This month, PARI’s Grindmill Songs Project has featured couplets on Babasaheb Ambedkar and caste issues to mark Dr. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14. Muktabai Jadhav of Beed district winds up this series

PHOTO • Samyukta Shastri

As the month of April draws to a close, we bring the last of this series of ovi on Babasaheb Ambedkar. The two couplets featured here are by Muktabai Jadhav of Bhim Nagar. This hamlet in Majalgaon, a taluka village, has a predominantly Dalit population. For the Grindmill Songs Project, it has been a rich source of songs about Ambedkar.

In the first ovi , the performer asks when Ramabai made gold earrings. She answers that Ambedkar sent them to his wife by an airplane. The gold ornaments and the airplane both signify prosperity and economic advancement.

In the second song, Muktabai asks women of Brahmin families why they are sprinkling their courtyards (a morning ritual), implying this is not the only work they should do. In the next line, she says that the Dalits have moved out of their (imposed) confines and reached Buddha’s mansion (Buddhism). They will no longer do menial duties like dragging the carcasses of dead animals, a task that the system of caste-based occupations has forced on them for centuries. Instead, the Brahmin women will have to do this work – a reference to breaking caste-based distinctions, even if symbolically.

सोन्याचे घोसफुल रमाबाई कधी केले
भीमराज तीचे पती इमाईनात पाठविले

बामणाचे पोरी काय टाकीतीस सडा
आमी गेलो बुध्द वाड्या आता तुम्ही ढोर वढा

sōnyācē ghōsaphula ramābāī kadhī kēlē
bhīmarāja tīcē patī imāīnāta pāṭhavilē

bāmaṇācē pōrī kāya ṭākītīsa saḍā
āmī gēlō budhda vāḍyā ātā tumhī ḍhōra vaḍhā

Ramabai, when did you make these gold earrings?
Bhimraj, her husband, sent them by airplane

Daughter of a Baman, why are you sprinkling water in the courtyard?
We have gone to Buddha’s mansion, now you drag the dead animals

PHOTO • Samyukta Shastri

Performer/Singer: Mukta Jadhav

Village: Majalgaon

Hamlet : Bhim Nagar

Taluka: Majalgaon

District : Beed

Caste: Nav Bauddha (Neo Buddhist)

Date: These songs were recorded on April 2, 1996

Poster: Shreya Katyayini

Also see — ‘Keep working and look for the divine everywhere’ by Jitendra Maid

Read more: here

Namita Waikar is a writer, translator and Managing Editor at the People's Archive of Rural India. She is the author of the novel 'The Long March', published in 2018.

Other stories by Namita Waikar

PARI Grindmill Songs Project Team: Asha Ogale (translation); Bernard Bel (digitisation, database design, development and maintenance); Jitendra Maid (transcription, translation assistance); Namita Waikar (project lead and curation); Rajani Khaladkar (data entry).

Other stories by PARI GSP Team
Photographs : Samyukta Shastri

Samyukta Shastri is an independent journalist, designer and entrepreneur. She is a trustee of the CounterMediaTrust that runs PARI, and was Content Coordinator at PARI till June 2019.

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Editor and Series Editor : Sharmila Joshi

Sharmila Joshi is former Executive Editor, People's Archive of Rural India, and a writer and occasional teacher.

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