Study Notes on Women, Caste System and Social Reformers, Study Materials

By Bhawna Singh|Updated : September 20th, 2022

The caste system was also one of the social evils in India which discriminate a people based on class. But by the mid-19th century, the impact of British rule on this hierarchically segregated system was complex. Through the impact of western education and the liberal ideas of the west, the cast base census broke down the rigidities of the caste system. Some legislation like the caste disabilities removal Act of 1850 and the special marriage amendment act of 1872 helped a lot towards the undermining structure of caste.

Women, Caste System and Reforms

As we all know that in the 19th century women's discrimination and the caste system were two main evil practices in Indian society and the discrimination against both women and untouchables was undoubtedly the worst. The women in those times were not only exploited but also treated as a puppet by the male dominating society. Not only the women were kept backwards but also the victims of many social evils like the practice of Sati, female infanticide, the purdah system, child marriage, polygamy, etc. on the other side people discriminated against people based on class. By the mid of 19th century, the impact of British rule on women's discrimination and the hierarchically segregated system was complex.  Social-cultural awakening and the impact of western education and liberal ideas made many reformers work towards the upliftment of society by improving the condition of women and the lower class of society.

Women Reformer: 

Some women reformers who worked towards their upliftment are:

a) Raja Ram Mohan Roy:

Raja Ram Mohan Roy did a great job of abolishing the biggest evil of the custom of Sati. He founded the Atmiya Sabha in 1815 and also founded Brahmo Samaj on 20 August 1828. Brahmo Samaj fought against the practice of Sati, child marriage, caste system, purdah system, untouchability, use of intoxicants, etc.

b) Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar:

Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar was a reformer in Bengal. He was an impassioned supporter of widow remarriage and he also worked towards female education. Vidyasagar made a great effort with the passing of the Hindu Remarriage Act in 1856, he submitted a petition towards this act to Indian Legislative Council and the British government.

c) Kandukuri Virasalingam Pantulu :

He was the social reformer and writer of Andhra Pradesh, he also published the book Viveka Vardhani. He is considered the father of the renaissance in Telugu. He was a supporter of women's education, remarriage of a widow and against the dowry system. He opened ‘Brahmo Mandir’ in 1887 and ‘Hitkarni School’ in 1908.

d) Mahadev Govind Ranade:

He and his wife Ramabai worked towards widow remarriage, and female education and also opposed child marriage. He founded the National Social Conference which became an eminent institution for social reforms. Her wife Ramabai made the greatest effort for the first time in India for educating widows.

Swami Vivekanand:

He founded the Arya Samaj, a great supporter of female education and widow remarriage and condemn the system of many social evils like child marriage, dowry, and polygamy.

Dhondo Keshav Karve :

He strongly supported widow remarriage and worked the longest for women's emancipation. He founded the female school and widow homes in Pune.

Caste System:

The caste system was also one of the social evils in India which discriminate a peoplebased onf class. But by the mid-19th century, the impact of British rule on this hierarchically segregated system was complex. Through the impact of western education and the liberal ideas of the west, the cast base census broke down the rigidities of the caste system. Some legislation like the caste disabilities removal Act of 1850 and the special marriage amendment act of 1872 helped a lot towards the undermine structure of caste.

Some of the movements which were operated for the upliftment of lower caste were:

Jyotiba Phule’s Movement:

This movement was founded in Maharashtra in the 1870s by Jyotiba Phule. He wrote the books Gulamgiri and Sarvajanik Styadharma. He founded the Sathya Shodhak Samaj on 24 September 1873. Phule’s Theory of exploitation of lower caste was based on the cultural and ethnic group rather than on political and economic factors.

Jyotirao Phule was against orthodox Brahmins and other upper castes and termed them as “hypocrites”. He worked against the autocracy of the upper caste people and urged the peasants and lower-class people to disobey the restriction imposed on them.

Shri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam Movement (SNDPY):

This movement was founded in 1903 in Kerala by religious leader Shri Narayana Guru. It is a charitable society that worked for the spiritual and educational upliftment of the Ezhava community for 114 years.

Congress and the Harijan Movement:

This movement was started by Gandhiji for removing untouchability from India. This movement started strongly focusing on elevating the social status of lower caste and backward caste. With the help of the Gandhiji Congress passed various resolutions. In 1921 Congressappealedl for removing untouchability. Later a committee was set up in 1922 and a resolution was passed in 1923 for this purpose. In 1932 Gandhiji started the All India Anti -Untouchability league known as Harijan Sevak Sanghtoo improve the condition of untouchables by providing them with all kinds of facilities.

Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar and His depressed Class Movement:

The movement of B.R Ambedkar provides an all-India organization for the rejection of all kinds of feudal bondage imposed upon Dalits. He launched a major untouchability movement in 1920 which continues in various forms today. He made various reforms and movements for the upliftment of the depressed class.  In 1924 he founded the depressed classes institute (Bahishkriti Hitkarni Sabha) in Bombay. He also founded Samaj Samata Sangh for propagating the teaching of social equality between upper castes and the depressed class. In 1927 he led the Mahad Satyagraha for the right of untouchables like to draw water from wells and tanks, temple entry, etc.

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