I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.
-Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
About Bhante Arya Nagarjun Surai Sasai.
Bhadant Nagarjun Arya Surai Sasai born (Minoru Sasai) popularly known as Sasai is a Japanese-born Buddhist bhikkhu (monk) who later chose India as his working destination. Susai came to India in 1966 and met Nichidatsu Fujii, whom he helped with the Peace Pagoda at Rajgir. He fell out with Fuji, however, and started home, but, by his own account, was stopped by a dream in which a figure resembling Nagarjuna appeared and said, "Go to Nagpur". In Nagpur, he met Wamanrao Godbole, the person who had organized the conversion ceremony for Dr. Ambedkar in 1956. Sasai claims that when he saw a photograph of Dr. Ambedkar at Godbole's home, he realized that it was Ambedkar who had appeared in his dream. At first, Nagpur folk considered Surai Sasai very strange. Then he began to greet them with "Jai Bhim" (victory to Ambedkar) and to build viharas. In 1987 a court case to deport him on the grounds that he had overstayed his visa was dismissed, and he was granted Indian citizenship, upon which he automatically lost his Japanese citizenship. Sasai is one of the main leaders of the campaign to free the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya from Hindu control.
See the NHK (Japanese) Documentry, Broadcasted on Japanese Television below.
Savitribai Jotiba Phule (January 3, 1831 – March 10, 1897) was a social reformer, who, along with her husband, Mahatma Jotiba Phule, played an important role in improving women's rights in India during the British Rule.
Savitribai was the first female teacher of the first women's school in India and also considered as the pioneer of modern Marathi poetry. In 1852 she opened a school for Untouchable girls.
Under Jyotiba's influence Savitribai had taken women’s education and their liberation from the cultural patterns of the male-dominated society as mission of her life. She worked towards tackling some of the then major social problems, including women’s liberation, widow remarriages and removal of untouchability.
However, apart from all oppositions, Savitribai yet continued to teach the girls. Whenever Savitribai went out of her house, groups of orthodox men would follow her and abuse her in obscene language. They would throw rotten eggs, cow dung, tomatoes and stones at her. She would walk meekly and arrive at her school. Fed up with the treatment meted out to her, she decided to give up. But it was because of her husband that she continued with her efforts. He told Savitribai that Jyotiba, who was working for women's education, had started the first girls' school and required women teachers to assist him.
Jyotiba educated and trained Savitribai, his first and ideal candidate for this job of a teacher. Savitribai and Jyotiba faced fierce resistance from the orthodox elements of society for this. Jyotiba sent her to a training school from where she passed with flying colours along with a Muslim lady Fatima Sheikh. When Savitribai completed her studies, she, along with her husband, started a school for girls on 1st January 1848 in a place called Bhide Wada, Narayan Peth, Pune. Nine girls, belonging to different castes, enrolled themselves as students.
Slowly and steadily, she established herself. Jyotiba and Savitribai managed to open 5 more schools in the year 1848 itself. She was ultimately honoured by the British for her educational work. In 1852 Jyotiba and Savitribai were felicitated and presented with a shawl each by the government for their commendable efforts in Vishrambag Wada.
The next step was equally revolutionary. Savitri realised that along with education it was necessary to work on other social fronts, to build up the self esteem and confidence of women. She also campaigned against some cruel social practices. Many girls who were married off young would be widowed by the age of twelve – thirteen. After the death of their husbands, either they would have to take Sati (a practice of burning the widow on the funeral pyre of the husband) or their head would be clean shaven to make them ugly and unattractive to other men. These helpless women, with no rights to denial, would be easy targets for depraved men. The resultant pregnant widows would be scared of being ostracized by the society and the suppression that the child would have to suffer, and would resort to suicide or killing the new born.To counteract this situation, JyotiRao started a home for the pregnant widows and orphaned children to stop this carnage. Savtri ran the home capably. She considered all the children in the orphanage like her own.
Savitribai and Jyotiba were moved by the plight of such widows and castigated the barbers. They organized a strike of barbers and persuaded them not to shave the heads of widows. This was the first strike of its kind.
Savitribai was not only involved in educational activities of Jyotirao but also in every social struggle that he launched. They also fought against all forms of social prejudices. They were moved to see the untouchables who were refused drinking water meant for the upper caste. Both Jyotiba and Savitribai opened up their reservoir of water to the untouchables in the precincts of their house.
Once Jyotiba stopped a pregnant lady from committing suicide, promising her to give her child his name after it was born. Savitribai readily accepted the lady in her house and willingly assured to help her deliver the child. Savitribai and Jyotiba later on adopted this child who then grew up to become a doctor. This incident opened new horizons for the couple. Many women were driven to commit suicide by men who had exploited them to satisfy their lust and then deserted them. Therefore, Savitribai and Jyotiba put boards on streets about the "Delivery Home" for women on whom pregnancy had been forced. The delivery home was called "Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha".
