An orphanage is an institution that provides shelter to orphaned, neglected, disabled, destitute or disfellowshipped children and women. The number of orphans and destitutes increases mainly due to poverty, accidents, fraud, divorce, abandonment of children and women, virgin or valid motherhood or war.
It becomes necessary in the interest of society to try to rebuild their ruined lives. At such times, some kind and benevolent individuals come forward to provide support to such unfortunate souls, and from that, organizations like Orphanages come into being with an organized effort keeping in mind the individual limitations.
It is preferable for the government to remove such orphanages than for any individual or organization to do so. But with a few exceptions like Russia, privately run orphanages are found everywhere. Such organizations get help from the government and wealthy philanthropists.
Background of Orphanage
The Christian Church was the first to establish such orphanages. Aid houses serving orphans, widows and the sick arose out of this, but religious organizations took advantage of such orphans. Therefore, at the end of the Middle Ages in Europe, governments and municipalities began to run orphanages themselves.
After the French Revolution, such orphanages became publicly owned. In Russia even today such institutions are mainly run by the government. In England, under the ‘Poor Law’ of 1601, these institutions were taken over by the government.
Orphanages in India
The number of orphans in India increased mainly due to poverty and immoral relationships. The establishment of orphanages for children started in the eighteenth century itself, and it was the Christian missionaries who took the initiative. Ramakrishna Mission and Mukti Fauj also built such ashrams later.
Many orphanages are running today in the states of Maharashtra, Madras, Bengal, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh etc. Around this time, along with the issue of children, the issue of virgin mothers, widows and abandoned women also arose before the Indian society. All over India, especially widows and virgin mothers were required to be protected against social persecution by discouraging suicide.
In 1889, Pandita Ramabai started an organization called ‘Shardasadan’ for widows only in Mumbai and Pune by ‘Ramabai Association’. But it was short-lived. In 1896, Maharishi Dhon. K. Karve started an orphanage in Pune. It is from this that the present ‘Hingane Women’s Education Institution’ emerged.
In 1898, government ashrams were established in big cities like Bombay and Madras for women who were engaged in Kumarga. Gradually, orphanages for women were established in most of the states. In such ashrams that provide protection to women, ‘Sradhanand Mahilashram’ (Mumbai) and ‘Sar Ganganath Mahilaashram’ should be nominated.
Maharashtra State Women’s Rescue Home, Bombay Vigilance Association Shelter, League of Mercy Centre, Hindu Sabha, Salvation Army, Industrial Institute of Women, St. Cameron’s Home, Association of Moral And Social Hygiene’ etc. organizations are working to protect women.
Apart from these, ‘Anath Mahilashram’ and ‘Anath Vidyarthigriha’ (Pune), ‘Vasudev Babaji Navarange Orphanage’ Pandharpur, ‘Anath Mahilaashram’ (Kolhapur) etc. are also notable. In this regard, the Women’s and Children’s Institutions Licensing Act (1956), the Orphanage and Other Charitable Institutions Supervision and Control (1960) Acts are applicable throughout India.