Through vast library, Ambedkar still stays close to his followers

For Pune's Prashant Hire, a self-proclaimed 'Ambedkarist', the annual visit to Chaityabhoomi in Dadar still holds an element of surprise. "A man about whom we read and study today, derived his sense of understanding from various types of literature he read over his lifetime," says Hire, who visits different places in Mumbai around this time every year in search of books from Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar's personal collection.

Mumbai, where Dr Ambedkar spent his formative years, still houses most of the books from his vast personal collection. After settling here in the 1930s, Ambedkar oversaw the construction of a house in Dadar called Rajgriha, where he stocked his 50,000-odd books.

But today these books have found their way into schools and universities, thanks to the People's Education Society set up by Babasaheb in 1944. "The People's Education Society has been by far successful in spreading his personal collection out to as many universities as possible so that maximum people have access to his books," says Dr Suresh Mane, Head of Mumbai University's Department of Law. But this decentralised approach also creates trouble, sometimes, for scholars and researchers, who have to hunt for those books, Mane adds.

"Dr Ambedkar showed a very strange mix of inclinations, from mysticism to strands of Marxist philosophy and Buddhist humanitarianism," explains Hire. Ambedkar most revered Edvin Seligman, an economist and his mentor, Historian James Shotwell, who had a great influence on his life, and philosopher John Dewey, whom he often quoted in his speeches. And naturally there are a lot of books from the trio in his collection.

"Bhimrao took it upon himself to gain as much knowledge as was possible in his lifetime. He was a voracious reader. His interest in Kabir and Tukaram is seen in the number of books he had gathered. He tried to lay his hands on anything and everything and that made him a scholar," says Mane.

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