Atmaram Pandurang

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Atmaram Pandurang or Atmaram Pandurang Turkhadekar (or just Turkhad in English publications[1]) (1823-1898) was an Indian physician and social reformer who founded the Prarthana Samaj and was one of the two Indian co-founders (the other being Sakharam Arjun) of the Bombay Natural History Society.[2] A graduate of Grant Medical College, he was a brother of Dadoba Pandurang (9 May 1814-17 October 1882), a scholar of Sanskrit and Marathi. Atmaram Pandurang served briefly as sheriff of Bombay in 1879.[3]

Atmaram was born to Pandurang Yeshwant and Yashodabai. He studied at the newly opened Grant Medical College and was in the first batch of students that included Dr Bhau Daji Lad. With a diploma, he worked in Bhiwandi, running a smallpox vaccination campaign. He later helped frame Article 14 of the Contagious Diseases Act (1868). He was present in the famous Maharaj Libel Case where he deposed as a witness to present evidence that the plaintiff suffered from venereal disease.[4] Atmaram Pandurang was a theistic reformer who opposed many Hindu traditions including child marriage. He believed that the minimum age for marriage of girls should be twenty.[5] The Prarthana Samaj was founded at his home on 31 March 1867 and was influenced by Keshab Chunder Sen.[6] Among the objects of the society at the time of its founding were to openly denounce the caste system, introduce widow-remarriage, encourage female education and abolish child-marriage. He also helped found the Bhandarkar free library.[7]

Pandurang belonged to a highly educated family and his circle of acquaintances included reformists from across the country. When Rabindranath Tagore was to visit England in 1878, he stayed in their Bombay home and sought to improve his English with the assistance of Pandurang's second daughter Annapurna or Ana. It is believed that the two were attracted to each other and Tagore wrote several poems in her memory (he referred to her as "Nalini"). Ana Turkhud however married Harold Littledale, professor of history and English literature at Baroda on November 11, 1880. Ana's older brother Moreshwar Atmaram obtained a gold medal in Practical Chemistry and obtained honours in mathematics and geology at University College London in 1867 and was a vice-principal at Rajkumar College in Baroda.[8] Another daughter Manek Turkhud passed the Licensiate of Medicine and Surgery from Bombay in 1892. In the same year, the daughter of Dadabhai Naoroji, Maneckbai also passed the same examination.[9]


  1. ^ Report of Annual Meeting of Ramabai Association. 11 March, 1890. Ramabai Association. 1890. 
  2. ^ Millard W. S. (1932). "The founders of the Bombay Natural History Society". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. Vol 35. No. 1 & 2: 196–197. 
  3. ^ Ramanna, Mridula (2002). Western Medicine and Public Health in Colonial Bombay, 1845-1895. Orient Blackswan. p. 46. 
  4. ^ Reuben, Rachel (2005). "The Indian Founders". Hornbill (April-June): 13–15. 
  5. ^ Gidumal, Dayaram (1889). The status of woman in India. Bombay: Fort Printing Press. pp. 245–251. 
  6. ^ Sastri, Sivanath (1912). History of the Brahmo Samaj. Volume II. Calcutta: R. Chatterjee. p. 413. 
  7. ^ Sastri, Sivanath (1912). A history of the Brahmo Samaj. 2. Calcutta: R Chatterjee. pp. 412, 432. 
  8. ^ "Latest Telegrams". The Express and Telegraph. 24 October 1867. p. 2. 
  9. ^ "Foreign Notes. India". The Englishwoman's Review of Social and Industrial Questions. 24: 72. 1893.