Mahadev Govind Ranade
Born18 January 1842 (1842-01-18)
Died16 January 1901 (1901-01-17) (aged 58)
CitizenshipBritish Indian
Alma materUniversity of Bombay
Occupation(s)Scholar, social reformer, author
Known forCo-founder of Indian National Congress
TitleRao Bahadur
Political partyIndian National Congress
SpouseRamabai Ranade

Rao Bahadur Mahadev Govind Ranade (18 January 1842 – 16 January 1901), popularly referred to as Nyayamurti Ranade or Justice Ranade, was an Indian scholar, social reformer, judge and author. He was one of the founding members of the Indian National Congress party[1][2] and owned several designations like Member of The Bombay Legislative Council and Member of The Finance Committee at the centre.[1] He was also a judge of the Bombay High Court, Maharashtra.[3]

As a well known public figure, his personality as a calm and patient optimist influenced his attitude towards dealings with Britain as well as reform in India. During his life he helped to establish the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, Maharashtra Granthottejak Sabha and the Prarthana Samaj. He also edited a Bombay Anglo-Marathi daily paper - The Induprakash, founded on his ideology of social and religious reform.

He was given the title of Rao Bahadur.[4]

Early life and family

Statue of Justice Ranade in Mumbai

Mahadev Govind Ranade was born into a Chitpavan Brahmin family in Niphad, a taluka town in Nashik district.[5] He studied in a Marathi school in Kolhapur and later shifted to an English-medium school. At age 14, he studied at Elphinstone College, Bombay.[6] He belonged to the first batch of students at the University of Bombay. In 1862, he obtained a B.A. degree in history & economics, and in 1864 a M.A. in history. Three years later, he obtained his L.L.B. in 1866.[7]


After getting his law degree (LLB) in 1866, Ranade became a subordinate judge in Pune in 1871. Given his political activities, the British colonial authorities delayed his promotion to the Bombay High Court until 1895.[8]

Social activism

Ranade was a progressive social activist whose activities were deeply influenced by western culture and the colonial state. His activities ranged from religious reform to public education to reform within the Indian family, and in every area, he was prone to see little virtue in Indian custom and tradition and to strive for re-forming the subject into the mould of what prevailed in the west. He himself summarized the mission of the Indian Social Reform Movement as being to "Humanize, Equalize and Spiritualize," the implication being that existing Indian society lacked these qualities.[9]

Prarthana Samaj

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Ranade joined the Prarthana Samaj, a religious and social reform organization in 1867 and later in 1871 joined PoonaPrarthana Samaj. Historians have regarded Ranade as an intellectual leader in the movement.[10][11] Ranade was influenced by Bishop Joseph Butler in linking the social justice work of Prarthama Samaj with a Christian metaphysics.[10]

Female Emancipation

His efforts to "Humanize and Equalize" Indian society found its primary focus in women. He campaigned against the 'purdah system' (keeping women behind the veil). He was a founder of the Social Conference movement, which he supported till his death,[1] directing his social reform efforts against child marriage, the tonsure of widows, the heavy cost of weddings and other social functions, and the caste restrictions on travelling abroad, and he strenuously advocated widow remarriage and female education.[1] In 1861, when he was still a teenager, Ranade co-founded the 'Widow Marriage Association' which promoted marriage for Hindu widows and acted as native compradors for the colonial government's project of passing a law permitting such marriages.[12] He chose to take prayaschitta (religious penance) in the Panch-houd Mission Case rather than insisting on his opinions.[13][14]

Girls' education

In 1885, Ranade along with Vaman Abaji Modak and historian Dr. R. G. Bhandarkar established the Maharashtra Girls Education Society to start Huzurpaga, the oldest girls' high school in Maharashtra.[15][16]

Personal life

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Ranade was already into his 30s when his first wife died. His family wanted him to remarry, especially since he had no children. His reformer friends expected that Ranade, who had co-founded the 'Widow Marriage Association' as far back as 1861, would certainly act in accordance with his own sermons and marry a widow. However, this did not happen. Ranade yielded to his family's wishes and conformed with convention to marry Ramabai, a girl who was barely eleven years old and who was fully twenty years younger than him. Indeed, Ramabai was born in 1862, nearly a year after Ranade had founded his 'Widow Marriage Association' in 1861. Ranade did what he did because he knew the realities of his society: he knew that if he married an already married woman, any children born to her would be treated like illegitimate outcasts by his society. The really poignant thing about the whole affair is that, after facing so much ridicule and so many accusations of hypocrisy, Ranade was not fated to receive the blessing he craved so ardently and his second marriage also remained childless.

