It was inspired by the western concepts of reason, equality and liberty. It inspired the Indians to remove the defects of their culture. It, thus, gave it a new lease of life and momentum to grow.
The Indians felt that the Indian culture was great and it could grow and could face the challenge of western culture. Therefore, they tried to revive the glory of the Indian culture, reform Indian society and religion and bring improvement in every field of life. There remained no part of Indian life which remained untouched by the Indian Renaissance.
The causes which were responsible for this transformation were many. The annexation of Indian states resulted in the gradual realization of political unity in India. It provided Indians the opportunity to think about themselves and provoked them to find out causes of their misery.
The foreign contacts inspired Indians to achieve similar progress for themselves. The propaganda by Christian missionaries to make converts India stimulated both Hindus and Muslims into reinforcing their efforts to defend and protect their religion and society.
They also started house cleaning movement in their respective religion and society. Western scholars also helped the Indians in their movements. By their research and writings Max Muller and William Jones revived the part glory of Indian culture.
The Indian realised that their culture was no way inferior to that of the west and it needed only revival to stand up to or even surpass the western culture. The development of Indian Press and Journalism helped to boost this idea.
Apart from this, the introduction of English language and western education brought Indians into contact with the western ideas of liberty, equality and modern nationalism etc.
It urged the English educational Indians and provided them the encouragement for bringing forth progress in different spheres of Indian like. Thus, all the factors combinedly contributed for social-religious reformation movement in India.
The Brahmo Samaj:
Ram Mohan Roy was the first fruit of the new plant which grew as a result of the disseamination of western culture in the Indian soil. The Brahmo Samaj established by him in 1828 was the first such movements. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born in 1772 in an orthodox well to do Brahman family of Bengal.
At the age of 15 he was turned out of the family for writing a pamphlet denouncing idol worship. He travelled far and wide and gained much experience. He knew English, French, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi etc. He made a deep study of the Hindu Dharma Sastras.
The English civilisation impressed him very much and he went to England several times. He dedicated his life for the service of the people. He felt that there was deed of reforming Hindu religion. In 1819 he published the essence of vendant sastras in English and Bengali.
He also translated the Upanishads. In 1820 he published the principles of Jesus, the Guide to peace and happiness in which he gave the critical analysis of the teachings of Christ.
The missionaries made a strong protest against him. He tried to prove in “Appeal to the Christian people”. That Christ was not the son of God. In 1828 he found Brahmo Samaj the first meeting of which took place on August 1828.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a brilliant product of the impact of western education upon Indian culture. “He was in fact the first modern man in India”. A true humanist and a reformer, he wanted to raise the Hindu society from the slough of superstition and despondency.
It was a theistic organisation open to all who believed in the unity of God and discarded the worship of idols. Ram Mohan’s idealism was based upon the universalism of the Upnishads.
His aim was to establish worship of the Supreme Being worship of the heart and not of the hand, a sacrifice of the self and not of the possession of the self. He advocated the worship of one Supreme Being and the brother hood of man Brahmo Samaj stood for respect for all religions and their scriptures.
It was open to persons belonging to any caste and creed irrespective of any other distinctions. In the words of Ramsay Mai Donald; “The Brahm Samaj was unwilling to desert Hinduism but was willing to become liberal and respond the impact of western faiths.”
He was not only a religious reformer but was also a great patriot. But he was not in favour of using force against the British. His aim was to educate public opinion to develop political consciousness among the people.
According to Subhash Chandra Bose, “Raja Ram Mohan Roy stood as the apostle of religious revival.” He urged to return to the original principles of vedantism and for a total rejection of all the religious and social impurities that had crept into Hinduism in later times.
He also advocated an all round regeneration of the social and national life and the acceptance of all that is useful and beneficial in the modern life of Europe. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, therefore, stands out against the down of the new awakening in India as the prophet of the new age.
Brahmo Samaj advocated remarriage of widows and condemned child marriages. Raja Ram Mohan Roy launched a movement against untouchability and caste system. He persuaded Lord Bentinck to pass laws against the custom of Sati.
He was in favour of the freedom of the press. He was responsible for the introduction of jury system in India. He was in favour of western type of education to be given to the Indians.
He was also responsible for the founding of a Hindu college, an English School, and Vedant College at Calcutta. He has the most famous literary man of his time and wrote several books, in Urdu, Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian and English. He was the founder and editor of a Bengali journal called “Samvad Kaumudi”.
He was been rightly called the old of a new age and the harbinger of the idea of universal humanism. According to Miss Colet: Ram Mohan Stands in history as the living bridge over which India marches from her unmeasured part to her incalculable future.
