4.11   LOKMANYA BAL GANGADHAR TILAK'S
VIEWS ON WOMEN'S EDUCATION

 

The last year of the 20th century is an appropriate time to look back and take a review of the historical changes that this century has brought. It was a period of transition and so of confrontation on various social issues. Women's education and overall reforms in women's social status was one such hot issue that had caught the attention of all social thinkers in particular and society in general. Especially the last two decades of the 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th century is the period of the tussle between radical social reformists and orthodox Hindu traditionalists over the education of women - whether they should at all be educated and if so what kind of education they be given. Being a hard patriarchal society, no one thought it worth considering what were the views of the women over their own issues. Women played a secondary marginal role in society and that was mostly of a housewife, who was caught in a trap of various age-old customs and traditions. In this context it would be interesting to see what views did a contemporary nationalistic leader, an editor of a newspaper and basically a teacher of a school and even society like Lokmanya Tilak holds about women's education.

The views of a person on any issue cannot be inspected arbitrarily. Especially when one talks of women's education, it is entangled with various issues of the period like child-marriages, dishevelled-widows, widow-remarriages etc. It is along with these issues that we have to study Tilak's views on women's education. It is also important to see a short history of women's education to get the idea of the social ethos on which Tilak put forth his views. Unless we compare Tilak's views with contemporary exponents of women's education like Mahatma Phule, Principal Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, Vitthal Ramji Shinde and Maharshi Annasaheb Karve, we cannot evaluate Tilak's contribution to women's education. It is also important to note that the family in which one grows, the surrounding society that influences the shaping of one's opinions, the education one takes which decides one's preferences, and one's own temperament plays important roles in confirming one's views. Tilak's views should be examined on these grounds. Tilak was not a staunch radical reformist like Agarkar and the principal aim of his life was independence of India. His opinion that social reforms would take place gradually along with political reforms would have also played a definite role in deciding his views on women's issues. We will have to see his objectives and the way he proposed to achieve them in the light of this bigger aim. Whether what he foresaw turned out to be true would also be an interesting point to observe. It is through these various angles that this paper tries to bring forth an overall picture of Tilak's views on women's education.

Tilak's views on women's Educations

It is with reference to this social ethos that the thoughts of Tilak on women's education are to be read. They are mostly expressed in the four editorials he wrote between September to October 1887 about a particular female high school. There is one more special editorial `Stree Shikshanachi Disha' [The Direction Of Women's Education ] written on March 16, 1888. There was a lot of discussion going on in the newspapers about a female high school established in 1884. Tilak thought that the founders of this school were neglecting the criticism against them, thinking that those who write against women's education were uncultured, uneducated and obstinate people. If the curriculum of this school had been made public before the school began, Tilak thought there would not have been misunderstandings about the school. The attempt to educate women would be successful according to him if the consent of the people is honoured. He, like other so many people of his time, did not deny the necessity of education for women, but differed with the contents and the way it was given. He thought that the exponents of education should first think of the contemporary society and opinions of the masses before allowing their imagination a free play. Again and again Tilak emphasised not to neglect the psyche of the society and that the preferences should be made accordingly. Nothing could be achieved by neglecting the society. The second point he mentioned is that if half of the humanity is uneducated our goal will never be achieved, but that does not mean that the kind of education being given to man is appropriate for woman too. Their duties in this world are different, and so should be their education. Time and situation also demand this difference. The curriculum in the female high school is akin to that of boys' school. If women are forced to take this kind of education, society would never be benefited.

