1. socio – religions movements of modern india


Young Bengal movement


            An anglo-Indian Henry Vivian Derezio, who was born in 1809 and who taught at Hindu college from 1826 to 1831, was the leader of this movement.  He followed the most radical views of the time, drawing his inspiration from the French Revolution.  His followers, known as Hazoor Maharaj.  He wrote Sar-Updesh, Nij-Updesh and Prem-Updesh, which represent the teachings of this sect.  The Radha Swami Satsang is a sort of synthesis of the ‘Bhakti’ and ‘Yoga’.  It believes that all the religious sects are one and true.  The sect played an important role in the national and cultural regeneration by religious awakening as well as establishment of educational institutions and social service centres.


Bhahmo Samaj

It is a Theistic society founded by Raja Rammohan Roy (1772-1833) in Calcutta in 1828.  Rammohan knew over a dozen languages including Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, English, French, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.  He was also well acquainted with Jainism and other religious sects of India.  He also made an intensive study of Western thought and culture.  Thus his contact with religious ideas forced him to high-light the evil aspects of Hindu religion.  He opposed the idol worship and stressed on Doctrine of the Unity of God-head.  He stood for the reform of Hinduism.  He vigorously defended Hindu religion and philosophy from the attacks of the missionaries.

His Brahmo Samaj was based on the twin pillars of reason – the Vedas and the Upanishads. He laid emphasis on human dignity, opposed idolatry, and criticized such social evils as the practice of Sati.

After Raja Rammohan Roy, Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905), the father of Rabindranath Tagore, revitalized Brahmo Samaj.  In 1839, he founded the Totvabodhini Sabha to propagate Rammohans’s ideas.  It had got the support of the thinkers like  Ishwar Chandras Vidyasagar and Akshay Kumar Dutt.  In 1843, Debandranath Tagore reorganized the Brahmo Samajunder him actively supported the movement for widow remarriage, abolition of polygamy, women’s education, improvement of the ryot’s condition.  Debendranath remained the undisputed leader of the Samaj till 1866.


Brahmo Samaj of India

Keshab Chandra Sen joined the Brahmo Samaj in 1857.  He popularized the movement and the branches of the Samaj were opened outside Bengal.  Keshub’s liberal and cosmopolitan outlook brought a schism in the Brahmo Samaj.  He found Hinduism to be too narrow and discouraged the use of Sanskrit texts.  Under Keshab’s influence the Samaj began to cut itself from Hindu moorings.  Debendranath dismissed Keshab from the office of the Brahmo Samaj in 1865.  So he started a new organization Brahmo Samaj of India, while the organization of Tagore came to be known as Adi Brahmo Samaj.


Sadharan Brahmo Samaj

The second schism of the Brahmo Samaj occurred in 1878, when a band of Keshab Chandra Sen’s followers left him to found the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj mainly because first, their demand for the introduction of a democratic constitution in the Samaj was not conceded; secondly, they could not see eye to eye with their leader on the question of adesa or Divine Command; and thirdly, Keshab Chandra Sen’s daughter was married to the prince of Cooch Behar, allegedly in violation of the provisions of the Native Marriage Act of 1872, for which he himself had done so much to get it passed.  The founders of the new body framed, a democratic constitution based on universal adult franchise.


Parthana samaj

The Prarthana Samaj (Society of Prayer), an offshoot of the Brahmo Samaj, was founded in Bomaby in 1867.  It two great leaders were R.G. Bhandarkar and Mahadev Govind Ranade.  The leaders of this Samaj concentrated on social reform, upon ‘works’ rather than ‘faith’.  They were staunch theists in Vaishnavite tradition of Maharashtra, made famous by popular saints such as Namdev, Tukaram and Ramdas.


Arya samaj

The Arya Samaj was founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1824-83) in Bombay  in 1875 in order to reform Hindu religion.  Dayanand’s ideal was to unite India religiously, socially and nationally.  He regarded the Vedas as eternal and infallible.  He disregarded the authority of the later scriptures such as the Puranas and considered the Epics as literary treasure and nothing more.  He condemned idol worship and preached unity of Godhead.  He denounced untouchability and casteism and advocated remarriage and a high status of woman in society.  Dayanand wrote three books Satyartha Prakash      in Hindi, Veda-Bhashya Bhumika in Hindi and Sanskrit and Veda Bhashya in Sanskrit.

