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The social reforms that started in India in the 19th century, threw up many interesting debates. The Indian intelligentsia reacted differently to the rapidly changing time under colonial subjection. The debate between Tilak (1856-1920) and Agarkar (1856-1895) gives us a fairly good understanding of the social and intellectual churning that went on in western Maharashtra, especially among the elites of society. This article explores the finer points of the debate in the context of colonial political atmosphere that also produced the anti-colonial nationalist movement in the late 19th century. But how relevant was this debate for the vast majority of women in India?