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  • Context (IE): Karsandas Mulji was in limelight due to relasese of biopic Maharaj.
  • Born in Bombay in 1832 in a Gujarati Vaishnav family.
  • He was an active member of the Gujarati Gnanprasarak Mandalli (Gujarati Society for the Spread of Knowledge), founded by the Students’ Society of Elphinstone College.
  • As Elphinstone College alumani, he was classmates with prominent Gujarati reformists such as poet Narmad and educationist Mahipatram Neelkanth.
  • He contributed articles to Rast Goftar & co-founded Streebodh, a women’s magazine launched in 1857.
  • He also published a weekly called Mumbainu Bajar (the Bombay Market) for some time.
  • During his tenure as Assistant Superintendent of Rajkot state, he published a monthly journal titled Vignanvilas on science and industry.
  • Rast Goftar, an Anglo-Gujarati newspaper founded by Dadabhai Naoroji in 1851.
  • Due to support to window remarraige he was evicted from family and was excommunicated from caste due to an overseas jouney by him.
  • Later, he was employed at a charitable school founded by Sheth Gokaldas Tejpal.

Fight against exploitation

  • He founded Satyaprakash in 1855 with the support of wealthy reform-minded individuals.
  • A Vaishnav himself, Karsandas began to expose the misdeeds of Vaishnav priests, including their exploitation of women devotees.
  • He died in 1871 and remembered as the social reformer-journalist who won the Maharaj Libel Case.

Background of Jivanlalji Maharaj issue

  • Vaishnav priest Jivanlalji refused to appear in Bombay High Court in a case initiated by Dayal Motiram in 1858. He coerced Vaishnavite followers to agree to three conditions:
    • No Vaishnav could write against the Maharaj;
    • No Vaishnav could take him to court;
    • And if anyone sued him, the followers would bear the cost of the case and ensure that the Maharaj did not have to appear in court.
  • Karsandas criticised this coercive agreement in numerous articles in Satyaprakash, terming it gulamikhat (agreement of slavery). When Jivanlalji Maharaj started losing followers, he fled from Bombay.
  • In response to the growing sentiment against the priests, another young priest Jadunath Maharaj tried to restore the sect’s influence by asthetic liberal views.
  • The Maharaj cleverly shifted the debate to questioning the divine origin of the scriptures, leaving the discussion unresolved.

Maharaj Libel Case 1862

  • Narmad challenged the Vaishnavite priests’ coercive and immoral practices in his article in Satyaprakash.
  • The article titled “Hinduono Asal Dharma ane Haalna Pakhandi Mato” (The Primitive Religion of the Hindus and the Present Heterodox Opinions), accused priests of sexual liaisons with female devotee.
  • It further stated that the book of Gokulnath, the grandson of Vallabhacharya, who founded the Pushtimarg sect of Vaishnavism, endorsed immorality.
  • It led to the Maharaj filing the famous libel case in the Bombay court, “the greatest trial of modern times since the trial of Warren Hastings“.
  • The Maharaj filed the lawsuit against Karsandas and the paper’s publisher, Nanabhai Ranina.
  • Final judgement favoured Karsandas and established that everyone, including priests, is equal under the law. It rejected the State’s traditional role as gaubhrhaman pratipa (Protectors of cows & Brahmins).
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