Patriots > Social and Religious Reformers > Karve, Dhondo Keshav ( Maharshi )
Karve, Dhondo Keshav ( Maharshi ) (1858-1962)
Maharshi Dhondo Keshav (alias Annasaheb) Karve was born on 18 April 1858 at Sherwali village in Khed taluka of Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra, in a lower middle-class Chitpavan Brahmin family. His father, Keshav Bapunna Karve, was Manager of the Estate of Barve of Koregaon in Ratnagiri district on a meagre salary. Annasaheb was married twice. After the death of his first wife, Radhabai, in 1891, he married a widow, Godubai, in 1893.

Annasaheb had his primary education at Murud, first in a Shenvi school and in a Government school. In those days, if a person wanted to become a teacher in a primary school, he had to pass the Sixth Standard (Marathi) examination. Annasaheb passed this examination at the late age of 18 because of lack of facilities. Simultaneously, he received the traditional Indian education.

For two or three years he could not do anything. Then he came to Bombay and joined the Robert Money School. He passed his Matriculation at the age of 23. He passed his Previous from the Wilson College and his B. A. from the Elphinstone College(1884); he stood first at the First B.A. in Mathematics. He taught that subject for one year in the Elphintone High School. He also studied for the M. A. examination with Physics and Chemistry but not so much with the intent of passing it; he naturally failed (1887).

From 1888 to 1891 he taught Mathematics in the Cathedral Girls' High School, the Alexandra Girls' School and the Maratha High School, Bombay. He joined the Fergusson College, Poona, as Professor of Mathematics in November 1891. In April 1892 he was elected a Life Member of the Deccan Education Society. He also taught Mathematics in the New English School and for the Navin Marathi Shala, Poona, all the three institutions being run by the same Society. He retired from the Society at the end of 1914.

Pandit Vishnushastri and Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar inspired Annasaheb to work for the uplift of the widows, while the work of Pandita Ramabai actuated him to spend his life for the cause of female education. He was also influenced by the writings of Herbert Spencer.

After his retirement from the Deccan Education Society, Annasaheb decided to devote his entire life for the uplift of the widows and the promotion of female education. In 1893 he had already founded the 'Vidya vivahottejak Mandali' (Society for the Promotion of Widow-marriages) which helped the needy children of widows and looked after their education. In 1895 the name of the institution was changed to 'Vidhava Vivaha Pratibandh Nivarak Mandali' (Society for the Removal of Obstacles to widow marriages).

In 1898 he started the 'Mahilashram' (Widow' Home) in Poona; in 1900 the Home was shifted to Hingne where it is still working with full vigour. He started the Mahila Vidyalaya' in 1907 and in the following year the 'Nishkam Karma Math', a self-sacrificing institution to train workers for the Widows Home and the Mahila Vidyalaya. In 1916 he founded the Indian Women's University, in 1917 a Training College for Primary School Teachers and in 1918 the Kanya Shala.

In 1936 he started the Maharashtra Village Primary Education Society
with the object of opening schools to teach the 'three Rs.' In the villages which had no schools run by the District Local Boards; it wasproposed to make special efforts to keep up the reading habits of the adults. In 1944 Annasaheb founded the 'Samata Sangh' (Association for the Promotion of Human Equality).

In March 1929 Annasaheb left for England. He attended the Primary Teachers' Conference at Malvern and spoke on 'Education of Women in India' at a meeting of the East India Association at Caxton Hall, London. From 25 July to 4 August 1929, he attended an educational conference in Geneva and spoke on 'The Indian Experiment in Higher Education for Women'. From 8 to 21 August he attended the international meeting of educationists arranged by the New Education Fellowship in Elsinor.

During this tour of America, Annasaheb delivered lectured at many places on women's education and social reforms in India. He also visited the Women's University in Tokyo. During this round the world tour, he collected Rs. 27,000 for his Women's University. He returned to India in April 1930.

In December 1930, Annasaheb left for Africa. He visited Mombasa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganayika, Zanzibar, Portuguese East Africa and South Africa. During the tour he collected Rs. 34,000. He returned to India in March 1932.

Annasaheb stood for the abolition of caste and untouchability. He spent his life in working for the cause of widow-marriage and raising the status of women by providing educational facilities for them.

He had a broad outlook on religion. He had faith in the Supreme Being pervading the Universe. He was in favour of National Education. In his opinion, women should have the type of education useful to them in their lives. He felt that freedom alone was not enough; there should be social equality and a castless society.

Annasaheb was awarded the D. Litt. By the Benares University (1942), Poona University (1951), and S.N.D.T. Women's University (1954), and LL.D. by the Bombay University (1957). The President of India confered on him the titles of Padma Vibhushana (1955) and Bharat Ratna (1958). On 18 April 1928, his seventy-first birthday, the Poona Municipality named the road leading to Yerandavane as 'Karve Road'.

From 1885 he gave 5% of his earnings to the 'Maratha Five Per Cent Fund' to promote the cause of education, and in 1888 he started the 'Murud Fund' for the development of Murud, his home town. He donated Rs. 500 to the 'Murud Fund' for a scholarship to be named after his first wife.

In July 1947 Annasaheb started the Manavi-samata, a monthly bulletin, to popularize the object of the 'Samata Sangh'. Among his important publications are: 'Atmavritta' (Poona, 1928) and 'Looking Back' (Poona, 1936).Annasaheb was a great social worker and an educationist. He led a quiet, ascetic life.

His eldest son Raghunath was a Professor of Mathematics and a pioneer in sex education in India. His second son Dr. Dinkar was a Professor of Chemistry and is an eminent educationist. His daughter-in-law Dr. Irawati was a leading sociologist of India.
Author : V. G. Hatalkar