Social reformers of India
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India has a rich history of social reformers who have helped establish the foundations of modern India, and, in some cases, have affected a world wide impact through political action and philosophic teachings. Especially given India's leaning towards oral and mythical rather than a written tradition throughout much of its history it is almost impossible to put together an exhaustive list of social reformers who have lived through the ages. Below are some of them.
- 1 Basaveshwara
- 2 Srimanta Sankardev
- 3 Raja Ram Mohan Roy
- 4 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
- 5 Kabir
- 6 Virchand Gandhi
- 7 Swami Vivekananda
- 8 Jamnalal Bajaj
- 9 Vinoba Bhave
- 10 Baba Amte
- 11 Shriram Sharma Acharya
- 12 Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
- 13 Dhondo Keshav Karve
- 14 Balshastri Jambhekar
- 15 Dr.B. R. Ambedkar
- 16 Annie Besant
- 17 Vitthal Ramji Shinde
- 18 Gopal Hari Deshmukh
- 19 Kandukuri Veeresalingam
- 20 Jawaharlal Nehru
- 21 Vijaypal Baghel
- 22 Periyar E. V. Ramasamy
- 23 Pandurang Shastri Athavle
- 24 See also
- 25 References
Basava(1134–1196), also known as Bhakti Bhandari Basavanna or Basaveshwara was a philosopher, Statesman and a social reformer from present-day Karnataka, India. Basava fought against the inhuman practice of caste system, which discriminated people based on their birth, and certain rituals in Hinduism. He spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vachanaas. Basavanna used Ishtalinga to eradicate untouchability, establish equality among all human beings and a means to attain spiritual enlightenment. These are rational and progressive social thoughts coupled with established perception of God in Hindu society. He was a great philosopher.
Srimanta Sankardev(1449–1568), was a 15th–16th century Assamese polymath: a saint-scholar, poet, playwright, social-religious reformer and a colossal figure in the socio-cultural and religious history of Assam, India. He is credited with building on past cultural relics and devising new forms of music (Borgeet), plays (Ankia Naat), theatrical performance (Bhaona), dance (Sattriya), literary language (Brajavali). Besides, he has left an entensive literary ouvre of transcreated scriptures (Bhagavat of Sankardev), poetry and theological works written in Sanskrit, Assamese and Brajavali. The Bhagavatic religious movement he started, Ekasarana Dharma and also called Neo-Vaishnavite movement, influenced two medieval kingdoms—Koch and the Ahom kingdoms—and the assembly of devotees he initiated evolved into Sattras over time, which continue to be important socio-religious institutions in Assam and to a lesser extend in North Bengal. Sankardev inspired bhakti in Assam just as Guru Nanak, Ramananda, Kabir, Basava and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu inspired it elsewhere. His literary and artistic contributions are living traditions in Assam today. The religion he preached is practised by a large population, and Sattras (monasteries) that he and his followers established continue to flourish and sustain his legacy.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy
'Raja Ram Mohan Roy' (22 May 1772 – 27 September 1833) was a founder of the Brahma Sabha in 1828 which engendered the Brahmo Samaj, an influential Indian socio-religious reform movement in 1830. He is best known for his efforts to abolish the practice of 'sati'. It was he who first introduced the word "Hinduism" into the English language in 1816. Raja Ram Mohan Roy is regarded as one of the most important figures in the Indian Renaissance. Ram Mohan Roy's impact on modern Indian history was a revival of the pure and ethical principles.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Father of the Nation)(2 October 1869 - 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer of 'satyagraha'—resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, firmly founded upon ahimsa or total non-violence—which led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi led nationwide campaigns to ease poverty, expand women's rights, build religious and ethnic amity, end accountability, and increase economic self-reliance,he is the chief leader in "mithacha satyagraha".
Kabīr (also Kabīra) (Hindi: bakwas, Punjabi: ਕਬੀਰ, Urdu: کبير) (1440–1518) was a mystic poet and sant of India, whose writings have greatly influenced the Bhakti movement. The name Kabir comes from Arabic al-Kabīr which means 'The Great' – the 37th name of God in Islam.
