Women, Caste and Reform

Table of Contents

Women, Caste and Reform

Answer the following questions:

(1) What does the term ‘Sati’ means?

Answer –

The term “Sati” means virtuous woman.

(2) Explain the practice of Sati.

Answer –

In some parts of the country, widows were praised if they chose death by burning themselves on the funeral pyre of their husbands. Women who died in this manner, whether willingly or otherwise, were called “Sati”, meaning virtuous women.

(3) Who were referred to as vaishyas?

Answer –

Traders and moneylenders were referred to as Vaishyas. They were placed after the Brahmans and Kshatriyas.

(4) Who were referred to as Shudras?

Answer –

In most regions, people were divided along lines of caste. Peasants and artisans such as weavers and potters were referred to as Shudras. They were placed after Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas.

(5) Who founded Brahmo Samaj and when?

Answer –

Raja Rammohun Roy (1772-1833) founded the Brahmo Sabha (later known as the Brahmo Samaj), a reform association in Calcutta.

(6) Which Indian reformer fought against the practice of Sati?

Answer –

Raja Rammohun Roy.

(7) When was the practice of Sati banned?

Answer –

In 1829, the practice of Sati was banned.

(8) Name one social reformer who fought for widow remarriage?

Answer –

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.

(9) Who founded Arya Samaj?

Answer –

Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the reform association called Arya Samaj.

(10) Who was Veerasalingam Pantulu?

Answer –

In the Telugu-speaking areas of the Madras Presidency, Veerasalingam Pantulu formed an association for widow remarriage.

(11) Who started schools for Muslim girls in Patna and Calcutta?

Answer –

Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain started schools for Muslim girls in Patna and Calcutta.

(12) Who wrote the book ‘Stripurushtulna’?

Answer –

Tarabai Shinde, a woman educated at home at Poona, published the book, Stripurushtulna, (A Comparison between Women and Men), criticising the social differences between men and women.

(13) Who was Pandita Ramabai?

Answer –

Pandita Ramabai was a great scholar of Sanskrit. She felt that Hinduism was oppressive towards women, and wrote a book about the miserable lives of upper-caste Hindu women. She founded a widows’ home at Poona to provide shelter to widows who had been treated badly by their husbands’ relatives. In those shelters, women were trained so that they could support themselves economically.

(14) When was the Child Marriage Restraint Act passed?

Answer –

In 1929 the Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed.

(15) When and where Pramhans Mandali was founded and for what purpose?

Answer –

In Bombay, the Paramhans Mandali was founded in 1840 to work for the abolition of caste.

(16) Who founded the Satnami Movement and what was its objective?

Answer –

The Satnami movement in Central India was founded by Ghasidas who worked among the leatherworkers. Its objective is to improve the social status of leatherworkers.

(17) Who was Sri Narayan Guru?

Answer –

Shri Narayana Guru was a guru from the Ezhava caste, who proclaimed the ideals of unity for his people. He argued against treating people unequally on the basis of caste differences. According to him, all humankind belonged to the same caste.

(18) Who founded Satyasodhak Samaj?

Answer –

The Satyashodhak Samaj was an association founded by Jyotirao Phule to propagate caste equality.

(19) Who wrote Gulamgiri?

Answer –

In 1873, Jyotirao Phule wrote Gulamgiri.

(20) Who founded the Self-Respect Movement? What was its objective?

Answer –

Periyar founded the Self-Respect Movement.

With this movement, Periyar wanted untouchables to fight for their dignity.


(1) What social ideas did the following people support –

Rammohun Roy

Dayanand Saraswati

Veerasalingam Pantulu

Jyotirao Phule

Pandita Ramabai


Mumtaz Ali

Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar

Answer –

Rammohun Roy – Abolition of the practice of Sati

Dayanand Saraswati – Widow remarriage

Veerasalingam Pantulu – Widow remarriage

Jyotirao Phule – Caste equality

Pandita Ramabai – A better life for Hindu women from the upper caste and widows.

