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A Short History of Charitable Work/ Philanthropy Work /NGOs / NPOs

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A Short History of Charitable Work/ Philanthropy Work /NGOs / NPOs
January 31, 2023
All Articles by: MOHD JAVED       View Profile
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Meaning of Charitable/ Philanthropy Work

For-profit activities are activities that generate income and are typically conducted by entities such as businesses and corporations. On the other hand, not-for-profit activities may or may not generate income, but they serve the larger good of society. One example of a not-for-profit activity is Bhandara, which is conducted in certain areas traditionally to feed individuals without money or access to resources. Through Bhandara, individuals can eat without paying money. Not-for-profit activities are unique forms of engagement that focus on providing services that benefit people, instead of monetary gain.

History of Charity (Religious Background)

Each religion emphasises the value of charity. Every society encourages charitable giving among its members. It's a human instinct to be charitable. Everybody donates to charities For centuries, non-government organisations have been established around faith, values, and dedication to social and environmental causes. Across the world, individuals and organisations that are committed to justice, peace, and sustainability pursue various initiatives while supported by religious values and rituals. Driven by this deep commitment, religious institutions are known to fund, implement, and promote community-based initiatives in various parts of the world. From providing social services to offering educational opportunities, religious organisations have a rich history of playing a positive role in society.

Examples of religious obligations or charitable recommendations abound. Muslims are required by religious law to donate 2.5% of their annual income to charitable causes and worthy individuals. In the Gurudwara, the followers of Guru Nanak perform acts of charity through the Langar (community kitchen), where anyone can go and receive tasty and hygienic meals for free. Many temples also have arrangements in place to give hungry and homeless persons food and drink. Therefore, the idea of generosity for its adherents is shared by all major religions.

History of Charitable/ Philanthropy Work in India

Historically, kingship was synonymous with serving their people. kings and kingship was a very important element of the society. Kings were seen as instruments that helped in the welfare of people. They devoted their life to looking after their people, providing them with safety and shelter, providing resources and helping them prosper. They made laws, regulated trade, and provided public works like infrastructure, irrigation and many other services.

Charitable and philanthropic behavior have long been a part of early Indian culture, with mentions of it across Indian literature and multiple examples of such behavior in the Mahabharata, one of the oldest Sanskrit epics. In particular, the character Karna from the Mahabharata is known for his acts of giving that included donations to Brahmins, even when others mocked his poverty. Through stories like this, Indian culture formed its early roots of social welfare and introduced charity as an ideal behaviour. This behaviour was quickly adopted by many in the Indian subcontinent who saw charity as a moral obligation and often contributed what little they had, to those less fortunate than themselves. King Shershah Suri made an impressive contribution to India during his reign, most notably in his establishment of welfare and development of people - construction of Sarai (inns) and dak Chowkies (police beats), setting up a widespread postal system and building roads to connect cities.

It is interesting to note that modem social work in India was introduced by the Christian Missionaries at the beginning of the 19th century. The concept of social work was completely unheard of before this point in India's cultural history. Although there were certain religious and charitable practices being observed in Indian culture, social work as a whole was not an established practice. This shift in attitude and lifestyle gave shape to modern Indian society which valued compassion, empathy and the spirit of helping others.

During the late 19th century, organizations like Arya Samaj, Prarthana Samaj, and Ramakrishna Mission emerged to provide India with a variety of welfare services. These organizations were dedicated to bringing about radical changes to Indian society through innovative services and initiatives. For example, Arya Samaj was active in fighting against social evils such as casteism and superstition, whereas Prarthana Samaj was devoted to advocating for social reforms and the betterment of women's rights. Ramakrishna Mission, on the other hand, focused on promoting spiritual awakening through religious teachings and education.

History of Charitable/ Philanthropy Work worldwide

The Egyptian papyrus books known as the Books of the Dead, which outline a king's responsibilities include providing for the hungry, sick, and destitute, were buried in numerous pyramids. Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, asserts that compassion and love for others are the paths to enlightenment. India's Prince Asoka funds clinics and shelters for both people and animals. One of the Five Pillars of Islam, or duties of Muslims, is to pay Zakat, which is referred to as a "purification tax" to support the underprivileged. Human rights are established by the Magna Carta in England, but only for the nobles. The first lectures given to people working with the disadvantaged at the School of Social Economics in Chicago marked the formalization work education in the United States a little more than a century ago.       

Some Oldest registered NGOs in India

India has a long history of philanthropy and service, which can be traced back to ancient Hindu and Buddhist practices like Daana and Seva. However, these charitable efforts lacked the formal structure and organization of NGOs, as we know them today. Around 15 lakh NGOs are functioning in India in a variety of fields, according to Asian Development Bank research. On the Niti Ayog portal run by the Indian government, more than 90,000 NGOs are registered. According to research by the Asian Development Bank, 2 crore people in India are paid volunteers, which indicates that 2 crore people work for NGOs in India

 The Friend-in-Need Society (1858), Prathana Samaj (1864), Satya Shodhan Samaj (1873), Arya Samaj (1875), the National Council for Women in India (1875), and the Indian National Conference (1887) are examples of the oldest Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in India. India has a long history of philanthropy and selfless service, however, it was only during British Rule in India that these NGOs began to form, as a way to give voice to those Indians who had no way to express their concerns and demands. These NGOs served as a platform for political, social, religious, and cultural reforms.

The history of philanthropic work is as long as the history of humans. Every major religion in the world advises charitable work. In India from the ancient period to the present day, we have a long history of philanthropic activities.


By: MOHD JAVED - January 31, 2023



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