Gopal Hari Deshmukh
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Gopal Hari Deshmukh (18 February 1823 – 9 October 1892) was a social reformer from Maharashtra, India. He was born in Pune. His original surname was Shidhaye. Because of ‘Vatan’ that he had received he was later called as Deshmukh.
Deshmukh started his career as a translator for the government then under British Raj. In 1867, the government appointed him a small cause judge in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.He worked as a Diwan also in Ratlam state.The government had honoured him while he was working only, as a ‘Justice of Peace’ and ‘Raobahadur’. He retired as a sessions judge.
Social work in Maharashtra
At age 25, Deshmukh started writing articles aimed at social reform in Maharashtra in the weekly Prabhakar (प्रभाकर) under the pen name Lokhitawadi (लोकहितवादी). In the first two years, he penned 108 articles on social reform. That group of articles has come to be known in Marathi literature as Lokhitawadinchi Shatapatre (लोकहितवादींची शतपत्रे).
He wrote against the evils of the caste system which was strongly prevalent in India in his times, condemned harmfulHindu religious orthodoxy, and attacked the monopoly in religious matters and rituals which Brahmin priests had through a long tradition. (Noteworthily, Deshmukh belonged to the Brahmin class.) He enunciated certain 15 principles for bringing about religious reform in Hindu society.
Deshmukh founded a public library in Pune under the leadership of the then governor of the state of Bombay, Henry Brown. He also donated some books to Univ.of Bombay(1875)Library when it was established by British people. His personal collection is added to Univ. of Mumbai – J.N.Library, Vidyanagari, Mumbai -400098 − called as “Deshmukh collection”. His life-size portrait (with some amount to add some new books from its interest every year) is donated to Univ. of Mumbai Library by his 5th generation − Mr. Ajit S. Deshmukh & Librarian/Poet/Translator- Mrs. Jyoti (Deshmukh) Kunte in his Death Centenary year 1992, for the benefit of students doing research on his work.
He took a leadership role in founding Gyan Prakash (ज्ञानप्रकाश), Indu Prakash (इंदुप्रकाश), and ”Lokhitwadi (लोकहितवादी) periodicals in Maharashtra.
Social work in Gujarat
While Deshmukh was serving as a judge in Ahmedabad, he organized in that city annual speech conferences on social issues under the sponsorship of Premabhai Institute, and also himself delivered speeches. He established in Ahmedabad a branch of Prarthana Samaj, founded an institute promoting remarriages of widows, and invigorated Gujarat Vernacular Society. He started a weekly Hitechchhu (‘हितेच्छु) in both Gujarati and English. He also started ” Gujarati Budhhi-Wardhak Sabha”.
Deshmukh wrote 35 books on diverse topics, including religious, social, economic, political, historic, and literary matters. He also translated some English works into Marathi. Many books are written ‘on him & his work’ by famous writers.