Kandukuri Virasalingam Pantulu (1848-1919) was born in Rajahmundry, the capital of Godavari District, in a Telugu speaking district of Madras Presidency. Virasalingam, a Brahmin trained in classical Telugu, spent his life involved in movements to promote this language for modern education and communication. After he had passed his matriculation, he was appointed a teacher in a government school. Later he became headmaster of the Anglo-Vernacular school at Dhavaleswaram. A member of the Brahmo Samaj and the Prarthana Samaj, he published his own journal, Vikeka Vardhani ("Journal to promote enlightment") to encourage social reform. Above all, he believed in the necessity of purifying religion by opposing wrong customs and attempting to stop wrong conduct. Purified religion, social reform, and vernacular education would be three pillars of a regenerated society purged of its evil ways.
Virasalingam made widow remarriage and female education the key points of his program for social change. He opened his first girls school in 1874 and in 1878 organized a Society for Social Reform. At their first meetings members of the society discussed the importance of the anti-nautch movement to wean people from hiring nautch (dancing) girls for celebrations, but by 1879 Viraslingam had made widow remarriage the key issue. Rajahmundry celebrated its first widow remarriage in 1881 with Viraslingam performing the ceremony. The town was hostile towards the practice but Viraslingam persisted and before long there was a small community of remarried couples.
Viraslingam continued to look for prospective candidates while writing numerous articles about the need for a change in the public opinion. In 1891 a Widow Remarriage Association was formed, and thirty Brahmin households signed a pledge promising to participate in the ceremonies and marriage feast whenever a remarriage occurred. Eventually the majority of the prominent citizens of Rajahmundry joined Viraslingam's association. Viraslingam had a significant impact on female education. When reformers and conservatives debated female education in Rajahmundry the argument took a different form than it had in Calcutta and Bombay where colonial power was evident. Here the language of debate was Telugu and the controversy was conducted without reference to the colonial critique of Indian society. In this context reforms for women were not equated with westernization. The consequences of this movement was far reaching.
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