Mahadev Govind Ranade was a great social reformer and a distinguished scholar. He was one of the founding father and leading lights of Prarthana Samaj. He worked as the member of the Bombay Legislative Council, Member of the Finance Committee at the centre and as the Judge of Bombay High Court. He with some of his followers sponsored the Deccan Education Society for starting a college to promote western education.
Mahadev Ranade was born in 1842 at Niphad in Nashik, Maharashtra. He started his career as a professor in the Elphinstone College at Bombay and was later appointed member of the Bombay Legislative Council in 1885. In 1893 he was appointed the Judge of Bombay High Court.
Ranade worked hard to reform the society. He strongly supported the concept of remarriage and the welfare of the widows. He established the "Widow Marriage Association" in 1861 to encourage and popularise it. He organised a number of social conferences to discuss the pros and cons of the society.
He was convinced that western education would play a vital role in the transformation of the country. To promote western education, he with some like-minded members established the Deccan Education Society. Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Agarkar helped Ranade in this direction. They founded a school, which went onto become the famous Fergusson College at Poona.
Ranade founded the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha in 1870, to represent the Government, the aspiration of the people. He prepared a report on the economic situation of Maharashtra on behalf of the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha and submitted it to the Parliamentary Committee appointed by the British Government. He pointed out their merits & demerits and also suggested improvements. His Sarvajanik Sabha started a quarterly journal to put forth the problems of people before the British Government.
Ranade helped Swami Dayananda Saraswati in organising a lecture at Poona. In the lecture, Dayanand criticised idolatry, child marriage and caste system which was against the sentiment of orthodox people. They criticised Ranade for organising such lecture and alleged that he deceived the people. But Ranade never surrendered, he faced boldly and proved himself to be authentic.
He was considered to be a great Historian. His great work "Rise of Maratha Power" is a masterpiece for historians as well as for those who want a first hand information on the Marathas.
Ranade died in 1901.