He was the arch which spanned the glut between ancient caste and modern humanity, between superstition and science between despotism and democracy between unmoble custom and conservative progress, between a be wilding polytheism and a pure if vague theism.
The Raja was the human link between the unpading past and the dawning future, between vested conservatism and medical reform, between superstitions isotationism and progressive synthesis, in short between reaction and progress.
The Theosophical Movement:
The Theosophical Society was founded by Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott in New York in the same year in which Swami Dayananda established the Arya Samaj in Bombay, viz. 1875. The founders of the society arrived in India in January 1879, and established the headquarters of the society in Adyar, Madras in December. 1882.
In 1888 Mrs. Annie Besant joined the society in England. Her adherence to the society proved an asset of the greatest valine. By her dynamic personality and extraordinary eloquence she soon drew to the society many dedicated Indians who accepted her as their teacher and guide.
She infused new vigour in the activities of the society, she toured throughout India giving lectures in defence of traditional Hinduism, founding educational centres, propagating her theosophical views through humorous books and pamphlets, and developing the doctrine of the society.
The ideology of the Theosophical society was a strange mixture of religion, philosophy and occultism.
It consisted of four fundamental points:
1. Unity of God.
2. The threefold emanation of God.
3. The hierarchy of beings consisting of spiritual intelligences on gods and angels, humane spirits, and sub-humane intelligence.
4. Universal brotherhood.
It supports the school of idealism, assents the primacy of consciousness, and believes that human thought is of the same nature as divine thought. Thought is capable of mastering man’s lower nature and his physical surroundings.
The spirit is eternal and immortal and reins cornates from one body to another, gathering life-experience, climbing upwards until if master, all that the world has to teach and nothing more is left to clean. Then it is beyond birth and death, fitted for immortality.
Many educated middle class Hindus were attracted to the society. Some were carried away by the spectacle of an eminent white women discoursing to eloquently on Hinduism and justifying what Christian missionaries and European writers had denounced as superstition on perversity.
It is most successful venture in this direction the opening of Central Hindu College at Benaras in 1898, where the teaching of the Hindu religion formed a part of general education. The college tried to combine the best features of an English public school with the hoary traditions of the teacher-pupil relation of ancient India.
The society also opposed child marriage, advocated abolition of caste, the uplift of the outcastes, and amelioration of the condition of widows. It denounced race and colour prejudices. As early as 1903, Mrs. Beasant avowed her political faith in these words.
India must be governed on the basis of Indian feelings, Indian traditions, Indian thoughts and Indian ideas. The society glorified Indian religions and philosophical traditions. This helped Indians recover their self confidence, even though it tended to give them a sense of false prode in their past greatness.
Swami Dayananda was the founder of Arya Samaj. His childhood name was Mul Sankar. He was born in a small town Tankara in Gujarat in a conservative Brahmin family in 1824. He lost his faith in idol-worship at an early age.
He left his home before his marriage in 1845 and travelled all over India as a Sanyas in till 1861. In 1861 he met an ascetic, Swami Vrajanand at Mathura and became his disciple. There he studied the vedas. He left his teacher after completing his education and took up the mission of spreading true Hindu religion and culture all over India.
He established the Arya Samaj first at Bombay in 1857. He travelled throughout the country to propagate his views and established Arya Samaj organisations at different places for the same purpose. The Arya Samaj pursued the following principles:
1. The Vedas are the only source of truth. Therefore the study of the Vedas is absolutely necessary.
2. Recitation of the Mantras of the Vedas and performance of Havan.
3. Opposition to idol-worship.
4. Opposition to the theory of God reincarnation and religious pilgrimages.
5. Faith in the theory of karma and transmigration of soul.
6. Faith in one God who has no physical existence.
7. Belief in female education.
8. Opposition to child marriage and polygamy.
9. Support to widow remarriage in certain circumstances.
10. Propagation of Hindi and Sanskrit languages.
Working on these principles, the Arya Samaj did remarkable useful work for reforming the Hindu Society and religion. Two basic concepts of the Arya Samaj largely contributed to its success. Ones it provided equal status to all its members.
There remained no place for casteism in the Arya Samaj. Second, the Arya Samaj carried on its religious propaganda with Fanatic zeal. One basic element of Hinduism had always been its spirit of tolerance both in principle and practice.
This remained the main weakness at Hinduism vis-a-vis Islam and Christianity. While Hinduism tolerated each of them, Islam claimed superiority of the Koran and Prophet Muhammad and Christianity claimed it for the Bible and Jesus Christ; and both the Muhammadans and the Christians believed that their religions were the only true religions and therefore, were to be pursued by all.
