The Prarthana Samaj was founded by Dr. Atmaram Pandurang in 1867 in Mumbai. The Prarthana Samaj means prayer society, naturally, the people of Maharashtra never wanted to establish a branch of the Brahmo Samaj because it had the influence of Christian religion. They wanted to concentrate their attention on the reforms of their social life.
Aims and Objectives of the Prarthana Samaj
The Prarthana Samaj believed that God is one and without any form, one has to worship him with spirituality. The Prarthana Samaj accepted and abided by the following principles:
- I shall daily meditate on God.
- I shall make efforts to do good and avoid evil.
- I shall pray to God that I may repeat if through the fault of my disposition I have committed a bad deed.
- God, give me strength deserve these promises.
The Prarthana Samajists did not upset the intense feelings of people towards gods like Vithoba who was the representation of the true God Vishnu. This signified the flexibility in the principles of Prarthana Samaj. It was a practical Samaj which declared all customs and traditions meaning less but continued with the rational and undamagings tradition to avoid any discontent of people.
Functions of the Prarthana Samaj
As a matter of fact the Prarthana Samaj involved in the social work as foundation of night schools for imparting instructions to young and needy people, establishing organizations for social work and social reforms and creating social awareness. Among such organizations depressed class mission was very important organisation which worked towards the removal of untouchability. The Prarthana Samaj worked hard and tried to solve the problem of orphan children, who were wandering in the cities like Mumbai and Pune by founding Asylumes and Orphanages at holy or religious centres like Pandharpur, Dehu and Alandi. This Samaj fought for solving problems of women by discouraging the people for committing child marriage and islolating women from the mainstream in society. It supported for widow re-marriage and female education by instituting several institutions at various cities. The Prarthana Samaj wanted to concentrate on the religious reforms it thought that it would initiate the social reforms and improve the life of women and untouchables in society. It undertook religious activities like the Sunday services, Sunday schools, foundation of the young Thiests union and the postal mission that sent the Subodh Patrika, the mouth piece of the samaj to people through post.
Members of Prarthana Samaj
There were several educated people, who became leaders of this samaj. Among them, M. G. Ranade, R. G. Bhandarkar, G. K. Gokhale, Talang and N. G. Chandavarkar were prominent members of this samaj. They were directly or indirectly involved in the activities the samaj. As the Mumbai paper, ‘Hindu Reformer’ claimed that the religion of Prarthana Samaj was destined to be the religion of the whole world due to the hand work and functions of the members of this samaj. In 1869, M. M. Kunte claimed that the three divisions of the Marathi society as English educated, Sanskrit educated and uneducated masses had attracted toward this society. Among them justice Ranade, although was a government employee, wrote extensively to create awakening and renaissance in society. M. G. Ranade was born in 1842 of Nifad of Nashik District, became a professor at the Elphinstone College, Mumbai, worked as translator to the Mumbai Government initially and then was appointed as a High Court Judge at Mumbai. He was a nationalist, educationist economist and a social reformer which led him to establish a Social Conference and discuss all problems related to women. In order to prepare a group of educated people to be yoked in the social reforms he associated with G. K. Gokhale who established the Deccan Education Society. It founded a school in the city of Pune, which grew naturally in Fergusson college, one of the leading educational institutions, the then. He also helped found another organization, which came to be known as the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha in 1870, which prepared a report on the economic conditions in Maharashtra, when a parliamentary committee was formed to enquire about the economic problems in India in 1871.
In addition to this, the Prarthana Samaj leaders like R. G. Bhandarkar dedicated to spread a right view on religion, reforms and right conduct. It appointed various committees to pay attention towards the education of workers. The leaders of the Prarthana Samaj were English educated and quite practical to give us religious foundation to the social reforms to attract the common people to the cause of social reforms. About the leaders of Prarthana Samaj, P. C. Mazoomdar says that the people of Maharashtra ware not like Bengalis who ware easily brought under any influence but if the Maharastrains came under it any how they ware extra ordinarily great and sustained their enthusiasm for a long time. It meant the leaders of the Prarthana Samaj did a commendable work for the society. G. K. Bhandarkar says that this samaj began its meetings with prayer and readings from the Theodore Parkar and such other rational writers. It generated the most important literature of the samaj and it also became the philosophy of the samaj, which was published in the Subodha Patrika, the weekly periodical of the samaj.