maharshi dhondo keshav karve biography

maharshi dhondo keshav karve (1858-1962)


          Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve was born in Murud, a small village in the Konkan region of Maharashtra, in a middle-class family. His father, Keshav Bappunna Karve, was manager of a small estate in Ratnagiri district, getting a meagre salary.

maharshi dhondo keshav karve
maharshi dhondo keshav karve
Dhondo (later known as Annasaheb) had his primary education in .his village Murud. Later he went to Bombay and joined Robert Money School and passed the Matriculation examination rather late in 1881 at the age of twenty-three, due to certain personal and family circumstances. He, however, obtained good marks and was able to join the prestigious Elphinston College, Bombay, from where he passed B.A. examination in 1884. Mathematics was his favourite subject.
While still a student, Dhondo was married at the age of fifteen (1873) to a nine-year-old girl Radhabai. Ten years after marriage their first son Raghunath was born. TWO more Sons were born later.
After graduation, Dhondo settled in Bombay and started his career as a teacher. From 1888 to 1891, he taught mathematics in the Cathedral Girl’s High School, the Alexandra High School and the Maratha High School, Bombay. In September 1891, Karve joined Fergusson College, Poona, as professor of mathematics. There he came in close Contact with Gokhale who had a very high opinion of Karve. Unfortunately, the same year (1891) his wife Radhabai died. Karve was heartbroken but busied himself with his teaching work. In April 1892, he was elected a Life Member of the Deccan Education Society. He taught in Fergusson College for twenty-one years and retired in 1914.
While still teaching at the Fergusson College, Karve had been devoting his time for social work. He was much influenced by the work done by Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, for the emancipation of Hindu Widows in Bengal. In Maharashtra also, Pandita Ramabai had opened Sharda Sadan in 1889 for giving education to widows in Poona. Ramabai had been converted to Christianity and was getting money from foreign missions. Karve wanted to help widows while remaining in the fold of Hinduism. To set an example, Karve married Godubai, a widow, in March 1893. The couple was ex-communicated by the orthodox Brahmin community to which Karve belonged. But both of them showed exemplary Courage and weathered the Storm. He was now determined to change social opinion about widow marriage. He founded a society in 1893, Vidhva vivahottejak Mandali (Society for the Promotion of Widow Marriages). In 1895, the name of the society was changed to ‘Vidhva Pratibandh Nivarak Mandali’ (Society for the Removal of Obstacles to Widow Marriages). Karve toured all over Maharashtra to popularize widow marriage. He also collected donations for the ‘Mandali’. Karve’s efforts for the emancipation of widows were bearing fruit. Gradually people began to appreciate the need to help these unfortunate women rejected by society for no fault of theirs. In 1898, he started the Mahila Ashram (Widows Home) in Poona, a home for destitute women where they could live safely and with dignity. In 1900, the ashram was shifted to Hingne, a village ten kilometers from Poona, where it still functions.
Karve soon realized that unless women, including widows, were educated, their condition and status could not be improved, nor would they be able to fend for themselves. With great foresight he reasoned that if girls were sent to school, their marriages could be postponed thus reducing the possibility of child marriage and early widowhood. Karve was convinced that education was the key to the emancipation of women. With this Object in mind, he started Mahila Vidyalaya, a residential school for girls in 1907. The school not only taught the three ‘Rs’ but also imparted training in different skills to make women self-reliant and self-confident. The ashram and the school became the centre of social reform. Here Widows did not lead a life of misery and helplessness. They looked forward to a meaningful and exciting future. Educated widows were trained to take up teaching and administrative jobs in the school and the ashram. Some students even took up jobs outside the ashram. The success of the ashram and the unique school earned the admiration of several important personalities. The renowned Indologist R.G. Bhandarkar became the honorary president of the Ashram.1 The news about the work being done for women, especially the widows, reached the far shores of South Africa. Gandhi, who was in South Africa at that time, wrote in the Indian Opinion, “Thousands of widows, mostly among Hindus, spend their whole life to no purpose. To that extent the wealth of India is being wasted. To prevent this waste, the benevolent Prof. Karve of Poona has dedicated his life to the country. He has been running, for several years, an institution in Poona for the education of widows. There, women are given training in midwifery and nursing. The work of the institution has been expanding. Because he is rendering honorary service himself, he is able to get similar assistance from others too. Moreover, he goes about from place to place collecting funds. There are so many things which can be done through sheer self help and without Government aid”.