Kabir was influenced by the prevailing religious mood of his times, such as old Brahmanic Hinduism, Tantrism, the teachings of Nath yogis and the personal devotionalism of South India mixed with the imageless God of Islam. The influence of these various doctrines is clearly evident in Kabir's verses. Eminent historians like R.C. Majumdar, P.N. Chopra, B.N. Puri and M.N. Das have held that Kabir is the first Indian saint to have harmonised Hinduism and Islam by preaching a universal path which both Hindus and Muslims could tread together.
Virchand Gandhi was from Mahuva. He advocated female education. He is a 19th-century Indian patriot who was a friend of Mahatma Gandhi and contemporary to Swami Vivekanand. He and swami vivekananda drew equal attention at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. He won a silver medal in same. His statue still stands at the Jain temple in Chicago. He was key member of Indian National Congress. And as a reformer established.
- Society for the Education of Women in India (SEWI). Under the banner of SEWI, several Indian women came to USA for higher studies.
- Gandhi Philosophical Society,
- School of Oriental Philosophy,
- Jain Literature Society in London. And he delivered 535 lectures in USA and Europe. He also died at age of 37 alike Swami Vivekanand. Today Government of India has recognised his service by issuing postal stamp in his memory.
Swami Vivekananda (12 January 1863 – 4 July 1902) was the founder of Ramakrishna Mission. Swami Vivekananda was also known as a great scholar. His real name was Narendra Nath Dutta. Vivekananda is considered to be a major force in the revival of Hinduism in modern India. He was considered a key figure in the introduction of Vedanta and Yoga in Europe and America. He introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World's Religions at Chicago in 1893.
Jamnalal Bajaj: (4 November 1884 – 11 February 1942) was an industrialist, a philanthropist, and Indian independence fighter. Gandhi is known to have adopted him as his son. He is known for his efforts of promoting Khadi and village Industries in India. With the intent of eradicating untouchability, he fought the non-admission of Harijans into Hindu temples. He began a campaign by eating a meal with Harijans and opening public wells to them. He opened several wells in his fields and gardens. Jamanalal dedicated much of his wealth to the poor. He felt this inherited wealth was a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of the people. In honour of his social initiatives a well known national and international award called Jamnalal Bajaj Award has been instituted by the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.
Vinoba Bhave: (11 September 1895 – 15 November 1982) was an Indian advocate of Nonviolence and human rights. He is considered as the spiritual successor of Mahatma Gandhi. Vinoba Bhave was a scholar, thinker, writer who produced numerous books, translator who made Sanskrit texts accessible to common man, orator, linguist who had excellent command of several languages (Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, English, Sanskrit), and a social reformer. He wrote brief introductions to, and criticisms of, several religious and philosophical works like the Bhagavad Gita, works of Adi Shankaracharya, the Bible and Quran. His criticism of Dnyaneshwar's poetry as also the output by other Marathi saints is quite brilliant and a testimony to the breadth of his intellect. A university named after him Vinoba Bhave University is still there in the state of Jharkhand spreading knowledge even after his death.
Baba Amte (26 December 1914 – 9 February 2008) was an Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for his work for the rehabilitation and empowerment of poor people suffering from leprosy. He spent some time at Sevagram ashram of Mahatma Gandhi, and became a follower of Gandhism for the rest of his life. He believed in Gandhi's concept of a self-sufficient village industry that empowers seemingly helpless people, and successfully brought his ideas into practice at Anandwan. He practised various aspects of Gandhism, including yarn spinning using a charkha and wearing khadi. Amte founded three ashrams for treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients, disabled people, and people from marginalised sections of the society in Maharashtra, India.
