SNDT, South East Asia’s 1st Women’s University Completes A 100 Glorious Years!
Let’s salute Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve for initiating women’s education, 100 years ago. In an era when women’s education was unthinkable, Karve not just initiated women’s education, but also established a Women’s University (Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women's University or SNDT), which would become an institution of note years later.
History notes that, in 1896, Maharshi Karve established an ashram for widows and helpless women at Hingne near Pune. He realised that to make these women self-sufficient, reliant and confident, the ashram also needed to have a school for them. Karve launched a schooling programme there, which later became a regular school for girls and women. For a society with a conservative attitude towards women, his move was bound to face stiff resistance. Even then, he continued with his cause, while nurturing a dream of establishing a women’s university one day.
In 1916, India’s first women’s university was established: the SNDT University. The first college started with the enrolment of five eager women. Joining Maharshi Karve in his vision was then businessman Sir Vithaldas Thackersey. Thackersey donated a magnanimous amount of Rs 15 lakh to the university, in the memory if his mother, Nathibai. In 1920, this University was named Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women’s University: popular as SNDT University.
The university has three campuses, two in Mumbai and one in Pune, and several colleges, departments and faculties under its aegis. Thousands of students have passed out of its hallowed precincts and have some wonderful memories of their life in SNDT.
Prasanna Hulikavi, Deputy Director, Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, who first went there as a student and later joined them as a teacher, said: “when I was growing up, we thought SNDT College, a ‘Girls’ College’ that taught ‘Home Science’ was uncool. But destiny had other plans and I joined SNDT. I was associated with this university for 14 years. I studied the wonderful reflective course: Communication Media for Children. I learnt a lot, from designing courses to conducting activities for diverse groups. I now thank my teachers for the grounding given by them. I had a chance to interact with a range, from ragpickers, to destitute children on railway platforms, to those at correction homes. I owe a lot to SNDT and its legacy of women's empowerment. Today 'Sankrita Stree Parasakhti' the University anthem is my anthem, and I feel overwhelmed and charged to do more.”
A similar view was echoed by Dr. Analpa Paranjpe, Principal, APEX Center for Special Education, Oman, who studied at SNDT, Pune from1977-1982 and majored in Child Development. “Being an all-woman’s college, we took up roles that were never gender specific. Although outsiders would taunt us and call us a 'kitchen college', we did everything from changing fuses, doing all kind of handiwork, microbiology to microwave, fashion designing to school management. The course prepared us to face all facets of life,” she said.
The SNDT student roster also boasts of notable names that include actress Rani Mukherjee, noted Hindi writer Chitra Mudgal, Indian classical singer Shruti Sadolikar, designers Masaba Gupta and Neeta Lulla, among others. The University has been actively involved in teaching and research.
Even after a 100 years, SNDT’s motto of 'Sanskrita Stree Parshakti', which translates to ‘An enlightened woman is a source of infinite strength’ still stands strong and inspires many.