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Dhondo Keshav Karve: The Man Who Changed the Destiny of Indian Women



Dhondo Keshav Karve: A Social Reformer and Educator




Dhondo Keshav Karve, popularly known as Maharshi Karve, was a social reformer in India in the field of women's welfare. He advocated widow remarriage and he himself married a widow. Karve was a pioneer in promoting widows' education. He founded the first women's university in India - SNDT Women's University. The Government of India awarded him with the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in 1958, the year of his 100th birthday. He also organized a conference against the practice of devdasi and started an orphanage for girls. In this article, we will learn more about his life, work, achievements, and legacy.




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Early Life and Career of Karve




Karve was born on 18 April 1858, at Sheravali, in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. He belonged to a lower middle-class Chitpavan Brahmin family and his father's name was Keshav Bapunna Karve. He lost his mother when he was only eight years old and was raised by his grandmother. He completed his primary education in Ratnagiri and then moved to Pune for higher studies. He graduated from Deccan College in 1884 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics.


Karve was influenced by the social reform movements of his time, especially by Mahadev Govind Ranade, who was his teacher at Deccan College. He also admired Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Keshab Chandra Sen, Dayananda Saraswati, and Jyotirao Phule for their efforts to uplift women and lower castes. He developed a keen interest in women's education and emancipation.


During 18911914, Karve taught mathematics at Fergusson College in Pune. He also wrote articles on social issues for various journals and newspapers. He married Radhabai in 1874 when he was 16 years old and she was 10 years old. They had three sons together. Radhabai died in 1891 due to complications during childbirth.


Karve's Work for Widow Remarriage




After Radhabai's death, Karve decided to marry again. However, he did not want to marry a child bride or an unmarried girl. He wanted to marry a widow who had been ostracized by the society and give her a new life. He was inspired by Vishnushastri Pandit, who had founded the Widow Remarriage Association in 1861 and had himself married a widow.


Karve faced a lot of opposition and criticism from his family, friends, and community for his decision. He was accused of violating the Hindu scriptures and traditions. He was also threatened with social boycott and legal action. However, he did not give up on his conviction. He established the Widow Marriage Association in 1893 to promote the cause of widow remarriage and to provide legal and moral support to those who wanted to do so.


In the same year, he married Godubai, a widow who was 23 years old and had a son from her previous marriage. Godubai was the daughter of his friend Hari Narayan Aptekar, who had died in 1890. Karve adopted Godubai's son as his own and named him Shankar. Godubai supported Karve in his social work and became his lifelong companion. They had four sons and two daughters together.


Karve's marriage to Godubai was one of the first examples of widow remarriage in Maharashtra. It created a stir in the society and inspired many others to follow suit. Karve also helped several widows to find suitable husbands and arranged their marriages. He also encouraged young men to marry widows instead of child brides. He faced many difficulties and challenges in his work, but he never gave up.


Karve's Work for Women's Education




Karve was not satisfied with just marrying a widow. He wanted to educate her and make her independent. He realized that education was the key to empower women and improve their status in the society. He also noticed that there were very few schools for girls and even fewer for widows. He decided to start an educational institution for widows and destitute women.


In 1896, he founded the Hindu Widows Home in Pune, which later became the Hingne Stree Shikshan Samstha (Hingne Women's Education Society). The aim of this institution was to provide shelter, food, clothing, and education to widows and other needy women. The institution offered various courses such as sewing, knitting, cooking, gardening, nursing, music, painting, etc. It also taught them reading, writing, arithmetic, history, geography, etc.


Karve faced many hurdles in running this institution. He had to struggle for funds, staff, students, and public support. He faced opposition from orthodox Hindus who considered widows as inauspicious and unworthy of education. He also faced ridicule from some educated people who thought that his institution was useless and impractical. However, he persisted with his vision and gradually won over many supporters and admirers.


Karve's dream was to establish a university for women in India. He believed that women should have equal access to higher education as men. He wanted to create a platform for women to pursue their interests and talents in various fields such as arts, sciences, commerce, law, medicine, engineering, etc. He also wanted to train women as teachers, leaders, and social workers.


