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Mahadev Govind Ranade biography

Mahadev Govind Ranade

(1842-1901)

biography

Mahadev Govind Ranade
Mahadev Govind Ranade
Mahadev Govind Ranade was born on 18 January 1842 at Niphad in Nasik district of Maharashtra, in a middle class Chitpawan Brahmin family. His father, Govind Rao Ranade, was a clerk in the office of the deputy collector at Ahmednagar but later joined Kolhapur state service as karbhari (administrator). Mahadev was a quiet child; nothing excited him, a trait which he carried throughout his life.

At the age of six, Mahadev was sent to a Marathi school in Kolhapur, but in 1851 he was transferred to an English school, also in Kolhapur. After studying there for six years, he was sent to Bombay to join the Elphinstone institution. His academic record in the Institution was so good that the following year he was admitted to Elphinstone College. In 1859, he passed the matriculation examination of the Bombay University He graduated with first class honours in history and economics in 1862; passed M.A. in 1864, winning a gold medal. The same year he passed the L.L.B. examination with first class honours. Throughout his college career he was a scholarship holder.
After passing his L.L.B. Ranade decided to join government service in preference to his own legal practice. He began his service career as a Marathi translator in the Education Department, government of Bombay in 1866 at the age of twenty-four. His job included keeping the government informed about any new Marathi literature that was published. That gave him an opportunity to study modern Marathi literature. For some time, in 1867, he served as karbhari and a few months later as nyayaadhish (judge) in Kolhapur state. But the following year he carne back to Bombay as assistant professor of English literature and history in the Elphinstone College, and served there till 1871. At the same time he undertook some temporary assignments such as that of a judge in the Small Causes Court1 police magistrate and high court Deputy. In 1871, he also passed the Advocates Examination; left the College service and joined as a magistrate in Bombay. Judicial service was to his liking it seems, and he went up the ladder, step by step. In November 1871 he was appointed subordinate judge in Poona. In 1873, he was confirmed as first grade sub-judge. In January 1881, he was appointed additional presidency magistrate, Bombay. He was also entrusted with inspection duty in Poona and Satara districts under the Deccan Agriculturists Relief Act. This gave him an opportunityto come in direct contact with the farmers and gain deep knowledge about their problems. In 1887, he was appointed special judge under the Deccan of the Ryot’s Relief Act. In 1893, he was elevated to the bench of the Bombay high court as a judge, the post which he held till his death in January: 1901.
In recognition of his knowledge of legal matters, he was nominated as law member of the Bombay Legislative Council (1885-86); was re-nominated again in 1890 and 1893. In 1886-87, he was nominated as a member of the Finance Commission. In February 1887, he was made a C.I.E.
In His work in the judiciary left ample time for him to study and to participate in social activities. For that purpose he established many societies 1862; and even founded some journals. Like other Moderates, he believed that British rule in India was a boon for the country and it would be in the interest of the country to maintain the British connection. He was thus against agitational politics. He believed that social transformation must precede political reforms and worked towards that end throughout his life. When the Indian National Congress was formed in 1885, Ranade unofficial joined it, and attended its every session till the last years of his life. Though not a politician (his official position would not allow him to be) he was a profound student of politics and took part in the policy making of the Congress by offering his views and suggestions. But soon the Moderates, Who believed in the constitutional means to achieve political reforms, came into conflict with the Extremists led by Tilak who wanted to free the country through agitation, and, if need be, through violence. As long as Ranade was alive, he did not allow the schism between the two Wings of the Congress to come in the open and worked all the time for a compromise. But after Ranade’s death the Moderates started manipulating the affairs of the Congress to their advantage and captured the Congress. Their hold on the Congress lasted till the death of the two leading Moderates, Gokhale and Pherozeshah Mehta.
As an educationist Ranade took keen interest in the education of girls.He started a girl’s high school at Hazur Paga in Poona, and a girl’s training college (1884). He also took active part in the Deccan Education Society started by Tilak and G.G. Agarkar (1884) and was one of the patrons of the society. Ranade was also associated with the University of Bombay. As a member of the University Senate and Syndicate as well as dean of the Faculty of Arts, he advocated for the inclusion of Marathi in the university curriculum and succeeded in his efforts. To spread education beyond the classroom, he started several associations like Elocution Encouraging Association, the Poona Summer Lectures, Vernacular Literature Encouragement Association, Industrial Conference and Exhibition, Native General Library etc.