The most phenomenal achievement of Arya Samaj has been in the field of education.  The nucleus for this movement was provided by the Anglo vedicschool established at Lahore in 1886.  The D.A.V.  institutions are a standing proof of the educational achievement of the Samaj.  In 1902, Swami Shradhananda started the Gurukul near Hardwar to propagate the more traditional ideals of education.

In order to counteract missionary activities, the Samaj started the Shuddhi movement to reconvert those Hindus who had been willingly or forcibly converted to Islam or Christianity.  This became a contributory factor in the growth of communalism in India in the 20th century.

Later after the death of Dayanand in 1883, differences occurred in the Gurukul section led by Swami Shradhananda and D.A.V. section led by Lala Lajpat Rai and Lala Hansraj.  While the Gurukul section laid emphasis on the traditional pattern of education, the Dayanand-Anglo-Vedic section stood for the spread of English education.  This led to the split of the Samaj in 1892.


Ramakrishna mission

The Ramakrishna Mission was inaugurated by Swami Vivekananda (1863 – 1902) in May 1897 with the following objectives:

1) to bring into existence a bank of monks dedicated to a life of renunciation and practical spirituality, from among whom teachers and workers would be sent out to spread the universal message of Vedanta as illustrated in the life of Ramakrishna  Paramhansa; and

2) in conjunction with lay disciples, to carry on preaching, philanthropic and charitable works, looking upon all men, women and children, irrespective of caste, creed or colour, as veritable manifestations of the Divine.

Ramakrishna Pramhansa (1836-1886), original name Gadodhar Chattopadhyay, was born in 1836 in Kamarpukar village in Hooghly district of West Bengal.  He was a saintly person who sough religious salvation in the traditional ways of renunciation, meditation and devotion (bhakti). In his search for religious truth or the realization of God he lives with mystics of other faiths, Muslims and Christians.

Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), original name Narendranath Dutta, was the true disciple of Ramakrishna.  After the death of his Guru he established a monastery at Baranagar in 1887.  He attended the Parliament of Religions held at Chicago in 1893 and made a great impression by his learned interpretations.  He published two papers – Prabhudha Bharata in English and Udbodhana in Bengali.

He condemned the caste system and the current Hindu emphasis on rituals and superstitions.  He laid emphasis on the social action.  Knowledge, unaccompanied by action in the actual world was useless.  He was convinced of the superior approach of the Indian philosophical  tradition.  He himself  subscribed to Vedanta which he declared to be a fully rational systems.

In 1896, he founded the Ramakrishna Mission to carry on humanitarian relief and social work.  Belur became the headquarters of his mission and Math.  An Irish woman Margaret Noble, popularly known as sister Nivedita, came to popularize the teachings of the Mission.

The Ramakrishna mission, even today, has been in the forefront of social reform in the country.  It was a number of charitable dispensaries and hospitals.


Theosophical society

The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in the United States by Madam H.P. Blavatsky and Colonel H.S. Olcott, who later came to India and founded the headquarters of the society at Adyar, near Madras in 1882.  The Theosophist movement soon grew in India under the leadership of Mrs. Annie Besant, who came to India in 1893.

The theosophists advocated the revival and strengthening of the ancient religions of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism.  They recognized the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul.  They also preached the universal brotherhood of man.

Besant laid the foundation of central Hindu College in Benares in 1898 where both the Hindu religion and western scientific subjects were taught.  This college developed later into the Benares Hindu University.




Wahabi movement

The Wahabi, the Faraidi and the Khilafat movements of this period were, in fact, religious in form but political in form but political in content.  In 1821, Syed Ahmad (1786-1831) of Rae Bareli – a disciple of Shah Abdul Aziz, eldest son of Shah Waliullah – visited Mecca and came under the influence of Wahabi ideology.  On his return to India he set up a permanent centre at Patna and started a movement for the reform of Muslim religious life and restoration of their political power.  His two distinguished disciples – Shah Muhammad Ismail and Maulana Abdul Haiy (both of whom belonged to the house of Shah Waliullah) – consolidated the religious teachings of their master in a book known as Siratul-Mustaqim.


Faraidi movement

The Faraidi movement was started in Bengal by Haji Shariatullah of Faridpur.  In Eastern Bengal the movement, particularly in its anti-British content, found ready response.  Haji Shariatullah suspended the observance of the Friday and ‘Id’ prayers on the ground that India had become dar-ul-harb since it was under the political suzerainty of the British.  He demanded solemn pledges from his disciples to lead an abstemious life and carry on struggle against the political domination and economic exploitation of the foreigners.  His son, Dudu Miyan (1819-1960) asserted the equality of mankind and proclaimed that since the earth belonged to God, no one had the right to occupy it as an inheritance or levy taxes upon it.  The Faraidi movement lost much of its vigour after the death of Dudu Miyan in 1860.


