Dalit History Month

Dalit History Month is a participatory radical history project. Our goal is to share the contributions to history from Dalits around the world. We are a parallel model of scholarship to academic institutions that study Dalits without Dalits in collaborative or lead roles of research. We believe in the power of our stories to change the savarna narrative of our experience as one solely of atrocity into one that is of our own making. Our story may have begun in violence but we continue forward by emphasizing our assertion and resistance. Join the conversation at #Dalithistorymonth on facebook, twitter, and your communities.

0005-01-01 00:00:00

FaXian's Writings Provide Evidence of Widespread Untouchability

Beginning of 5th century CE : FaXian, was a Chinese Buddhist monk who travelled by foot all the way from China to India, visiting many sacred Buddhist sites in what are now Xinjiang, China, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and between 399 and 412 to acquire Buddhist scriptures. His journey is described in his important travelogue, A Record of Buddhist Kingdoms, Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Xian of his Travels in India and Ceylon in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline. In his travelogues writes: "The candalas are called sinners. They live isolated from the rest of society, and when the enter a city, they must sound an alarm by striking a piece of wood to warn everyone of their presence and enable the citizens to avoid running into them. The candalas, fishermen, and hunters are the only sellers of animal flesh." These writings confirm that between the origin of the Chaturvarnya (The Four Caste System ) and the time of Fa Hsien's travels and Buddhism, Untouchability had originated and established itself within the subcontinental religion and culture as the fifth group that lay deeply repressed and firmly outside the system. ( Japanese Studies on South Asia, Caste System, Untouchability and the depressed, 1997)

0400 BC-01-01 00:00:00


400BCE-4CE: Eklavaya. The story of Ekalavaya is known to most Dalits. This is the story of an Adivasi warrior-archer whose aim is so sure that the famous Savarna hero of the epic Mahabharata, Arjuna feels that he is unable to duplicate such a feat. Arjuna is so threatened by Ekalavaya that he involves his archery teacher Drona into a treacherous plot.This is the story of Ekalavaya detailed below exactly as it appears in Wendy Doniger's book: The Hindus : "Drona was the Pandava’s archery tutor, and Arjuna was his star pupil. One day a boy named Eklavaya, the son of a tribal Nishada chieftain, came to them. When Drona who knew dharma, refused to accept the son of a Nishada as a pupil, Ekalavaya touched his head to Drona’s feet, went out into the jungle and made a clay image of Drona, to which he paid the respect due to a teacher. He practiced intensely and became a great archer. One day the Pandavas went out hunting with their dog. The dog wandered off, came upon Ekalavaya, and stood their barking at him until the Nishada shot seven arrows almost simultaneously into the dog’s mouth. The dog went whimpering back to the Pandavas, who were amazed and went to find the man who had accomplished this feat. They found him and asked him who he was, and he told them that he was Nishada Ekalavaya, a pupil of Drona’s.They went home, but Arjuna kept thinking about Ekalavaya, and one day he asked Drona why he had a pupil, the son of a Nishada, who was even better archer than he, Arjuna. Drona then resolved to do something about this. He took Arjuna with him to see Ekalavaya, and when he found him, he said to Ekalavaya, “If you are my pupil, pay me my fee right now”. Ekalavaya, delighted said, “Command me, my Guru. There is nothing I will not give my Guru”. Drona replied “Give me your right thumb”. When Ekalavaya heard this terrible speech from Drona he kept his promise. He cut off his thumb and gave it to Drona and after that when the Nishada shot an arrow his fingers were not as quick as before. Arjuna was greatly relieved." Dalit literature however, frequently uses the motif of Ekalavaya as someone who betrayed himself and others. Shashikant Hingonekar has written: " If you had kept your thumb History would have happened somewhat differently But you gave your thumb and history also became theirs. Ekalavaya, since that day they have not even given you a glance. Forgive me, Ekalavaya, I won't be fooled now by their sweet words. My thumb will never be broken"

1100-01-01 00:00:00

Anti-caste struggle by Basaveshwara

One of the first historical anti-caste movements in Karnataka was initiated by Basaveshwara in 12th century A.D. It is also popularly known as the Veerasaiva movement. According to Kancha Illaih the movement led by Basaveshwara entirely changed the philosophical discourse. Caste system and untouchability were the two institutions that the Veerashaiva movement tried to dismantle. Patriarchy, caste and the brahmanic religion as an intertwined system of domination and subjugation was examined closely, and methodically dismissed and replaced with a just system. Led by Basavanna, a new social order based on equality between genders and castes, in both words and deeds was being established. Anubhava Manatapa at Kalyan, played host to the intellectual, spiritual and metaphysical dialectics between diverse people drawn to this radical movement. For a period like that wherein caste system and untouchability were intrinsic Basaveshwara’s movement can be viewed as one of the radical anti-caste movements in the history of Karnataka. The movement not only focussed on caste but also on gender. Basavanna strongly criticised caste system and untouchability. In order to disassociate from his caste he refrained from wearing the sacred thread which is a symbol of caste superiority. The egalitarian principles propagated by him primarily attracted untouchable communities. Many of them belonged to the backward communities like barbers, Sudras who were particularly kept out from the ritualistic discourse by the Brahmins. Like Buddhism the movement was against Brahminism. The philosophy of Basavanna questioned the authority of the priestly castes. The Vachanas (poems) composed during this period raised many questions regarding caste, untouchability, Brahminism etc. Unlike Sanskrit that was unfamiliar to large number of people, Vachanas were composed in comprehensible Kannada. The composition of Vachanas is an epoch in Kannada literature. The Vachanas composed incorporated various aspects of society. Many of the Vachanas strongly condemned caste and untouchability. Through Vacahanas he emphasised the significance the equality and human dignity particularly for those from the downtrodden sections. The Vachanas disapproved the insincerity and hypocrisy of the Brahmins. For instance in one of his Vachanas he says that “if I say I am a Brahmin, Lord Kudala Sangamadeva laughs aloud” Though the movement is mentioned has Veerashaiva movement, it is important to note that Basavanna did not attempt to create a separate caste, instead it was the ‘linga deeksha’ (offering Linga) that was provided to untouchables as a way to include them in the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ (The hall of spiritual experience.)’ Anubhava Mantapa was a democratic platform created for social discussions and progressive activities. Basavanna recognised the fundamental problem behind the existence of caste and untouchability. The Anubhava Mantapa was a collective attempt that included notable individuals like Akkamahadevi, Allama Prabhu and saints like Channiah and Kakkaih from the untouchable caste. One of the radical steps taken by Basavanna was that he organised an inter-caste marriage between an untouchable groom and a Brahmin bride. In the history of social reform movement the inter-caste marriage organised by Basavanna remains as a remarkable achievement. The adversity against the movement was too hostile that it resulted in political chaos in the Kingdom of Kalayan. The movement led by Basavanna remains subsided in the mainstream social reform movement. However, it is one the commendable movement that revolutionized the twelfth century social order. One can equate the Vachana movement to the Bhakti movement in fact consider it as the very first Bhakti movement of Karnataka, due to its association with the spiritual sphere and it contribution to the literature. However, this particular movement stands different in comparison to the other Bhakti movements. The time period of the movement was such that the very attempt to initiate such a moment was remarkable. The impact of the movement on the society was not alone social but also political. He advocated a political philosophy of representation of the voiceless. At present the followers of Basavanna claim themselves to be Lingayats and form one of the dominant castes in Karnataka. With time, the movement initiated by Basavanna has diverted from its original purpose, the main idea of anti-caste and anti-Brahminism has vanished. Nevertheless it continues to be the foundation of the social reform movements in South India. Basavannas teachings remain as one of the progressive thoughts in the history of reform movements.