In the second article, he accepts that traditionalists agree with reformists that educated women would do their duties more efficiently; but disagrees about the duties of women in society. Education to woman is not a new concept in our society. There are examples of scholarly women in our Puranas. But, sending women to schools to receive formal education like boys is a new concept borrowed from the English, and as in the case of other concepts borrowed from them, here too we are in the wrong. If English rule and education would continue for more than a hundred years, our families would imitate their lifestyle. He accepts that society is not stable, it should change according to time, situation and ruler but is of the opinion that attempts to bring reforms would never be successful if social conditions are not taken into consideration. Our families are different from English families and so should be our education. Their girls do not marry at an early age, they stay with their parents till they reach the prime of their youth. They do not depend on their parents economically if they are educated and, and they get sufficient time to educate themselves as they marry late. They, like boys, help their families by earning money. Women can complete education in such social situations. What is the use of education in our society? Our girls have to marry before puberty, they have to live with in-laws after marriage. So, they do not require education for earning money. At the most, they have to be taught how to be good housewives, and the school which does not teach that, is useless and would never prosper. He does not like the criticism of some people when they say that educated women would wear boot and stockings like English madams and roam in Bund Garden with their Sahibs. His basic argument is, when the education given to boys is not wholly beneficial the consequences would be doubly harmful , if the same is given to girls. We imitate the English, but English women themselves are getting education only for the last twenty years or so, then why should we hurry to give it to our women? He thinks that the time is not ripe for women's education, and very sarcastically he adds, when marriages would take place at a later stage, when there would not be joint families, when restrictions of religion and morality would be loose, when middle class people would have enough to spare, when the English educated women, singing on piano, dancing a kindergarten dance, telling stories of Grace darling and Elizabeth, instead of Seeta or Ahilya, then only English educated women would be honoured in society. We require women who care for our religion and household work, who know some reading and writing. The schools which will not produce such women are not required. Educate women for two or three hours in the interval, after they finish their daily chores. This education should be according to the laws of the Hindu religion and feminine duties. Such schools, where women of all religions come together and are taught by the English madams may suit the rich or the destitute, or to those women who have to earn their livelihood. This school will be a nuisance to middle class people. If reforms are brought about suddenly, they break the society and female schools are stepping on the same lines. Reforms are to be carried out very gradually, caring for the psyche of the society. Otherwise, reforms will never take root, and you will be cut off from the society.

In the third editorial (published on Oct. 11, 1887) Tilak warns the founders of female education to re-examine their objectives and to make appropriate changes in their curriculum. He also raises the question as to why people and government should spend money on such schools which are of doubtful use. Like boys' schools, girls' schools are already well settled. There is a scope for reform in these schools, but that does not mean there is a need to open new schools. We already have a female training college, with the thought that these women would teach in girls' schools. This high school does not have either young girls or training teachers. According to our religious traditions, girls marry before attaining puberty, and after marriage, they have to do household chores in their husbands' homes. That is why there are no married women in schools. After marriage, they even forget the alphabets which they once knew. This means that society does not get the benefit of educated women through girls' high school. If the female high school has the objective of doing away with this lacuna, we will have to see how many married Hindu women are there in this school. The total number of married women is twenty. If women of other religions are excluded, one can see how few Hindu women are benefited by this school. He then goes on to accuse the management of the female high school that they have been carried away by imaginary reforms and have neglected completely the contemporary social situation. He is of the opinion that even if high school education is the extension of primary education, it is not useful in general, for our women. It may be useful in England, where women can be clerks, lawyers, doctors or editors. He does not think that women should remain slaves in the hands of men, but he thinks that at least five hundred or even a thousand years should pass before the situation is changed. He underlines that marriage is a social contract in Western countries. Women marry at a later stage, and there too only a few years have passed when they have started taking professional training. Do we want our women to be clerks or writers? Those who are proud of the woman community would never like to think of our women as clerks being kicked by English Sahibs. In summary, the education in female high school is useless except for a very few rich women, who, if they choose, can be writers. Our women should be given education to improve the household work. They should improve themselves by reading scriptures. As for the artists, their profession is the main thing and education subsidiary, so for the women, household work is the main thing and education is secondary. They are not supposed to neglect the work and run to school from 11 to 5 taking the guidance of Christian teachers for Western education. No one would be ready to spend the first fifteen or sixteen years of their life for such education. The house of in-laws is a workshop. The practical education that she will get here, no school can ever give. We are in need of that education which will not bring her out from this workshop, but which will teach her something suitable from our religion. In addition to this, if some people want western education they can avail of it.

