Mahadev Govind Ranade

Mahadev Govind Ranade
Mahadev Govind Ranade
Born 16 January 1842
Died 16 January 1901
Occupation scholar, social reformer and author

Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade (Marathi: महादेव गोविन्द रानडे) (16 January 1842 – 16 January 1901) was a distinguished Indian scholar, social reformer and author. He was a founding member of the Indian National Congress[1] and owned several designations as member of the Bombay legislative council, member of the finance committee at the centre, and the judge of Bombay High Court.[2].

A well known public figure, his personality as a calm and patient optimist would influence his attitude towards dealings with Britain as well as reform in India. During his life he helped establish the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha and the Prarthana Samaj, and would edit a Bombay Anglo-Marathi daily paper, the Induprakask, founded on his ideology of social and religious reform.



Ranade belonged to an Chitpavan Brahman family. He was born in Niphad, a small town in Nasik district, and spent much of his childhood in Kolhapur where his father was a minister. He began studies at the Elphinstone College in Mumbai, at the age of fourteen. He belonged to Bombay University, one of the three new British universities, and was part of the first batches for both the B.A. (1862) and the LL.B. (Government Law School, 1866) where he graduated at the top of his class. Great scholar and founder of Bori, Mr. Bhandarkar was his classmate. Ranade later got his MA degree at the top of his class.

He was appointed Presidency magistrate, fourth judge of the Bombay Small Causes Court in 1871, first-class sub-judge at Pune in 1873, judge of the Poona Small Causes Court in 1884, and finally to the Bombay High Court in 1893. From 1885 until he joined the High Court, he belonged to the Bombay legislative council.

In 1897, Ranade served on a committee charged with the task of enumerating imperial and provincial expenditure and making recommendations for financial retrenchment. This service won him the decoration of Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire. Ranade also served as a special judge under the Deccan Agriculturists' Relief Act from 1887.

Ranade held the offices of syndic and dean in arts at Bombay University, where he displayed much organizing power and great intimacy with the needs of the student class. A thorough Marathi scholar, he encouraged the translation of standard English works and tried, with some success, to introduce vernacular languages into the university curriculum.

He published books on Indian economics and on Maratha history. He saw the need for heavy industry for economic progress and believed in Western education as a vital element to the foundation of an Indian nation. He felt that by understanding the mutual problems of India and Britain both reform and independence could be achieved to the benefit of all and insisted that an independent India could only be stable after such reforms were made. Reform of Indian culture and use of an adaptation of Western culture, in Ranade’s view, would bring about “common interest… and fusion of thoughts, amongst all men.”



With his friends Dr Atmaram Pandurang, Bal Mangesh Wagle and Vaman Abaji Modak, Ranade founded the Prarthana Samaj, a Hindu movement inspired by the Brahmo Samaj, espousing principles of enlightened theism based on the ancient Vedas. Prarthana Samaj was started by Keshav Chandra Sen, a staunch Brahma Samajist, with the objective of carrying out religious reforms in Maharashtra.


Ranade founded the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha and later was one of the originators of the Indian National Congress. He has been portrayed as an early adversary of the politics of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and a mentor to Gopal Krishna Gokhale.

The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica stated that the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha "frequently helped the government with sound advice". Not everyone agreed. In a letter to Henry Fawcett, Florence Nightingale wrote:

[T]he Poona Sarvajanik Sabha (National Association) […] again pretends to represent the people and merely represents the money lenders, officials, and a few effete Mahratta landlords.

In 1943, B. R. Ambedkar praised Ranade and rated him favorably against Gandhi and Jinnah:

Ranade never received the honours of apotheosis as these great men of India today are destined to receive. How could he? He did not come with a message hot from Senai. He performed no miracles and promised no speedy deliverance and splendour. He was not a genius and he had no superhuman qualities. But there are compensations. If Ranade did not show splendour and dominance, he brought us no catastrophe. If he had no superhuman qualities to use in the service of India, India was saved from ruin by its abuse. If he was not a genius, he did not display that perverse super-subtlety of intellect, and a temper of mind which is fundamentally dishonest and which has sown the seeds of distrust and which has made settlement so difficult of achievement.