Shriram Sharma Acharya
for main article go to Shriram Sharma Acharya
Shriram Sharma Acharya (20 September 1911 – 2 June 1990) was an Indian seer, sage, Indian social worker, a philanthropist, a visionary of the New Golden Era and the Founder of the All World Gayatri Pariwar. He devoted his life to the welfare of people and the refinement of the moral and cultural environment. He pioneered the revival of spirituality, creative integration of the modern and ancient sciences and religion relevant in the challenging circumstances of the present times. To help people, his aim was to diagnose the root cause of the ailing state of the world today and enable the upliftment of society. Acharyaji recognised the crisis of faith, people’s ignorance of the powers of the inner self, and the lack of righteous attitude and conduct. During 1984–1986, he carried out the unique spiritual experiment of sukshmikaraña, meaning sublimation of vital force and physical, mental and spiritual energies.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
for main article go to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820–1891) was a philosopher, academic, educator, writer, translator, printer, publisher, entrepreneur, reformer, and philanthropist. His efforts to simplify and modernise Bangla prose were significant. He was a Bengali polymath and a key figure of the Bengal Renaissance. Vidyasagar championed the uplift of the status of women in India, particularly in his native Bengal. Unlike some other reformers who sought to set up alternative societies or systems, he sought, however, to transform orthodox Hindu society from within. Vidyasagar introduced the practice of widow remariages to mainstream Hindu society. In earlier times, remarriages of widows would occur sporadically only among progressive members of the Brahmo Samāj.
Dhondo Keshav Karve
for main article go to Dhondo Keshav Karve
Dhondo Keshav Karve (18 April 1858 – 9 November 1962) was a social reformer of his time in India in the field of women's welfare. Karve was one of the pioneers of promoting women's education and the right for widows to remarry in India. The Government of India recognised his reform work by awarding him its highest civilian award, Bhārat Ratna, in 1958 (Incidentally his centennial year). The appellation Maharshi, which the Indian public often assigned to Karve, means ”a great sage". Those who knew Karve affectionately called him as Annā Karve. (In Marāthi-speaking community, to which Karve belonged, the appellation Annā is often used to address either one's father or an elder brother.)
for main article go to Balshastri Jambhekar
Balshastri Jambhekar: (6 January 1812 – 18 May 1846) is known as Father of Marathi journalism for his efforts in starting journalism in Marathi language with the first newspaper in the language named 'Darpan' in the early days of British Rule in India. He founded Darpan as the first Marathi newspaper. He was editor of this newspaper during the British rule in India. This turned out to be the beginning of Marathi journalism. He had mastery in many languages including Marathi, Sanskrit, English and Hindi. Apart from that he also had a good grasp of Greek, Latin, French, Gujarati and Bengali.
Dr.B. R. Ambedkar
for main article go to Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar
B. R. Ambedkar: (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956) was an Indian jurist, political leader, Buddhist activist, philosopher, thinker, anthropologist, historian, orator, prolific writer, economist, scholar, editor, revolutionary and the revivalist of Buddhism in India. He was also the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. Ambedkar spent his whole life fighting against social discrimination, the system of Chaturvarna – the Hindu categorisation of human society into four varnas – and the Hindu caste system. He is also credited with having sparked the bloodless revolution with his most remarkable and innovative Buddhist movement. Dr. Bhimrao ramji Ambedkar has been honoured with the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award.
for main article go to Annie Besant
Annie Besant (1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933) was a prominent theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule. In 1908 Annie Besant became President of the Theosophical Society and began to steer the society away from Buddhism and towards Hinduism. She also became involved in politics in India, joining the Indian National Congress. When war broke out in Europe in 1914 she helped launch the Home Rule League to campaign for democracy in India and dominion status within the Empire which culminated in her election as president of the India National Congress in late 1917. After the war she continued to campaign for Indian independence until her death in 1933.
Vitthal Ramji Shinde
for main article go to Vitthal Ramji Shinde
Vitthal Ramji Shinde: (23 April 1873 – 2 January 1944) He was a prominent campaigner on behalf of the Dalit movement in Maharashtra and established the Depressed Classes Mission to provide education to the Dalits in Maharashtra.
Gopal Hari Deshmukh
for main article go to Gopal Hari Deshmukh
Gopalakrishnan: (1823–1892) was a social reformer in Maharashtra. Deshmukh started writing articles aimed at social reform in Maharashtra in the weekly Prabhakarunder the pen name Lokhitwadi. In the first two years, he penned 108 articles on social reform. That group of articles has come to be known in Marathi literature as Lokhitwadinchi Shatapatre.
for main article go to Kandukuri Veeresalingam
Kandukuri Veeresalingam:was born on 16 April 1848. He was a social reformer who first brought about a renaissance in Telugu people and Telugu literature. He was influenced by the ideals of Brahmo Samaj particularly those of Keshub Chunder Sen. He got involved in the cause of social reforms. In 1876 he started a Telugu journal and wrote the first prose for women. He encouraged education for women, and started a school in Dowlaishwaram in 1874. He started a social organisation called Hitakarini (Benefactor). Unfortunately, he passed away on 27 May 1919.
