Bishwa Nath Singh
Let us remember the great social reformer of his time in India in the recent past, a very strict disciplinarian who use to pay money for his food even to his son and use to ask them to spend the money in social work! He was champion for the cause of women education in India. He always pleaded for widows’ marriage and was against c...aste system. Prior to his tenure, as per tradition Hindu social mores used to discourage education of girls, and parents routinely married off their daughters often before their puberty usually to young boys, but at times even to grown-up widowers. Social mores also disallowed remarriages of widows so that if a breadwinning man died, his widow's remaining life would turn bleak because, lacking education, she could not support herself. The widow had to spend her life serving the household of her late husband's relatives. The great figure was one of the pioneers in India in breaking with extraordinary fortitude and perseverance the above harsh social mores against womankind. He had promoted education of women and freedom for widows to remarry if they wished to do so. The Government of India had recognized his reform work by awarding him its highest civilian award, “Bhārat Ratna” in 1958, the year in which, incidentally, he completed his 100 years of life. He lived for one hundred four years. The appellation, Maharshi, which the Indian public often assigned to him means “a great sage”. Those who knew that great man affectionately called him as Annā Karve. In Marāthi-speaking community, to which he belonged, the appellation Annā is often used to address one's either father or an elder brother.He was non else than Bharat Ratna who was a pioneer in promoting women's education and the right for widows to remarry. The Government of India awarded him its highest civilian award, Bhārat Ratna, in 1958, the year he had turned hundred years old.
(Photo of Bharat Ratna Maharshi Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve)
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Bishwa Nath Singh:
Maharshi Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve who was popularly known as Annasaheb Karve was born on April 18, 1858 at Sheravali, Khed Tālukā of Ratnāgiri district in Mahārāshtra. He was a native of Murud in the Konkan region. He was born in a lower mi...ddle-class Chitpāvan Brahmin family. His father's name was Keshav Bāpunnā Karve. In his autobiography, he wrote of his struggle to appear in a certain public service examination, walking 110 miles in torrential rain and difficult terrain to the nearest city of Sātārā, and his shattering disappointment at not being allowed to appear for the examination because he looked too young.He had studied at Elphinstone College in Bombay (Mumbai) to receive a bachelor's degree in MathematicsMany things had happened in his life and given a different turn to his career. He had described his high school and, later, college education at The Wilson College Bombay (Mumbai) narrating various incidents that convinced him of the role of destiny and serendipity in shaping his life and career as a teacher and then Professor of Mathematics. He married at the age of fourteen but began his marital life at the age of twenty! He was married at the age of fourteen while his wife was then eight. Her family lived very near to Karve’s family.. His marital life began under the parental roof at Murud when he was twenty years old. Radhabhai died in 1891 during childbirth at age 27, leaving behind a young son named Raghunath Karve. Raghunath became a visionary social reformer.An incident highlighting the plight of a widow left an indelible impression on him and germinated in him the idea of widow remarriage. He married Godubai, who was widowed when she was only eight years old, was a sister of his friend Mr. Joshi, and now twenty three was studying at Pandita Ramabai’s Sharada Sadan as its first widow student. When he had described to his father that as he had already made up his mind to marry a widow.His father sat silent for a minute and then hinted that there was no need to go in search of such a bride.He had faced strong opposition from some orthodox quarters and systematically enunciates his life work – his organization of the Widow Marriage Association, Hindu Widows Home, Mahila Vidyalaya, Nishkama Karma Math, and other institutions, culminating in the birth of the first Indian Women’s University (SNDT University). In 1893, Karve founded Widhawā-Wiwāhottejak Mandali, which, besides encouraging marriages of widows, also helped the needy children of widows. In 1895, the institution was renamed as Widhawā-Wiwāha-Pratibandh-Niwārak Mandali (Society to Remove Obstacles to Marriages of Widows). He had established a Hindu Widows' Home Association in 1896 and started