Prabodhankar Thackeray

Keshav Sitaram Thackeray (17 September 1885 – 20 November 1973; born Keshav Sitaram Panvelkar; also known as Keshav Sitaram Thakre and Keshav Sitaram Dhodapkar; commonly known by his pen name Prabodhankar Thackeray), was an Indian social reformer. He campaigned against superstitions, untouchability, child marriage and dowry. He was also a prolific author.

Prabodhankar Thackeray
Prabodhankar Thackeray 2002 stamp of India.jpg
Thackeray on a 2002 stamp of India
Keshav Sitaram Panvelkar

(1885-09-17)17 September 1885
Died20 November 1973(1973-11-20) (aged 88)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India (present-day Mumbai)
Alma materCalcutta University
OccupationWriter, politician, social activist
MovementSamyukta Maharashtra Movement
Spouse(s)Ramabai Thackeray
ChildrenBal Thackeray, Shrikant Thackeray, Ramesh Thackeray, Prabhavati(Pama) Tipnis, Sarla Gadkari, Susheela Gupte, Sanjeevani Karandikar
Parent(s)Sitaram Panvelkar
RelativesUddhav Thackeray, Raj Thackeray, Jayaprakash Tipnis

He was one of the key leaders of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti which successfully campaigned for the linguistic state of Maharashtra. He was the father of Bal Thackeray, who founded the Shiv Sena, a pro-Marathi Hindu nationalist party leader. He is also the grandfather of Shiv Sena supremo and current Chief minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray. There is a school in Pune named after him.[citation needed]

Early lifeEdit

Keshav Thackeray (born Keshav Panvelkar) was born on 17 September 1885 in Panvel in a family. According to his autobiography Mazhi Jeevangatha, one of his ancestors was a Killedar of the Dhodap fort during the Maratha rule.[1] His great-grandfather Krushnaji Madhav Dhodapkar ("Appasaheb") resided in Pali, Raigad, while his grandfather Ramchandra "Bhikoba" Dhodapkar settled in Panvel. Keshav's father Sitaram adopted the surname "Panvelkar" as per the tradition, but while admitting his son in the school, he gave him the surname "Thakre", which was apparently their original traditional family name before "Dhodapkar".[2][3] An admirer of the India-born British writer William Makepeace Thackeray, Keshav later anglicized the spelling of his surname to "Thackeray".[4][2]

When Keshav was still a teenager, his father died in a plague epidemic, in 1902. Keshav was educated at Panvel, Kalyan, Baramati and Bombay (now Mumbai). Outside the Bombay Presidency, he studied at the Victoria High School in Dewas (Central Provinces), and later, at the Calcutta University.[5] He finally settled in Bombay.

Social and Political activismEdit

Keshav Thackeray's own CKP caste ranked just next to the Brahmins in the caste hierarchy, but he refused to accept this old social hierarchy.[6][7][8] He is often described as a social activist or social reformer for his rejection of caste system.[9]

When the prominent Marathi historian VK Rajwade the upper-caste Kshatriya status claimed by the Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP) caste in a 1916 essay, Thackeray became one of his fiercest critics, and denounced his research as casteist.[10] He wrote a text outlining the identity of the CKP caste, and its contributions to the Maratha empire. In this text, Gramanyachya Sadhyant Itihas, Thackeray talked about the discrimination suffered by other communities at the hands of the Brahmins during the Maratha rule.[11] He was not much concerned about the ritual caste status, but sought to prove that many non-Brahmin communities (specifically the CKPs) had played a major role in the history of the Maratha empire. He wrote that the CKPs "provided the cement" for Shivaji's swaraj (self-rule) "with their blood", and supported him even before the Kshatriyas of Rajput origin joined him.[10] Thackeray also replied to him in the Marathi book Kodandache Tanatkar (1918). Thackeray was supported in his defence by another writer Keshav Trimbak Gupte who replied to Rajwade in his sanskrit and Marathi book Rajwadyanchi Gagabhatti(1919) in which he produced verbatim the letters written by the Shankaracharya in 1830 formally endorsing the CKPs Kshatriya status by referring to them as Chandraseniya Kshatriyas and letters from Banares Brahmins (1779, 1801) and Pune Brahmins ratified by Bajirao II himself in 1796 that gave them privilege over the Vedas.[12][13]

Prabodhankar with his followers would ridicule the social evil of dowry by having a fake marriage procession, wearing entirely black, and following a donkey with a wedding head-band carrying the message, A person taking dowry is going for a marriage. Some Brahmins sued him for his anti-dowry demonstrations but the British Judge supported him by asking: 'Why is the police harassing Prabodhankar when he is fighting for a good cause?'[14]

Keshav Thackeray played an important role in the Samyukta Maharashtra movement aimed at establishing the linguistic state of Maharashtra.[15] He joined the movement in 1951, demanding the inclusion of the Dang district in Maharashtra instead of neighbouring Gujarat state. He was one of the founding members of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, which campaigned for the formation of Maharashtra and the inclusion of Belgaum and Mumbai in it.