In 1908, maharshi dhindo keshav  Karve started ‘Nishkam Karma Math, a self-sacrificing institution to train workers for the ashram and Mahila Vidyalaya. In 1914, Karve, who was now endearingly being addressed as ‘Annasaheb’ by his admirers, retired from Fergusson College. Now he was free t0 devote all his time to the working and development of the institutions which, almost single-handed, he had established. Inspired by the Women’s University of Tokyo, Annasaheb founded the Indian Women’s University in Poona (later it was shifted to Bombay) in 1916. The following year, a training college for primary school teachers was added. Karve became its first principal. To run a university required more money than what Annasaheb had imagined. But a huge donation came from an unexpected source, which gave the university a stable base. The donation was from Seth Vithaldas Thackersey. While giving the donation, he had requested that the university should be known as Shrimati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey and should be located in Bombay. Thus S.N.D.T. Women's University came about and is one of the leading universities in the country financed now by the University Grants Commission. Recently it has moved to its new campus in Bombay
       Annasaheb’s name as a social worker and as an educationist was now known outside India. He was invited by several social and educational organizations in England and Europe to address select gatherings. He left for England in March, 1929. He attended the Primary Teachers Conference and later spoke on Education for Women in India, at a meeting of the East India Association at Caxton Hall, London. From July to August, he was in Europe and spoke on The Indian Experiment in Higher Education for Women' in Geneva and Elsinore, Denmark. From Europe he went to America and delivered lectures and exchanged views at several places on women's education and social reform in general with particular reference to India. He returned to India via Japan, where he visited Women's University in Tokyo which had inspired him to start a similar university in India resulting in the establishment of S.N.D.T. He had been collecting money for his Women's University wherever he went. He returned to India in April 1930. In December the same year Karve left for Africa. He visited Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar and South Africa, collecting money for his institutions as usual. He was back in India in March 1932.
     He was in his seventies now, an age at which most people ideally retire. But Annasaheb was still very active, planning to do still more for widows, for women and for society at large. With the funds which he had collected during his foreign tours, he started the Maharashtra Gram Prathmic Shikshan Mandal in 1936. The Mandal took up the task of opening schools in villages, – a field which Karve felt, he had neglected because he had been busy with widows' problems and women's education. Another important organization was established by him in 1944, the Samata Sangh. The aim of the Samata Sangh was to preach equality among men and inculcate the feeling of oneness in society. This was essentially a fight against caste distinctions and untouchability which was prevalent in Maharashtra in extreme form. Soon three hundred like- minded persons joined the Samata Sangh to spread its message of equality and fellow-feeling.
Many honours were bestowed upon Annasaheb during his long life. Banaras Hindu University awarded him a D. Litt. So did S.N.D.T. University and Bombay University. On his ninety-first birthday, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, president of India, presented him a purse of rupees one lakhs which he distributed among the institutions founded by him. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1955 and Bharat Ratna in 1958. On the occasion Jawaharlal Nehru attended the main function in Bombay. Nehru in a brief` speech observed, “Who am I in front of his personality? I have come to seek his blessings. We will be lucky if we can inculcate even a small bit of his great qualities _ dedication and simplicity.” Doordarshan made a film on his life and achievements. He was called a Maharishi (the great sage) by his admirers and fellow workers'
Karve died on 9 November 1962 at the age of 104 leaving behind him a chain of memorabilia in the form of ashrams, schools and a university. Not many persons in India have done so much for widows and female education as Karve did in his long life.

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