Periyar – Abolition of untouchability

Mumtaz Ali – Women’s education

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar – Women’s education

(2) State whether true or false:

(a) When the British captured Bengal they framed many new laws to regulate the rules regarding marriage, adoption, inheritance of property, etc. – True

(b) Social reformers had to discard the ancient texts in order to argue for reform in social practices. False

(c) Reformers got full support from all sections of the people of the country. – False

(d) The Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed in 1829. – False

(3) How did the knowledge of ancient texts help the reformers promote new laws?

Answer –

Whenever the social reformers wished to challenge a practice that seemed harmful, they tried to find a verse or sentence in the ancient sacred texts that supported their point of view. They then suggested that the practice as it existed at present was against early tradition. In this way, the knowledge of ancient texts helped the reformers to promote new laws

(4) What were the different reasons people had for not sending girls to school?

Answer –

People do not send their girls to school because –

  1. they feared that schools would take girls away from home,
  2. prevent them from doing their domestic duties.
  3. Moreover, girls had to travel through public places in order to reach school. many people felt that this would have a corrupting influence on them.
  4. They felt that girls should stay away from public spaces

(5) Why were Christian missionaries attacked by many people in the country?

Would some people have supported them too? If so, for what reasons?

Answer –

During the course of the nineteenth century, Christian missionaries began setting up schools for tribal groups and “lower”-caste children. These children were thus equipped with some resources to make their way into a changing world. But the people from the upper caste thought that this would disrupt the sociological order that had been practiced for so long.

On other Christian missionaries had been supported by tribal groups and lower caste people as they thought helped them to gain some equality in the society and live a better life.

(6) In the British period, what new opportunities opened up for people who came from castes that were regarded as “low”?

Answer –

During the British period, many new opportunities opened up for the people of lower castes like –

  1. With industrialization, many people undertook the job of workers in the factories.
  2. With the development of cities, the demand for labour was created. People from lower castes took the job.
  3. Some also went to work in plantations in Assam, Mauritius, Trinidad, and Indonesia.

The poor and the people from low castes saw this as an opportunity to get away from the oppressive hold that upper-caste landowners exercised over their lives and the daily humiliation they suffered.

(7) How did Jyotirao the reformers justify their criticism of caste inequality in society?

Answer –

To justify the caste criticism in society, Jyotirao argued that –

  1. Brahmans claimed that they were superior to others since they were Aryans but the Aryans were foreigners, who came from outside the subcontinent, and defeated and subjugated the indigenous people of India.
  2. As the Aryans established their dominance, they began looking at the defeated population as inferior, as low-caste people.
  3. According to Phule, the “upper” castes had no right to their land and power.
  4. In reality, the land belonged to indigenous people, who they called low castes.
  5. Phule claimed that before Aryan rule there existed a golden age when warrior-peasants tilled the land and ruled the Maratha countryside in a just and fair way.

(8) Why did Phule dedicate his book Gulamgiri to the American movement to free slaves?

Answer –

Phule dedicated his book to all those Americans who had fought to free slaves because he wanted to establish a link between the conditions of the “lower” castes in India and the black slaves in America.

(9) What did Ambedkar want to achieve through the temple entry movement?

Answer –

Through the temple entry movement, Ambedkar wanted to make everyone see the power of caste prejudice prevailed within the society.

(10) Why were Jyoti Rao Phule and Ramaswamy Naicker critical of the national movement? Did their criticism help the national struggle in any way?

Answer –

Phule believed that the upper castes were fighting the British to regain the authority they used to have. So he was critical of the national movement as the movement would not be helpful to the lower caste in any way.

On the other hand, Naicker already faced discrimination in the INC which was leading the national movement. It made him reluctant to participate in the national movement.

Their criticism at least creates some sense of unity and they fought for the same cause putting aside their differences. That unity helped us to get independence.

Leave a Reply