Working Towards the Change Ncert Class 8th


  • During the 19th century, doubts and debates regarding the social customs and practices started taking a new turn.
  • This was due to coming up of the new system and forms of communication. Like for the first time books, newspapers, magazines, leaflets and pamphlets were printed and also cheap and reachable.
  • All kinds of issues – social, political, economic and religious – could now be debated and discussed by men (and sometimes by women as well) in the new cities.
  • The discussions could reach out to a wider public and could become linked to movements for social change.
  • These debates were often initiated by Indian reformers and their groups. One such reformer was Raja Rammohun Roy (1772-1833), he founded a reform association known as the Brahmo Sabha (later known as the Brahmo Samaj) in Calcutta.
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Raja Rammohan Roy
  • Rammohun Roy and the people like him are described as reformers because they felt that changes were necessary for society and unjust practices needed to be done away with.
  • Rammohun Roy was keen to spread the knowledge of Western education in the country and bring about greater freedom and equality for women.
  • He wrote about the way women were forced to bear the burden of domestic work, confined to the home and the kitchen, and not allowed to move out and become educated.
  • These people thought that the best way to ensure such changes was by persuading people to give up old practices and adopt a new way of life.
  • Rammohun Roy was particularly moved by the problems widows faced in their lives. He began a campaign against the practice of Sati.
  • He tried to show through his writings that the practice of widow burning had no sanction in ancient texts.
  • As many British officials had also begun to criticise Indian traditions and customs. They were, therefore, was ready to help and listen to Rammohun and in 1829, Sati was banned.
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Practice of Sati
  • The strategy adopted by Rammohun was used by later reformers as well. Whenever they 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.
  • A reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, used the ancient texts to suggest that widows could remarry and this was adopted by British officials by passing a law in 1856 permitting widow remarriage.
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Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
  • By the second half of the 19th century, the movement in favour of widow remarriage spread to other parts of the country.
  • Telugu-speaking areas of the Madras Presidency, Veerasalingam Pantulu, many young reformers and intelluctuals from Bomaby formed an association for widow remarriage.
  • In the north, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, who founded the reform association called Arya Samaj, also supported widow remarriage.
  • Although, the number of widows who actually remarried remained low. Those who married were not easily accepted in society and conservative groups continued to oppose the new law.
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Swami Dayanand Saraswati
  • The reformers felt that education for girls was necessary in order to improve the condition of women. They opened schools for girls in order to improve their conditions.
  • When the first schools were opened in the mid-nineteenth century, many people were afraid of them. They feared that schools would take girls away from home, prevent them from doing their domestic duties.
  • They felt that girls should stay away from public spaces. Therefore, throughout the 19th century, most educated women were taught at home by liberal fathers or husbands.
  • Later, the schools for girls were established by the Arya Samaj in Punjab and Jyotirao Phule in Maharashtra.
Jyoti ba Phule
Jyotiba Phule
  • In aristocratic Muslim households in North India, women learnt to read the Koran in Arabic. They were taught by women who came home to teach.
  • Reformers such as Mumtaz Ali reinterpreted verses from the Koran to argue for women’s education.
  • First  Urdu novel came in the later 19th century. All these were meant to encourage women to read about religion and domestic management in a language they could understand.

Women’s Struggle

  • From the early twentieth century, Muslim women like the Begums of Bhopal founded a primary school for girls at Aligarh and played a notable role in promoting education among women.
  • Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain started schools for Muslim girls in Patna and Calcutta. She was a fearless critic of conservative ideas and argued for the inferiority of women n all faiths.
  • By the 1880s, Indian women began to enter universities. Some of them trained to be doctors, some became teachers. women began to write and publish and their critical views on the place of women in society.
  • Tarabai Shinde, a woman educated at home at Poona, published a book, Stripurushtulna, criticising the social differences between men and women.
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Tarabai Shinde
  • Pandita Ramabai, a great scholar of Sanskrit, felt that Hinduism was oppressive towards women, and wrote a book about the miserable lives of upper-caste Hindu women.
  • She also founded a widows’ home at Poona to provide shelter to widows who had been treated badly by their husbands’ relatives, here women were also trained to be economically dependent.
  • All this offended the orthodox. Many Hindu and Muslim nationalists felt that their women were adopting Western ways and that this would corrupt their culture and erode family values.
  • By the end of the nineteenth century, women themselves were actively working for reform. They wrote books, edited magazines, founded schools and training centres, and set up women’s associations.
  • From the early 20th century, they formed political pressure groups to push through laws for female suffrage and better health care and education for women.
  • In the 20th century, leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose lent their support to demands for greater equality and freedom for women.
  • Many nationalist promised that there would be full suffrage for all men and women after Independence, and asked women to concentrate on the anti-British struggles.
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