1200 BC-01-01 00:00:00

Saint Nandanar

The Tamil Periya Puranam, the great epic is a Tamil poetic account depicting the legendary lives of the sixty-three Nayanars, the canonical Tamil poets compiled during the 12th century. One poem refers to the story of Nandanar, a Pulaiyar, an untouchable. It is said that he used to supply leather for drum and straps, strings for lutes, and various instruments for the worship of God. He was known for his deep devotion to Siva and was longing to visit the Nataraja temple of Chidambaram but feared that his low birth would serve a hindrance to his temple entry . He post-poned his visit daily and for this reason he is also known as Tirrunalaipovvar (“He who will go tomorrow”). One day he gathered enough courage and started out for Chidambaram, and on reaching was overwhelmed by both happiness and despair outside the high wall of the temple. He wasn’t allowed in because of his Caste. On hearing his wails it is written that God himself appeared before the priests and commanded them to light a fire and lead Nandanar into the inner sanctum of the temple. Many Dalits have criticized Nandanar because spiritually he never dared to go beyond the worship of stone idols and for his what is seen as meek begging before Brahmins. However, some see this as an act of courage, since for most Dalits of that time, entering a temple could mean instant murder by the upper castes. He also won for his people – the freedom to sing. Even if he only sang of his pain as a Dalit and his longing for God, still for the first time a Dalit voice was heard of popularly. Nandanar, by the sublime sweetness of his Tamil, compelled Indian society and Indian literature to accept the entrance of a great singer.

1377-02-14 00:00:00

Birthdate of Guru Ravidass

Ravidass (also Ravidas, Raidas, Rohidas and Ruhidas in eastern India) was a North Indian Guru mystic of the bhakti movement from Ramanandi Sampradaya and one of the direct disciples of Ramananda. He was active in the 15th century CE. Venerated in the region of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh as well as Maharashtra, his devotional songs and verses made a lasting impact upon the bhakti movement. He is often given the honorific Bhagat or Sant. He was a socio-religious reformer, a thinker, a theosophist, a humanist, a poet, a traveller, a pacifist and a spiritual figure.

1400-01-01 00:00:00

Vithoba Sant Chokhamela - Bhakthi Movements

Vithoba Sant Chokhamela was a Marathi poet and a leading figure of the Bhatki Movement. He lived in Mangalvedha near Pandharpur in Maharashtra with his wife Soyara and son Karmamela sometime in the 14th century.

1400-02-01 00:00:00

Sant Soyarabai

Sant Soyarabai was woman saint of the Bhakti tradition. She belonged to Mahar caste in 14th century Maharashtra, India. She followed her husband Chokhamela who was also a popular saint. She has written vast literature but now only about 62 are known. In her Abhang she mentions herself as Chokha’s Mahari and accuses god for forgetting Untouchables and making life bad. Her most simple lines concern the simple food she gives the god. Her poems describe her devotion towards god and voice against untouchability. As an Untouchable saint she says “The body only can be impure or polluted, but the soul is ever clean, pure knowledge. The body is born unclean and so how can anybody claim to be pure in body? The body is full of pollution. But the pollution of the body remains in the body. The soul is untouched by it.” Annually she travelled at Pandharpur for pilgrimage with her husband. They were harassed by orthodox Brahmins but they never lost faith and peace of mind.

1400-03-01 00:00:00

Sant Karamamela

Sant Karamamela was a fourteenth-century poet saint from Maharashtra. He was a son of Chokhamela and Soyarabai who belonged Mahar caste. In his Abhangs he accused God for forgetting and how his life was made miserable as a low caste.He rebelled against varna system.There is at least one Buddhist tradition interested in Karamamela, who was a strong and bitter voice, not suffering his social status with content. Kramamela and his family followed the Bhakti movement. Their Abhangs comments on that time, on the way to meditate and God's loves for his devotee. These poems resonate with current Dalit poetry, describing criticism of society and beliefs of religion, disbelief in pure doctrine and pollution, and protest for survival. The abhangs of Karmamela show more bitterness than those of his father Chokamela. You made us low caste. Why don’t you face that fact, Great Lord? Our whole life, leftover food to eat. you should be ashamed of this. You have eaten in our home. How can you deny it? Cokha’s Kamamela asks: Why did you give me life? Are we happy when we’re with you? O Cloud-Dark One, you don't’ know! The low place is our lot, King of Gods! We never get the good sweet food. Its a shameful life here for us, Its a festival bliss for you and misery written on you. Cokha’s Karmamela asks, O God, why is this our fate? (#3-4) ( Maharashtra Government Publication of Tukaram, 1973)

1440-01-01 00:00:00

Sant Kabir Das

Saint Kabir Das is widely acknowledged as one of the great personality of the Bhakti movement in North India. He is one of the medieval Indian saints of Bhakti and Sufi movement. Saint Kabir’s life was centered around Kashi, also called Banaras (Varanasi). His caste was that of Julaha and from his sayings his caste’s heriditary occupation of weaving. "Pothi Padh Padh Kar Jag Mua, Pandit Bhayo Na Koye Dhai Aakhar Prem Ke, Jo Padhe so Pandit Hoye [By Reading Holy books , none became anymore wise. One who reads the word of Love, only becomes wise]" In fifteenth century, Benaras was the seat of Brahmin orthodoxy andtheir learning center. Brahmins had strong hold on all the spheres of life in this city. Thus Kabir belonging to a low caste of Julaha had to go through immense tough time of preaching his idealogy. Kabir and his followers would gather at one place in the city and meditate. Brahmins ridiculed him for preaching to prostitutes and other low castes. Kabirsatirically denounced Brahmins and thus won hearts of people around him. Kabir through his couplets not only reformed the mindset of common villagers and low caste people but give them self confidence to question Brahmins. Pandit, look in your hear for knowledgeTell me where untouchabilitycame from, since you believe in it.Mix red juice, white juice and air-a body bakes in a bodyAs soon as the eight lotuses are ready, it comes into the world, Then what is untouchable?Eighty -four hundred thousand vesselsdecay into dust, while the potter keeps slapping clay on the wheel, and with a touch cuts each one of.We eat by touching, we wash by touching, from touch the world was borm.So who’s untouched. Asks Kabir.Only he who has no taint of Maya (#41 Sabda of Bijak; translations by Linda Hess and Shukdev Singh) (Buddhism in India, Challenging Brahmanism and Caste, Gail Omvedt, 2003)

1500 BC-01-01 00:00:00

RIGVEDA: Religiously Sanctioning CASTE

1500 – 1100 BCE. Rigveda, 19th hymn of 10th mandala - the Purusha Suktha. The theory of the origin of the universe. " When (the gods) divided Purusha, into how many parts did they cut him up? What was his mouth? What arms (had he)? What (two objects) are said (to have been) his thighs and feet. The Brahmana was his mouth, the Rajanya was made his arms; the being called the Vaishya, he was his thighs; the Shudra sprang from his feet.". This is held to be the sanctioning of Chaturvarnya (The Four Caste System) and a strengthening by declaration of religious divinity, the existing social order. This writing begins the millennia long history of Brahminical oppression and establishes the claim that caste originated with the origin of mankind and was attributable by birth. Source and Translation: Who were the Shudras, Dr. B.R.Ambedkar

