Sunday, August 08, 2010 AT 08:01 PM (IST)
Tags: Panch Haud Church, Lokmanya Tilak, Mahadeo Govind Ranade
Lokmanya Tilak and some other prominent Puneites had to pay a hefty price for attending a tea party hosted at the city's Panch Haud Church, which is celebrating 125th anniversary of its foundation on Saturday.
'Pune Vaibhav', a Marathi periodical, had published names of 50 persons who had allegedly attended a lecture and subsequent tea party at the Church of Holy Name in Panch Haud in October 1890, sparking a major storm in Pune's puritan social circle.
Some of those present at the tea party did not drink tea for fear of being defiled. Nonetheless they were held guilty of entering a church. Tilak and Justice Mahadeo Govind Ranade, a front ranking leader of the social reformers, were among those who had drank tea at the function.
Consumption of tea and biscuits at the church was then considered akin to renouncing Hinduism and therefore the fundamentalist leaders had demanded social and religious boycott of all those who dined with Christians.
It is said that it was Gopalrao Joshi, maverick husband of Dr Anandibai Joshi, the first Indian woman to secure a doctor's degree abroad, had arranged the sting operation of a lecture and subsequent tea party at the church.
'Pune Vaibhav' however had also published names of some people who had not attended the tea party. These people filed a defamation case against the periodical's editor. A court held the editor guilty of defamation and imposed on him a fine of Rs 200.
The matter however did not end there. Some persons approached the Shankaracharya to punish those who had drank tea at the church. Two representatives of the Shankaracharya then arrived in Pune and conducted hearing in the case at the Sanglikar Wada near Shaniwarwada.
Tilak, an authority on Hindu scripture, defended himself against the charge and argued that he had obtained a certificate of doing Prayachitt (penance) in Kashi. That did not satisfy the fundamentalists and Tilak had to face the threat of social boycott on him and his family members.
Narhar Raghunath Phatak, who has written Tilak's biography, has said that the veteran political leader had even feared that he may not get a Brahmin priest for a religious function during the social boycott period.
The row over the tea party in the church continued for over two years and met a silent death only in December 1892.