Jawaharlal Nehru (Hindi/Kashmiri: जवाहरलाल नेहरू, pronounced [dʒəʋaːɦərˈlaːl ˈneːɦru]; 14 November 1889 – 27 May 1964) was an Indian statesman who was the first (and to date the longest-serving) prime minister of India, from 1947 until 1964. One of the leading figures in the Indian independence movement, Nehru was elected by the Congress Party to assume office as independent India's first Prime Minister, and re-elected when the Congress Party won India's first general election in 1952. As one of the founders of the Non-aligned Movement, he was also an important figure in the international politics of the post-war era. He is frequently referred to as Pandit Nehru ("pandit" being a Sanskrit and Hindi honorific meaning "scholar" or "teacher") and, specifically in India, as Panditji (with "-ji" being an honorific suffix).His birthday is celebrated as children's and teenagers day in India
Vijaypal Baghel ( 20 February 1967) is an environmental activist. He is known for his efforts in protecting environment at grass root level through traditional methods. He is a prominent campaigner on behalf of mission as Jhola Movement for fighting against polythene across India, first planter of divine tree Kalpavriksha's (Adansonia digitata) at all famous pilgrims of around the world, worshiper of nature & lead promoter of spiritual/religious/herbal/medicinal/environmental values having species of flora. He devoted his life to conserve nature, save water, green resolution, reduce pollution and stop global warming with the theme of 'Think globally-Act locally', peoples are called him greenman.
Periyar E. V. Ramasamy
Periyar E. V. Ramasamy Thanthai Periyar or E. V. R., was a businessman, politician, Indian independence and social activist, who started the Self-Respect Movement or the Dravidian Movement and proposed the creation of an independent state called Dravidasthan comprising South India. He is also the founder of the socio-cultural organisation Dravidar Kazhagam.
Pandurang Shastri Athavle
Pandurang Vaijnath Shastri Athavale (Marathi: पांडुरंगशास्त्री आठवले) (19 October 1920 – 25 October 2003), also known as Dada-ji (Marathi: दादा), which literally translates as elder brother in Marathi, was an Indian philosopher, spiritual leader, social reformer and Hinduism reformist, who founded the Swadhyay Movement and the Swadhyay Parivar organisation (Swadhyay Family) in 1954, a self-knowledge movement based on the Bhagavad Gita, which has spread across nearly 100,000 villages in India, with over 5 million members. He was also noted for his discourses or "pravachans" on Srimad Bhagawad Gita and Upanishads.
He was born in the Konkan village of Roha in Maharashtra, India. He was one of five children of Sanskrit teacher Vaijanath Athavale and Parvati Athavale.
When Athavale was twelve years old, his grandfather set up an independent course of study for the young boy with individual tuition. Thus, Athavale was taught in a system very similar to that of the Tapovan system of ancient India. In 1942, he started to give discourses at the Srimad Bhagavad Gita Pathshala, a centre set up by his father in 1926.
Athavale read diligently in the Royal Asiatic Library for 14 years, reading and digesting every non-fiction literature (ranging from Marx's philosophy to Whitehead's writings to ancient Indian philosophy). In 1954, he attended the Second World Philosophers Conference, held in Japan. There, Athavale presented the concepts of Vedic ideals and the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. All the participants deeply impressed by his ideas and wanted evidence of such ideals being put into practice in towns across India. A Dr. Wilson Compton was impressed with Athavale's ideas and offered him a post in the US, where he could spread his ideas. Athavale politely declined, saying that he had work to accomplish if he wanted to show the world a model community peacefully practising and spreading the divine Vedic thoughts and the message of the Bhagavad Gita.
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- Acharya Vinoba Bhave
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