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Born in 1891, the young Ambedkar had (for his caste, for his time and place) a relatively comfortable upbringing. But his mother died when he was only five, and his early childhood brought other painful experiences as well, as he began to experience the full degradation of his place in the sub-basement of the caste system.

1891, April 14 

Bhimrao Ramji Ambavadekar was born in the British-founded town of Mhow (*Imperial Gazetteer*; *Imperial Gazetteer map*), an important military center near Indore, Madhya Pradesh (*site*). He was the fourteenth and last child of  Ramji Sankpal and Bhimabai Murbadkar Sankpal. The family's ancestral town was Ambavade (in the Ratnagiri District of Maharashtra).


Gopal Baba Walangkar, retired and living in Dapoli, created the first public petition of the Untouchable movement: it asked the British colonial army to resume its recruitment of from the Untouchable castes. (*Zelliot 1*, pp. 42-44.)


When Bhimrao's father retired from his career with the British Army in 1894, he settled for a time in Dapoli (in Ratnagiri District: *Imperial Gazetteer*; *Imperial Gazetteer map*). The young Bhimrao had his earliest education there:

"At Dapoli in Bombay Presidency, however, there was a government-aided school, and the elder Ambedkar insisted his boys be allowed to attend on the ground that he was an army officer. It was finally arranged that they and four other "untouchables" might go to the school on the condition that they stay in a room by themselves and never come in contact with the caste children, and above all that they never take a drink from the school water supply. Those terms were accepted, and the future Doctor of Philosophy of Morningside Heights had his first conscious experience in ostracism and in learning at the same time. He was then 6 years old.

The Hindu teacher at the school never entered the room in which the outcast children were struggling with their lessons. But occasionally he went to the door, whereupon the six small boys placed their slates on the ground, where he could see them, and then retreated to a far corner to listen to any comment the teacher might have to make. They could ask no questions. If they did not understand the lesson, there was no help from the teacher.... he was the only one of the group who got beyond the first school." (*Selden*. )


The family moved to Satara  (*Imperial Gazetteer*; *Imperial Gazetteer map*), where Ramji Sakpal found a job with the Public Works Department in Goregaon; Bhimrao was enrolled in school in Satara.


Bhimabai Sakpal died; of her fourteen children, only three sons (Balaram, Anandrao, Bhimrao) and two daughters (Manjula, Tulasa) survived her. The children were cared for by their paternal aunt Mira, who had a disabling hunchback but did her best to look after them.

"Our family came originally from Dapoli Taluka of the Ratnagiri District of the Bombay Presidency. From the very commencement of the rule of the East India Company, my fore-fathers had left their hereditary occupation for service in the Army of the Company. My father also followed the family tradition and sought service in the Army. He rose to the rank of an officer, and was a Subhedar when he retired. On his retirement my father took the family to Dapoli with a view to settling down there. But for some reason my father changed his mind. The family left Dapoli for Satara, where we lived till 1904." Source: *Waiting for a Visa*.

"My father was a military officer, but at the same time a very religious person. He brought me up under a strict discipline. From my early age I found certain contradictions in my father's religious way of life. He was a Kabirpanthi, though his father was Ramanandi. As such, he did not believe in Murti Puja (Idol Worship), and yet he performed Ganapati Puja--of course for our sake, but I did not like it. He read the books of his Panth. At the same time, he compelled me and my elder brother to read every day before going to bed a portion of [the] Mahabharata and Ramayana to my sisters and other persons who assembled at my father's house to hear the Katha. This went on for a long number of years." Source: *unpublished preface to The Buddha and his Dhamma*.

Reference- Columbia Education 

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