The Marathi press has played a very important role in the development of Indian journalism in the latter half of the 19th Century. It distinguished itself by campaigning on two fronts, social and political. After Bengal, the battle for social reform first gathered strength in Pune and Bombay before it spread to other parts of the country.
The Marathi press was the frontrunner in this movement. Shri Balshastri Jambhekar, the father of Marathi Journalism had realized the importance and power of the print media in the coming times.
Balshastri Jambhekar a highly qualified pundit was the first person to publish ‘Darpan’, a Marathi-English fortnightly magazine in Marathi from Bombay. The first issue came out on January 6, 1832, in the early days of the British rule in India. He was born in the village Pombhurle in the Rajapur taluka in the Konkan region of Maharashtra.
A great visionary, Jambhekar had well anticipated that if the British were to be overthrown and freedom to be attained, then it was essential to awaken society. A hard-core patriot, the newspaper ‘Darpan’ was born out of this patriotism and social awareness. At the mere age of 20, he became the editor of ‘Darpan’ and a new dawn of Marathi Journalism arose. Darpan played a notable part in the social reform movement and had considerable influence. The objective of Bombay Darpan was to “…convey information on passing events and to point out ways and opportunities for improvement of the conditions of the people.”
It was the first medium of Marathi expression in engagement with current and ‘passing’ events. Bombay Darpan played a notable part in the social reform movement and had considerable influence. After eight years, the weekly was named United Service Gazette-Journal. It ceased publication two years after the death of Jambhekar in 1846. Jambhekar considered the Father of Marathi Journalism.
Balshastri Jambhekar was the first generation social reformer from Maharashtra. Darpan was an instrument at his disposal for the enlightenment of the masses. It specifically dealt with the issue of widow re-marriage and tried to develop a scientific temper among the masses.
A great scholar and researcher in many subjects, he was a very good teacher, excellent author and has left an ineffaceable mark on Journalism. He professed journalism in true sense, to awaken the grassroots.
He wrote in Marathi for the general public and English for the ruling British. He passionately desired that knowledge should percolate in the society having a scientific outlook. He dreamt of society as we see today, as early as 200 years back. In 1840, Jambhekar started publishing the first Marathi monthly, Digdarshan and edited it for five years. This magazine carried articles on geography, history, physics, chemistry, nature and the environment. His erudition has many dimensions.
He had a command of many languages including Sanskrit, Marathi, English and Hindi. In addition, he had a good grasp of greek, Latin, French, Gujrati and Bengali. In a very short span of life of 34 years, Jambhekar was active during the years 1830-1846 and worked for the betterment of Maharashtra and India. In those days the majority of the population was ignorant and illiterate. It was plagued with superstitions and black beliefs. Therefore his contribution to society in his short span of 34 years proves admirable. He was also well known as the first professor of Hindi in the ElphinstonCollege of erstwhile Bombay. He was the first person to print Dnyaneshwari in 1845.
His birthday coincidentally the day of publication of the first issue of Darpan is 6th January and it is celebrated as the “Marathi Patrakar Din” in Maharashtra in his fond memory.
Amarjyot Kaur Arora
Amarjyot Kaur Arora Information Officer, Maharashtra Information Centre, New Delhi.