Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, commonly known as Dr. BR Ambedkar, was one of India’s greatest jurists, economists, political leaders and social reformers. Referred to as ‘The Father of Indian Constitution’, it was BR Ambedkar who headed the Drafting Committee, which was responsible for drafting the constitution. He also served as the first Law and Justice Minister of India after being named in Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s first cabinet after India’s independence.
Dr. BR Ambedkar was born on April 14, 1891, in Mhow (now known as Dr. Ambedkar Nagar), Indore district in Madhya Pradesh. His father, Ramji Maloji Sakpal was a Subedar in the Indian Army. Right from an early age, he faced a lot of discrimination due to being born into the Mahar caste. Not only this, BR Ambedkar and other students of the same caste were heavily neglected by their teachers. After experiencing discrimination a couple of times in his life, BR Ambedkar decided to work in the eliminating caste system from the society.
The biggest and only tool in Dr. BR Ambedkar’s kit in his fight against the caste system was education, and it turned out to be the most lethal. He completed his BA and MA from the University of Mumbai, his PhD from Columbia University, and his MSc and DSc from the London School of Economics. All these degrees helped him change the lives of so many people, who used to experience discrimination on a daily basis. In 1990, Dr. Ambedkar was conferred with Bharat Ratna for his incredible contribution to the country’s development.
There’s no doubt in admitting that Dr. BR Ambedkar’s professional life is known to almost every Indian citizen, but his personal life often gets overlooked. Today, we will change that, as we take a deep dive into his personal life. From talking about two wives, Ramabai Ambedkar and Savita Ambedkar to highlighting the impact these two women had on BR Ambedkar’s life. So, without further ado, let’s get straight into Dr. Ambedkar’s two marriages!
Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar and his first wife, Ramabai’s five children died in their infancy
When Bhimrao Ambedkar was 15, he tied the knot with Ramabai, who was just 8 at the time of their marriage. The couple welcomed six children, Yashwant Ambedkar, Gangadhar Ambedkar, Ramdesh Ambedkar, Indu, Meera, and Rajratna Ambedkar. However, only Yashwant survived, and unfortunately, his three siblings passed away in their infancy. Despite losing their kids, Ramabai stood like a pillar in Ambedkar’s professional journey.
According to The Mooknayak, when Bhimrao Ambedkar was in the USA to complete his educational degrees, he was going through a financial crunch. At the same time, his family in India was also struggling to make ends meet. However, Ramabai never told much details about the family’s financial crisis to BR Ambedkar, as she wanted her husband to focus on his studies so that he could accomplish his life’s goal of eliminating caste discrimination from society.
BR Ambedkar’s first wife, Ramabai passed away at the age of 37
Even after returning to India, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar was unable to give time to his wife, Ramabai Ambedkar and their kids, as he was busy decoding the horrific reality of the caste system in India on the ground level. Unfortunately, on May 27, 1935, Ramabai passed away due to prolonged illness at the age of 37.
It was a massive blow for BR Ambedkar as she was his ultimate supporter. From encouraging him to go abroad and focus on his studies and raising his voice against the caste system, Ramabai devoted her entire life to her husband’s goal with a smile.
As per The Mooknayak, when Ramabai passed away, Bhimrao Ambedkar cried all night. In his book, Thoughts on Pakistan, BR Ambedkar addressed his wife, Ramabai’s sacrifices and admitted that she suffered silently and always empowered him in his journey. In his editorial, Bahishkrit Bharat, BR Ambedkar admitted that he couldn’t even give half an hour to his wife, Ramabai. He had written:
“When this writer was abroad, she carried the burden of the family on her shoulders and still does that. Even after this writer was back from overseas, she did not flinch in carrying basketfuls of cow dung on her head during periods of financial distress. And this writer could not find even half an hour in 24 hours for this extremely affectionate, amiable and venerable wife.”
When BR Ambedkar got married to a doctor named Sharada Kabir, who was almost his son’s age
In 1947, BR Ambedkar was drafting the Indian constitution when he faced some serious health issues. The 56-year-old social reformer was suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, and neuropathic pain. In order to seek treatment for his health problems, he went to Mumbai, where Dr. Sharada Kabir examined him. During the treatment, they grew closer, and their common love for Buddha’s teachings and values created a lasting bond between them.
After being in touch with each other for almost a year and exchanging around 40-50 letters, Dr. BR Ambedkar proposed to her, and she accepted his marriage proposal. The couple got married on April 15, 1948, and at the time of their marriage, while BR Ambedkar was 57 and Sharada was 39. Interestingly, Ambedkar’s second wife, Sharada was just 3 years older than his son, Yashwant Ambedkar (36 years old in 1956).
Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar credited his second wife, Sharada Kabir, for extending his life by 8 years
According to The Mooknayak, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in his last book, The Buddha and His Dhamma, credited his wife, Sharada Kabir for extending his life by 8 to 10 years. For the unversed, Sharada Kabir converted to Buddhism on October 14, 1956, and changed her name to Savita Ambedkar.
After BR Ambedkar’s demise on December 6, 1956, Savita rejoined the Dalit moment. Unfortunately, on May 29, 2003, she passed away at the age of 94 due to difficulties in breathing. There’s no denying in saying that both Ramabai and Savita dedicated their entire lives in supporting their husband, Dr. BR Ambedkar, in his pursuit to eliminate discrimination based on caste.
What are your thoughts on Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar’s wives, Ramabai Ambedkar and Savita Ambedkar? Let us know.