Jyotiba and Savitribai were also opposed to idolatry and championed the cause of peasants and workers. They faced social isolation and vicious attacks from people whom they questioned. After his demise, Savitribai took over the responsibility of Satya Shodhak Samaj, founded by Jyotiba. She presided over meetings and guided workers.
In 1868 she welcomed untouchables to take water from her well. She also was the first woman to lit her husband's pyre in the history of India.
Mahatma Jotiba Govindrao Phule (April 11, 1827 — November 28, 1890), also known as Mahatma Jotiba Phule was an activist, thinker, social reformer, writer, philosopher, theologist, scholar, editor and revolutionary from Maharashtra, India in the nineteenth century. Jotiba Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule were the pioneer of women's education in India. His remarkable influence was apparent in fields like education, agriculture, caste system, women and widow upliftment and removal of untouchability. He is most known for his efforts to educate women and the lower castes as well as the masses. He, after educating his wife, opened a school for girls in India in August 1848.
The Great King of Kolhapur Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj (also known as Shahu IV) (26 June 1874 – 6 May 1922) was the first Maharaja of the Indian princely state of Kolhapur between 1894 and 1922. He was also known as Rajarshi Shahuji Chhatrapati and Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj. An ideal ruler, progressive leader and a foresighted social reformer Born in the Ghatge family of Kagal in Kolhapur district, Shahu Maharaj was given the name Yashwantrao. After the death of Shivaji IV, the king of Kolhapur Princely State, the young child Yashwantrao was adopted by Anandibai, the King's widow, and subsequently coroneted King in 1894.
His rule in the period 1894 to 1922, lasting 28 years, is an important chapter in the history of Maharashtra. During his reign, Shahu Maharaj gave special importance to the education of the masses and introduced several programs for them. He started separate hostels in Kolhapur for students from the Maratha, Lingayat, Panchal, Jain, Muslims, Shimpi, Devadnya, Vaishya, Dhor-Chambhar and Nabhik communities and the Miss Clark Boarding especially for the students from the untouchable (socially quarantined) communities. He offered scholarships to the needy and intelligent students from the backward castes so that they could continue their education. He made primary education compulsory and free for all in his Princely State. His royal decree held up the cause of women's education. To abolish untouchability, he stopped the cruel system followed by many institutions to hold separate schools for the upper and lower castes in 1919. He started Patil schools so that village heads could be good administrators. In times when the study of Vedic literature was considered a domain of the Brahmins (higher caste Pundits), he established Vedic schools that taught the Vedas to the masses and Sanskrit schools for the propagation of the Sanskrit language.
He vehemently opposed caste discrimination and took many steps to abolish untouchability. He introduced reservation for the untouchables in government jobs. He issued a royal decree in his Princely State to treat all humans equal and to give equal access to the untouchables to public utilities like common wells, schools, hospitals and common buildings. His commitment to abolish untouchability was such that he was even ready to give up his throne for the service of the dalit or lower class people. He legalised inter caste marriages and discontinued the hereditary tenures (Watan) of revenue collectors (Kulkarni), infamous for exploiting the masses, as also the Mahar tenures that enslaved the Mahars (a lower caste). In 1917 he legalised remarriages and widow remarriages in his Princely State. He also introduced a law banning thepractice of Devdasi (a tradition where a girl is offered to God).
Rajarshi Shahu is considered one of the leaders of the anti-Brahmin movement. He strived for giving the masses and lower class communities equal participation in political power. In 1916, he established the Deccan Rayat Association in Nipani with the objective of securing political rights for the non-Brahmins. He toured Maharashtra extensively and held public meetings to promote the cause of the anti-Brahmin movement. The struggle over the right to recite the Vedas occurred in Rajarshi Shahu's time. This struggle created a storm in the social life of Maharashtra, and gave birth to the Satyashodhak (truth finding) movement.
Rajarshi Shahu implemented a number of projects in his Princely State, like establishing the Shahu Chhatrapati Spinning and Weaving Mill, Shahupuri market, a market for jaggery, construction of the Radhanagari dam and co-operative societies for farmers. He made credit available to the farmers and backed research to modernize agriculture. To increase the yield of cash crops and the use of technology, he established the King Edward Agricultural Institute. These were his experiments in the areas of agriculture, co-operatives and industry that yielded high benefits for his subjects.
He patronized and encouraged many artists from the fields of music, cinema, fine arts and folk art. He supported and patronized a few writers and researchers too. He helped Babasaheb Ambedkar for his education and for his newspaper, the Muknayak. He provided financial aid to gymnasiums and wrestling pitches for instilling health consciousness amongst the youth and he brought prestige to the sport of wrestling. It is because of these efforts that Kolhapur is known as the Pandharpur (one of the most important pilgrimageplaces) of wrestling.
The positive effects of his work in the cultural, social, political, educational, industrial and agricultural spheres are seen all over Maharashtra. Despite being a king of the Kolhapur Princely State, he was a democratic ruler. Dr. Ambedkar appropriately described him as the 'Pillar of Social Democracy'. It's because of his seminal contribution that he was conferred the title Rajarshi by the Kurmi warrior community from Kanpur.