Besides being a social reformer, a moderate politician and an educationist, Ranade was a distinguished economist along with two of these contemporaries, Dadabhai Naoroji and R.C. Dutt. The views of these three were identical, hovering around the ‘Drain Theory’. Ranade pointed out that the maxims and principles of British economic Writers would not apply to the conditions 0f our country. He also emphasized the role which the government must play towards the economic development of the country. Ranade’s role in the growth of the Indian Economic Conference was significant. Before writing on the economic history of India, he studied the conditions of agriculture and peasantry in detail and became an authority on questions of land revenue, land tenure and land improvement. Ranade’s economic writings consist of twelve essays on Indian economics (1898), fifteen articles in the journal of Poona Sarvajanik Sabha (1878-1894) togetherwithhisbooks, Report on the Material Conditions in the Maratha Districts (1872); Currencies and Mints Under Maratha Rule, A Review Manual of the British Empire in India (1878), which was a compilationof hisarticleshewrotefromtimetotimeinthe Indu Prakash.
Ranade was a keen student of Maratha history. This subject occupied his attention almost till his last days, as his Rise of the Maratha Power was published in 1900, and his studies of the heyday and decline of that power remained incomplete which he had planned jointly with K.T.Telang. Ranade, in his writings on Maratha history, tried to rectify the mistakes and misrepresentations of British writers like Grant Duff, who had depended mainly on Persian sources. The tradition among the British writers of Indian history was to regard the part played by the Marathas of little consequence. Ranade pointed out that it was a serious error of judgment and a deliberate suppression of facts. He proved beyond doubt that the British had to defeat the Marathas to establish their rule in India
Ranade also found time for journalism. He was editor of the English columns of the Indu Prakash, Bombay, and an Anglo-Marathi daily devoted to reforming the Indian society of its inherent evils. From 1878 to 1896, he regularly contributed to the Quarterly Journal of the Sarvajanik Sabha, Poona, which was edited by S.H. Chiplunkar. He wrote on many topics but the main emphasis was on social reform. In the first volume of the journal he contributed as many as forty-one articles.
But his title to being a great man must rest upon the social purposes he served and on the way he served them. On that there can be no doubt. Ranade is known more as a social reformer than as a historian, economist or educationist. His whole life was nothing but a relentless campaign for social reform. Ranade had both the vision and the courage which the reformer needs." His methods included meetings, missions, lectures, sermons, articles, interviews, letters, all carried with unrelenting zeal. He worked mainly through organizations: Prarthana Sabha, Bombay; Sarvajanik Sabha, Poona, (It was captured by Tilakites in 1895 and the reformers led by Ranade formed another Sabha, naming it the Deccan Sabha) and above all through National Social Conference which Ranade founded in 1887. Its annual sessions were held along with those of the Indian National Congress in the same venue. Ranade presided over most of its sessions, delivering scintillating speeches exhorting people to realize the importance of social reform. In one of his speeches he said, “You cannot be liberal by halves. You cannot be liberal in politics and conservative in religion. The heart and head must go together. It is an idle dream to expect men to remain enchained and enshakled in their own superstition and social evils, while they are struggling hard to win rights and privileges from their rulers. Before long these vain dreamers will find their dreams lost.
Ranade tried to cooperate and respect other social reformers of his time like Nana Sankarset, Vishnusastri Pandit, Jotirao Phule, Dadaba Pandurang and Balsastri Jabhekar. In 1875, Ranade organized Swami Dayanand’s visits to Poona. He found much to support in Dayanand’s programme. Both Ranade and Jotirao Phule walked in the procession in honour of the swami in Poona. This procession was disrupted by the orthodox section and some participants were injured. This shows the kind of antagonism the reformers had to face. Ranade was instrumental in publishing fifteen lectures which the swami delivered in Poona. Ranade continued to correspond with the swami even after he had left Poona. Swami, in turn, showed his admiration for and trusts in Ranade by including his name among the trustees of his will.
While still studying in school, Ranade had been married to Sakubai who died of consumption in 1876. His second marriage was with eleven-year-old girl Ramabai. He was thirty-three. Although he advocated widow marriage strongly and opposed child marriage with equal sincerity, it is ironic that he himself was unable to put his beliefs into practice. This was very much resented by his followers and supporters. Criticism was voiced even by Indu Prakash. However, it must be said in his defence that he educated his illiterate child-wife and groomed her to do social work, and in the process she became a famous social worker in her own right. She was president of the Bombay and Poona Sevasadans for a number of years and did commendable work. She died in 1924 – outliving her husband by twenty-three years.
Ranade was a dominant figure in Western India in the late nineteenth century and exerted tremendous influence in almost all fields; social, religious, economic, educational and even political. It is regrettable that social reformers do not get the praise and honour which they deserve. The hard work began to tell on Ranade’s health. In 1900, he was unable to attend the Session of the Social Conference at Lahore _ the only session which he missed since its inception in 1887. He was suffering from heart ailment. The end came on 16 January 1901. He was fifty-nine.

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