1501 BC-12-31 00:00:00


The word “Caste” itself stems from the Spanish and Portuguese “casta”, which means “race, lineage, or breed”. It was applied by white colonials during the 17th century C.E. to refer to the system of social codification they witnessed existing in South Asia. The native terms for Caste are often “varna (Caste group)” and “jati (Caste)”. Each Caste group encompasses within it several individual Castes varying in cultural and social practices, and who are limited from structural power by their placement within the pyramid. Caste apartheid is the system of religiously codified exclusion that was established in Hindu scripture. Hindu origin myths state that different people were created from different parts of God Brahma’s body and were to be ranked hierarchically according to ritual status, purity, and occupation. By this system, everyone at birth, is ranked with a Caste. Crucially, Caste is inherited from the family one is born into and is unalterable throughout that person’s life. There are four main Caste groups. Those at the very top are Brahmins, who have traditionally been priests, scriptural knowledge-keepers and legislators. Below them in status are the Kshatriyas, who were kings and warriors. They are followed by Vaishyas, or the merchant classes. People in these three Caste groups are often referred to as the “upper” Castes. Those at the bottom of the Caste hierarchy are Shudras or traditional peasants. Many Shudras are also termed “Oppressed Castes”. Outside the 4-Caste group structure are people considered lower than the lowest of Castes. They go by the term Dalit (meaning “broken” but “resilient”), formerly known as “untouchables” and the Adivasis, or the indigenous peoples of South Asia. Together these Caste-oppressed groups continue to experience profound injustices including socioeconomic inequalities, usurpation of their land, rights, and brutal violence. The Caste one belongs to can determine your perceived level of ritual purity or pollution and goes on to determine the outcomes of your whole life - from where one can live and die, to what one can eat, what one’s occupation can be, and even who one can marry. The “Untouchables” in particular, are embroiled in a system of Caste apartheid even today. Their experience is made up of segregated ghettos, banned from places of worship, and denied access to schools and other public amenities including water and roads. This entire system is enforced by violence and maintained by one of the oldest, most persistent cultures of impunity throughout South Asia, most notably in India, where despite the contemporary illegality of the system, it has persisted and thrived for 2,500 years.

1608-01-01 00:00:00

Sant Tukaram

Sant Tukaram was born Tukaram Bolhoba Ambile was born in the years around 1608 and lived most of his life in Dehu, a town close to Pune in Mahārāshtra, India. Kumar, Munshi, Kincaid and Parasanisa, consider him to be of the Kunbi Maratha or agricultural tillage caste or vaani. He wrote poems of fierce social criticism. One of his Abhangs has the beginning: "Good you made me a Kunbi, Otherwise I might have died an arrogant hypocrite", and is an attack on Brahmin hypocrisy. An emerging Dalit critique argues that Vithoba was seen as a Bodhisattva and Sant Tukaram saw him as one. Sant Tukaram has explored the traditions of meditation although this is not a Varkari (Vithoba-worshipping) tradition. His life and writings are intensely debated. (Buddhism in India, Challenging Brahmanism and Caste, Gail Omvedt, 2003)

1756-12-18 00:00:00

Birth of Guru Ghasidas

Guru Ghasidas was born on 18 December 1756 and died at the age of eighty in 1836. He was born in village Girodhpuri 130 kms from Raipur of Chhattisgarh in an untouchable family. Ghasidas was born in a socio-political milieu of misrule, loot and plunder. The Marath the local had started behaving as Kings. Ghasidas underwent the exploitative bitter experiences specific to untouchable communities in the hindu caste-ridden society. From an early age, he started rejecting social inequity and to understand the problems faced by his community and to find solutions, he traveled extensively in that part of India which presently Chhattisgarh state of India. He advocated equal rights for all the untouchable communities. Ghasidas was unlettered like his fellow untouchables. He deeply resented the harsh treatment to his brotherhood, and continued searching for solutions but was unable to find the right answer. In search of the right path he decided to go to Jaganath Puri and on his way at Sarangarh (presently in Chhattisgarh) he attained true knowledge. It is said that he announced Satnam and returned to Giordh.On his return, he stopped working as a farm worker and became engrossed in meditation. After spending six months in Sonakhan forests doing meditation, Ghasidas returned and formulated path-breading principles of a new egalitarian social order. The Satnam Panth (sect) is said to be based on these principles formulated by Ghasidas. They were honest, industrious and have formed a brotherhood calling themselves Satnamis. Satnam means good name by good work Guru Ghasidas through Satnamin principles initiated a socio-religious order, which rejected the premier position of Brahmins and completely demolished the exploitative and hierarchical caste system. This new order was a challenge to the brahminical social order and it treated all human beings as socially equal. According to Satnam Panth, truth is God and there is only one God, which is Nirgun (formless) and Anant (infinite). Ghasidas realised the link between dominance of Brahmins and idol worship and therefore Satnam rejects any form of idol worship. Interestingly, Ghasidas had a holistic vision and felt that systemic reforms to remove social injustice and inequality would remain inadequate and incomplete without reforming the individuals. This underlying principle led to prohibition of liquor for the followers of Satnam Panth. Guru Ghasidas also formulated some principles, which clearly reflect his love for animals and his desire to put an end to cruelty towards animals. It is against the principles of Satnam to use cows for agriculture, to plough the fields after midday and consume non-vegetarian food. Several myths have been built around the legend of Guru Ghasidas in Chhattisgarh. These myths and beliefs attribute supernatural powers to him and stories like his ability to revive the dead, as he did with his wife and son after their death, are widely heard. However the key point is that Guru Ghasidas has been accepted as a visionary social reformer and the high number of Satnam followers is a testimony to this fact. According to the 1901 census there were around 4,00,000 people adhering to the principles of Satnam Panth. The first martyr from Chhattisgarh in the Indian war of Independence of 1857. Veer Narayan Singh, was also deeply influenced by the teachings of Guru Ghasidas. The satnami tradition also lives on in the form of a vast collection of panthi songs, commonly sung by groups during street procession. Many panthi songs vividly described Guru Ghasidas' life. Guru Ghasidas University is a Central University in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh that was inaugurated on 16 June 1983. A reserve forest named as ‘Sanjay Reserve’ was in undivided Madhya Pradesh. After Madhya Pradesh was divided in 2000, a large part of the then Sanjay National Park went to Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh government renamed this forest area, with an area of 1440 km2 falling under its jurisdiction, as Guru Ghasidas National Park in Koirya and Surguja districts.

1784-01-01 00:00:00

Baba Tilka Manjhi

Baba Tilka Manjhi (or Jabra paharia was the first Adivasi (SANTHAL) leader who took up arms against the British in the 1784, around 100 years before Mangal Pandey. He organized the Adivasis to form the liberation group to fight against the resource grabbing and exploitation.