The fourth editorial [Oct.25,1887 ] sarcastically addresses the reformists of women's education and elaborately puts forth his ideas. He says that he drastically differs from them about the duty of a person towards society. The reformists claim that a "man and a woman are both like a wheel of a cart called family. If one lags behind, the cart will fall into a ditch. A woman is a fellow- friend of a man. A man could never go forth keeping her behind. Education would not do harm to women as it has not done to men. " Tilak belittles the reformists saying that they live in dazed condition of mind and are blind to the actualities of our society. It is important to think of how life of human beings would be after one thousand years but that does not mean to start the reforms immediately accordingly. As they say women would be free like men to choose their profession, there would not be slavery in marriage and the nation would prosper because both educated men and women would be working together. This may happen but after 5 to 10 hundred years. The problem with which we are concerned is what kind of education should be given to our women to bring some change in their position. We are in search of such an institute that will give them more than primary education but will not hinder their womanly duties. Those who say that I am against women's education are perverse and prejudiced. It will take time to change the tradition of marriage before puberty. There can be a woman like Dr. Anandibai Joshi who will be educated and would do a profession like a man with the permission of her husband, but it will be an exception. We accept that if there are women like her we should help them go forth, but that will not achieve anything in general what we can achieve by a number of cultured women. They should be educated without disturbing their marriage life. Women's education in the real sense of the term will not begin till a number of married women are being educated. Reformists of women's education should never forget this. Formal education in high school is for boys, not for girls. They require different type of education that would help them to be good housewives. He thinks that the founders of female education know this, but turn a deaf ear to this reality. Sarcastically he remarks that he should admire them for their strategy in opening a boarding school in Pune for women. The question is would the quality women take admission in it? Would they declare how many girls above the age of 14 to 15 are there? He is sure that people will never send their married daughters in such boarding schools. At the most there would be some poor destitute women who want to become teachers. How is the internal management of the boarding school is not yet known. Those who have thought of such a boarding school must have been blind by the ideas of reforms. It may turn into a widow-house like the one Pandita Ramabai is going to open.

As religious reforms require mingling with masses, so does women's education. The women's community will not improve, if one or two women become M.D. or M.A. So thousands of rupees that are being spent on female high school are only for the benefit of five to ten women. We do not envy them, but the Govt. should first see the welfare of the common masses and then of the rich. If they do not have that much funds, preferences should be given to reform the majority of people. It is surprising that at the end of this article he says that his thoughts may be incorrect but instead of pointing at his lacuna if someone obstinately and arrogantly calls him hypocrite , he will never tolerate it and will expose him before the society.

Two months after the publication of these articles Tilak thought that he should make his views more clear. He decided to write one more article [March 6, 1888] because his opponents vehemently criticized him for his conservative attitudes. He begins the article saying that he is much more an exponent of women's education than anyone else of his time. By nature his tendency is for women's education, but he thinks that as men and women have different roles to play in life, their education should also be different. Career women would always be minority so the founders of women's education should not think only of their needs. Housework and married life are the principle duties of a woman, she should be taught to read and write, but to make her study after the age of 16 is against her femininity and so is harmful. His main point was this, but according to him no body could point out any mistake in his thinking. Some objected that he is short- sighted and his thoughts do not go with his English education. These objections he thinks do not point any flaw in his thinking process and so he need not answer them, but as the lion does not hide in fear of an elephant, so does not he. He defends himself for the satisfaction of his opponents. He then quotes an article in a book published in the month of February of the same year called `Nineteenth Century.' The article is by one Miss Sivley and is about the curriculum in female high schools in England. She says, "that the duties of men and women differ and so should the courses. English schools do not keep this in mind and teach the same curriculum to boys and girls up to the age of 18. This happens because some scholars do not think there is difference between men and women. It is alright when they are small, but when they start growing the difference is visible. Boys are strong, stout and boisterous. They love outdoor activities, where girls are by nature simple. They love indoor games. This difference develops with the age and is completely opposite at the end. A grown up person goes out of the house in search of a job, whereas a woman though married or unmarried looks after her house. As it is a duty of a man to earn money it is the duty of a woman to do the household work and to look after her children. This does not mean that men should dominate over women, but one should not interfere in other's field.Each one should take care how he or she excels in his or her duty. The curriculum in schools should be such that would teach them the excellence in their respective fields". At the end of his editorial Tilak notes that it is his modest request to reformists of women's education to think of these points seriously and bring the appropriate changes in practice.

