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Changdeo Bhavanrao Khairmode (1904-1971)
Eminent biographer of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar

Submitted by developer on Wed., 2014-03-19

Changdeo Bhavanrao alias Abasaheb is prominently known as a biographer. His monumental biography of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the creator of Indian Constitution, in which he has unfolded various aspects of his multifaceted personality, is considered to be his major contribution in the world of Marathi literature. In addition, he has also written many thoughtful articles too.

Changdeo Khairmode was born in the small village of Panchwad in Khatav taluka of Satara district on 15th July 1904.He studied in New English School in Satara. He was considered to be an intelligent student in his school. He had a particular interest in History along with Marathi and English. While in school, he had composed a poem of twelve stanzas in Shardoolawikridit Wrutta (a poetry form in Marathi which defines the structure of each line in the poem to make it melodious) which narrated the importance of Khadi. At that time, he was awarded the first prize for the poem by editor of ‘Kerala Kokila’, Narayan Krishnaji Athawale.

Later, encouraged by the elder brother of Babasaheb Ambedkar, Balaram, he took admission in the sixth standard of Elphinstone High School , a leading High School in Mumbai at that time. Babasaheb had just returned from England after completing his higher education. He had launched a weekly magazine ‘Bahishkrut Bharat- India- the Outcast’ and set up its office in Mumbai. In those days, a few students who belonged to then prevalent untouchable castes used to come to this office to study and also sleep at night. Khairmode was one of them. At that time, Khairmode would help Babasaheb in his various kinds assignments, especially in writing work. Babasaheb was the mentor of untouchable students in those days. This was because he was the only one from the untouchable class who was highly educated in the entire country. Everyone respected his scholarly personality. Khairmode got the opportunity to benefit from Babasaheb’s mentorship in that era. His scholarly persona, way of thinking, and strong will to work hard with dedication left a deep impression on Khairmode. Around the same time, he decided to write his biography. Inspired by Babasaheb, he also started writing articles in various magazines.

He decided to write the biography of Dr Ambedkar based upon the biography of Dr Johnson written by James Boswell, which is considered to have made a major contribution to English literature. Boswell had put in more than twenty years of hard work and with his amazing memory; he had compiled and written down his speeches serially every day. In the same manner, Khairmode also laboriously compiled Babasaheb’s speeches published by newspapers every day, letters written by him, selected excerpts from his books, letters written by his colleagues and followers, reports of various institutions etc. In the course of his conversations, Babasaheb used to share with him a lot of information about himself and also used to encourage him about his project of biography writing by remarking that only he was capable of doing justice to the project. In the intervening period, Khairmode completed his education upto B.A and started working in the British Legislative Assembly in Mumbai. He was the first man from the untouchable community in those days who was had acquired a higher grade job. He had to bear the severe brunt of the system of untouchability while working there. During this tenure, he was all the more convinced about the importance, urgency and struggle of Babasaheb’s work. With a single minded aim that Babasaheb’s thoughts and his herculean work should be brought before the society, he worked very hard and dedicated his entire life towards the fulfilment of this dream.

He had started this project in 1923 and he completed it before his death in 1971. ‘Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar Charitra (Autobiography of Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar)’ has been published in 15 volumes. Of these, the first volume was published in 1952 while Babasaheb was alive. Out of the planned 15 volumes, the first 5 were published while Khairmode was alive. He had to face enormous hardships during this period. While he was working on the sixth volume, Khairmode suffered a heart attack in 1971 and passed away. After his demise, his highly educated wife Dwarakabai, took upon her the daunting task of editing the next volume and completed it by putting in tremendous hard work despite the odds. The responsibility of publishing the remaining volumes was initially taken up by Sugava Prakashan and later by Maharashtra Rajya Sanskruti Mandal –Maharashtra State Cultural Council, thus completing the project.

This monumental project of writing the autobiography of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, consisting of more than nine thousand pages, with documentary evidence to portray and present before the world the political and social fight led by him to free the untouchables from slavery and to earn them a place of self-respect in the society, was taken up by Khairmode with tremendous passion and he proved that it could be done. In these volumes, he has documented , narrated , reviewed and studiously reproduced the facts about his family, his birth, education abroad, his return to India, his early days , the Satyagraha at Chavdar lake in Mahad, the untouchable movement, discussions in Hindi Round Table Conference, declaration of politico-social rights of the untouchables, history of social movement, Viceroy Council of Ministers, his difference of opinion with Mahatma Gandhi, his contribution in Joint Parliamentary Committee, his announcement of Change of his Religion, creation of Constitution of India, his speeches on Constitution of India, Hindu Code Bill, his resignation from Nehru’s council of Ministers and also written about the towering personality of Babasaheb and his monumental contribution to Indian society. These biographical volumes are not merely a documentation or description of his contribution or his fight but in the process, Khairmode has also presented before the reader the thought process behind his actions; he has also commented upon the events and at times he has been critical too. These volumes are packed with amazing volumes of information and the serious and inquisitive reader is bound to find them to be immensely readable.

This mega- biography which is a creation of tremendous hard work of Khairmode is considered to be a very valuable contribution to the world of Marathi literature. Veteran biographer and senior author N.R.Phatak has the following to say about this biography,” This biography written by Khairmode is not merely an autobiography of a man called Ambedkar but this is a monumental work which presents a new aspect of the modern history of Maharashtra before its people. Whoever reads it with passion is bound to appreciate the dedicated and often painful efforts put in by Khairmode. The correspondence appearing in these volumes would be considered as an invaluable resource of information in the history of social equality of Maharashtra. His biography has certainly made a valuable contribution to the biographical writing in Marathi language.”

In addition to the biographical volumes, Khairmode has also some more writing, albeit not too large, to his credit. He has two volumes of social poetry ‘Patil Pratap’ (1940) and ‘Amrutnak’ (1929) to his credit which he wrote in his early years. Later he wrote thought provoking articles on various topics like social awareness and education, untouchability removal, Hindu religion and society etc in many periodicals published in Maharashtra. He also has translated works like ‘Shoodr poorwee kon hote? Who were untouchables originally?’(1951), ‘Hindu striyanchee unnatee ani awanati-Rise and fall of Hindu women’ (1961) and ‘Ghatanewareel teen bhashane’Three speeches on our Constitution’ to his credit.

Babasaheb’s biography written by Khairmode is very valuable in many ways. This is an importance legacy in the world of Marathi literature. For those who want to understand and learn from the life of Babasaheb, these volumes act like a compass and a lighthouse. All the present and future generations shall forever be grateful to him for this invaluable contribution.

Written by Mahendra Munjal, Unique Features
Translated by Prof. V. A. Upadhye

Ref- 1) Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar –Vol 1 to 15 –Changdeo Bhavanrao Khairmode- Sugava Prakashan
2) Sankshipt Marathi Wangmay Kosh-Vol 2- Popular Prakashan