1807-01-01 00:00:00

Early Report on the Art of Leather-Making

Leather work is often deemed a Dalit profession because it requires intimate contact with cows, cow flesh and cow hide. It is often seen as a job that is"dirty" or full of pollution by Brahminical points of view. Much like the other aspects of Dalit life, the art of leather work often goes uncelebrated. A 19th century colonial report on the intricacy and skill required in the art of the leather work of Madigas is presented here as follows: "Leather is tanned here by a class of people esteemed of very low caste and called Madigaru. To dress the rawhides of sheep or goats, the Madigaru in the first place wash them clean, and then rub each with a fourth part of a kind of soft paste, made of 6 Dudas weight of milky juice of the Yecuda (Asclepias gigantean), and about 6 Dudus weight (2 456/1000 ounces) of salt (muriate of soda), and twelve Dudus weight of Ragy Sanguty, or pudding of the Cynosurus coracanus (o), with a sufficient quantity of water. The paste is rubbed on the hairy side, and the skins are then exposed for three days to the sun, after which they are washed with water, beating them well on a stone, as is usual in this country. This takes off the hair. Then powder 2 Seers (1 213/1000 lb.) Arulay Myrobalens, and put them and one skin into a pot with 3 or 4 Seers measure of hot water, where it is to remain for three days. The skin is then to be washed and dried. This tanned skin is dyed black as follows: take of old iron, and of the dross of iron forges, each a handful; of plantain and lime skins, each five or six; put them into a pot with some Ragy kanji, or decoction of Ragy, and let them stand for eight days. Then rub the liquor on the skins, which immediately become black. These skins may be dyed red by the following process: Take of ungarbled Lac 2 Dudus weight (about 13 drams), of Suja cara, or fine soda, 1 Dudu weight, and of Lodu bark 2 Dudus weight. Having taken the sticks from the Lac, and powdered the soda and bark boil them all together in a Seer of water (68 5/8 cubical inches) for 1½ hour. Rub the skin, after it has been freed from the hair as before mentioned, with this decoction; and then put it into the pot with the Myrobalens and water for three days. This is a good colour, and for many purposes the skins are well dressed." (Francis Buchanan 1807. A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara, and Malabar)

1811-03-11 00:00:00

Shri Hari Chand Thakur

Shri Hari Chand Thakur was a great social reformer born in NamaSudra Community in Bengal. Harichand received little formal education. After completing his initial schooling in a pathshala, he attended school for only a few months. He then started spending his time with shepherds and cowboys and roamed with them from one place to another. He started changing from this time. He was loved by all of his friends for his physical beauty, naivete, love for music and philanthropic attitude. He could also sing bhajan (devotional songs). He cultivated the Matua Sect (The Matua community primarily consists of Dalits (mainly Namasudra). The Matua believe that male and female are equal. They discourage early marriage. Widow remarriage is allowed. They refer to their religious teachers as ‘gonsai;’ both men and women can be gonsai.They follow the teachings of Shri Hari chand and Gurchand Thakur) whose principles were: (1) No necessity of entering the temples of higher castes for the purpose of worship, (2) Discarding Brahmin priest for any ceremony, (3) Worship on Shri Hari, (4) Not to worship idols and not to visit pilgrimage centres of Hindus and (5) Maintain good moral conduct and lead an ideal family life. The sect became popular in East Bengal (now a part of Bangladesh) and he led the untouchability movement called the Chandal movement in India.

1818-01-01 00:00:00

The Battle of Bhima Koregaon

The Battle of Koregaon took place on January 1, 1818, at the banks of the river Bhima in Koregaon, northwest of Pune, India. There a small force of 500 Mahar soldiers of the 2nd Battalion 1st Regiment of the Bombay Native Light Infantry in the British Army fought valiantly against the most brutal Indian state of that times – The Brahmin Peshwa rulers of Pune, Maharashtra. For Mahar soldiers, this was a battle for their self-respect, dignity, and against the supremacy of Manusmriti as the Peshwa rulers oppressed the Mahars, making them hang a pot around their neck to spit and tie a broom around their waist to sweep away their 'impure' footsteps. These 500 Mahar soldiers defeated the Peshwa army of more than 30,000 in just one day. Their victory against such a mighty force is unparallelled in all of Indian history.

1827-04-11 00:00:00

Jyotirao Phule

Jyotirao Govindrao Phule was born in Satara district of Maharastra state in India in a family belonging to Mali caste [shudra varna of Hindu religion] perceived to be inferior. His father, Govindrao, was a vegetable vendor. His mother died when he was nine months old. He was married at the age of 12 to Savirti Bai. His intelligence was recognised by a Muslim and a Christian neighbor, who persuaded his father to allow Jyotirao to attend the local Scottish Mission’s High School, which he completed in 1847. In 1848, he along with his wife started a school for girls in Pune– the first ever formal school for girls in India. In 1873, Jyotiba Phule formed the Satya Shodhak Samaj (Society of Seekers of Truth). The purpose of the organization was to liberate the people of lower-strata from the suppression of the ortodox. Mahatma Phule was publicly conferred the title of Mahatma on 11 May 1888. He was termed as “Martin Luther King of India” by his biographer Dhananjay Keer. Phule was one of the three spiritual mentors of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the Father of Indian Constitution.

1830-11-22 00:00:00


Jhalkaribai (November 22, 1830 – 1858) was the legendary Dalit woman warrior who played an important role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 during the battle of Jhansi. She was a soldier in the women's army of Queen Laxmibai of Jhansi. Born into a poor Dalit family, she started her career as an ordinary soldier in Laxmibai's army, but rose to a position of advising the queen in vital decisions. During the rebellion, at the height of the battle of fort of Jhansi, she disguised herself as the queen and fought on the front to let the queen escape safely out of the fort.

1831-01-03 00:00:00

Savitribai Phule

Savitribai Phule was a great feminist social reformer of her time. She fought against the totalitarianism of caste and other social evils in India. She was born in Naigaon in Sattarra district. She played an equal partner to Mahatma Jyotibai Phule in declaring war against and Brahminism. Though she was formerly uneducated, she was motivated by Jyotibai to study. Later she became the first female teacher of India in the school she started with her husband. She was a poet and wrote a poem in her collection of poems : Kavya Phule in 1854. " Title: Go, Get education. Go, Get Education Be self-reliant, be industrious Work, gather wisdom and riches, All gets lost without knowledge We become animal without wisdom, Sit idle no more, go, get education End misery of the oppressed and forsaken, You’ve got a golden chance to learn So learn and break the chains of caste. Throw away the Brahman’s scriptures fast. – Poem by Savitribai Phule (More poems at Poems by Savitribai Phule). Apart from setting up the first ever school for women in India, Savitribai started a women's association called Mahila Seva Mandal as early as 1852. The association worked for raising women's consciousness about their human rights and other social issues. Being a woman, she easily recognised the double downtroddenness of most women as she saw the gender question in relation to caste and brahmanic patriarchy. She engaged herself at various levels to address women-specific problems. She campaigned against victimisation of widows. She advocated and encouraged widow remarriage. She canvassed against infanticide of'illegitimate' children. She opened a home to rehabilitate such children. Her own home became a sanctuary for deserted women and orphaned children. She went on to organise a successful barbers' strike against the prevailing practice of shaving of widows' heads. She did all this taking grave personal risks. Many of these misogynistic practices have now receded in the background. But in her time, they tormented and destroyed countless women. Maligned, humiliated, and attacked for challenging the anti-women practices, Savitribai's struggle encouraged and inspired a whole generation of outstanding campaigners for gender justice in Maharashtra — Dr Anandi Bai Gopal Joshi, Pandita Ramabai, Tarabai Shinde, Ramabai Ranade, and many others have been inspired by her efforts. A unique spiritual vision sustained and animated Savitribai's life and struggle. A deeply devout and compassionate person, she drew inspiration and strength from the benevolence of a higher power. Her belief in a higher power, however, led her to wage a war against discriminatory brahmanic gods. She despised caste-obsessed brahmanic religion and its rituals, but she was a great admirer of many moral and ennobling tenets of other religions. At the heart of her religiosity were compassion and a sacred morality that bound the individual with society.

