India's first Minister of Law and Justice, B. R. Ambedkar inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement. He also fought against social discrimination prevalent in India at that time. Widely regarded as the chief architect of the Constitution of India, Ambedkar was posthumously honored with India's highest civilian award - The Bharat Ratna.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was an Indian social and religious reformer. He is credited with co-founding the Brahmo Sabha, a social-religious reform movement. Often referred to as the Father of the Bengal Renaissance, Roy has had an influential role in fields like politics, education, and religion. In 2004, he was ranked 10th in BBC's Greatest Bengali of all time poll.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was an Indian social reformer and educator. He is best remembered for his efforts to modernize and simplify Bengali prose for which he is widely regarded as the father of Bengali prose. As a social reformer, Vidyasagar played a crucial role in enacting the Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act, which legalized the remarriage of Hindu widows in India.
Savitribai Phule was a revolutionary social reformer who dedicated her life to educate girls and bring about gender equality in the face of resistance from the conservative Indian society. Phule, who was illiterate till her marriage, went on to become a teacher, a feat considered first by an Indian woman. With her husband, she established schools for girls in Maharashtra.
Dadabhai Naoroji was an Indian scholar and political leader. Dubbed the Grand Old Man of India, Naoroji is remembered for co-founding the Indian National Congress where he served as the president on three occasions. He also played an important role in India's fight for freedom, popularizing the Indian wealth drain theory through his book Poverty and Un-British Rule in India.
Jyotiba Phule was an Indian thinker, social activist, writer, and anti-caste social reformer. During his lifetime, he worked towards eradicating the caste system and untouchability in India. He was also a pioneer of women education in India and began his first school for girls in Pune in 1848. B. R. Ambedkar had often cited Jyotiba Phule as an inspiration.
Dayananda Saraswati was an Indian social leader and philosopher. He is credited with founding an influential Hindu reform movement known as Arya Samaj. He is also credited with popularizing the term Swaraj which was used as a powerful tool by leaders like Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi during India’s freedom struggle. Saraswati influenced people like Bhagat Singh and Madam Cama.
Baba Amte was an Indian activist and social worker best remembered for his work that aimed at empowering people suffering from leprosy. Dubbed the modern Gandhi of India, Amte received several prestigious awards, such as the Gandhi Peace Prize, Dr. Ambedkar International Award, Ramon Magsaysay Award, and the Padma Vibhushan.
Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi, also known as Ala-Hazrat, was a renowned Islamic scholar and an Urdu poet. Born in Bareilly, British India, he belonged to a family of Rohilla Pushtuns who had migrated from Qandahar. He wrote about various subjects such as philosophy, science, and astronomy.
10 Vinoba Bhave
Vinoba Bhave was an Indian social reformer and advocate of human rights and nonviolence. A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhave played an important role in the Indian freedom movement. In 1958, he became the first person to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. In 1983, Vinoba Bhave was posthumously honored with the prestigious Bharat Ratna award.
Born in Travancore in India, Narayana Guru was the son of a teacher and studied in a gurukula. He grew up to lead a social reform movement against the caste system that he saw in erstwhile Kerala. He believed in the motto One Caste, One Religion, One God for All.
Ramananda was a 14th-century Vaishnava devotional poet-saint who lived in India. He is considered the founder of the Bairagi Sampradaya, popularly known as the Ramanandi Sect. He was a pioneering figure of the Bhakti movement and an early social reformer. Unlike many other saints of his era, he accepted disciples without any caste or gender discrimination.
Bipin Chandra Pal was an Indian nationalist, social reformer, writer, orator, and freedom fighter. Along with Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal was part of the famous Lal Bal Pal triumvirate. Pal played a key role in the establishment of the Swadeshi movement. He also worked for popular publications and promoted his brand of nationalism.
Mahadev Govind Ranade was an Indian social reformer, scholar, author, and judge. Ranade is credited with co-founding the Indian National Congress as well as founding several organizations like the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, Widow Marriage Association, and Vaktruttvottejak Sabha. He also contributed as an editor of a nationalist publication named Induprakash.
Keshab Chunder Sen was an Indian social reformer and philosopher. Although he was born a Hindu, Sen thought highly of Christian theology and wanted to incorporate the theology of Christian practice into the framework of Hindu thought. By the use of Christian missionary methods, Keshab Chunder Sen effected several social reforms in India.
A prominent actor of Tamil and Telugu films, Gautami also found success as a TV host and a costume designer. Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35, she later recovered and launched Life Again Foundation, geared toward helping cancer patients. She was in a 13-year live-in relationship with actor Kamal Haasan.
Dhondo Keshav Karve was an Indian social reformer who worked for women's welfare in India. A pioneer in supporting widows' education, Karve also promoted widow remarriage. He also walked the talk by marrying a widow. Karve is credited with founding SNDT Women's University, India's first women's university. In 1958, he was honored with India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.
18 Kanshi Ram
Kanshi Ram was an Indian social reformer and politician who worked for the betterment of the lower caste people in India. As part of his work, Ram established the Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti in order to help the oppressed people. Kanshi Ram is also credited with founding the Bahujan Samaj Party which represents the backward class, including the untouchables.
Bindeshwar Pathak is an Indian social entrepreneur and sociologist. He is known for founding Sulabh International, a social service organization that aims at promoting environmental sanitation, human rights, waste management, non-conventional sources of energy, and social reforms through education. Pathak's work is regarded as pioneering in the field of hygiene and sanitation. In 1991, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan.
Hindu spiritual leader Shiv Narayan Agnihotri was initially part of the Brahmo Samaj reform movement and later launched his own movement known as the Dev Samaj. He had also briefly taught at the Government School of Lahore and was also a prolific writer and speaker.
21 Abdul Bari
Indian academic and labor leader Abdul Bari is remembered for his involvement in the freedom struggle, his historic deal with the Tatas, and his efforts to curb slavery and other social ills. He was shot dead while on his way home while serving as the Bihar Provincial Congress Committee president.
22 Kumaran Asan
Indian social reformer and Malayali literary icon Kumaran Asan is known for his revolutionary impact on Malayali poetry. He died when the boat carrying him from Kollam to Alappuzha met with an accident midway. He is remembered for his works such as his iconic narrative poem Duravastha.