Born On: January 6, 1812
Born In: Pombhurle, Konkan region, Maharashtra
Died On: May 18, 1846
Career: Journalist, Social Activist
Best known as the "Father of Marathi Journalism", Balshastri Jambhekar is renowned for his contributions in the field of print media and social awareness. He was one of those social activists who made continuous effort in generating useful and healthy consciousness amongst the common masses and attempted to educate the uneducated. His never-dying talent and endeavor left a stamp over not only the Maharashtrian public, but across India, as a distinguished social reformer and journalist. He was active only for a very short period, but his exceptional work left a permanent mark on India. His birthday and the day of the publication of the first issue of Darpan coincidently fall on the same day. As such, 6th January has been declared as the Journalist Day in Maharashtra in the memory of this endowed individual and is celebrated with much devotion and dedication every year.
Balshastri Jambhekar was born in the village of Pombhurle in the Rajapur taluka in Konkan region of Maharashtra state. Talented and intelligent since childhood, Jambhekar became a great scholar and researcher in many subjects on adulthood.
First Marathi Newspaper - Darpan
During the British rule in India, Jambhekar helped in molding the Maharashtrian mind-set, particularly in the beginning of the 19th century. He observed the importance of print media and hence, utilized it to its best potential to awaken interest of freedom in masses. He knew if India had to free herself from the clutches of the British and if British were to be overthrown, awakening the masses would be the top priority and for that, there was nothing better than print media. It was due to his endless efforts of patriotism and social awareness that he founded the first newspaper in Marathi language named "Darpan" in 1832. Jambhekar was just 20 years old at this time. He worked as the editor of this newspaper, in association with two other people, namely, Govind Kunte and Bhau Mahajan. With this began the era of Marathi journalism. The first issue of Darpan was released on January 6, 1832. The paper was priced at rupee 1 and had two columns, one in English and other in Marathi. Since newspaper was a new concept during that period, the paper had very few subscribers but with time, people started showing interest in print news gradually. Eventually, the readership grew and lasted for eight and a half years. July 1840 saw the last issue of Darpan.
Jambhekar's newspaper was just not a source of updating oneself with the British moves. It also dealt with several social issues prevailing in India, since times immemorial. Jambhekar emphasized on issues of widow re-marriage and helped in creating awareness amongst the uneducated Indian masses. Though this effort took time, it urged the common masses to think over, thereby launching a movement to support the re-marriage of widows eventually. He was passionate about spreading knowledge throughout India through his newspaper and desired to build a society with a scientific outlook. He often dreamt of a society that we see today about 200 years back.
Other Major Contributions
Besides working towards the success of his newspaper "Darpan" and generating social awareness, Jambhekar made various contributions towards the upliftment of the society. He founded the Bombay Native General Library and began the Native Improvement Society. This induced great amounts of motivation and inspiration in other giant intellects, like Dadabhai Naoroji and Bhau Daji Lad. His first Marathi monthly titled "Digdarshan" was published in 1840 that printed articles in various subjects, namely, physics, chemistry, geography, and history amongst others. He was a highly qualified and learned pundit and this was evident from his knowledge of several languages including Marathi, Sanskrit, English, Hindi, Greek, Latin, French, Gujarati, and Bengali. He was the first person to publish research papers in the quarterly journal of Asiatic Society and print "Dnyaneshwari" (commentary on the holy Bhagwad Gita) in 1845. His other contributions include written books on Neetikatha, Encyclopedia History of England, English Grammar, History of India, and Mathematics based on Zero. Jambhekar served as the first Hindi professor at Elphinston College, Mumbai and also worked as Director of the Colaba Observatory.