1845-05-20 00:00:00

K. Ayothidhasar (editor of Oru Paisa Tamilan) Born in Chennai

Iyothee Thass or Pandit C. Ayodhya Dasa (Tamil: அயோத்தி தாசர்) (May 20, 1845 – 1914) was a practitioner of Siddha medicine who is regarded as a pioneer of the Dravidian Movement. He also founded the Punchmar Mahajana Sabha in 1891 along with Rettaimalai Srinivasan.

1846-01-01 00:00:00

Rev Rathnam John

Adi Dravidar from Madras thousand lights area. Completed School Education. He wanted to belong to a more egalitarian religion like Christianity and get out of Hinduism. Baptized in 1877. Started a Magazine named Dravidar Pandian 1885 to publish cases if atrocities and grievances of the Depressed Classes. Estabished a Model School in 1886 in Thousand Lights area in Madras (https://books.google.com/books?id=Wx218EFVU8MC&pg=PA317&lpg=PA317&dq=Rev+ratnam+john+dalit&source=bl&ots=8x5v7WVl5e&sig=Nfc--r50p9zW4GyZt2jtE4wpnXU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YVv-VMm9D8mcyASdyoFI&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Rev%20ratnam%20john%20dalit&f=false)

1853-01-28 00:00:00

First Infanticide Prohibition Home Started by Savitribai Phule

There were a large number of widows in the Pune City and the nearby villages, including adolescents and young girls. These widows were boycotted publicly and with meger financial support they were clandestine subjects to sexual exploitation. They happened to be pregnant due to lack of contraceptives or other measures. So they had to be victimized for the reason for which they had not been responsible. Women had to lose their life due to unhealthy ways of abortion. Many newborns were been killed after delivery by widows to avoid social ostracism. Many a times they had to leave their home. On 28 January 1853: Savitribai started a shelter for such women – infanticide prohibition home – the first of its kind in India. In this shelter widows could give birth to their children and leave them there. Sixty six women gave birth to their children in that shelter up to 1873.This was a great historical work that Savitribai did at that time – in the dark ages. Later on this shelter started working as a hospital. Savitribai did not remain as one who served to widows but she went further in this regard. She adopted a child from a Brahmin widow (Kashibai) and thereby gave a message to the progressive people of the society. This adopted child was named Yashwant Rao who later became a doctor.

1857-01-01 00:00:00

UdaDevi- Dalit Virangani

The dalit women heroes of the 1857 Rebellion have become symbols of dalit assertion and pride. Such a legendary character who is claimed to have played a significant role in 1857 Rebellion alongside BegumHazrat Mahal of Lucknow and who has become the icon of the Pasi community, but whose aura encompasses all the Dalit castes, is Udadevi. There British forces met desperate resistance of rebels who fortified the position. In the sanguineous battle that followed, over 2,000 rebels and many soldiers lost their lives in hand-to-hand combat. After the British overran Sikandarbag, an officer noted that many of the British casualties had bullet wounds indicating steep, downward trajectory. Suspecting that a sniper remained hidden in the pipal tree, British officers fired at the tree and dislodged a rebel who fell to the ground with a thud, dead. Further investigation revealed that the rebel was, infact, a low-caste woman named Udadevi Pasi, who had donned men’s clothing to participate in the uprising. Uda Devi is said to have been born in the village Ujriaon of Lucknow, and was married to Makka Pasi. She became an associate of Begum Hazrat Mahal, and formed a women’s army with herself as the commander. Her husband became a martyr in the battle at Chinhat and Uda decided to take revenge. When the British attacked Sikandar Bagh in Lucknow under Campbell, he was faced with an army of Dalit women: At this point Uda Devi is said to have climbed over a pipal tree and shot dead, according to some accounts 32 and some 36, With constant evocation, these names have inscribed in popular Dalit memories. Every year near the statue of Uda Devi at Sikandar Bagh on 16 November, the stated day of her martyrdom.

1873-09-24 00:00:00

Satyashodhak Samaj Established

Satyashodhak Samaj is a religion established by Jyotirao Phule on on this day. This was started as a group whose main aim was to liberate the social shudra and untouchable castes from exploitation and oppression. The tenets of this idealogy were as follows. 1.The Satyashodhak Samaj is founded by some wise Shudra men to the Shudra people from long sustained slavery executed by Brahmans such as Bhats, Joshi priests and others. 2. The Satyashodhak Samaj aimed to spread education among the Shudras to make them aware of their rights and to get them out of influence of the sacred books that were made by the Brahmans for their own survival. 3.The ideology of Satyashodhak Samaj, based on Phule's ideological frame work which urged to unite all Shudra, Ati- Shudra masses, Satyashodhak ideology rejected all kinds of Brahman domination and exploitation on the basis of religion and all religious sources of inequality. This was the most radical content of the Satya Shodhak ideology, which was the heart of non-Brahman movement'. 4. Revolting against Brahmanical culture, Satyashodhak ideology dreamed to establish ideal society based on some principles as follows: 5. Faith on one God (creator) 6. Rejection of any kind of intermediary between God and Man. 7. Rejection of caste system and the basic four folded Varna division of society and believing on that man's supremacy is determined by his qualities and not by his caste or.8. Faith on equality, freedom and brotherhood. (Caste, Conflict, and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India By Rosalind O'Hanlon)

1873-09-24 00:00:00

Vaikom Satyagraha

Vaikom Satyagraha (1924–25) was a satyagraha (movement) in Travancore, India (now part of Kerala) against untouchability in Hindu society. The movement was centered at the Shiva temple at Vaikom, near Kottayam.The Satyagraha aimed at securing freedom of movement for all sections of society through the public roads leading to the Sri Mahadevar Temple at Vaikom. The 85th anniversary of the Satyagraha was celebrated on the 26th of November 2010. The temple entry movement was started in Travancore by Mr.T.K. Madhavan who pressed the matter before the 15th session of the Sree Moolam Popular Assembly on 1919 and his efforts culminated in the legal success of Vaikom Satyagraha which opened the Vaikom temple roads to untouchables in 1925.' Five years after the Vaikom Satyagraha there was no organised attempt for the removal of temple entry problem. It was in 1931 that the issue of temple entry to unapproachable castes was revived in Kerala by Sri.K. Kelappan under the auspices of Kerala Congress Committee. http://www.modernrationalist.com/2010/december/page08.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaikom_Satyagraha

1873-12-25 00:00:00

First Priestless Marriage by Savitribai Phule

The first marriage without a priest was arranged by Savitribai Phule under the aegis of Satyshodhak Samaj (The Truth Seekers Society). This was an important event against the Brahmin Social Order. The first report of the Samaj proudly notes that Savitribai was the inspiration behind this revolutionary initiative of a constructive revolt to reject centuries old religious traditions. The marriage of Radha, daughter of Savitribai’s friend Baju Bai Gyanoba Nimbankar and activist Sitram Jabaji Aalhat was the first Satyashodhakí marriage. Savitribai herself bore all the expenses on this historic occasion. The Satyashodhak marriage required the bridegroom to take an oath of giving education and equal rights to women. Savitribai had made Radha stay in the Phule household even before the marriage took place – which was another revolutionary step during those times.(Source: Book Savitri bai Phule First Memorial Lecture 2008 – Dr. T Sundaraman, National Council of Education Research and Training)

1874-06-26 00:00:00

Birthdate of Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj

Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj implemented one of the most early affirmative action policies (Provided 50% Reservation in his state, on 26 July 1902) Revolutionary Legal Reforms.On July 26, 1902,Shahu Maharaj declared reservations in the Kolhapur state for all the people who were for generations banned from education, that is, all people who are not brahmans, Parsis, Shenvis and Prabhus, the advanced castes who were already in education and other fields. He appealed for caste-free India and abolition of untouchability. Pioneer of Student Hostel Movement for Bahujan Samaj. De-recognized Brahmanical supremacy and Religious bureaucracy of Brahmins. Greatest supporter and sympathizer of Dr. Ambedkar movement. The Pillar of Social Democracy.

