Professor Manikrao (1878 - 1954)

Family History

Rajratna Rajpriya Professor Manikrao
Maratha’s conquered Gujarat region from Mughal rulers and Gaekwad’s became its administrators (Subha) in early 1800. When Gaekwad’s moved to Baroda from Pune, many Maratha Warrior families migrated to Baroda with them. One such family was Tamhane from Village Tamhankhore of Satara district. Subsequently, Gaekwad’s extended their rule to the areas of Saurashtra and earned rights to collect taxes ( Khandani) from these areas. Occasionally however, some local authorities of Saurashtra revolted and refused to pay taxes. In one such case, Garasdar of Manikwada village revolted and the army was sent by the Gaekwad’s to set things right. One of the lieutenant (Shiledar) accompanying this army was Tamhane who fought bravely in this war and helped in normalizing the situation. Gaekwad rulers appreciated this valiant act and honored Tamhane with the title “Manik” (Manik-a Gem). From that day, Tamhane became Manik.

In this brave and affluent family, a son who was named Gajanan was born on December 31st, 1878, later to become the famous Rajratna, Rajpriya, Prof. Manikrao. His father’s name was Yeshwant and mother’s name was Sitabai.

Yeshwantrao had 7 children and only three, Gajanan (middle), Laxman (left) and daughter Butabai(right) survived.

From his very childhood, Gajanan was intelligent and extraordinarily smart and active. Gajanan started his primary schooling at the age of eight and as the custom was those days, started attending Akhada (gymnasium) regularly. The Akhada he attended at Warashia, Baroda was run by a highly skilled wrestler and exponent of Indian Marshal Arts known as Jummadada.

 

Training

After completion of his primary education, Gajanan was asked by his father Yeshwantrao, what he would like to do further? Spontaneous but firm, came the reply that he would like to learn various arts of Physical education. Such a reply amongst affluent families was unheard of in those days as education was given more importance over physical fitness. Looking to Gajanan’s firmness and great enthusiasm in the field of physical education and knowing the capabilities of Guru Jummadada, whom Yeshwantrao knew well, conceded to Gajanan’s demand and thus started the new era of revival of the lost Indian glory of Physical education and fitness and of Indian Marshal Arts.

Over a period of next twelve years, Jummadada saw to it that Gajanan became an expert not only in wrestling, malkham and martial arts which Jummadada knew and taught to Gajanan but also got him trained through other experts in the art of Binnot (Unique Martial art of making armed warrior unarmed) which is now extinct and also the Unani therapy to make Gajanan efficient Hakim (Unani practitioner). While undergoing the physical training, Gajanan also learnt different languages such as Sanskrit, Farsi, Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Guajarati and Marathi. All this helped him in understanding his subjects well and express himself to make common man understand the importance of physical education.

Living quarters of Prof. Manikrao (left-top) and Uma Sabha Gruha (right)
Jummadada passed away on Dec 8th, 1904, at the age of 110 years, entrusting the responsibility of Akhada to Gajanan. The first change Gajanan brought about was calling Akhada a ”Vyayam Mandir” (Temple of Physical Education). He revolutionized the approach of teaching the Martial Arts through group exercises which made them more presentable and acceptable to masses. The entire outlook of looking towards Akhada then changed and the people from well to do families started sending their children to this institution.

Prof. Manikrao showing his precious weapons and medals to Shree Kakasaheb Gadgil, then Governer of Bombay State
Initially Gajanan, then Manikrao, wrote articles in Mahatma Gandhi’s Gujarati newspapers emphasizing upon the importance of physical education and then through many books he wrote in Hindi and Marathi described various Indian exercises and the use of weaponry which was almost forgotten. His knowledge of Indian weaponry and efficiency in handling them was unique and authoritative as can be seen through his book “Shree Pratap Shastrgar” written by him while arranging the museum of Gaekwads weapons in Maharaja of Baroda‘s palace.

His Guru Jummadada used to call him “Bhai” (Bhai), which perhaps got converted into “Bhau” ( Bhau - in Marathi means brother), and he then became Bhau for everybody. He passed away in the year May 25th, 1954 leaving behind a huge gathering of his followers. Several new institutions were opened by his disciples in various parts of India, and these along with Shree Jummadada Vyayam Mandir of Baroda makes him immortal.