To sum up, Tilak is of the opinion that there should be separate education for women that would make them better mothers, and better housewives. There is a lurking fear behind this position that the life-style of society would change by English education and by the imitation of western culture. He therefore rejects the concept of serving women and firmly believes that education plays a secondary role in women's life.

There are two types of reformists, those who want to impose reforms in spite of resistance and the others, who think social reforms will follow gradually with the changing time and political reforms. Tilak is the second kind of leader who did not want to disturb the contemporary social set up. The careful reading of his articles shows that he is not against women's education, but that he is afraid the haste of the reformists would disturb the public opinion against it. Tilak knows very well the psyche of our traditional Hindu society, and would oppose any decision taken hastily without probing the pros and cons. He is of the opinion that reforms are to be introduced according to the time, situation and the opinion of the masses. If the masses are behind time, try to change their opinion, but never neglect them or never try to bring reforms without their acceptance. He insisted on the same view in the case of other social problems of the time. He strongly opposed any interference of government in the Hindu laws and traditions. Not only that he did not want law to be imposed against the shaving of widows, but that he did not even want our people to bring pressures on bringing an end of this custom. Deenbandhu the news paper of Satyashodhak Samaj invoked the barbers to refuse to shave women. Agarkar also called the Brahmin society to take the warning seriously. Tilak on the other hand expressed his dislike for such invocations. He expressed his views that pressures should not be imposed on women, leave the question to them, and allow them to take their own decision. If one is ready to shave her head let her do so, At the same time he brought the stark reality on the social front that prohibiting this custom will not improve the condition of widows. Unshaven widows will suffer more. As they cannot remarry we should think positively about finding the means of their livelihood. If forced not to shave, they will prefer to die like Sati. These views show that Tilak knew the cruelty, wickedness, undue passion and selfishness of our men folk in depth. Even if he sounds orthodox traditionalist, he is more balanced and thoughtful on same occasions.

In cases of widow remarriages Tilak holds the same view of not stirring the feelings of society. When Agarkar congratulated Shri R. B. Joshi for remarrying his sister against the wishes of his parents, Tilak sympathizes with the parents and says that sons have no right to make their parents unhappy in an old age by going against their wishes. Indirectly it shows that he was against widow marriages. In 1893,when Dhondo Keshav Karve remarried a widow called Godubai Joshi, Tilak has written: "One has no right to pinch the society. In this we differ from the reformists. Parents are to be respected even if they are foolish. In the same way convictions of the traditional society also have to be respected. Society claims honour because it is always big in number." The last sentence clearly indicates why Tilak is called `Telya Tambolyanche Pudhari'. He has contacts even with the lowest strata of the social setup and knew very well that one can never lead unless one gets their backing. In a way sometimes he seems to cater to their tastes even against his will, but it's a part of his political strategy and he faithfully sticks to it, accepting compromises.

It may be noted however that in his own personal life he carried out the reforms he advocated. He educated his daughters in the same female school which he criticized. He did not stick to Deopuja, Sandhya and other such everyday rituals. He attended widow remarriage parties, he freely interlined with men of any creed, community and religion. Tilak was not at all a champion of orthodoxy. He stood for hastening slowly in bringing about social and religious reforms, and was against any sudden violent break with the past. He was a good progressive conservative Hindu, his beliefs were firm and this policy secured for him the support of the general masses.

Tilak was uncompromisingly against the attempts of Mr. Byramji Malbari to bring reforms through legislation. Ranade, Bhandarkar and Agarkar held that if the reforms initiated by the Government were calculated to serve the best interests of the people, they should not be opposed simply because the foreign Govt. sponsored them. Tilak was the only public man of his day to be wholly against the bill of the Age of the Consent. Here too, the way in which he spoke and wrote would show that he was quite reasonable and earnest about the cause of social reforms. He did not want to rush his people and get headlong into it. In this case of the Age of Consent, he suggested that the attainment of puberty should be made the legal age for consummation of marriage. As a spokesman of the common people, he wanted the Govt. to bend down to the will of the people. In the `Kesari' and the `Maharatta' he carried on an incessant campaign against Mr. Malabari, the social reformers and the Govt. Although the campaign failed and the Govt. carried through the legislation in spite of his opposition, he moved a resolution in the Bombay Provincial Social Reform Conference condemning the Govt. for not respecting legitimately and widely expressed public opinion.