Khilafat movement

The Khilafat movement, started in 1919, was religious in content, but it assumed a political complexion and linked itself with the Indian freedom movement.  Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Ali Brothers, Hakim Ajmal Khan and the ulama of Deoband and Ferangi Mahal zealously participated in the movement.


Deoband movement

This movement was founded at Deoband in 1866 by Maulana Hussain Ahmad with the name for improving the spiritual and moral conditions of the Muslims.  the failure of the revolt of 1857 ultimately turned the followers of the movement to seek the uplift of the Muslims through religious education.  Maulana Hussain Ahmad held that religion did not constitute any basis for separate national individuality and that the Hindu and Muslims of India were one nation.



The Nadwah-ul-Ulama was established at Lucknow in 1894 in order “to recast Muslim&system, develop religious sciences, reform Muslim morals and put an end to theological controversies within the fold of Islam”.  Under the guidance of Maulana Shibli a new school of religious scholars sprang up and it played an important part in Muslim religious life by developing the study of religious sciences.

New scholastic movement

Apart from the Christian missionary activities, the impact of western ideas and civilization posed a great challenge to Muslim religious thought.  Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) was the first to react to this new situation.  He fought medieval obscurantism through his journal Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq and advocated a rational approach towards religion.  He rejected taqlid, or blind adherence to religious law, and asked for reinterpretation of the Quran in the light of reason to suit the new trends of the time.  In his Lectures on Islam he rebutted the theories propounded by Christian missionaries.


Qadiani or Ahmadiya movement

Towards the end of the 19th century a new religious movement was initiated by Mizrza Ghulam Ahmad (d.1908) from Qadian, in Gurdaspur district, and it soon took the from of a new sect in Islam.  Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed himself to be an incarnation of Lord Krishna and advocated that modern industrial and technological progress ought to be regarded by the Muslims as a part of God’s purpose and should be given religious – recognition.


Aligarh movement

Aligarh movement was founded by Sayyid Ahmad Khan.  He was most important reformer among the Muslims.  He believed that the religious and the social life of the Muslim could be improved only by imbibing western scientific knowledge and culture.  He popularized his ideas through has journal Tahizib-Ul-Akhlaq. 

In 1875, he founded at Aligarh the Mohammedan Anglo-oriental college as the centre for the western learning.  Later, this college grew into the Aligarh Muslim University.  Sayyid Ahmad was helped by a band of loyal followers, who are collectively described as Aligah School.  Chiragh Ali, Altaf Hussain Hali, Nazir Ahmad and Maulana Shibli Nomani were some of the distinguished leaders of the Aligarh School.


Movements for moral and spiritual uplift

The purely religious and spiritual movements of the Indian Muslims during modern period centred on three great figures – Shah Ghulam Ali of Delhi, Maulana Ashraf Ali of Thana Bhawan in Saharanpur district, and Maulana Muhammad Ilyas of Delhi.  The influence of Shah Ghulam Ali reached distant parts of the Muslim world and scholars from the Arab countries joined the circle of his followers.  Maulana ashraf Ali contributed materially to the dissemination of religious knowledge.  Maulana Muhammad Ilyas set up a countries for moral and spiritual instruction at Delhi, near the tomb of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya, and started brisk religious activity.

 Parsi Reform movement

This movement was started in Bombay in the middle of the 19th century.  In 1851, the Rehnumai Mazdaysan Sabha or Religious Reform Association was started by Naoraji Furdonji Dadabhai Naoroji and S.S. Bengalee.  It campaigned for the modernization of Parsi social customs regarding the education of women, marriage and the social position of women in general.

B.M. Malabari was a famous Parsi reformer of the 19th century, who started a crusade against the child marriage and with his efforts the Age of Consent Act (1891) was passed which forbade the marriage of girls below the age of 12.

K.R.Cama also played an important role in reforming the Parsi society.

Akali movement

Among Sikh reformist movements, the most important was the Akali.  The Akalis claim for themselves “a direct institution” by Guru Gobind Singh.  In the present century, their greater achievement was the passage of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act in 1925 which enabled the Sikhs totake over-control of the Gurdwaras from the hereditary Mahants.