There is nothing exuberant and extravagant in Ranade. He refused to reap cheap notoriety by playing the part of an extremist. He refused to mislead people by playing upon and exploiting the patriotic sentiments of the people. He refused to be a party to methods which are crude, which have volume but no effect, and which are neither fool-proof nor knave-proof, and which break the back even of the most earnest and sincere servants of the country and disable them from further effort. In short, Ranade was like the wise Captain who knows that his duty is not to play with his ship clever and masterful tricks, just for effect and show in the midst of the ocean, but to take it safely to its appointed port. In short, Ranade was not a forged bank note and in worshipping him we have no feeling of kneeling before anything that is false.


Ranade was a founder of the Social Conference movement, which he supported till his death, directing his social reform efforts against child marriage, the shaving of widows' heads, the heavy cost of marriages and other social functions, and the caste restrictions on traveling abroad, and he strenuously advocated widow remarriage and female education. He was one of the founders of the Widow Marriage Association in 1861.[3] Ranade attempted to work with the structure of weakened traditions, reforming, but not destroying the social atmosphere that was India’s heritage. Ranade valued India’s history, having had a great interest in Shivaji and the Bhakti movement, but he also recognized the influence that British rule over India had on its development. Ranade encouraged the acceptance of change, believing traditional social structures, like the caste system, should accommodate change, thereby preserving India’s ancient heritage. An overall sense of national regeneration was what Ranade desired.

Though Ranade criticised superstitions and blind faith, he was conservative in his own life. He chose to take prayaschitta (religious penance) in case of Panch-houd Mission Case rather than taking a strong side of his opinions.[4][5]

Upon the death of his first wife, his reform-minded friends expected him to marry (and thereby rescue) a widow. However, he adhered to his family's wishes and married a child bride, Ramabai Ranade, whom he subsequently provided with an education. After his death, she continued his social and educational reform work. He had no children. Ramabai Ranade in her memoirs has stated that when one equally prominent Pune personality, Vishnupant Pandit, married a widow, Ranade entertained him and a few guests at his home. This was not liked by his orthodox father who decided to leave Ranade's home in Pune and go to Kolhapur. It was only after he (i.e. Mahadev G. Ranade) told the father that he would resign from his government job that the father relented and canceled his plans to go to Kolhapur. Ranade decided never to do any such thing in future.He however was insistent that his young wife i.e Ramabai Ranade should do his bidding in the matters of social reforms ( this also has been confirmed by her in her memoirs.)


  • Ranade, Mahadev Govind, Rise of the Maratha Power (1900); reprint (1999) ISBN 8171171818
  • Bipan Chandra, ed., Ranade’s Economic Writings New Delhi, Gyan Books Pvt. Ltd. (1990) ISBN 8121203287


  • Brown, D. Mackenzie. “Indian Political Thought: From Ranade to Bhave.” (Berkeley: University of California Press: 1961).
  • Mansingh, Surjit. Historical Dictionary of India., vol. 20, Asian Historical Dictionaries. s.v. “Shivaji.” London: Scarecrow Press, 1996.
  • Masselos, Jim. Indian Nationalism: A History. (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1985).
  • Wolpert, Stanley. India. (Berkeley: University of California, 1991). 57.
  • Wolpert, Stanley. Tilak and Gokhale: Revolutions and Reform in the Making of Modern India. (Berkeley: University of California, 1962). 12.
  1. ^ "Mahadev Govind Ranade". Retrieved 04/09/2009. 
  2. ^ [ "Mahadeo Govind Ranade"]. Retrieved 04/09/2009. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Bakshi, SR (1993). Mahadev Govind Ranade. p. 42. ISBN 9788170416050. 
  5. ^ "Loss of Caste". Retrieved 04/10/2009. Ranade and a few other notables like Bal Gangadhar Tilak attended a meeting with the missionaries of the Panch Houd Mission that still exists in Pune. Apparently, tea was offered to them. Some of them drank it and some others did not. Gopalrao Joshi made this affair public. Poona in those days - late 19th century - was a very orthodox place and the bastion of Brahminism. All offenders were ordered to undergo Prayashchitta for their offense of drinking tea of Christian missionaries.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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