The fanatic zeal of both these religions successfully drew large numbers of converts from the Hindus. Swami Dayananda understood it and therefore, provided fanatic zeal to the Arya Samaj. He claimed that true knowledge was only in the Vedas and, therefore, true religion was only the religion of the Vedas.
The Arya Samaj, therefore, became a fanatic supporter of Hinduism and became an organ of militant Hinduism. Inspired by a spirit of equality and religious zeal, the Arya Samaj did remarkable service in the cause of Hinduism and Hindu society.
It also helped in the educational advancement of Indians and had its impact on national movement as well. No other social and religious movement can stand in comparison with the Arya Samaj, regarding its popular appeal among the Indians.
In the realm of religion, the Arya Samaj opposed idol-worship, ritualism, practice of animal sacrifice, the idea of heaven and hell and the concept of fatalism. It simplified Hinduism and helped to develop faith in its supremacy among the Hindus.
The Arya Samaj claimed that the Vedas were the sources of all knowledge. We could find in them all principles concerning politics, economics, Social Sciences, humanities and all branches of positive Science.
The Hindus in fact, have forgotten their true knowledge but if they could study the Vedas they would find all knowledge of the world compacted in them. Therefore, the Hindus need not look towards Christianity. Islam or western cultural for guidance for any political, social or scientific principles.
Thus, the Arya Samaj successfully met the challenge of Islamic and Christian propaganda against Hinduism and in turn, attached their principle vehemently.
The Arya Samaj provided useful service to Hindu Society as well by making onslaught on its Social evils. It opposed child- marriages, polygamy, purdha, casteism, the practice of Sati, etc.
It incessantly worked for the education of the females, abolition of casteism and uplift of the depressed classes. Intercaste marriages and interchanging was practised by the members of the Arya Samaj in their routine life.
It did one more extraordinary work. It started to take back the converted Muslims and the Christians into Hindu fold after purifying them. It was called ‘Sudhi Movement’. Many Hindus were converted to Christianity in ignorance.
The Christian missionaries had drawn large number of converts from among the uneducated, poor and depressed classes of the Hindus. They could not be taken back within the fold of Hinduism even if they desired it.
The Arya Samaj opened the gates of Hinduism to them and defended its action on the basis of the Dharma of the Vedas. By its efforts, a large number of people were restored to the Hindu fold.
The Aray Samaj has established a large number of educational institutions in India particularly in the North. Gurukuls, Kanya Gurukulas and D.A.V. Schools and Colleges have been established by the Arya Samaj for the education of both males and female.
While the gurukuls provide education mostly in Sanskrit, the Vedas, Ayurved etc., D.A.V. Schools and Colleges provide modern education in humanities and sciences. These educational institutions have participated not only in defending Hindu religion, society and culture but also in the growth of education, knowledge and enlightenment in general.
The Arya Samaj also contributed towards arousing national consciousness. One of the biographers of Swami Dayananda wrote “Political independence was one of the first-First objectives of Dayanand. Indeed he was the first man to use the term swaraj.
He was the first to insist on people using only swadesi things manufactured in India and to discard foreign things. He was the first to recognize Hindi as the national language of India.” Many Indian national leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lajpat Rai and Gopal Krishna Gokhle were deeply influenced by the philosophy and principles of the Arya Samaj.
The Arya Samaj, in fact, participated in building up personalities of many Indians who imbibed the spirit of militant Hinduism from it and participated actively in the national movement. The rise of extremism within All India Congress was certainly because of the militant spirit of Hinduism: and there is no doubt that the Arya Samaj was an active participant in it.
Thus, there is no doubt that the Arya Samaj, by claiming superiority of Hindu religion and culture, defended the honour of the Hindus and provided them self respect and confidence, which inspired national patriotism among them. Therefore, it certainly helped in building up national consciousness.
The Prarthana Samaj:
It was in Maharashtra that the influence of the Brahmo Samaj, movement made it’s a binding impression. In 1867 Keshab Ch. Sen founded the Prarthana Samaj in Bombay and it counted among its members distinguished persons like Justice Mahadev Ranade, Govind Ranade and Sir R.G. Bhandarkar.
In Maharashtra as in Bengal the movement was a rational unitarialism but Prarthana Samaj laid greater stress upon social reforms then upon the theological speculation. Justice Ranade was an enudite scholar with a keen intellect and under his able guidance the Prarthana Samaj became the active centre for social reforms in western India.
He was one of the founders of the widow marriage association and was an ardent promoter of the famous Deccan Education society. Its object was imparting such education to the young as would have fit them for selfless service of the country.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale founded the Servants of India Society and N.M. Joshi established the Social Service League whose aim was to collect and study social facts and discusses social problems with a view to forming public opinion on question of social service and secures for the people better and reasonable conditions of life and work.