He was beyond doubt in favour of social reforms but all that he wanted was that the initiative in that respect should be taken by educated Indians and they should primarily be achieved by educating the public. He inveighed against legislation to force the pace of reform among the ignorant masses because he believed that the method would not work and all such legislation would remain a dead letter. In the public meeting in Tulshibag under the presidentship of Rao Bahadur Nulkar, he put the proposal of social reforms, like girls should not be married before the age of 14,and boys before the age of 20. A man marrying again should marry a widow but no one should marry after the age of 40. Dowry should be abolished and widows should not be disfigured. Respecting masses does not mean accepting even the evil customs. In many of his articles he has censured the aged people who generally married girls under the age of 14,with a sharp edge of his pen and has tried to emphasize the status of wife in one's life. A woman, he says, is not a machine of producing children, nor a maid servant to devote her whole life in household work. How could a man be so empty headed like cattle to marry immediately after the death of his wife, whom he has accepted with the pledge Y_} M, AW} M, H$m_{ M, who shared his life through thick and thin, who took half of the responsibility of his family on her shoulders and with whom he had sexual intercourse for so many years? He occasionally admires the reformists that their objective to bring equality between men and women is praiseworthy, but instead of encouraging widow remarriages he suggests that they should bring a change in the tendency of men to marry even at the later stage of their life. Both men and women should be aware of the glorious life of Sanyasashram, which our religion insists after a certain age. To lessen the undue excessive importance of marriage is the true path towards reforms and is in defence of Hindu religion. His merciless logic and proficiency in Sanskrit lore adds such grace to the scholarly advocacy of his views, that even if one does not agree with his views, one becomes powerless in expressing one's disagreement. But Tilak's efforts were futile because he found out that no one wanted to suffer and make sacrifices for his convictions and it dawned upon him that most of those who called themselves social reformers were not serious about practice and indulged merely in precept. In yet another episode of Pandita Ramabai, Tilak did not like her activities of opening a residential school, but Agarkar, Ranade and Bhandarkar were very enthusiastic about it. In the beginning, Tilak enrolled his name among the sympathisers of the school after satisfying himself that the Indian girls were not compelled to attend Christian prayers, and the education was only secular. He soon discovered that the condition was not being observed and the institution was functioning as a proselytizing body. He protested against it. The Sudharak wrote tauntingly about Tilak, questioning his motives and calling him an opponent of women's education. Ultimately, Agarkar was convinced of Ramabai's double dealings, and quietly removed his niece from the school. Tilak's triumph was indisputably established in this controversy. It was his intelligence, insight and thorough understanding of the motives of the people that lead him to see through some contemporary cases.

Tilak was born and brought up in a traditional Brahmin family of Gangadhar Shastri, well known for piety and learning. In general his views about women were never liberal. He agreed with what Manu said "Z ór ñdmV§Í` _hoV". He naturally symbolizes the deep-rooted patriarchal culture of Hindu society where women have a secondary and marginalized position. It is not surprising therefore, that Tilak adhered to the side of Dadoji against Rakhamabai. In an article on March 19. 1887, in Kesari, Tilak criticizes Rakhamabai very harshly as a foolish hater of our customs and traditions. He calls her act as a licence for extra-marital relationship, and holds her responsible for sowing the seed of dissatisfaction in hundreds of otherwise happy families. In comparison he has showered his praise on Anandibai Joshi for devoting her whole life for the cause of betterment of Hindu women and foresees that she will remain immortal in the hearts of Hindu men and women.

Tilak's views on women's education, if compared with his contemporary reformists, can be evaluated in the light of history of women's education. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, though preceded Tilak, had opened a school for girls in 1848 in Pune. He was strongly opposed by society and even by his own parents. He taught his wife Savitribai, who afterwards became a teacher in this school. Both of them continued their work of women's education up to the lower levels of society. The then education officer Cady gave financial assistance to this school in 1852.

