Conservative : Those people who wish to stick to old customs and traditions and oppose change.
Sati : It meant ‘virtuous women’. These women embraced death by burning themselves on the funeral pyre of their husbands.
Suffrage : The right to vote.
Untouchables : The lowest class people. They were denied entry at public places.
1772-1833 : The period of Raja Rammohan Roy.
1820s : Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, a professor at Hindu College, Calcutta, founded the Young Bengal Movement to promote radical ideas and encouraged his students to question all authority.
1829 : Sati system was abolished.
1830 : Brahmo Samaj was founded by Raja Rammohan Roy to abolish all forms of idolatry and sacrifice.
1856 : A law was passed to allow widow remarriage.
1864 : The Veda Samaj was founded.
1867 : The Prarthana Samaj worked in the direction of abolishing caste restrictions, encouraging the education of women, etc.
1873 : Jyotirao Phule wrote a book entitled ‘Gulamgiri’. He established the Satyashodhak Samaj.
1875 : The Arya Samaj was established; Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan founded the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College at Aligarh.
1880s : Indian women began to enter in universities.
1929 : Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed.
1927-1935 : Ambedkar led three Temple movements in this period.
The condition of women in the Earlier Days
(i) Women were married at an early age.
(ii) Women were forced to burn themselves on the funeral pyre of their husbands. Women who died in this manner, whether willing or otherwise, were called Sati which meant virtuous women.
(iii) Women’s right to property were also restricted.
(iv) Women had virtually no access to education. In many parts of the country, people believed that if a woman was educated, she would become a widow. In the earlier days most parents were apprehensive of sending their girls to school because they feared that schools would take girls away from home and will prevent them from performing their domestic duties. Moreover, girls had to travel through public places in order to reach school. Many people felt that this would have a corrupting influence on them. They felt that the girls should stay away from public spaces.
By the end of the nineteenth century, women actively participated in reform movements. They wrote books, edited magazines, founded schools and training centres, and set up women’s associations.
In the Hindu caste system, there were four Varnas-the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudras. Apart from these four groups, there were people at the lowest rank of the society who were known as the untouchables by “upper caste people”. They were also known to be the fifth varnas. The social condition of the untouchables was very miserable.
The “Upper Caste” people did not allow them to enter temples, draw water from the wells or bath in those public ponds where higher castes people used to take bath. The untouchables were seen as inferior human beings.
In the Bombay Presidency, as late as 1829, untouchables were not allowed entry in government schools. When they persuaded, they were allowed to sit on the verandah outside the classroom and listen to the lessons without “polluting” the room where “upper caste” boys were taught. This was the mentality of the people towards the untouchables.
Sayyid Ahmed Khan was the founder of the Aligarh Movement.
(a) He also established the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College in 1875 at Aligarh. It later became Aligarh Muslim University.
(b) The movement tried to promote educational reformation among the people of Muslim community. It offered modern education and western science to Muslims.
(c) Another objective of the movement was to reinterpret the teachings of Islam and bring the Muslims in harmony with modern science and philosophy.
Brahmo Samaj : The Brahmo Samaj formed in 1830, prohibited all forms of idolatry and sacrifice, believed in the Upanishads, and forbade its members from criticizing other religious practices. It critically drew upon the ideals of religions, especially those of Hinduism and looked at their negative and positive dimensions.
Prarthana Samaj : It was established in 1867 at Bombay. The Prarthana Samaj sought to remove caste restrictions, abolish child marriage, encourage the education of women, and end the ban on widow remarriage.
Paramhans Mandali : In Bombay, the Paramhans Mandali was founded in 1840 to work for the abolition of caste. Many of its reformers and members of reform associations were people of the upper castes.
Veda Samaj: The Veda Samaj was established in 1864 at Madras by K Sridharalu Naidu. It was one of the most important and influential socio-religious movements in South India.It was inspired by the ideas of the Brahmo Samaj.It tried to eradicate caste system, encouraged widow remarriage and education for women.Its followers believed in one God. They condemned the superstitions and rituals of orthodox Hinduism.
Pandita Ramabai was a great scholar of Sanskrit and felt that Hinduism was oppressive towards women, and wrote a book about the miserable conditions of upper-caste Hindu women. She founded a Widows’ Home at Poona to provide shelter to widows who was had been ill-treated by their husband’s relatives. Here, women were trained so that they could support themselves financially.
Raja Rammohan Roy was keen to spread the knowledge of western education in India because he wanted to bring about greater freedom and equality for women. He was moved by the fact that they had to remain indoors, only confined to the home and the kitchen, thereby remaining illiterate.
(i) Muslim women such as the Begums of Bhopal played a notable role in promoting education among women. They founded a primary school for girls at Aligarh.(ii) Another remarkable woman, Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, started schools for Muslim girls in Patna and Calcutta. She was a fearless critic of conservative ideas, arguing that religious leaders of every faith accorded an inferior place to women.
(iii) By the 1880s, Indian women began to enter universities. Some of them trained to be doctors, while some became teachers. Many women began to write and publish their critical views on the condition of women in society.
(iv) Tarabai Shinde : She was the woman who was educated at home at Poona, and she published a book, Stripurushtulna, criticizing the social differences between men and women.
(v) Pandita Ramabai : She was a great scholar of Sanskrit. She felt that Hinduism was oppressive towards women, and wrote a book about the miserable life of upper-caste Hindu women. She founded a widows’ home at Pune to provide shelter to widows who had been treated badly by their husband’s relatives. Here, women were trained so that they could support themselves economically.
Slave traded in Africa: From the time that European explorers and traders landed in Africa in the 17th century, the slave trade began. Black people were captured and brought from Africa to America, sold to white planters, and made to work on cotton and other plantations, most of them in the Southern United States. In the plantations, they were made to work long hours, typically from dawn to dusk, punished for “inefficient work” and whipped and tortured.
The society divided in the nineteenth century : There were class and caste distinctions in the society. Brahmans and Kshatriyas considered themselves as “upper castes”, traders and money lenders Vaishyas came after them. Then came peasants, and artisans such as weavers and potters (referred to as shudras). As the lowest level were “untouchables”, considered most inferior human beings.
The knowledge of ancient texts help the reformers promote new laws :
(i) Whenever the reformers wished to challenge a practice that seemed harmful, they tried to find a verse or sentence in the ancient sacred texts that supported their point of view
(ii) They then suggested that the practice as it existed at present was against early tradition. Thus, the knowledge of ancient texts helped the reformers in promoting new laws.