Important Reform Figures

Bal Shastri Jambhekar: Was the pioneer of the intellectual movement in Maharashtra in the first half of the 19th  century, through his numerous writings

Dodoba Pandjurang Tarkhadkar: A social reformer; was the founder of the Paramhansa Sabha, the first reform organisation in Maharashtra

Bhaskar Pandurang Tarkhadkar: Was an early militant nationalist critic of British rule, particularly its exploitative character Gopal Hari Deshmukh: Better known as Lokhitwadi, broadened the scope of the reform movement in Maharashtra through his writings, particularly the all-encompassing Shatapatren, his hundred letters. Both Jambhekar and Lokahitwadi sought a permanent solution to women’s problems, not in monogamy and widow-marriage, but more fundamentally in the equal distribution of rights to women on par with men.

Vishnu Bhikaji Gokhale: Opposed caste distinctions and worked for an equitable social order

Vishnu Shastri Pandit: Was a leading figure in the sphere of the agitation for female emancipation and a strong advocate of widow remarriage; he founded the Vidhva Vivah Uttejak Mandal in 1865 and set an example for society by himself marrying a widow in 1875 .

Mahatma Jyotiba Phule: Born in the Mali caste, emerged as a champion of the depressed sections of society including untouchables and women; he and his wife started a girls’ school at Pune in 1851 and one for untouch in championed the cause of the liberation of Indian women.

R.G. Bhandarkar: Known as ‘Maharishi’ for his profound scholarship, was a strong support of social reform; he arranged the marriage of his widow daughter in 1891 against conservative opposition.

M.G. Ranade: A judge of the Bombay High Court, was also a leading social religious reformer of Maharashtra who reorganised and strengthened the activities of the Prarthana Samaj

Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar: Tried to promote the cause of social reform through his famous Marathi magazine Bibandhamala. K.T. Yelang: The first Indian vice-chancellor of a university; was instrumental in expanding primary education in Bombay. Ganesh Vasudev Joshi: Provided a critique of British economic policies in India and emphasised upon education as the most effective agent of social change.

Narayan Ganesh Cahandavarkar: Basically a philosopher, was a great leader of the Prarthana Samaj

Narayan Guru: A scholar of Sanskrit, Tamil and Malayalam and writer of devotional songs; worked for social advancement of backward communities; he founded the S.N.D.P Yogam for the social, cultural and educational uplift of the Ezhavas, a backward community of Kerala.

Sister Nivedita (born Margaret Nobel in Ireland): Was a devoted disciple of swami Vivekananda; she was the first Western women to be admitted to an Indian monastic order and who influenced the militant youth of her time.

Thakar Bapa: Worked as an engineer in India and Uganda, was associated with the Servants of Indian Society, the Depressed Classes Mission and the widow home in Poona.

Guru Ram Singh: Played a key role in the Namdhari movement, tried to abolish caste distinctions and enjoined widow remarriage among the Sikhs; his militant disciples were known as kukas; he was arrested and deported to Burma by the British. Sasipada Banerjee: A Brahmo Samajist, founded the Working Men’s Club (an early form of a trade union) and also published a journal focusing on worker’s issues

Naoroji Furdonji, Dadabhai Naoroji and S.S. Bengalee, all leading Parsee figures in Bombay, started a religious association called the Rehnumai Mazadayasan Sabha in 1851. It stood for the modernisation of Parsi religion and social customs. It also launched a struggle for the introduction and spread of education among women, grant of a legal status to them and for uniform laws of inheritance and marriage for the Parsi community.

Kandukari Veeresalingam was a pioneer of the social reform movement in the South of India (1848-1919). Unlike most of his contemporaries in the social reform movement in Calcutta or Bombay, Veeresalingam came from a poor family and was a school teacher. He was a prolific writer and produced a large number of tracts and pamphlets on social reform in the Telugu language. Hence he has a claim to be regarded as the father of modern Telugu prose. His missionary zeal on issues like re-marriage of widows, female education and generally on the upliftment of women and removal of social vices made him a very influential figure for the later generation of Andhra social reformers.


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