This is a classic monograph on the Mahar movement in western India. It documents the social and political forces that shaped Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–56), the greatest leader of Dalits, and the manner in which Ambedkar shaped the destiny of the Dalits of Maharashtra and India. Zelliot chronicles the movement from its origins with the first Mahar petition in 1890 till its culmination in the mass conversion to Buddhism in 1956. She describes the defining influences of the pre-Ambedkar leadership, the Mahar army tradition, the cult of Cokhamela, the Mahad satyagraha, the temple-entry movements, the various newspapers Ambedkar edited, the Round Table Conferences, and the political parties Ambedkar founded. Using a wide array of primary sources, she offers a rich history of one of modern India’s most defining movements.
Eleanor Zelliot, in the 1960s, pioneered the study of the dalit movement in India. She was Laird Bell Professor of History (1969–1997) at Carleton College, Minnesota. She has written over eighty articles and edited three books on the dalit movement, on saint-poets of the medieval period, on dalit literature, and on the Ambedkar-inspired Buddhist movement. She is the author of From Untouchable to Dalit: Essays on the Ambedkar Movement and Untouchable Saints: An Indian Phenomenon.