depressed, oppressed and suppressed. Homage to him.
Homage to Him on His 48 Parinirvana Day; homage to the Boddhisattva.
Long live his Mission; pledge to his mission.
Babasevak Shekhar Bagul
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