India’s forgotten Heroes #5 – Annasaheb Karve

Annasaheb Karve
Annasaheb Karve

Padma Vibhushan in 1955, Bharat Ratna in 1958 when he was 100 years old and a famous university that he setup celebrated 100 years in 2016. His 100th birthday celebrations were attended by the first PM of our country Mr. Nehru. Many of us drive everyday on the road named after him in Pune, yet very few of us would recognise Annasaheb Karve.

I have a series of 5 books printed by Children’s Book Trust in 1989 titled “Remembering Our Leaders” and Annasaheb Karve’s profile is part of book 2.

He was born in Murud in 1858 and named Dhondo Keshav Karve. The Karves were a rich family but by the time Dhondo was born the family was in penury. His parents taught him and his brother the value of hard work and not to accept charity. His mother said to him when he was very young “Your hands must give, not take.”

Dhondo Keshav Karve took that advise to heart and kept giving !!

He was married to Radhabai at the age of 15. While he was still a student, he taught his wife during holidays. Moving to Mumbai for his further studies and he completed his graduation from Elphinstone college in Maths. He got a scholarship and took tuitions to pay for his own education. His family’s financial circumstances were still not good.

He took up teaching as his vocation and was a very popular teacher. His house became a place where many students would stay as a hostel. Unfortunately his wife Radhabai could not take the strain of looking after so many people and fell ill. She died in 1891.

Dhondo Keshav Karve shifted to Pune and took up a job with Fergusson college.

Seeing his friend’s sister going through the agony of shaving her head as she had become a widow, disturbed Annasaheb deeply. Around this time, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar was advocating widow remarriage. When some of his relatives suggested that he remarry, he decided to marry a widow !

He married his friend Narhar Pant’s sister Godubai and faced a lot of social ostracization. His mother and elder brother could not even welcome his new wife because the villagers were against widow remarriage. Godubai came to be known as Anandibai. Annasaheb setup Vidhwa Vivah Samiti, a society to help widows to remarry.

He continued his work towards women upliftment. Annasaheb Karve was convinced that women had to be educated in order to improve their status. He opened an ashram to help destitute women, then a school or girls from poor families and finally he realised his dream of setting up a university for women – Shrimati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey (SNDT) University.

His fame spread far and wide. On his 70th birthday, Pune Municipal corporation named a road after him. Even in his 80’s Annasaheb remained active and took up the task of opening schools in villages.

Many accolades and awards came his way as well. BHU awarded him a Doctorate of Literature in 1942 and then the Padma Vibhushan in 1955. Finally the Bharat Ratna was awarded to him in 1958. Four years later in 1962, Annasaheb Karve passed away at the age of 104.

He lives on through all the educational institutions that he built and nurtured.

Read more about him – Maharshi Karve – The Man behind Maharashtra’s Many Mighty Reforms and Remembering the Man who set up India’s First University for Women.

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