Speaking of Statues

Towering statues are the flavour of the month, so it seems appropriate to talk of statues to one of India’s towering personalities. I am not sure if there is (or it is even possible to have), a census of statues that so generously dot India’s landscape. But if there were to be one, my feeling is that the place for top numbers would be close-run thing between Gandhiji and Dr. Ambedkar. In fact, the latter may win. (One cannot say if the position will be held for long though, because if we were to include gods, it seems to me, the number of Hanuman statues may soon overtake that of any human!)

But coming back to the topic. Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the tall leader who probably did more to change the social landscape of India than anyone else, is commemorated with statues across India—big ones, small ones; proportionate ones, ones completely out of proportion; well-made ones, not so well-made ones. But three common threads across almost all of them: (1) They are most often blue in colour, (2) Dr. Ambedkar is always be shown wearing a suit, and (3) they will depict Dr. Ambedkar in one of two poses.

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Intrigued, I did a little surfing and found (mainly from journalistic sources), some interesting information:

Why Blue?

Dr. Ambedkar started a party known as Scheduled Caste Federation (whose name was later changed to Republican Party of India). The colour of the party was blue — Royal blue to be more specific. It is said that he choose blue as the Dalit colour, to set it apart from all other parties. With this strong association of the colour blue with Dr. Ambedkar, his clothes are always shown as blue (it seems even in real life, for the last 20-30 years of his life, he most often wore blue).

Why a Suit?

Dr. Ambedkar was a symbol of struggle and success of Dalits. His status as a teacher and his rise to the high level of Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee were unimaginable in those days and were empowering beyond measure. And Western clothing–the suit–was a part of this re-imagining of the possibilities. His wearing a suit had a huge impact on the marginalized and oppressed, a matter of pride. And hence, he is always shown wearing one in his statues.

The Poses

Sculptor Vinay Wagle explains in a magazine article (Outlook) that there are two main poses of Ambedkar statues: (1) the ‘lecture’ pose, wherein left hand is behind and the right hand raised with the finger pointing forward. This is supposed to symbolize his teacher status. (2) the ‘Parliament’ pose, where he has a book in his left hand, and his right hand is raised, symbolizing his position as the Father of our Constitution.

He was not only a lawyer, but he had Ph.D from Columbia University and another one from the London School of Economics. As well as two honorary one! He was Principal of the Govt. Law College Bombay and Chairman of the Governing Board of Ramjas College University of Delhi. Justifiable indeed, the ‘lecturer pose’!
He was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn, was India’s first Law Minister and chaired the Constitution Drafting Committee. The Constitution drafted under his leadership has been called ‘first and foremost a social document’. ‘ The majority of India’s constitutional provisions are either directly aimed at furthering the aim of social revolution or attempt to foster this revolution by establishing conditions necessary for its achievement. Justifiable indeed, the ‘Parliament pose’!

Recently I have seen a huge, very well crafted statue of Dr. Ambedkar, sitting in a statue-making yard. But it is golden! My friends tell me they are also seeing more of these. They do look better than many a blue one, but I cannot help wondering about the spirit!

–Meena

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