1875-11-15 00:00:00

Birsa Munda - Jai Adivasi!

“Our land is blowing away as the dust blows away in the storm”-Dharti Aba Birsa Munda Birsa Munda (1875–1900) was a tribal leader and a folk hero, belonging to the Munda tribe who was behind the Millenarian movement that rose in the tribal belt of modern day Bihar, and Jharkhand during the British Raj, in the late 19th century making him an important figure in the history of the Indian independence movement.Birsa was born at Bamba in a suburb of Ranchi (Bihar) on Thursday 15 November 1875. He was named after the day of his birth according to the Munda custom. Mundas called him Dharati Aba, the father of the earth. He advised people to not to obey the magistrates and the landlords and to boycott the ‘beth begari sytem’. He spoke against unlawful land acquisition and tried to unite his people against the diabolic exploitative triad of zamindars, foreigner and traders.The Mundas were galvanized into martial fury and carried out their revolts with great courage and determination. The results were, however, the same whenever the tribal fought the mighty British: they were crushed. Birsa was captured, released and finally recaptured after his forces suffered a terrible crushing by the British army in 1900. With his death, the Birsa movement slipped into oblivion but he had succeeded in giving them a solidarity which was missing before. Though Birsa was dead but his purpose was not defeated. Just after the movement, the Government passed the Commutation Act of 1897 and then it was decided to start survey and settlement in 1901. The Mundari Khuntkatti right was recognized and finally the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (Act-VI of 1908) came into being. Birsa Munda – the great Dharati Aba shines as the first tribal martyr who fought for the independence of the country.

1878-03-06 00:00:00

Babaji Palwankar Shivram

Babaji Palwankar Shivram was an Indian cricketer who was one of the most successful Dalit players for the Hindus cricket team in the Bombay Quadrangular competition. He was the brother of cricketer and social leader Palwankar Baloo and Palwankar Vithal, who became the first Dalit to captain the Hindus team.

1879-02-18 00:00:00

Birthdate of Kisan Faguji Bansod

Kisan Faguji Bansod was born on 18th Feb 1879 at village Mohapa near Nagpur in Maharashtra. He belonged to Mahar caste. He passed teacher training but turned to social service. In order to organize the dalits, he founded the Sanmarg Bodhak Asprushya Samaj at Nagpur in 1901, which became popular throughout the Vidarbha region. He started the journal NIrashrit Hind Nagarik in 1910; Vital Vidhvansak in 1913; Majur Patrika in 1918; and Chokha Mela during 1931 - 36. He started one press at Pachpawali, Nagpur in 1910. His wife Tulsibai Bansod assisted him in the press work. He wrote a book in marathi named Shri Sant Chokhamela Charitra in the year 1942. He wrote two plays named Chokhamela and Satyashodhak Jalsa. He composed many poems, which aimed to inspire dalits to protest against traditionalism. He died of cancer at the age of 67, on 10 October 1946, in Nagpur.

1883-06-17 00:00:00

Birthdate of M.C. Rajah

Rao Bahadur Mylai Chinna Thambi Pillai Rajah and was a Dalit politician, social and political activist from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.He entered politics after graduation and was the leader of Dalits in the Justice party. However, he quit the party in 1923 over the party's treatment of Dalits and allied with B. R. Ambedkar before separating. Rajah died in 1943. In his heyday, Rajah was considered to be a person equal in stature to Ambedkar. Rajah along with Ambedkar and Rettamalai Srinivasan represented the Dalits at the Second Round Table Conference in London.

1886-01-14 00:00:00

Mangu Ran Muggowal

Born in Punjab in 1886, Muggowal, like other members of the Ghadar Party, immigrated to the U.S. for economic reasons and became involved in the freedom struggle following a realization of racism and discrimination in the foreign land. Members of the Ghadar Party believed their sufferings were the result of slavery back home and resolved to fight against imperialism. A person like Muggowal endured double discrimination for being a person of colour and a Dalit. Being born in a so called low caste “untouchable” family, he began facing caste-based discrimination during childhood. He faced segregation at school and suffered physical abuse for defying caste laws. Thankfully, the Ghadar Party believed in secularism and kept religion and politics apart, yet he faced such prejudice even in the U.S. Muggowal not only worked for the Ghadar newsletter but also went to Java to help in collecting and sending arms to India. He escaped near death sentence at the hands of the British allies. Thinking that he had died, his family remarried his widow to his brother. On coming back to India he was disillusioned by the continued oppression of the Dalits, who were considered untouchables by the orthodox Hindus and Sikhs. He was partly upset with the popular leaders of the freedom struggle who failed to address the issue of casteism. He resigned from the Ghadar Party in order to mobilize Dalits against systemic caste-based discrimination and eventually launched the Ad-Dharmi movement in Punjab. He believed that without bringing social revolution first it was impossible to bring real freedom in India. The Ghadar Party assured him full support in his struggle against caste oppression. But since his movement was in conflict with the interest of the freedom struggle, his cause was not dear to the popular leadership of India. Rather, Muggowal was branded as a tool of the British Empire that was playing a divide and rule game to prolong its rule in India. Whereas the British Empire was happy to give concessions to the Dalits, leaders like Muggowal felt deceived by the mainstream nationalist leaders of India. Despite such differences, it goes to the credit of Muggowal that he did not support a religion-based partition of India in 1947. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muggowal#Story_of_Mangu_Ram_Muggowal_.28Jan_14.2C_1886-April_22.2C_1980.29"

1889-08-21 00:00:00

Birthdate of Sahodaran Ayyappan

Sahodaran Ayyappan (21 August 1889 – 6 March 1968) was a social reformer, thinker, journalist, and politician of Kerala, India. He was one of the outspoken followers of Sree Narayana Guru.

1891-04-14 00:00:00

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

While to the most of the country and the world, Dr. B. R Ambedkar is known as the architect of the Indian constitution, a social reformer, and an eminent jurist; his contribution as an economist, as an advocate of women’s rights; as a writer, an educationist, and a philosopher is also equally important. In this capacity he is not only a Dalit icon but a true revolutionary and is recognized as a founding father of independent India. Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born at the 14th child of his family on April 14th, 1891 into Mahar family. Discovered by a Maharaja Sayaji Rao he received a full scholarship and went on to study at the Elphinstone College, Mumbai in 1908. From there he was one of the first Indian to study abroad and he went to the United States to pursue economics at the Columbia University. Later, he became a professor of political economy at the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics. In 1920, he went to London to get his Bar-at-Law at Gray's Inn for Law. On 8 June, 1927, he was awarded a Doctorate by the University of Columbia. From 1920 to 1930, he also published a series of newspapers namely Mook Nayak (The Silent Hero), Bahishkrit Bharat (Exiled India), Samata (equality), and Janata (People) Upon his return to India he faced vicious caste discrimination with top employers refusing to hiring him. Thus began Dr. Ambedkar’s relentless struggle for equality for Dalits. He had a multi-pronged strategy: First eradicate illiteracy, then focus on the economic upliftment while also using non-violent struggle against visible symbols of casteism, like denial of entry into temples and drawing water from public wells and tanks. He later added to this strategy the powerful call for Dalits to leave Hinduism for Buddhism. Leading to one of the largest mass conversion in world in Nagpur where over 600,000 Dalits joined Him in becoming Buddhist. His focus on Dalit Liberation often put him at odds with Gandhi and it was due to Ambedkar that Gandhi eventually shifted his draconian position on caste. Ambedkar’s leadership in the idependence movement ensured Dalits were at the table in the crucial Round Table conferences that led to the formation of the Indian State. While disappoined at the refusal of separate Indian electorates, it was his advocacy that led to the reservation system that helped provide affirmative action to Dalits and Adivasis in government and public institutions. In the wake of his legacy this post is a call to read and learn more from this Dalit Giant. He leaves behind a rich treasury of speeches and almost forty books that are still relevant today. In fact his seminal text Annihilation of Caste is available for free everywhere around the world. In his honor we leave you with his exhortation to educate, agitate, and organize. And of course the Dalit salutation which is a honorary reference back to him

