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Women Caste and Reform the Nation class 8 Notes History
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8 History notes Chapter 9 Women, Caste and Reform the Nation
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CBSE Class 8 Social Science Revision Notes History
Women, Caste and Reform the Nation
Two hundred years ago the lives of women were totally different from what it is today. There were so many restrictions imposed on women.
Widows were praised and called ‘satis’ meaning ‘virtous’ if they chose to by burning themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands.
People were also divided along lines of caste. Brahmins and Kshatriyas considered themselves in upper caste, after them traders and moneylenders referred to as Vaishyas and the lower caste were Shudras and included peasants, artisans, weavers, and potter.
The attitude towards women & social customs started changing from the early 19th century.
Working Towards Change:
(i) In early 19th century things changed because of the development of new forms of communication.
(ii) Social reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy founded Brahmo Samaj in Calcutta.
(iii) Raja Ram Mohan Roy pioneered this reform movement. He opposed social practices such as discrimination on the basis of caste, untouchability, superstitions and the custom of ‘sati’. He wanted to spread the knowledge of western education and bring about freedom and equality for women.
Changing the Lives of Widows:
(i) Raja Rammohan Roy set up the Brahmo Samaj to fight social evils. He began a campaign against the practice of sati. Many British officials criticised Indian traditions and customs. They supported him and in 1829, sati was banned. He also supported women’s education. In the religious field, he opposed idol worship and meaningless rituals.
(ii) Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar was one of the most famous reformers who suggested widow remarriage. In 1856, British officials passed the law permitting widow remarriage.
(iii) Swami Dyanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj in 1875, and also supported widow marriage.
Girls begin going to School:
(i) Many reformers felt that to improve the condition of women, education for girls was necessary.
(ii) Many reformers in Bombay and Vidyasagar in Calcutta set up schools for girls.
(iii) With the inaugration of first school in mid-19th century, many people feared that school would take the girls away from home and prevent them from doing domestic duties.
iv) Many people believed that girls should be kept away from public spaces as they believed that they can get corrupting influence.
(v) In aristocratic Muslim families in North India, women learnt to read the Koran in Arabic. They were taught by women who came home to teach.
Women write about Women:
(i) Muslim women like Begums of Bhopal promoted education among women and founded a primary school for girls at Aligarh.
(ii) Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain started schools for Muslim girls in Patna and Calcutta.
(iii) Indian women began to enter universities by 1880s. Some of them trained to be doctors and teachers.
(iv) Tarabai Shinde got education at home at Poona, published a book, Stripurushtulna (A Comparison between Women & Men), criticising the social differences between men & women.
(v) Pandita Ramabai was a great scholar of Sanskrit, wrote a book about the miserable lives of upper-class Hindu women. She founded a widows’ home at Poona to provide shelter to widows who had been treated badly by their husbands’ relatives.
(vi) Later, women were trained to support themselves economically.
(vii) Orthodox Hindu & Muslim Nationalists were worried as women started adopting western cultures and according to them that could corrupt and erode family values.
(viii) Women started working for reforms. They wrote books, magazines, founded schools & training centres, and set up womens’ associations.
(ix) Women formed political pressure groups to push through laws for female suffrage ( the right to vote).
(x) Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose gave their support to demands for greater equality and freedom for women.
Caste and Social Reform:
(i) Social reformers criticized caste inequalities. Paramhans Mandali was founded in 1840 in Bombay to work for the abolition of caste.
(ii) The Prarthana Samaj adhered to the tradition of Bhakti that believed in spiritual equality of all castes.
(iii) Christians missionaries began setting up schools for the tribal groups and ‘lower’-caste children.
(iv) There were availability of jobs in cities in factories. Many poor people from the villages & small towns who belonged to low castes got the jobs as labour.
(v) The work was hard enough. But the poor had got a chance to get away from the control of upper-castes landowners who exercised daily humiliation over them.
(vi) Army was another option in jobs. A number of Mahar people, who were regarded as untouchables, found jobs in the Mahar Regiment.
Demands for Equality and Justice:
(i) By the second half of the 19th century, people from within the ‘lower’ castes began organizing movements against caste discrimination and demanded social equality and justice.
(ii) The Satnami movement in Central India was founded by Ghasidas who came from a low caste, organised a movement to improve their social status.
(iii) In eastern Bengal, Haridas Thakur’s Matua sect worked among low caste; Chandala cultivators. Haridas questioned Brahmanical texts that supported the caste system.
(iv) Shri Narayan Guru, a guru from Ezhava caste given his views on caste system as “one caste. one religion, one god for humankind”.
(i) Jyotirao Phule, born in 1827 was known as one of the ‘low-caste’ leaders.
(ii) He attacked the Brahmans claim that they were superior to other, since they were Aryans.
(iii) According to Phule, the ‘upper’ caste had no right to their land and power, the land belonged to indigenous people who were called as low castes.
(iv) Phule proposed that Shudras and Ati Shudras should unite to challenge caste discrimination.
(v) The Satyashodhak Samaj was founded by Phule to propagate caste equality.
(vi) Phule wrote a book named “Gulamgiri”, meaning slavery. He established a link between the conditions of the “lower” castes in India & the black slaves in America.
(vii) In 20th century, the movement for caste reform was continued by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker.
Who Could enter Temples:
(i) Ambedkar was born into a Mahar family. As a child he experienced caste prejudice; In school, he was forced to sit outside the classroom on the ground & was not allowed to drink water from taps that upper-caste children used.
(ii) In 1919, when he came back from the USA, he wrote about “upper” caste power in contemporary society.
(iii) In 1927, Ambedkar started a temple entry movement. His aim was to make everyone see the power of caste prejudices within the society.
The Non-Brahman Movement:
(i) The Non-Brahman Movement in the early 20th century was initiated by non-Brahman castes that had acquired access to education, wealth and influence. They challenged Brahmanical claims to power.
(ii) E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker, known as Periyar was from middle-class family. He founded the Self Respect Movement.
(iv) He inspired the untouchables and asked them to free themselves from all religions in order to achieve social equality.
(v) Periyar was an outspoken critic of Hindu scriptures.
(vi) The forceful speeches, writings and movements of lower caste leaders led to rethink and self-criticism among upper caste nationalist leaders.
CBSE Class 8 Revision Notes and Key Points
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