Maharishi Vitthal Ramji Shinde He was the most important social and religious reformer of the state of Maharashtra. His greatest contribution was to try to remove the practice of untouchability and bring equality among the depressed classes in Indian society.
Vitthal Ramji Shinde was born on 23 April 1873 in the princely state of Jamkhandi, located in Karnataka, India. His early childhood was influenced by an eclectic family environment. Vitthal Ramji Shinde was influenced by the writings of many intellectuals such as John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer and Max Muller.
In 1898, Vitthal Ramji Shinde received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Fergusson College in Pune. He passed the LLB examination and moved to Mumbai (Bombay). Later he left the LLB course. In the same year he joined Prarthana Samaj, where he joined G.B. Kotkar, Shivrampant Gokhale, Justice Mahadev Govinda Ranade, Sir Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar and K.B. Inspired by the Marathas. He became a missionary for the Prarthana Samaj.
The Prarthana Samaj chose Vitthal Ramji Shinde to go to England in 1901 to study comparative religion at Manchester College, Oxford, which was founded by the Unitarian Church. Progressive and reformist, the Maharaja of Baroda ‘Sayajirao Gaekwad III’ provided some financial assistance for his foreign travels.
life and work
After his return from England in 1903, Vitthal Ramji Shinde devoted his life to religious social reforms. He continued his missionary work for the Prarthana Samaj. His efforts were mainly devoted to the removal of untouchability in India. In 1905 he established a night school for the children of untouchables in Pune and in 1906 he founded the “Depressed Classes Mission” in Mumbai (Bombay). Apart from this, in 1910 he founded the Murli Bananak Sabha and organized the “Untouchability Prevention Council” in 1912, in 1922 the mission’s Ahalyashram building in Pune was completed. In 1917 he succeeded in getting the Indian National Congress to pass a resolution condemning the practice of untouchability.
Vitthal Ramji Shinde organized the All India Convention for the Prevention of Untouchability from 1918 to 1920. Some of these conferences were convened under the presidency of Mahatma Gandhi and Maharaja Sahyajirao Gaikwad. His written dialogues with Mahatma Gandhi are remarkable.
In 1919 Vitthal Ramji Shinde gave evidence before the Southborough Franchise Committee, demanding special representation for the untouchable castes. In 1923 he resigned as executive of the ‘Depressed Classes Mission’ because members of some untouchable castes wanted their own leaders to manage the affairs of the mission. His work and association with the mission continued, even though he was disappointed with the separatist attitude of the leaders of the untouchables, especially Dr. B.R. under the leadership of Ambedkar.
Like Mahatma Gandhi, Vitthal Ramji Shinde wanted unity between the untouchables and the Hindu caste, fearing that the British rule would take advantage of such divisions in Indian society and exploit them for their own gain. In 1930 he participated in Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Civil Disobedience Movement’ and was jailed for 6 months in ‘Yerwada Central Jail’ near Pune.
In 1933 Vitthal Ramji Shinde’s book Bhartiya Asrishti Prachar was published. His thought and examination of Hinduism and social culture was similar to that of ‘Raja Ram Mohan Roy’ and ‘Dayanand Saraswati’. In his writings, he opposed the caste system, idol worship and inequality against women and the downtrodden. He opposed redundant rituals, the dominance of hereditary priesthood and the need for a priest to mediate between the Lord and His devotees.
Depressed Classes Mission of India established
Vitthal Ramji Shinde was a prominent campaigner of the Dalit movement in India, who founded the Depressed Classes Mission of India to provide education to the Dalits. He laid the foundation of the Depressed Classes Mission on 18 October 1906 to work against untouchability at the national level. The objectives of this mission were as follows-
- Trying to get rid of untouchability.
- To provide educational facilities to the untouchables.
- Starting schools, hostels and hospitals for the untouchables.
- to solve their social problems.
Many schools and hostels were established by this mission.
Maharishi Vitthal Ramji Shinde died on 2 January 1944.