1895-09-28 00:00:00

Gurram Jashuva

Gurram Jashuva (or G Joshua) : Dalit poet and writer from Andhra Pradesh, Jashuva initially worked as primary school teacher. He then worked as Telugu producer in All India Radio, Madras between 1946-1960. His work "Gabbilam" is best known. It is an interpretation of Kalidasa's Megha Sandesam. But it is not a yaksha using the cloud as a messenger to convey his longing to his loved one, instead, it is a hunger and poverty stricken individual requesting a bat visiting him from a nearby Siva temple, to convey his prayers to God. He muses at the irony of his situation, where a bat is allowed inside a temple but not a human being! He cautions the bat to convey his message to Siva as it hangs from the roof close to his ear, at a time when the priest is not around.

1901-02-24 00:00:00

Birthdate of Jagannathan Shivashanmugam Pillai

Jagannathan Shivashanmugam Pillai (February 24, 1901 – February 17, 1975) was an Indian politician of the Indian National Congress. In 1938, he became the first Dalit mayor of Madras. He also served as the first speaker of the Madras Legislative Assembly since India's independence. Shivashanmugam died on February 17, 1975 at the age of 73.

1904-01-06 00:00:00

Birthdate of Babu L.N. Hardas

Hardas Laxmanrao Nagrale, (1904–1939), popularly known as Babu L.N. Hardas was a Dalit leader and social reformer in India. He was an ardent follower of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and was pioneer of the practice of exchanging the greeting Jai Bhim amongst the Dalits. He was also a prominent labour leader in the Central Province and was the general secretary of the Independent Labour Party in the province. Babu Hardas born in a Mahar family at Kamthi on January 6, 1904. His father , Laxmanrao Nagrale, was a clerk in the Railway Department. Babu Hardas passed his matriculation from Patwardhan High School, Nagpur. He also studied Sanskrit from Swami Brahmanand of Arya Samaj at Nagpur. Consistent with the social customs of that time, he married at a very early age of 16 with Sahubai in 1920. His life was full of events as he worked to create social awareness in his brethren for all of his life. Babu Hardas started his social activities pretty early in his life. At the age of 17, he started a weekly Maharatha from Nagpur with a view of spreading social awareness in the Dalits. He tried to organize the Mahar community by founding the Mahar Samaj organization in 1922. He also formed one Mahar Samaj Pathak, a voluntary corps group, to organize the disorganized Mahar youth to protect the Dalits against the atrocities. He opened a Mahila Ashram in order to imparting training to Dalit women in daily activities. Also, in order to avoid exploitation of beedi workers, he started the beedi work on cooperative basis, which became very successful in the area.Babu Hardas as a strong opponent of irrational and superstitious customs of the society. He strongly opposed to the sub-caste barriers amongst the depressed classes. He arranged community dinners and invited to all people of depressed classes divided in various sub-castes. Such community dinners were arranged each year on the death anniversary of Sant Chokhamela, a great 14th-century saint from Mahar community. He was against idol worship. He organized a meeting of his brethren in 1927 at Ramtek under the presidency of Kisan Faguji Bansod. At this meeting, Babu Hardas exhorted his people to start idol worship at the temple of Ramtek and stop bathing in the dirty Ambada tank there. However, he sent a group of his followers under the leadership of Shankar Mukunda Bele to participate in the Kalaram Temple Entry Satyagraha led by Dr. Ambedkar on March 2, 1930. He argued that this was against inequality and not to worship idols. Babu Hardas was also a strong advocate of education to Dalits. He himself had completed matriculation, which was a rare thing for the Dalits in those days. He started night schools at Kamthi in 1927 at the behest of the Mahar community. There were 86 boys and 22 girls learning in his school at a time. He also started one Sant Chokhamela Library at Kamthi around the same time. At a very early age of 35, he fell sick with tuberculosis and died of tuberculosis on January 12, 1939.

1904-01-29 00:00:00

Birthdate of Mahapran Jogendernath Mandal

Mahapran Jogendernath Mandal was the leader of Scheduled Caste communities in Bengal, born in an untouchable Namasudra family. He was the son of Ramdayal Mandal and Sandhyadebi. He passed his B.A examination in 1932 from B.M College located in Barisal then he joined Calcutta Law College and passed the Law examination in 1934. He was the member of Bengal Legislative Assembly 1937 from the Bakarganj North-East General Rural Constituency. Subsequently, he developed political connections with Dr Ambedkar and also entered into a political alliance with the Muslim League. Jogendranath was appointed as the Minister for Co-operative Credit and Rural Indebtedness. In the meantime, he founded the Bengal branch of the All India Scheduled Castes Federation (AISCF). He joined Suhrawardy Ministry as the Law, Pull Worker and Construction of House Minister in 1946. Towards the end of 1946, Jogendranath almost single-handed ensured the election of Dr Ambedkar from Bengal to the Constituent Assembly. On the eve of the partition of India Jogendranath Mandal supported Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Sarat Chandra Bose and others for a United Bengal. With Mountbatten’s announcement of the partition plan on 3 June 1947, however, he lent support for Pakistan. He was one of the central and leading Founding Fathers of modern state of Pakistan.

1904-12-26 00:00:00


Annai Meenambal Sivaraj as born to Mr. V.G. Vasudevapillai and Meenakshi. Annai's father was famous among the Adi-Dravida Leaders, who became the first elected person to the corporation of Madras from the aboriginal community. For a long time he was a member to the assembly of Tamilnadu. Annai is known to be India's first Dalit woman leader. She was the first woman president of South India Scheduled Class Federation. She gave the title “PERIYAR” to E.V.RAMASWAMY at the Schedule Caste Federation Women’s Conference held at Madras, in 1944. She also presided over the All India Schedule Castes Federation Women’s conference held at Bombay, on May 6th, 1945 where she gave a powerful speech advocating for the role of education. She exhorted the women audience to actively take part in the social upliftment of the community, educate their children, and struggle to liberate themselves from untouchability, casteism and oppression.

1908-04-05 00:00:00

Jagjivan Ram (Babuji)

Jagjivan Ram (5 April 1908 – 6 July 1986), known popularly as Babuji, was an Indian independence activist and politician from Bihar. He belonged to the Chamar caste and was a leader of the Dalit (Untouchable) community. He was instrumental in foundation of the All-India Depressed Classes League, an organisation dedicated to attaining equality for untouchables, in 1935 and was elected to Bihar Legislative Assembly in 1937, when he also organised a rural labour movement. In 1946, he became the youngest minister in Jawaharlal Nehru's interim government, the first cabinet of India as a Labour Minister and also a member of Constituent Assembly of India, where he ensured that social justice was enshrined in the Constitution. He went on serve as a minister for more than forty years as a member of Indian National Congress (INC). Most importantly, he was the Defence Minister of India during the Indo-Pak war of 1971, which resulted in the formation of Bangladesh. He also made great contributions to the Green Revolution in India and modernising Indian agriculture during his two tenures as Union Agriculture Minister, especially during the 1974 drought when he was asked to hold the additional portfolio to tide over the food crisis. Though he supported Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the Emergency (1975–77), he left Congress in 1977 and joined the Janata Party alliance, along with his Congress for Democracy. He later served as the Deputy Prime Minister of India (1977–79), then in 1980, he formed Congress.