In 1916, he founded the first women's university in India - SNDT Women's University (Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women's University). The university started with only five students and two teachers in a rented bungalow in Pune. It later expanded to Mumbai and other cities. It offered courses in various subjects such as Sanskrit, Hindi, English, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, French, German, Latin ```html Greek, etc. It also established several colleges and departments in different disciplines such as Home Science, Social Work, Education, Library Science, Nursing, Law, Management, etc.


Karve's work for women's education was remarkable and revolutionary. He faced many challenges and obstacles in his mission, but he overcame them with his courage and determination. He received support and cooperation from many eminent personalities such as Sir Dorabji Tata, Sir Ratan Tata, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda, Maharaja Tukojirao Holkar of Indore, Maharaja Madhavrao Scindia of Gwalior, Dr. Annie Besant, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, etc.


Karve's work for women's education had a profound impact on the society and the nation. He empowered thousands of women with knowledge and skills and enabled them to contribute to various fields of human endeavour. He also inspired many other social reformers and educators to follow his footsteps and promote women's education in India.


Karve's Other Social Reforms




Karve was not only concerned with women's welfare, but also with other social issues such as village primary education, caste abolition, and devdasi eradication. He believed that education was the best way to bring about social change and upliftment.


In 1920, he founded the Maharashtra Village Primary Education Society to improve the quality and accessibility of primary education in rural areas. He also started a monthly magazine called Lokshikshan (People's Education) to spread awareness about the importance of education among the masses. He advocated for compulsory and free education for all children up to the age of 14.


In 1924, he founded the Servants of India Society along with Gopal Krishna Gokhale and N.G. Chandavarkar to work for the social and political emancipation of India. He also joined the Indian National Congress and participated in the freedom struggle. He supported Gandhi's non-violence movement and civil disobedience campaign.


In 1931, he founded the All India Anti-Untouchability League to fight against the evil practice of untouchability and caste discrimination. He also supported Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's efforts to secure equal rights and dignity for the Dalits (the oppressed castes). He advocated for inter-caste marriages and social harmony.


In 1936, he organized a conference against the practice of devdasi (dedicating young girls to temples as servants of gods). He condemned this practice as a form of sexual exploitation and slavery. He also started an orphanage for girls called Anath Balikashram to rescue and rehabilitate the devdasis and their children.


Awards and Honours Received by Karve




Karve received many awards and honours for his outstanding contribution to social reform and education. Some of them are:


  • In 1942, he was awarded Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) by Banaras Hindu University.



  • In 1951, he was awarded D.Litt. by Pune University.



  • In 1954, he was awarded D.Litt. by SNDT Women's University.



  • In 1955, he was awarded Padma Vibhushan (the second-highest civilian award in India) by the Government of India.



  • In 1958, he was awarded Bharat Ratna (the highest civilian award in India) by the Government of India on his 100th birthday.



  • In 1961, he was awarded D.Litt. by Aligarh Muslim University.



  • In 1962, he was awarded D.Litt. by Sagar University.



Legacy and Influence of Karve




Karve left behind a rich legacy of social reform and education that continues to inspire generations of Indians. His institutions are still functioning and serving the society with dedication and excellence. His students and followers have carried forward his vision and mission in various fields such as politics, literature, art, science, medicine, law, etc.


Some of the notable personalities who were influenced by Karve are:


  • Dr. Rukhmabai, the first woman physician in India, who was a student of Karve's Hindu Widows Home.



  • Dr. Durgabai Deshmukh, a freedom fighter, social worker, and politician, who was a student of Karve's SNDT Women's University.



  • Dr. Raghunath Karve, a social reformer, writer, and scientist, who was Karve's son and collaborator.



  • Dr. D.K. Karve, a social worker and educationist, who was Karve's grandson and successor.



  • Dr. Pramod Karve, a social worker and educationist, who is Karve's great-grandson and current president of Hingne Stree Shikshan Samstha.



