On this day, 149 years ago, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule took a group of like-minded people from Pune and founded Satyashodhak Samaj (Truth Seeking Society) in Pune to promote equality and brotherhood in Indian society by ending caste discrimination and harmful religious practices. Among the handful of supporters who attended the meeting on September 24, 1873 and supported the proposal to establish Satyashodhak Samaj was Dr. Vishram Ramji Ghole.
dr. Ghole, who would later also become the president of the Samaj, was a well-known surgeon in Pune (then Poona) who held the title of “Honorary Surgeon to the Viceroy”. He came from a ‘retarded caste’ and enjoyed a good rapport with elites of all shades, including those from the fiercely conservative upper class.
dr. Ghole – spelled Ghollay, Gholay and Ghole in various documents – was a man of progressive leanings who not only embraced progressive ideas in his public life and generously donated for those causes (including the Satyashodhak Samaj), but also practiced progressivism in his private life. .
“He was a supporter of women’s empowerment and was determined to raise his firstborn daughter Kashibai. At the time, there was much opposition to this idea in the general population. People believed that if girls are educated, they will become sinners and that will ruin whole generations,” said Professor Pratima Pardeshi, who has written a biography of Dr Ghole in Marathi.
Going against a fiercely conservative society was no easy feat, and Dr. Ghole, and his young daughter, affectionately known as ‘Bahuli’, paid a heavy price.
“He paid no attention to opposition from within and outside the family and sent Kashibai to school. Some family members, believing that a serious mistake had been made, took an extreme step and fed the eight-year-old girl with broken glass through the food. She eventually died as a Result of internal bleeding,” Pardeshi said.
Although Dr. Ghole or his contemporaries have not explicitly described Kashibai’s death, according to Pardeshi, relatives in the last generations have mentioned the incident in their correspondence and interviews.
“Ghole, who wrote no memoirs, was not the kind of person who would turn a personal tragedy into a public spectacle. Even when it comes to people from non-privileged castes, memories are the main tool to access the past and one cannot help but rely on them,” said Pardeshi.
What is clear, however, is that Kashibai was born on September 13, 1869 and died on September 27, 1877. This is what Dr. Ghole on an epitaph placed on a fountain he erected three years later in memory of his daughter.
This fountain, close to the Ghole family’s home in Jhamre Chavdi, came to be known as Bahulicha Haud. It has a fountain in the center and a circular enclosure. The structure was so well known that what is today known as Dagadusheth Ganpati was once called Bahulichya Haudacha Ganpati.
A few decades ago, when the Dagadusheth Ganpati Temple was built in its present site, the fountain was moved to its present, non-ceremonial site – in a corner of the courtyard of the Faraskhana Police Station.
Undeterred by his tragedy, Dr. Ghole championed the right of women to education and took part in the establishment of Huzurpaga Women’s School in Pune in 1884. He educated his youngest daughter Gangubai who became a scholar of Vedic religion with a considerable reputation.
A doctor for everyone
Dr Ghole came from a wealthy family from Anjanvel in present-day Ratnagiri and was educated in Dapoli, Pune and Mumbai. His father was a Subhedar in the army. In 1852, a young Vishram enlisted as an assistant surgeon in the British Army. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, he rendered valuable services to his employers and traveled with the British Indian Army through much of northern India.
After transferring to Pune, he became a doctor to the city’s elite – Brahmin and others, despite coming from a community considered lower in the rigid social fabric of the Hindu community. He had close relations with Bal Gangadhar Tilak, MG Ranade and Vishnushastri Chiplunkar apart from those associated with Mahatma Phule’s movement.
Phule and Ghole were very influential in the Pune congregation, with the latter being a nominated member for about 16 years. During this period, he undertook several important projects for the city, including starting an industrial workshop, and worked closely with officials on the Khadakwasla Dam project for the water supply of the city of Pune.
According to an account by Phule’s foster son Yashwant of the reformer’s last days, Dr. Ghole at personal expense to him and was always with him in his hour of need. Although the Phule-Ghole relationship saw a lot of bickering, they remained close until the end. In the monsoon of 1888, Phule suffered a paralysis attack and remained bedridden for a while. The care of Dr. Ghole was essential in saving Phule’s life and partially recovering from paralysis. In his latest book Sarvajanik Satyadharma Pustak, Phule wrote a verse praising Dr Ghole and others who helped him during his illness. However, Phule’s health continued to deteriorate and he died in November 1890.
dr. Ghole died 10 years later, on September 10, 1900, of diabetes and stomach-related ailments.