Agarkar, a radical reformist in Maharashtra was an exponent of women's education, who held such strong progressive views which were not easily acceptable to the contemporary society. He was an individualist and firmly believed in the equality of sexes. He was of the opinion that women's education should be made compulsory by law. If a woman has to take care of her child, it is a crime to keep her illiterate. He laughs at Tilak's statement that we had a tradition of women's education. There is no proof that women were given formal education, nor were they taught to read and write at home. In all developing countries, women are getting education, while we have kept them locked in our houses. We should encourage them to come into the light, choose a profession they like, secure higher degree, and marry when they like. He was very sure that these reforms would take place very soon and the credit to foresee this correctly should be given to him as the present position of women shows, whereas Tilak thought it will take at least five to ten centuries to bring about the educational reforms in women. Agarkar was against child marriage and asked the society how could a woman continue her education if she is married at an early age, if she delivered a number of children and was expected to look after them. Either they should not marry till they complete higher education or the in-laws must give them liberty like unmarried women to continue their studies. He says that our society suffers and does not prosper because half of its number has been prevented from making use of its intelligence. Boys and girls should be given co-education so that there would be a healthy competition among them and each one will get a position according to his intelligence.

Agarkar's thoughts were poles apart from those of Tilak's. Both of them harshly criticized each other over their views. Agarkar had the courage and daring to say whatever he felt right despite the opposition of the masses whereas Tilak always found the golden mean, made compromises and stuck to the orthodox Hindu tradition. Another of his contemporaries Maharshi Annasaheb Karve was an activist in the real sense of the term. He married a widow, opened a primary and high school for adult women, a boarding school for destitutes and widows. The culmination of his work is seen in the establishment of a unique university only for women. He introduced subjects like Home-science, child-development in the curriculum of the degree examination. In his memoirs, he mentions that he met Tilak and told him about this university but Tilak refused to give him anything in writing in recommendation of this university. He said education has made men sceptic, he did not want women to be come so. In actual fact, Tilak's ideas about women's education were being brought into reality by Karve, but there was a basic difference in the view of these two thinkers. Karve believed that in terms of intellectual qualities, there is no difference between man and woman. They are equal yet their fields differ so should their curriculum. Another thing was that he wanted women to do jobs and become economically independent, the idea Tilak would never tolerate.

Tilak was of the view that he too was a reformist but his ways are different than the radical reformist like Agarkar. Tilak's speculations about women's education failed. In spite of his opposition, the female high school prospered and there were more such schools where women started taking English education. It means that the society did not wish to keep its women in their traditional status. Whereas Agarkar thinks of women in general, Tilak's views are confined only to middle class brahmin women. He opposed compulsory primary education for girls. But a big procession of women under the leadership of Vitthal Ramji Shinde followed by thousands of untouchable women and Ramabai Ranade followed by thousands of higher class women proved that general masses were for compulsory primary education for women. A meeting was called in Kirloskar Theatre under the presidentship of Chief Officer Shankarrao Bhagwat when Tilak was a special invitee to convince people of not making primary education compulsory for women. Vitthal Ramji Shinde opposed Tilak and suggested him not to deliver a lecture. Tilak neglected him and started to talk, when people threw eggs on him. He was saved by Vitthal Ramji and his son. The meeting was adjourned. The next meeting of this type in Gayakwadvada also ended in commotion. The two incidents show that time was changing and Tilak could not estimate it.

One thing has to be noted in justification of Tilak that Tilak's views about women's education came as a reaction to the extreme views of the reformists. It was in defence of the Hindu traditional cult that he had to take this position as a representative of its past glory. There is no separate theoretical presentation on this issue. So his views are limited and confined only to the occasional incidents. Tilak afterwards concentrated his energies more in politics and less in social reforms. He felt it more prudent to attack the foreign rule and concentrate upon capturing political power and use it as a means of bringing about social reforms. He became a national leader and tried to revive nationalistic spirit among people. If Tilak had joined hands with reformists about women's education, his public image would have helped the spread of women's education earlier. But then Tilak as a political leader would not have emerged as strongly as he did.