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Mahrshi Vitthal Ramji Shinde (April 23, 1873 – January 2, 1944) was one of the most important social and religious reformers in Maharashtra, India. He was prominent among the liberal thinkers and reformists in India, prior to her independence. His greatest contribution was to remove the practice of untouchability and bring about equality to the depressed classes in Indian society.

Early life[edit]

He was born in April 23, 1873 in the princely state of Jamkhandi in Karnataka, India, a member of a Marathi-speaking Maharashtrian family. His early childhood was influenced by a liberal family environment. The family friends and acquaintances came from all religions and castes. He was brought up to think that religion was not just a matter of a blind faith and meaningless rituals or pujas, but meant getting personally and emotionally involved in the service of God.

He was influenced by the writings of many intellectuals such as John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, and Max Müller.


In 1898 he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Fergusson College at Pune, India. He had also studied and passed the first year law and moved to Mumbai (Bombay) for the LL.B. examination; however, he gave up this course to attend to other compelling callings in his life. This same year he joined the Prarthana Samaj, where he was further inspired and influenced by G.B. Kotkar, Shivrampant Gokhle, Justice Mahadev Govinda Ranade, Sir Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar and K.B. Marathe. He became a missionary for the Prarthana Samaj.

The Prarthana Samaj selected him to go to England in 1901, to study comparative religion at Manchester College, Oxford, which had been founded by the Unitarian Church. Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, of Baroda, a progressive and reformist, provided some financial help for his travels abroad.

Life work[edit]

After returning from England in 1903, he devoted his life to religious and social reforms. He continued his missionary work for the Prarthana Samaj. His efforts were devoted mainly to the removal of untouchability in India. In 1905 he established a night school for the children of untouchables in Pune, and in 1906 he established the Depressed Classes Mission in Mumbai (Bombay). In 1922 the mission’s Ahalyashram building was competed at Pune. In 1917 he succeeded in getting the Indian National Congress to pass a resolution condemning the practice of untouchability.

From 1918 to 1920, he went on to convening all the India untouchability removal conferences. Some of these conferences were convened under the president-ship of Mahatma Gandhi and Maharaja Sahyajirao Gaekwad. His written communications with the Mahatmaji are noteworthy. In 1919 he gave evidence before the South borough Commission, asking for the special representation for the untouchable castes. In 1923 he resigned as the executive of the Depressed Classes Mission since some of the members of the untouchable castes wanted its own leaders to manage the mission’s affairs. His work and association with the Mission continued even though he was disappointed by the separatist attitude of the leaders of the untouchables, especially under the leadership of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he wanted unity amongst the untouchables and the Hindu caste, and feared that the British rule would take advantage of such divisions within Indian society and exploit them fo their own benefit.

In 1930 he participated in the Civil Disobedience movement of Mahatma Gandhi and was imprisoned for six months of hard labor, in the Yerawda Central Jail (prison) near Pune.

In 1933 his book Bhartiya Asprushyatecha Prashna ("India’s untouchability question") was published. His thoughts and examination of the Hindu religion and social culture were similar to Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Dayananda Saraswati. In his writings, he rejects the caste system, idol worship, and inequities against woman and depressed classes. He rejected meaningless rituals, the dominance of hereditary priesthood, and the requirement for a priest to mediate between God and his devotees.

Maharshi Vitthal Ramji Shinde died on January 2, 1944.

Depressed Class Mission[edit]

Shinde was a prominent campaigner on behalf of the Dalit movement in India who established the Depressed Classes Mission of India to provide education to the Dalits.[1] He laid the foundation of Depressed Class Mission on October 18, 1906 in order to work against untouchability on the national level. Aims of this mission were:

  1. To try to get rid of untouchability.
  2. To provide educational facilities to the untouchables.
  3. To start schools, hostels, and hospitals for them.
  4. To solve their social problems.

Many schools and hostels were founded by this mission.[2]


  1. ^ Kshīrasāgara, Rāmacandra (1994). Dalit Movement in India and Its Leaders, 1857-1956. M.D. Publications Pvt (. Ltd. p. 128. ISBN 81-85880-43-3. Retrieved 2008-01-07. 
  2. ^ Study books of Nathe, K'Sagar and Chanakya mandal publications.
  • Gore, M.S.; Vitthal Ramji Shinde, An Assessment of his Contribution (book in English language), (1989), Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay, India.
  • Pawar, G.M.; Maharshi Vitthal Ramji Shinde, Jeevan wa Karya (book in Marathi language), (2004), Mumbai (Bombay), India. ISBN 81-88284-37-8.

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitthal_Ramji_Shinde — Please support Wikipedia.
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15 news items

Times of India
Fri, 20 Mar 2015 11:57:04 -0700

PUNE: A group of rationalists got together on Friday on the Vitthal Ramji Shinde bridge where Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead to demand that the government check rising religious fanaticism in the state. Led by Dabholkar's son Hamid, the group said it ...
Times of India
Sat, 21 Feb 2015 15:34:01 -0800

A group of youths that has been on a hunger strike at Vitthal Ramji Shinde bridge (where Dabholkar was shot dead) for the last five days demanding immediate action against attackers of Dabholkar and Pansare was gloomy on Saturday. "We will take this ...
Times of India
Sat, 18 Oct 2014 15:43:34 -0700

PUNE: The Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS) will launch a helpline on Monday to assist people who have been duped by godmen, are victims of black magic, are facing problems because they want to marry a person from another caste, ...


Times of India
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:30:00 -0700

Dabholkar (69), who was out for a morning walk on August 20, 2013 was shot dead by two motorcycle-borne unidentified assailants on Maharshi Vitthal Ramji Shinde bridge near Omkareshwar temple. The Pune crime branch, which was investigating the ...

The New Indian Express

The New Indian Express
Sat, 25 Oct 2014 17:33:45 -0700

The father of the Indian Constitution, according to Vundru, faced first impediment on the issue of representation of 'untouchables' in the legislative bodies as Karamveer Vitthal Ramji Shinde, a Maratha Hindu reformer, and his Depressed Class Mission ...
Times of India
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 18:04:29 -0700

"Over the last six decades, the university has been associated with several great figures including Lokmanya Tilak, Vitthal Ramji Shinde and Mahatma Phule and has also carved an image for itself at the global level. Retaining Pune in the new name was ...

Daily News & Analysis

Daily News & Analysis
Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:02:01 -0700

Maharashtra was the cradle of the social reform movement with Mahatma Jotiba Phule, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Vitthal Ramji Shinde, Chatrapati Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj and Prabhodhankar Keshav Sitaram Thackeray forming the backbone of the ...

Indian Express

Indian Express
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 16:03:17 -0700

“On August 20 — the first death anniversary of the rationalist — we are organising a performance in Pune which will kickstart in the morning from the Vitthal Ramji Shinde bridge where he was shot. About 250 performers will stand on both sides of the ...

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