Maharshi Karve, Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj, Maharshi Vitthal Shinde,

Maharshi Karve

Dhondo Keshav Karve, (born April 18, 1858, Sheravali, India—died November 9, 1962, Poona (Pune), Indian social reformer and educator, noted for supporting the education of women and for organizing associations for the remarriage of Hindu widows.  While an instructor in mathematics (1891–1914) at Fergusson College, Poona, Karve became concerned with breaking down orthodox Hindu opposition to widow remarriage, and he established the Widow Marriage Association in 1893. In the same year, he shocked public opinion by himself marrying a widow; his first wife had died in 1891. Karve also founded (1896) an educational institution, Hindu Widows Home, in Poona, to help widows support themselves if they could not remarry.  Karve became increasingly concerned with illiteracy among women, and on his retirement from Fergusson College he started Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women’s University in 1916. He later widened his social reform efforts to include the establishment of societies for village primary education and the abolition of caste. Karve’s autobiography was entitled Atmavritta (1915). On his 100th birthday he was awarded India’s highest honour, the Bharat Ratna.

Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj

Shri Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj (also known as Rajarshi Shahu) (26 June 1874-6 May 1922) was the first Maharaja of the Indian princely state of Kolhapur between 1884 and 1922. First king in India – implemented Reservation Policy ( Provided 50% Reservation in his state, on 26 July 1902) Revolutionary Legal Reforms. 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.

Shahu was born on 26 June 1874 as Yeshwantrao Ghatge, eldest son of Appasaheb Ghatge, chief of Kagal (senior) by his wife Radhabai, a daughter of the Raja of Mudhol in present-day Karnataka. He was adopted by Anandibai, widow of Raja Shivaji IV, in March 1884. Several generations of inter-marriage had ensured that Shahu’s family was connected intimately with the ruling dynasty of Kolhapur, which is apparently what rendered him a suitable candidate for adoption, despite his not being a male-line member of the Bhonsle dynasty. A council of regency was appointed by the British government of India to oversee affairs of state during Shahu’s minority. Shahu was invested with ruling powers upon coming of age in 1894. There is one college named Rajaram college built by Shahu Maharaja.

Shahu maharaj is credited with doing much to further the lot of the lower castes, and indeed this assessment is warranted. He did much to make education and employment available to all: he not only subsidized education in his state, eventually providing free education to all, but also opened several hostels in Kolhapur for students hailing from many different non-brahmin communities, thereby facilitating the education of the rural and low-caste indigent. He also ensured suitable employment for students thus educated, thereby creating one of the earliest Affirmative action programs in history. Many of these measures were effected in the year 1902.

Shahu’s other initiatives included restricting Child marriage in his state and the encouragement of intercaste marriage and widow remarriage. He long patronized the Satya Shodhak Samaj but later moved towards the Arya Samaj. Under the influence of these social-reform movements, Shahu arranged for several non-brahmin youths to be trained to function as priests, in defiance of timeless convention which reserved the priesthood for those of the brahmin caste. However, he faced opposition from many including Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak , the very famous patriot of that time. After Shahu Maharaj’s death, this reform died its natural death.

Chhatrapati Shahu was very fond of wrestling and encouraged it in his kingdom.Many wrestlers from all over India came to Kolhapur as wrestling enjoyed royal patronage in Kolhapur.  The Indian postal department has issued a stamp dedicated to Shahu. On the first-issue citation, the government of India hails Shahu as “A social revolutionary, a true democrat, a visionary, a patron of the theatre, music and sports and a prince of the masses. Chhatrapati Shahu was a many-splendoured personality who thought and acted far ahead of his times.”

 

 

Maharshi Vitthal Shinde

Mahrshi Vitthal Ramji Shinde (23 April 1873 – 2 January 1944) was one of the most important social and religious reformers in Maharashtra, India. He was prominent among the liberal thinkers and reformists in India, prior to his independence. His greatest contribution was to attempt to remove the practice of untouchability and bring about equality to the depressed classes in Indian society.

He was born on 23 April 1873 in the princely state of Jamkhandi in Karnataka, India, a member of a Marathi-speaking Maharashtrian family. His early childhood was influenced by a liberal family environment. The family friends and acquaintances came from all religions and castes. He was brought up to think that religion was not just a matter of a blind faith and meaningless rituals or pujas, but meant getting personally and emotionally involved in the service of God.

In 1898 he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Fergusson College at Pune, India. He had also studied and passed the first year law and moved to Mumbai (Bombay) for the LL.B. examination; however, he gave up this course to attend to other compelling callings in his life. This same year he joined the Prarthana Samaj, where he was further inspired and influenced by G.B. Kotkar, Shivrampant Gokhle, Justice Mahadev Govinda Ranade, Sir Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar and K.B. Marathe. He became a missionary for the Prarthana Samaj.

The Prarthana Samaj selected him to go to England in 1901, to study comparative religion at Manchester College, Oxford, which had been founded by the Unitarian Church. Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, of Baroda, a progressive and reformist, provided some financial help for his travels abroad.

After returning from England in 1903, he devoted his life to religious and social reforms. He continued his missionary work for the Prarthana Samaj. His efforts were devoted mainly to the removal of untouchability in India. In 1905 he established a night school for the children of untouchables in Pune, and in 1906 he established the Depressed Classes Mission in Mumbai (Bombay). Also in 1910 he founded MURALI PRATIBANDHAK SABHA. And in1912 organised a “ASPRUSHATA NIWARAN PARISHAD “In 1922 the mission’s Ahalyashram building was completed at Pune. In 1917 he succeeded in getting the Indian National Congress to pass a resolution condemning the practice of untouchability.

From 1918 to 1920, he went on to convening all the India untouchability removal conferences. Some of these conferences were convened under the president-ship of Mahatma Gandhi and Maharaja Sahyajirao Gaekwad. His written communications with the Mahatmaji are noteworthy. In 1919 he gave evidence before the Southborough Franchise Committee, asking for the special representation for the untouchable castes. In 1923 he resigned as the executive of the Depressed Classes Mission since some of the members of the untouchable castes wanted its own leaders to manage the mission’s affairs. His work and association with the Mission continued even though he was disappointed by the separatist attitude of the leaders of the untouchables, especially under the leadership of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he wanted unity amongst the untouchables and the Hindu caste, and feared that the British rule would take advantage of such divisions within Indian society and exploit them for their own benefit.

In 1933 his book Bhartiya Asprushyatecha Prashna (“India’s untouchability question”) was published. His thoughts and examination of the Hindu religion and social culture were similar to Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Dayananda Saraswati. In his writings, he opposes the caste system, idol worship, and inequities against women and depressed classes. He opposed meaningless rituals, the dominance of hereditary priesthood, and the requirement of a priest to mediate between God and his devotees.

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