Literary careerEdit

Keshav Thackeray wrote in the Marathi language. He started a fortnightly magazine named Prabodhan ("Enlighten"), which is the origin of his pen name Prabodhankar.[1] His other Marathi language works include the following:

  • Mazhi Jeevangatha ("My autobiography")
Historical research
  • Pratapsingh Chhatrapati and Rango Bapuji
  • Gramanyachya Sadhyant Itihas Arthat Nokarashiche Banda (A Comprehensive History of Rebellion or the Revolt of the Bureaucrats),[16] published by Yashwant Shivram Raje in 1919, at Mumbai
  • Bhikshushahiche Band
  • Kodandacha Tanatkar
  • Hindu janancha rhaas aani adhapaat
  • Shanimahatmya
  • Shetkaryanche Swarajya (The self-rule of the farmers)
  • Khara Brahman
  • Sangeet Vidhinishedh
  • Taklele Por
  • Sangeet Seetashuddhi
  • Shri Sant Gadgebaba
  • Pandit Ramabai Saraswati
Collected Articles
  • Uth Marathya Uth (Arise Marathi People Arise; This is a collection of his 12 articles which appeared in the weekly 'Marmik', following the establishment of Shiv Sena, first published in 1973, it will be published again in 2013 by 'Navta Book World')

Personal lifeEdit

Keshav Thackeray's wife was Ramabai Thackeray, who died around 1943. He had 8 children: Bal Thackeray, Shrikant Thackeray (father of Raj Thackeray), Ramesh Thackeray, Prabhavati(Pama) Tipnis, Sarla Gadkari, Susheela Gupte, Sanjeevani Karandikar, and Sudha Sule. Prabodhankar Thackeray also had two brothers named Vinayakrao Thackeray and Yeshwant Thackeray.


Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis unveiled a portrait of Prabodhankar inside the hall at BMC, which he said was long overdue. Fadnavis said "Prabodhankar Ji fought against all the odds when the society was in the grip of illiteracy, untouchability, superstitions, and created an atmosphere of public opinion against these social evils". His grandson Uddhav Thackeray also outlined the social reformist contributions by his grandfather in the abolishing of child marriage, untouchability and enabling women empowerment.[17]


  1. ^ a b Jñāneśa Mahārāva (2001). Thackeray, life & style. Pushpa Prakashan. p. 24. ISBN 978-81-7448-092-7. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  2. ^ a b Sreekumar (18 November 2012). "Why Bal Thackeray had an English surname". One India.
  3. ^ Baban Walke (9 September 2012). "प्रबोधनकारांनी काय लिहून ठेवले आहे?". Tarun Bharat (in Marathi).
  4. ^ Soutik Biswas (19 November 2012). "The legacy of Bal Thackeray". BBC.
  5. ^ Keshav Thackeray. माझी जीवनगाथा (Mazhi Jeevangatha) (PDF) (in Marathi). Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  6. ^ Vaibhav Purandare (27 February 2013). Bal Thackeray and the rise of Shiv Sena. Roli Books. p. 34. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  7. ^ Bidyut Chakrabarty (2003). Communal Identity in India: Its Construction and Articulation in the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. p. 138. Of the six groups, four are Brahmins; one is high non-Brahmin caste, Chandraseniya Kayashth Prabhu (CKP), ranking next only to the Brahmins; and the other is a cultivating caste, Maratha (MK), belonging to the middle level of the hierarchy.
  8. ^ "The American Economic Review – Volume 96, Issues 3–4". Nashville, Tenn. American Economic Association. 2006: 1228. High castes include all the Brahmin jatis, as well as a few other elite jatis (CKP and Pathare Prabhus).Low castes include formerly untouchable and backward castes (Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Castes, as defined by the government of India). Medium castes are drawn mostly from the cultivator jatis, such as the Marathas and the Kunbis, as well as other traditional vocations that were not considered to be ritually impure. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Johannes Quack (22 November 2011). Disenchanting India:Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. Oxford University Press. pp. 263–. ISBN 978-0-19-981260-8. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  10. ^ a b Prachi Deshpande (2007). Creative Pasts: Historical Memory And Identity in Western India, 1700–1960. Columbia University Press. pp. 181–. ISBN 978-0-231-12486-7. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  11. ^ Anupama Rao (13 October 2009). The Caste Question: Dalits and the Politics of Modern India. University of California Press. pp. 304–. ISBN 978-0-520-25761-0. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  12. ^ Milton Israel and N.K.Wagle, ed. (1987). Religion and Society in Maharashtra. Center for South Asian Studies, University of Toronto, Canada. page 173:Rajvadyanchi Gagabhatti appendix 4, pp-1-21. The Shankaracharya's letter contains three documents which he produces verbatim, two from Banares Brahmins (1779, 1801) proving the CKPs vedokta and one from Pune Brahmins award Ratified by Bajirav II in 170: The sankaracharya in his 1827 and november 1830 letter cites the sastric support for the kshatriyahood of the ckps:[names of many religious scriptures]. His trump card is the [name/section names of religious scriptures] where the CKP are explicitly referred to as 'Chandraseniya Kshatriyas'
  13. ^ Siba Pada Sen. Studies in Modern Indian History: A Regional Survey. Institute of Historical studies, Calcutta. p. 82. Sitaram Thakare replied to him in a virulent language in his Kodandache Tanatkar (1918). A similar work was done by K.T.Gupte who replied to Rajwade in his Rajwadyanchi Gagabhatti (1919)
  14. ^ "Thackeray goes down memory lane, and longs for gutsy leadership". 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  15. ^ Gyan Prakash (21 September 2010). Mumbai Fables. Princeton University Press. pp. 228–. ISBN 978-0-691-14284-5. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  16. ^ Hebbar, Nistula (16 September 2019). "Thackeray family traces origin to Bihar, says new book". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  17. ^ "Maha CM unveils Prabodhankar Thackeray's portrait at BMC HQ". 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2018.

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