Karve's life and work have been depicted in various books, films, plays, and documentaries. Some of them are:


  • The Story of Dr. Karve (1958), a documentary film directed by Neil Gokhale and Ram Gabale.



  • Himalayachi Saavli (1972), a Marathi play by Vasant Kanetkar, based on Karve's family life.



  • Dhyaas Parva (2001), a Marathi film by Amol Palekar, based on the life of Karve's son Raghunath.



  • Atmavrutta (1928) and Looking Back (1936), the autobiographical works of Karve in Marathi and English respectively.



How to Download PDFs of Karve's Works




If you are interested in reading more about Karve's life and work, you can download the PDFs of his autobiographical works and other writings from the following sources:


  • Atmavrutta, the Marathi autobiography of Karve, published in 1928.



  • Looking Back, the English autobiography of Karve, published in 1936.



  • Reminiscences, the English translation of some chapters of Atmavrutta, published in 1962.



  • The Story of My Life, the English translation of some chapters of Atmavrutta, published in 1963.



  • The Story of My Social Work, the English translation of some chapters of Atmavrutta, published in 1964.



  • The Story of My Education Work, the English translation of some chapters of Atmavrutta, published in 1964.



  • The Story of My Family Life, the English translation of some chapters of Atmavrutta, published in 1964.



  • The Story of My Religious Life, the English translation of some chapters of Atmavrutta, published in 1964.



Conclusion




Dhondo Keshav Karve was a social reformer and educator who dedicated his life to the cause of women's welfare in India. He challenged the orthodox Hindu norms and practices that oppressed and exploited women, especially widows. He married a widow himself and supported widow remarriage. He founded the first women's university in India and promoted women's education in various fields. He also worked for village primary education, caste abolition, and devdasi eradication.


Karve was a visionary and a pioneer who paved the way for social change and progress in India. He received many awards and honours for his contribution to society and humanity. He left behind a legacy of social reform and education that continues to inspire generations of Indians.


If you want to learn more about this great personality and his work, you can download his autobiographical works and other writings from the sources mentioned above. You can also watch the films, plays, and documentaries based on his life and work ```html and documentaries. You can also visit his institutions and museums to see his work and achievements first-hand.


Karve was a great sage and a great human being who devoted his life to the service of humanity. He was a role model and a source of inspiration for all of us. He showed us how to live with courage, compassion, and conviction. He taught us how to respect and empower women and how to create a just and progressive society. He deserves our admiration and gratitude.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about Dhondo Keshav Karve and their answers:


What was the name of Karve's first wife and how did she die?


  • Karve's first wife was Radhabai, whom he married in 1874 when he was 16 years old and she was 10 years old. They had three sons together. Radhabai died in 1891 due to complications during childbirth.



What was the name of Karve's second wife and how did he meet her?


  • Karve's second wife was Godubai, a widow who was 23 years old and had a son from her previous marriage. She was the daughter of his friend Hari Narayan Aptekar, who had died in 1890. Karve married her in 1893 with the support of Vishnushastri Pandit, the founder of the Widow Remarriage Association.



What was the original name of SNDT Women's University and when was it founded?


  • The original name of SNDT Women's University was Indian Women's University. It was founded by Karve in 1916 with only five students and two teachers in a rented bungalow in Pune. It later changed its name to Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women's University in honour of its benefactor.



What were the awards and honours received by Karve on his 100th birthday?


  • Karve received two awards and honours on his 100th birthday in 1958. He received the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, by the Government of India. He also received a postage stamp commemorating his centenary by the Indian Postal Service.



What are some of the films, plays, and documentaries based on Karve's life and work?


  • Some of the films, plays, and documentaries based on Karve's life and work are: The Story of Dr. Karve (1958), a documentary film directed by Neil Gokhale and Ram Gabale; Himalayachi Saavli (1972), a Marathi play by Vasant Kanetkar; Dhyaas Parva (2001), a Marathi film by Amol Palekar; Atmavrutta (1928) and Looking Back (1936), the autobiographical works of Karve in Marathi and English respectively.



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