In any case, the wedding was held in full compliance with tradition and the marriage was certainly a happy one. Ramabai was a daughter of the Kurlekar family, which belonged to the same caste and social strata as Ranade.[17] The couple had an entirely harmonious and conventional marriage. Ranade ensured that his wife receive a high education, something about which she herself was initially not keen. However, like all Indian women of that era, she complied with her husband's wishes and grew into her new life. Indeed, after Ranade's death, Ramabai Ranade continued the social and educational reform work initiated by him.

Published works

In popular culture

A television series on Zee Marathi named Unch Majha Zoka (roughly translated as 'My Swing Flies High') based on Ramabai's and Mahadevrao's life and their development as a 'women's rights' activist was broadcast in March 2012. It was based on a book by Ramabai Ranade titled Amachyaa Aayushyaatil Kaahi Aathavani. In the book, Justice Ranade is called "Madhav" rather than Mahadev. The series had actors Vikram Gaikwad as Mahadev Govind Ranade and Spruha Joshi as Ramabai Ranade.[note 1].

See also


  1. ^ He himself is quoted as saying that "I am Vishnu (Madhav) and not Shiva (Mahadev)" (see pages 12, 121). This anomaly was discovered by Ms. Vibhuti V. Dave, while translating the book into Gujarati, under the title Amaaraa naa Sambhaaranaa[18]"


  1. ^ a b c d Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ranade, Mahadev Govind" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 884.
  2. ^ "Mahadev Govinde Ranade". Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Encyclopaedia Eminent Thinkers (Vol. 22 : The Political Thought of Mahadev Govind Ranade)", p. 19
  4. ^ Mahadev Govind Ranade (Rao Bahadur) (1992). The Miscellaneous Writings of the Late Hon'ble Mr. Justice M.G. Ranade. Sahitya Akademi.
  5. ^ Wolpert, Stanley A. (April 1991). Tilak and Gokhale: Revolution and Reform in the Making of Modern India By. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 302. ISBN 978-0195623925.
  6. ^ K. S. Bharathi (1998). Encyclopaedia of Eminent Thinkers: The political thought of Mahadev Govind Ranade. Concept Publishing Company. pp. 18–. ISBN 978-81-8069-582-7.
  7. ^ "Mahadev Govind Ranade – Biography & Contributions". IAS Express. 24 March 2023.
  8. ^ Stanley A. Wolpert (1962). Tilak and Gokhale: Revolution and Reform in the Making of Modern India. University of California Press. p. 12. GGKEY:49PR049CPBX.
  9. ^ Hulas Singh (25 September 2015). Rise of Reason: Intellectual history of 19th-century Maharashtra. Routledge. pp. 303–. ISBN 978-1-317-39874-5.
  10. ^ a b Tucker, Richard P. (1977) [1st pub. University of Chicago Press:1972]. Ranade and the Roots of Indian Nationalism. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. pp. 60–63.
  11. ^ Oak, Alok (2018). "(In)Complete Rebellion: M.G. Ranade and the Challenge of Reinventing Hinduism". In Kim, David W. (ed.). Colonial transformation and Asian religions in modern history. Cambridge Scholar's Publishing. pp. 59–60. ISBN 9781527519121.
  12. ^ "THE GROWTH OF NEW INDIA, 1858-1905". 17 May 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  13. ^ Bakshi, SR (1993). Mahadev Govind Ranade. p. 42. ISBN 978-81-7041-605-0.
  14. ^ "Loss of Caste". Retrieved 22 August 2015. He and a few other notables including Bal Gangadhar Tilak attended a meeting with the missionaries of the Panch Houd Mission, which still exists in Pune. Tea was offered to them. Some of them drank it and others did not. Poona in those days - late 19th century - was a very orthodox place and the bastion of Brahminism. Gopalrao Joshi made the affair public and all offenders were ordered to undergo prayashchitta for their offense of drinking the tea of Christian missionaries.
  15. ^ Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi, ed. (2002). Education and the disprivileged : nineteenth and twentieth century India (1. publ. ed.). Hyderabad: Orient Longman. p. 239. ISBN 978-8125021926. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  16. ^ Ghurye, G. S. (1954). Social Change in Maharashtra, II. Sociological Bulletin, page 51.
  17. ^ Mukherjee, M., 1993. Story, history and her story. Studies in History, 9(1), pp.71-85.
  18. ^ Dave, Vibhuti (6 December 2014). Amaaraa Sahajivan naa Sambhaaranaa. Vadodara, Gujarat, India: Self. pp. 12, 121.