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Women , caste and reform
Position of women in 18th Century
Child marriage was prevalent wherein young girls were married to the much elder grooms.
Girls were not allowed to get education.
Female infanticide and polygamy was also practiced.
Sati system was prevalent.
Change in the position of women:
1. Western education changed the thinking patterns throughout the society. People started
talking about rationalism, humanism and equality.
2. Number of social customs against these ideas were challenged.
3. British thought its their moral duty to make Indians more civilized, therefore they started
passing many acts for social reforms.
4. Few educated women contributed towards uplifting status of the women in Indian society.
Education for girls:
1. Hindu Balika vidyalaya by Bethune in Calcutta. No men was allowed in this school , transport
was also provided for the safety of girls. This encouraged parents to send their daughters to
the school.
2. Begum Rokeya started school for Muslim girls in Patna and Lucknow.
Movement against child marriage:
Bad effects of child marriage:
1. Girls were married at a very young age, when even the meaning of marriage was not clear to
2. Their education were discontinued.
3. As their body was not prepared for child birth, so bearing child added to their health issues.
4. Child marriage was also responsible for early widowhood.
1. In 1860 , the marriageable age for girls were increased to 10 years.
2. Due to the efforts of Behramji Malabari age of consent act was passed in 1891, according to
this marriageable age was increased to 12 years for girls.
3. Sarad Act 1929 further increased marriageable age for girls to 14 and boys 18 years.
Movement against sati
In 1829 Lord William Bentinck passed the act to ban sati system mainly due to the efoorta of Raja
Ram Mohan Roy.
Movement for Widow re marriage
Condition of widows were very bad in the society. They were not allowed to re marry, they were mis
treated during functions and religious ceremonies. There presence were considered bad omen.
Widow re marriage act was passed in the year 1856 mainly due to the efforts of Ishwar Chander
Vidhya sagar.
Caste system
Indian society was divided into various rigid caste groups. Shudras and out castes were supposed to
serve upper three castes. They were not treated equally and were not allowed to use public well or
areas. Neither were they allowed to get education nor any privilege of the society.
Changes in the caste system:
Following reasons were responsible for the changes in the caste system:
1. Uniform legal, administrative and political system brought sense of equality.
2. In mass public transport like trains people of different caste groups travelled together and
started interacting.
3. Western education brought in the ideas of equality and dignity of human life.
4. Due to decline in traditional occupations people started moving to cities and towns, further
weakening caste barriers.
Major Reformers- East India
Raja ram Mohan Roy:
Called as the Father of modern India.
He started Atmiya Sabha and later Brahmo Samaj.
He believed in monotheism and was scholar of many languages.
He worked to improve the position of women in the society and his efforts lead to the
banning of sati system
5. He promoted widow re marriage and education for girls.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar:
He has an important role in passing of widow remarriage act .
He also worked for girls’ education. He opened many girls school in Calcutta.
He encouraged non Brahman students to study Sanskrit.
He was absolutely against the caste system.
Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna mission
1. Swami Vivekananda was a famous social reformer of Bengal region.
2. According to him god is present in everything , so we must serve everyone.
3. He opened Ramakrishna mission in Belur near Calcutta. The mission opened number of
schools for all the sections of the society.
Major Reformers- West India
Ranade, Bhandarkar and Prarthna Samaj: M.G. Ranade and R.G. Bhandarkar founded the
Prarthana Samaj. It condemned discrimination against women and worked for their upliftment.
Jyotiba Phule and Satya Shodhak Samaj
1. In 1873 Jyotibha Phule started Satya Shodhak Samaj to improve the position of oppressed
classes. He worked for caste equality.
2. He worked for the education of the lower caste as he was of the opinion that due to
illiteracy lower caste is dominated by Brahmins.
Ambedkar and the movement against untouchability
1. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar organised All Indian scheduled caste Federation to fight against
oppression of the lower caste.
2. He also campaigned for the rights of lower caste to use public well and temples.
3. To spread education among lower caste he established the Bahishkrit Hitakarini sabha or
Depressed classes welfare association.
Reformers in North India:
Dayanand Saraswati:
He established Arya samaj in 1875.
The samaj opposed child marriage and encouraged women education.
Widow remarriage was also encouraged.
He also wrote a book Satya Prakash in order to spread true knowledge of Vedas.
Mahatma Gandhi:
1. He worked for the upliftment of harijans or lower caste.
2. He was totally against the practice of untouchability.