1912-04-07 00:00:00


Dakshayani Velayudhan was an Indian parliamentarian and leader of the Depressed Classes. Belonging to the Pulaya community, she was among the first generation of people to be educated from the community. She holds several distinctions including becoming the first woman from her community to wear an upper cloth, the first Dalit woman graduate in India, a science graduate, a member of the Cochin Legislative Council and of being the only Dalit woman member of the Constituent Assembly of India. Dakshayani was born in the Mulavukad village of the Kanayannur taluka of Ernakulam district in 1912. She completed her B.A. in 1935 and went on to complete her teachers' training course from the Madras University three years later. Her studies were supported by scholarships from the government of the Cochin State. From 1935 to 1945 she worked as a teacher at the Government High Schools in Trichur and Tripunithura. Dakshayani belonged to the Pulaya community and was the younger sister of the social reformer and legislator K. P. Vallon. She was also related to K R Narayanan who later became the President of India. In 1945 Dakshayani was nominated to the Cochin Legislative Council by the government of the State. She was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India by the Council in 1946. From 1946-1952 she served as a member of the Constituent Assembly and the Provisional Parliament of India. In Parliament she took special interest in the matters of education especially that of the Scheduled Castes. Although a Gandhian, Dakshayani sided with B R Ambedkar on many issues relating to the Scheduled Castes during the Constituent Assembly debates. She agreed with Ambedkar giving up the demand for separate electorates arguing instead for 'moral safeguards' and the immediate removal of their social disabilities.

1915-02-02 00:00:00

Death of Subedar Major Ramji Maloji Sakpal

Death of Subedar Major Ramji Maloji Sakpal, father of Dr. Ambedkar

1917-01-01 00:00:00

First Adi-Andhra Mahajana Sabha

In the 1920s and 1930s, militant Dalits were thoroughly rejecting both the “Panchama”(The Fifth, referring to their position outside the caste system) and the “Harijan” (Children of God) identities and organizing themselves all over the south by the non-Aryan themes of the Dravidian movement. They began to identify themselves as the “original sons of the soil” as Adi-Dravidians, Adi-Andhras and Adi-Karnatakas. The swell of these movements led to the pivotal First Adi-Andhra Mahajana Sabha launching Dravidian and Anti-caste movements that continued on until the 1930’s.

1920-01-01 00:00:00

The Adi Movements

1920's-1930's: Many Dalit, Bahujan, and Adivasi activists of the 1920s, organizing as non-Brahmans and Dalits, were drawn to an anti-caste, anti-Brahman, even anti-Hindu ideology akin to the philosophy that Phule had formulated. Few outside of Maharashtra had heard of Phule, yet these movements were so pervasive that it is clear these themes struck a deep mass resonance everywhere. During this time, the Non-Brahman movements in Maharastra and Tamil Nadu, as well as the Dalit movements arising in places as distant as Punjab and Karnataka, all began to argue in terms of the Aryan conquest and Brahman exploitation through religion. Even the names of most of the Dalit movements - Adi-Dharm in Punjab, Adi-Hindu in U.P. and Hyderabad, Adi-Dravida, Adi-Andhra and Adi-Karnataka in South India - indicated a common claim to being original inhabitants.

1920-01-31 00:00:00

Ambedkar Started the Mooknayak Newspaper

Chatrapati Shahuji Maharaj had donated Rs 2500 as seed money to start Mooknayak (Leader of the Dumb). This Marathi weekly paper championed the causes of the depressed classes. Shri Nandra Bhatkar was the editor, later Shri Dyander Gholap was the editor. Dr. Ambedkar wrote in the first issue of this paper dated 31 January 1920 the following: “The hindu society is like a tower of many stories. It has neither a ladder nor a door to go out. And therefore there is no way to interchange stories. Those who are born on a particular storey die in that storey. Even if the lowest storey person is worthy deserving to be promoted to upper storey he cannot move to that level. And if the person in the upper storey is most unworthy and undeserving still he cannot be pushed down…. A Society which believes that God exists even in inanimate things, also says that people who are a part of that very society should not be touched! http://drambedkarbooks.com/category/today-in-dalit-history/

1920-02-10 00:00:00

Rajamani Devi

Rajamani Devi was an early Dalit woman leader who emerged from the Mala community during the Adi movements in Andhra. She became the Joint Secretary of the Schedule Caste Federation, Hyderabad on 16th July 1944. She was latered named the President of the Women Section of SCF. She won a seat to the Hyderabad Legislative Asembly on the SCF ticket at the first general elections held in 1952.

1920-05-30 00:00:00

First All India Conference of the Depressed Classes

The First All India Conference of the Depressed Classes was held at Nagpur on 30-31 May and 1 June 1920. It was Presided over by Chatrapati Shahuji Maharaj, and Dr. Ambedkar was among the main speaker in the conference. The conference was attended by delegates from all over India.

1920-08-01 00:00:00

Annabhau Sathe

Annabhau Sathe was born on 1 August 1920 in the village of Wategaon near Sangli in a family belonging to the a Dalit Mang community. Annabhau Sathe was denied education due to his caste. His brother Shankarbhau recounts in his biography of Sathe, titled "Majhe Bhau Annabhau", that the family members worked as laborers at the site of Kalyan tunnel when it was being constructed. Despite lack of formal education, Sathe wrote in Marathi 35 novels, one among which was Fakira (1959). Fakira, which is currently in its 19th edition, received a state government award in 1961. There are 15 collections of Sathe's short stories. A large number of his short stories have been translated into many Indian and as many as 27 non-Indian languages. Besides novels and short stories, Sathe wrote a play - a travelogue on Russia, 12 screenplays, and 10 ballads --Marathi. To generate social awareness, he organized stage performances of powade and tamasha, ethnic dances chiefly performed by women, which are popular in rural Maharashtra. He produced 14 tamasha shows. In the late 1940s, the then Home Minister of the Bombay state government Morarji Desai had banned tamasha shows, but Sathe courageously defied the ban by renaming them as lokanatya. People in Maharashtra conferred the epithet lok shahir on Sathe.On the issue of a postage stamp of Anna Bhau Sathe at Chembur, Mumbai minister Pramod Mahajan called Anna as a saint of Maharashtra.

1921-01-14 00:00:00

Cheramar Maha JanSabha Founded

The Cheramar Maha JanSabha was founded in Kerala by Pampady John Joseph. He was of the view that the caste name ‘Pulaya’ was disgraceful as it denoted pollution, therefore, he named it Cheramar which means ‘son of the soil’ of Kerala. The Cheramar Maha JanSabha attracted the converts and non-converts towards it. The Jansabha was founded to protest against the traditional attitude and customs of the caste Hindus and caste Hindu converts. In Cheramar Mahajan Sabha, caste Christians as well as untouchable Hindus were allowed to be the members. It gave a new awakening to the untouchables in Kerala.

Dalit History Month

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