Republic Day Special: How Pune got an Ambedkar museum which neither Delhi nor Mumbai wanted
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar not only drafted India’s defining document — its Constitution, but also forged his own path into the annals of Indian history. This Republic Day, we take a look at his memoirs through his belongings and photographs that are on display at the Symbiosis Society’s Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Museum and Memorial.
Located at Senapati Bapat road, the museum began operating on November 26, 1996 which is also the Constitution Day of India. The museum also has 80 personal effects of the father of the Indian Constitution, 490 books and manuscripts from his personal collection and the Bharat Ratna medal and citation, India’s highest civilian award, conferred on him posthumously in 1990.
The rare collection at the museum includes his silver frame spectacles, the chair and table which he used while drafting the Constitution of India, his violin, his formal clothes and bags.
The irony is that all these precious belongings were donated by Ambedkar’s widow, Savita Bhimrao Ambedkar, affectionately known as ‘Maisaheb’, 38 years ago, in 1982 to Pune’s Symbiosis Society.
This was after she failed to get any enthusiastic response in either New Delhi or Bombay, now Mumbai, said Sanjivani Mujumdar, director of the memorial and wife of SB Mujumdar, founder-chairperson of Symbiosis Society.
“It all started in 1978 when we opened the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Research Institute in our college. Somehow Maisaheb Ambedkar came to know about it. After the demise of Dr Ambedkar she wanted to donate all his belongings and convert into a big museum, initially in Delhi as she tried out there. And then also in Mumbai she tried to contact some people, but didn’t get much response,” 76-year-old Mujumdar recalled.
“So she came and met us and offered all his belongings to us for a museum. This happened in 1982, and in 1985, we got the land from Maharashtra government to build the museum and memorial. On April 14, 1996 the actual work of the museum started and finally in 1996 the museum was inaugurated for which she was present,” Mujumdar said.
According to her, till 2001 Maisaheb used to regularly visit the museum on the occasion of the birth and death anniversaries of Ambedkar and used to stay at the Mujumdar residence for several days.
“We, now, just want more and more children know about Dr Ambedkar and his work,” she said.
Inaugurated on November 26, 1996, on the occasion of the Constitution Day of India, the museum is open from 10 am to 6 pm and has a nominal ticket of Rs 10 for adults and Rs 5 for children. It is free for children from government schools. Every year, on Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14 and death anniversary on December 6, the Bharat Ratna medal is kept on display for the public.
One of the notable attractions at the museum is the chair used by Ambedkar when he handed over the Constitution of India to the nation’s first President, Dr Rajendra Prasad.
The museum and memorial also has a photo gallery which takes one through Ambedkar’s life- from his childhood to death.
Amit Jhagade, administration officer of the museum, said, “There are 280 personal belongings of Ambedkar that are displayed here. Then there is a photo gallery where important events of his life are captured. Recently, we began an audio-video mobile application for visitors, wherein they could receive information through their headphone while taking a look at the museum.”
Conservation of artefacts
“We have now started the conservation work of all the objects and books at the museum. For this, we have a separate conservation lab at the museum premises,” said Jhagade
According to Jhagade, the deacidification and digitalisation of Ambedkar’s books has begun, with 62 books and 30,000 pages having been digitalised.
“It’s a long process and will take two to three years to complete,” said Jhagade. Dehumidifiers and air conditioners, wet and dry thermometers have been installed in the display cabinets as a part of the conservation work.