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Issue No.: 572 | February 2015
 

Some Contemporaries of Gokhale in Poona

R. Srinivasan
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The example of Gokhale and his dedicated colleagues to foster a new spirit of national idealism among the emerging generation was to have its own fallout effect in different parts of the nation. In the deep south a group of educationists inspired by the Poona intellectuals started a National College to infuse into the young student body ideals of nationalism and patriotism, besides giving them a very good education. In the North, in Punjab, Lala Lajpat Rai founded the People’s Education Society aimed at educating the young and to keep education away from missionary influence. They remained model centres of academic excellence. Poona and the adjoining region was to be the nursery of intellectualism in the 19th century. Many among them were to have an abiding influence in the Bombay region.

Bal Shastri Jhamkedkar (I810-1846)

Bal Shastri Jhamkedkar can be regarded as the first man of letters who had a variety of interests and did extraordinarily well in the subjects that he was interested in. His father was a traditional Pauranik and he became proficient both in Sanskrit and Marathi by the age of thirteen. He was extraordinarily gifted in languages knowing Gujarati, Bengali and Persian. A professor at Elphinstone College he was to have Dadabhai Naoroji as his student. He was also good in science and curiously in astrology – an unusual combination indeed. He studied inscriptions and copper plates and wrote articles on them. His Jnaneswari with variant readings place him among the illustrious scholars of his time.

Lokhitavadi Gopal Hari Deshmukh (1823-1892)

He had perhaps the widest exposure to affairs governmental and political. The British government honoured him and gave him positions of importance. Deeply interested in intellectual self-improvement he was equally involved in social reforms in many directions – women’s education, widow remarriage. He supported Phule’s educational efforts at improving the status of Dalits and women, established the Prarthana Samaj and promoted and encouraged the Arya Samaj.

In his book ‘A Hundred Letters’ which he wrote when he was 25 years of age he explored several aspects of social life and the near irremediable shortcomings of the country.

Jyotiba Phule (1827–1889)

A florist by caste, he joined the local school when he was just seven years of age but studied only for a few years in Marathi and English. He admired the British for being free of bribery. He attributed the misery of the poor to the machinations of the Brahmins. While conceding that not all Brahmins are to blame, he identified Brahminism as the culprit. He had amicable relations with many Brahmins – Shri R. G. Bhandarker was one of them. Not only were the Sudras deprived of opportunities, women from Brahmin families too had the same disabilities. In most of the schools he opened, the teachers were generally Brahmins. teachers.

Just as he critically examined the Hindu religion he looked into Christianity and found their fellow feeling and brotherhood very appealing. He was equally attracted by their gentle deportment. Islam too attracted him for its egalitarianism. Interestingly he did not embrace either of the religions because he was against all religious creeds. His severe criticism of Brahminism made the Christian Church hope that he and his followers would embrace Christianity. When he turned sixty there was a public reception under the auspices of the Governor. He was bestowed the title Mahatma.The Satyashodak Samaj that he founded was another notable achievement. It liberated the people from the machinations of the Brahmins. Yet his followers never never calumniated the upper castes. Man’s intelligence and rationality were extolled. Jyotiba stood for the liberation of man and society in an ultimate sense.

Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar (1850 –1882)

At school he excelled in studies clearing his examinations reaching the matriculation examination in record time. Registering at the Deccan College in 1865, he got his BA degree in 1872. He wanted to dedicate his life to teaching and scholarship. An incomplete translation of Dr. Johnson’s Rasselas was completed by him - His father had begun this but it was lying unfinished. After graduation he started a Marathi monthly ‘Shala Patrak’. He worked on a translation of major Sanskrit poets into Marathi. His severe criticism of government in Shala Patrika displeased the government. He published 84 of his essays Nibandh which remains one of the most celebrated books of essays in Marathi. He had to do all the routine tiring work of composing proof reading etc. He was transferred to Ratnagiri but resigned his job and came to Poona. In 1880 he founded the New English School offering a nationalist perspective in education. Later he found the Arya Bhushan Press.

Gopal Ganesh Agarkar (1856 -1895)

Belonging to an indigent family, he pursued his school education with great difficulty. He passed his B.A.Examination and later the M.A.examination thanks to a fellowship. He became close to Tilak (later the Lokamanya). Interestingly, though belonging to a poor family, he could have aspired for a comfortable job but was satisfied with being a school teacher in Chiplunkar’s New English School. The management of the school started two newspapers, the Kesari and Maratha (1881) Kesari was edited by Agarkar and Maratha by Tilak. Both of them could not get along. The quarrel between the two is of one of the most regrettable happenings in Pune – for instance a funeral procession for Agarkar was arranged when he was alive! With the passing of V. S. Apte, the principal of Ferguson Collage, Agarkar succeeded him. One of the legendary events that gained popularity was the 101 days in Mumbai’s Dongri prison which both Agarkar and Tilak had to undergo. In prison Agarkar translated Hamlet into Marathi.

D. K. Karve (1858-1962)

He belonged to Ratnagiri. He joined Wilson College in 1894 but failed to clear his M.A. examination for five years and had to work in a number of schools. He lost his first wife in 1891 the very year he got a job in Fergusson College where he involved himself deeply in reading about social reform. He became sensitive to the disabilities suffered by women and decided to work for their improvement. He married Godavari, a child widow in 1893 and re-named her Anandi Bai. Because of this he faced ostracism. He faced it stoically, and continued to lecture on the importance of widow marriage. He established the Ananda Balika Ashram in Poona and it gradually gained financial support. He and his associates went on to build hostels for girl students. He expanded the scope and programme of women’s education. He also worked for the improvements in the lives of the depressed classes. In 1955 D. K. Karve was awarded the Padma Vibhushan.

Dr. R. SRINIVASAN retired professor of politics, University of Bombay and 
Associate Editor of Freedom First. 
freedomfirst1952@gmail.com
 
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