in Hingane, a village then in the outskirts of Pune in Maharashtra, Mahilāshram, a shelter and a school for women, including widows. He started Mahilā Vidyālaya in 1907; the following year, he started Nishkām Karma Math to train workers for the Widows Home and the Mahila Vidyalaya.The trials and tribulations he faced in his life-work of emancipation of education of women-widows in particular and how he overcame them by his persistent steadfast endeavors and indomitable spirit makes illuminating reading and underlines the fact that Dr. DK Karve was no arm-chair social reformer but a person devoted to achieve his dreams on the ground in reality. During 1891-1914, He had taught Mathematics at Fergusson College in Pune in Maharashtra State of India. The work of Pandita Ramabai inspired Karve to dedicate his life to the cause of female education, and the work of Pandit Vishnushāstri and Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyāsāgar inspired him to work for uplifting the status of widows. During 1917–1918, Karve established a Training College for Primary School Teachers and another school for girls, named Kanyā Shālā.In 1920, an industrialist and philanthropist from Mumbai, Sir Vithaldās Thāckersey, donated Karve's university 1.5 million Indian rupees --a substantial sum in those days-- and the university was then renamed as Shreemati Nāthibāi Dāmodar Thāckersey Indian Women’s University or SNDT Women's University.In March 1929, Karve left for a tour in England. He attended the Primary Teachers' Conference at Malvern, and spoke on Education of Women in India at a meeting of the East India Association at Caxton Hall, London. During 25 July - 4 August 1929, he attended an educational conference in Geneva, and spoke on The Indian Experiment in Higher Education for Women. During 8 - 21 August, he attended in Elsinor the international meeting of educationists under the auspices of the New Education Fellowship.During his subsequent tour of America, Karve lectured at various forums on women's education and social reforms in India. He also visited the Women's University in Tokyo. He returned to India in April 1930.In December 1930, Karve left for a fifteen-month tour in Africa to spread information about his work for women in India. He visited Mombasa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganayika, Zanzibar, Portuguese East Africa, and South Africa .In 1931, the SNDT University established its first college in Mumbai, and moved its headquarters to Mumbai five years later. In 1936, Karve started the Maharashtra Village Primary Education Society with the goal of opening primary schools in villages which had no schools run by the District Local Boards. He also encouraged maintenance of reading habits of adults in villages. In 1944, he founded the Samatā Sangh (Association for the Promotion of Human Equality).In 1949, the Government of India recognized SNDT University as a statutory university.The SNDT University and other educational institutions for women started by Karve currently cover the spectrum ranging from pre-primary schools to colleges in humanities, sciences, engineering, architecture, and business management. Besides dedicating his life to the emancipation of women in India, Karve stood for the abolition of the caste system and the curse of untouchables in the Hindu society. His twenty year old widowed sister-in-law, Pārwtibāi Āthawale, was the first widow to join his school. After finishing her education, she joined him as the first lady superintendent of the then Hindu Widows' Home Association.After reading information about Japan Women's University in Tokyo, Japan, Karve felt inspired to establish in 1916 in Pune the first university for women in India, with just five students. The curriculum was tailored to the aptitudes of Maharshi, which the Indian public often assigned to Karve, means ”a great sage "Annā" is often used to address either one's father or an elder brother. He had written two autobiographical works: Ātmawrutta in Marathi in 1928 and Looking Back in English in 1936. He had ended the latter with the words that here ends the story of his life with hope that this simple story will serve some useful purpose.He was recipients of many awards notably Bannaras Hindu University (BHU) had awarded him D.Litt in 1942, Pune University D.Litt. in 1951,S.N.D.T. University D.Litt. in 1954, India’s second highest civilian award Padma Vibhushan in 1955 by Govt. of India, University of Mumbai had awarded him LL.D. in 1957 and Our country’s highest civilian award ‘Bharat Ratna’ in 1958 by the President of India.He had passed away on November 9, 1962 at the age of one hundred four at Pune in Maharashtra State of India lraving behind millions to mour his death.Let us join to pay our respectful homage to him!