Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Sri Lakshmi Purshottam Kelkar – The Forgotten Inspiration

Written By Ojas Koneripura (Grade 10)

During the dark times of the British colonialism in India, the passion for expression, expression of freedom, expression of liberty, the passion for unification and the act of rebellion was a part of majority of Bharatiyas, but one woman stood tall, Sri Lakshmi Purshottam Kelkar, popularly known among the masses as ‘Mousiji’. Born in Maharashtra, in 1905, to a very noble family, Lakshmi Kelkar was, from her young age, interested in liberating Bharat from the evil clutches of the British. She was inspired by her mother, who used to buy and distribute Lokmanya Tilak’s newspaper, ‘Kesari’. Her aunt used to take her to ‘Kirtans’ and ‘Gau Seva Kendras’. Due to these, she imbibed a sense of nationalism and community service at a very young age. 

When she was just in 4th standard, she was married to a lawyer, Purshottam Rao Kelkar. Unfortunately, their life together lasted only for a decade. After the death of her husband, Mousiji now had to bear the brunt of the responsibilities of raising 6 children of her own and her 2 step-children. Even though it was a major setback, her indomitable spirit and her relentless pursuit were her characteristic traits towards nation building and the empowerment of women in a society bound by unscientific taboos. She was a visionary and an epitome of flaring spirit who believed that nation building would only be successful with the empowerment of women. She was the founder and the proprietor of the largest Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in the whole world, the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti (RSS), which is a women-wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) founded by Dr. Hedgewar. The Rashtriya Sevika Samiti runs parallel to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The Samiti empowers and inspires millions of women. Mousiji believed in mainstreaming and empowering the women in the society. Her motivation towards freedom struggle lay in motivating others to contribute to the freedom struggle. She opened a school for girls, called the ‘Kanya Vidyalaya’. She realised that a woman is pivotal for the rise of a family as well as a nation and until and unless there is resurgence in the stature of women in the society, the society cannot truly prosper.

Mousiji opposed all sorts of unscientific taboos related to women and widows in the society back then. She was exemplary in breaking such taboos and restrictions. Since she was a widow, she was not allowed to go to or be a part of any auspicious family occasions, she challenged these customary practices. She had the confidence and the bravery to read the Ramayana from a stage. To all these actions of hers, she faced tonnes of backlashes and criticism. But all these were hurled at her, which did nothing, but make her stronger day by day. She kept on breaking taboos almost on a daily basis. All the backlashes kept her unfazed and she did not forget her agenda of strengthening and empowering women for nation building. She always believed that it is a necessity for women of the society to learn from the sacrifices done by great women in history, which would boost their self-confidence. Due to the dominance of the foreigners in Bharat, she felt that women were infested with an inferiority complex in the society. She propagated that, with the right usage of resources and structuring of the society, women would be the forerunners in nation building and development. Through her Rashtriya Sevaki Samiti, more and more women were empowered.

She also worked tirelessly on the health of the women in the society. She was the founder of ‘Strijivan Vikas Parishad’ which worked extensively in developing women’s physical and mental health. This Parishad also played a major role in increasing the self-confidence of the women by retelling stories of glorified women in the history of Bharat. She also set up the ‘Grihani Vidyalaya’ in which a lot of stress was given on the training of women, to take care of the family affairs. The aim of this platform was to make women self-reliant and excellent in managing family affairs.

All these achievements and the plethora of work done by Sri Lakshmi Kelkar in empowering women in the society is just unbelievable which has gone unnoticed by many. Her character of not losing her grit, determination, self-confidence, etc. after the death of her husband, and her bravery in breaking unscientific taboos in society, her zeal and pure passion in the upliftment of women to build the nation is something unimaginable and nearly impossible to one without sheer passion and hope. Her ideas and goals are an inspiration to all. Mousiji has surely left her imprint in the present times, as she is one perfect example of how a woman, or anybody else can achieve their desires and dreams, no matter what hardships, setbacks, backlashes, criticism they might face, with just devotion and pure compassion towards their work. Her life has inspired many, and continues to. Her life, her achievements, her failures, setbacks, her comebacks are truly worth teaching to the current and the upcoming generations. Lakshmi Kelkar, truly is, The Forgotten Inspiration.

Featured Image Courtesy – Organiser

Ojas Koneripura
Ojas Koneripura
A history-freak and a passionate researcher of India's untold history!


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