The Rama Krishna Mission:
Quite different in spirit was the movement which derived its inspiration from Rama Krishna Paramahansa the saint of Dakhineswar near Calcutta. He started life as a poor priest without any formal education but soon developed into a divinity inspired teacher of Supreme Spiritual truth, of him Max Muller has said,” Illiterate Rama Krishna in comparison with whom the brightest intellects of Europe are mere gropers in the dark,”.
The Rama Krishna Mission founded by his great disciple Vivekananda, is the living embodiment of his message and teaching.
Rama Krishna aimed at the universal synthesis of all religions. He described the diverse modes of Sadhna or spiritual discipline prescribed by different religions.” In a potters shop there are vessels of different shapes and forms-pots, jars, dishes plates etc, but ail are made of one clay, so God’s one but is worshipped in different ages and countries under different names and aspects.” Rama
Krishna’s spiritual cosmopolitanism inspired in a new vision of the spiritual unity of mankind. It had been aptly remarked. “If Ram Mohan Roy was the mind, Dayananda the physical arm Rama Krishna was the soul of free India”.
The great task of continuing Rama Krishna’s spiritual heritage fell upon his devoted disciple Swami Viveka Nanda. He was a dynamic personality with irrepressible energy and boundless conviction.
In 1888 be travelled all over India and dedicated himself to the task of regenerating India through religion. In 1893 he attended the parliament of Religions at Chicago where he propounded the true meaning of Hinduism.
He proclaimed the Vedanto as the grand universal religion of the world. While interpreting Hinduism to the outside world Vivekanand struck a happy balance between the east and west. The metaphysical and physical, the spiritual and the material.
He raised Hinduism to its prestine glory. One of the most remarkable contributions of Vivekanand was to bring spirituality to the mind and heart of the common people. The message of spiritual hope with which he gave India acted as a potent force in the course of Indian nationalism. His attitude towards religion was free from dogmatism and other narrowness.
He was a true follower of his master in advocating universal religion. “I accept all religions that were in the past and worship them all. I worship God with every one of them in whatever frm they worship him.”
To Vivekanand religion was not a dogma, it was all persuasive in its scope. He laid special emphasis on the social regeneration and uplift of the masses. He organised the disciples of Rama Krishna Mission in 1899 he established the Belur Matha at Calcutta which became the centre of Mission activities.
In 1899 Vivekanand visited the United States. He also attends the Congress of History of religions in Paris in 1900. He died in 1902 at the age of 39. Though the span of his life was short yet he left an unending mark on the succeeding generations. Vivekanand was the voice of the soul. It went into the heart of the nation and restored it finally on its feet.
His disciples are divided into two groups: first the Ascetics who do not marry and dedicate their lives to God and the service of man. The followers of the second group live in the world and earn their livelihood but they regulated their lives according to the teachings of Rama Krishna.
They are not social reformers in the liberal sense of the word but they are helping in the reconstruction of society in several ways.
A large number of school or-phanages and dispensaries have been set up by the Rama Krishna Mission. Vivekanand established the centres of the Mission in the foreign countries also.
He also wrote several books on Raja Yoga. He participated in the religious conference of Paris. The propagation of religion made by Vivekanand proved to be very beneficial for India. Indians became conscious of their great culture and religion.
This increased their self confidence and their sense of self prestige. This paved the way for national awakening among the Indians.
According to Jawahar Lai Nehru, “Vivekananda had spoke of many things but one constant refrain of his speech and writing was abhaya-be fearless, be strong”. According to Romain Rolland.
“He was energy personified and action was his message to men”. Sister Nivedita writes in her great book, “The Master as I saw him”. Throughout those years in which I saw him almost daily the thought of India was to him like the air he breathed. True he was a worker at foundations he never used the word nationality the queen of his adoration was his mother land.
Sikh Reform Movements:
The democratic and rationalist ideas also influenced the sikh community. The Singh Sabha was founded in 1873 with the two fold objectives. It strived to bring sikh community the benefits of western enlightenment through modern education. It also protected the community from Christian missionaries and Hindu revivalists.
The Akali movement started as an off shoot of Singh Sabha movement. But it gained momentum after 1920 which aimed to liberate the Sikh Gurdawaras from the control of corrupt Mahantas. In 1921, they started a powerful non-violent satyagraha against Mahanta.
In 1922 the Government passed Sikh Gurudwaras Act which later amended in 1928. The Akali movement though had a regional movement was free from communal propaganda.
Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Aligarh School:
Movements for religious reforms were not spreading among the muslims. The Muslim upper class had tended to avoid contact with western education and culture and it was mainly after the Revolt of 1857 that modern ideas of religious reforms began to appear.
First Muhammadan literacy society was founded in 1863, whose main object was discussion of religious, social, and political questions in the light of modern ideas and encouraged upper and middle class Muslims to take western education.
The most prominent reformer among the Muslims was Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) He was greatly impressed by the emergency of modern scientific thought and worked all his life to reconcile it with Islam.
He condemned the system of piri and muridi. The pirs and faqirs claimed to be followers of the sufi school and passed mystic words to their disciples (murids). He also condemned the institution of slavery and described it un- Islamic. His progressive social ideas were propagated his journal Tahdhib-Ul-Akhlaq.
In the commentaries on the Quran, Sir Syid advocated that any interpretation of the Quran that conflicted with humane reason, science or nature was in reality a mis-interpretation.
Secondly, he declared that Quran alone was the authoritative work for Islam and all other Islamic writings were secondary.
In the field of education, Sir Syid Ahmad Khan founded at Aligarh the Muhammadan Anglo-oriental College as a centre for spreading western science and culture. Later, this College grew into the Aligrah Muslim University.
Soon Aligarh became the centre of religious and cultural revival of Muslim community. The school became the nucleus for the formation of the Muslim University in 1920.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmed of India was another famous Muslim reformer. He was born at Indian in district of Gurdaspur. He was conservative and reactionary. He was the supporter of Islamic practice of divorce and polygamy.
He died in 1918 and after that the movement was managed by Khalifa. There was a split in 1914 and the movement divided into two group-the Lahore party and Qadiani party. The Lahore party considered him as a reformer in Islam-just a Mujahid, but the Qadiani party regarded the Mirza as a prophet.
The Wahabi Movement:
The Wahabi movement was essentially a revivalist movement. Shah Walliullah (1702-62) was first leader of 18th century who wanted to revive the movement. In order to root out the social and religious evils among the Muslims his .contribution was twofold:
I. He asked for unity among four schools of Muslim jurisprudence.
II. He emphasised the role of individual conscience in religion. Shah Abdul Aziz and Syed Ahmed Barchi were prominent who gave a political colour to the movement. They aimed at creating a homeland for the Muslims, declaring to be dar-ul-harb to har-ul-Islam. The movement was crushed by the superior military of the British in the 1870.
The social and religious reformation movements affected every aspect of Indian life. It encouraged Indians to purify their religion, society and polity. The wave of this spirit spread to 20th century contributed for the betterment of Indian society.
The reformation movement helped to start clearing and purification movement in their respective religions. The Hindu, the Muslim, Christians and the Parsis started to simplify and purify their religion.
The Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj and Rama Krishna Mission started to modernise their religion but also to revive their faith in the religions. Foreign scholar like Max Muller, Sir William Jones, and Chas Wilkins helped reviving past glory of Indians.
They translated several religious texts of Hindus and proved that these were among the best religious treaties of the world. All these measure helped to purify their religions.
In Hindu society many social evils crept in to practice due to blind faith and superstition. All religious reformers of this century led a crusade against these social evils. They preached the people that these social evils were superstitions and irrational.
The Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, The Theosophical Society advocated against sati, caste system, child marriage, polygamy and purdah system. The Arya Samaj also started Sudhi Movement to return back large number of converted Muslims and Christians within Hindu fold. So by this measures Hindu society reform ised.
The Indian resonance also contributed awards the progress of literature in different regional languages, like Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Marathi, Telgu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kanada. For spreading Christian religion, the Christian missionaries first translated, Bible to different regional languages before renaissance these languages had limited literature.
Then the Newspapers, magazines and the press in different regional languages also served useful purpose in this field. Then many scholars wrote their works in their regional languages and literature in each language was gradually built up.
The Indians are largely traditionalist and follow the blind faith and superstition. They are also fatalist. They had lost sight of intellectualism reason, right and wrong and thereby justice. The growth of positive attitude and nationalism was result of renaissance.
Western education and western culture destroyed that blind faith of the Indians. At least the educated Indians started thinking reasonable and discriminating between right and wrong regarding their religion and society.
The socio-religious movement contributed for national consciousness in the country. All the leaders of India who participated and involved themselves, whether they be social and religious reformers, literary figures, scholars or scientists were patriots who loved their country. Therefore, all of them worked for national solidarity and social regeneration which is essential for national independence.
Thus, the social, religious reformation movement provided a new platform for the growth of nationalism in India. It also provided social and religious bases for Indian nationalism. The social and religious reforms can be taken as the prelude to the political awakening of India.