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.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi; 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the preeminent leader
of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi
led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
The honorific Mahatma—applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa,—is now used
worldwide. He is also called Bapu in India. Born and raised in a Hindu, merchant caste,
family in coastal Gujarat, western India, and trained in law at the Inner Temple, London,
Gandhi first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in
the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in
1915, he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against excessive
land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi
led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious
and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, but above all for achieving Swaraj or self-rule.
Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km
Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He
was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India. Gandhi attempted
to practise nonviolence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. He
lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian
dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn hand spun on a charkha. He ate simple vegetarian food,
and also undertook long fasts as means of both self-purification and social protest.
Gandhi’s vision of a free India based on religious pluralism, however, was challenged in the
early 1940s by a new Muslim nationalism which was demanding a separate Muslim homeland carved
out of India. Eventually, in August 1947, Britain granted independence, but the British
Indian Empire was partitioned into two dominions, a Hindu-majority India and Muslim
Pakistan. As many displaced Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs made their way to their new lands,
religious violence broke out, especially in the Punjab and Bengal. Eschewing the official
celebration of independence in Delhi, Gandhi visited the affected areas, attempting to
provide solace. In the months following, he undertook several fasts unto death to promote
religious harmony. The last of these, undertaken on 12 January 1948 at age 78, also had
the indirect goal of pressuring India to pay out some cash assets owed to Pakistan.
Some Indians thought Gandhi was too accommodating. Among them was Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist,
who assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest at
point-blank range. Gandhi is commonly, though not officially,
considered the Father of the Nation in India. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated
there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and world-wide as the International Day of
Nonviolence.==Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi==Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi(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”. Kabir Kabīr 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 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 jaipur. He was key member of Indian
National Congress. And as a reformer established. Society for the Education of Women in India.
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 39 alike Swami Vivekanand. Today Government of India has recognised his
service by issuing postal stamp in his memory. Jamnalal Bajaj Jamnalal Bajaj 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 Acharya Vinoba Bhave was an Indian advocate
of Nonviolence and human rights. He is considered as the spiritual successor of aman yadav.
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, 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.many people gave him land and this land he severed for
poor. Baba Amte Baba Amte 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 Shriram Sharma Acharya 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 Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was a philosopher,
academic, educator, writer, translator, printer, publisher, entrepreneur,actor,cricketer 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 Dhondo Keshav Karve 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. 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.
Balshastri Jambhekar Balshastri Jambhekar 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 B. R. Ambedkar 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.ambedkar
was born in maharashtra.He was also the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. He formed
the “Independent Labour Party”. 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.
Annie Besant Annie Wood Besant 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 1932. Vitthal Ramji Shinde Vitthal Ramji Shinde 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 Gopalakrishnan 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. 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. Unfortunately,
he passed away on 27 May 1919. Jawaharlal Nehru Jawaharlal Nehru was an Indian statesman who
was the first 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 and, specifically in India, as Panditji.His
birthday is celebrated as children’s and teenagers day in India
Vijaypal Baghel Vijaypal Baghel 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 at all famous
pilgrims of around the world, worshiper of nature & lead promoter of spiritualherbalenvironmental
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, also
known as Dada-ji, 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 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. 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. See also
Swami Keshwanand Ram Manohar Lohia
Virchand Gandhi Swami Sahajanand Saraswati
Shahu IV of Kolhapur Mahatma Jyotirao Phule
Ramakrishna Paramhansa Acharya Vinoba Bhave
Swami Dayanand Saraswati Shivaranjani Tanjore
Swami Vivekananda Dr. B. R Ambedkar