Socio - Religious Movements
religion reform was the integral part of these movements
none of them were totally religious in character. They
were humanist in aspiration and rejected salvation and
otherworldliness as the agenda. They focused on worldly
existence. The socio cultural regeneration in 19th
century was influenced by colonial state but not created
newly emerging middle class and the traditional or western
educated intellectuals were responsible for it. The
movements started with Raja Rammohan Roy.
Religion as a tool to Reform
religious reform was a pre requisite for social reforms
as social life of both Hindus and Muslims were
influenced by religious tenets. Hinduism was
dominated by superstitions and priests. Idolatry, animal
sacrifice, physical torture was common to appease god.
Social life too was depressing. Sati, female infanticide,
child marriage and social boycott of widows were common.
Caste system had created divisions in the society making
it difficult to support a united mass movement.
Untouchability was prevalent too.
sought to create a climate of modernization. They used faith
to challenge such practices. They referred to the
period of past where no such practices existed but they
used it as only an aid and an instrument. Thus they wanted
to prove that no practice like sati, child marriage etc
were sanctioned by religion.
movements believed in rationalism and religious
universalism [god is one and all countrymen are
brethren]. They emphasized the role of religion in
progress of the society. However reform wasn’t always
based on religious consideration. A rational and
secular outlook was more important to prevalent social
practices. E.g. medical opinion was cited as an aid to
oppose child marriage.
adherence to western ideology wasn’t practices but reform
indigenous culture. Thus modernization not
westernization was the aim.
Abolition of Sati
Influenced by the frontal attack launched by the enlightened Indian
reformers led by Raja Rammohan Roy, the Government declared the practice
of sad or the burning alive of widows illegal and punishable by
criminal courts as culpable homicide.
The regulation of 1829 was
applicable in the first instance to Bengal Presidency alone, but was
extended in slightly modified forms to Madras and Bombay Presidencies in
The practice of murdering female infants immediately after birth was
common among upper class Bengalis and Rajputs who considered females to
be an economic burden.
But it was mainly due to the efforts of
Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-91), the principal of Sanskrit
College, Calcutta, that the Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act, 1856, which
legalised marriage of widows and declared issues from such marriages as
legitimate, was passed by the Government.
Vidyasagar cited Vedic texts
to prove that the Hindu religion sanctioned widow remarriage.
Jagannath Shankar Seth and Bhau Daji were among the active promoters of
girls' schools in Maharashtra. Vishnu Shastri Pandit founded the Widow
Remarriage Association in the 1850s. Another prominent worker in this
field was Karsondas Mulji who started the Satya Prakash in Gujarati in
1852 to advocate widow remarriage.
The Native Marriage Act (or Civil Marriage Act) signified the coming of
legislative action in prohibiting child marriage in 1872. It had a
limited impact as the Act was not applicable to Hindus, Muslims and
other recognised faiths.
The relentless efforts of a Parsi reformer,
B.M. Malabari, were rewarded, by the enactment of the Age of Consent Act
(1891) which forbade the marriage of girls below the age of 12.
The Sarda Act (1930) further pushed up the marriage age to 18 and 14 for boys and girls respectively. In free
India, the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 1978 raised the age
of marriage for girls from 15 to 18 years and for boys from 18 to 21.
Factors which Undermined Caste Rigidities under British rule
The pressure of British rule in India unleashed certain forces,
sometimes through direct administrative measures and sometimes
indirectly by creating favourable circumstances.
. For instance, the
creation of private property in land and free sale of land upset caste
A close interlink between caste and vocation could hardly
continue in a state of destruction of village autarchy. Besides, modern
commerce and industry gave birth to several economic avenues while
growing urbanisation and modern means of transport added to the
mobility of populations.
The British administration introduced the
concept of equality before law in a., uniformly applied system of law
which dealt a severe blow to social and legal inequalities, while the
judicial functions of caste panchayats were taken away.
administrative services were made open to all castes and the new
education system was on totally secular lines.
But the struggle against caste could not be successful during the
British rule. The foreign government had its limitations—it could not
afford to invite hostile reaction from the orthodox sections by taking up any radical measures. Also, no social uplift was possible without
economic and political upliftment.
All this could be realised only under the government of a
Leaders of the Emerging
A. Raja Ram Mohan
Roy: father of Indian Renaissance
Raja was given to him by Mughal Emperor Akbar – II.
Brahmo Samaj [initially the Atmiya Sabha] in 1828
to purify Hinduism and preach monotheism.
called the first modern man of India. He was the
pioneer of socio religious reforms.
Biggest Achievement - He helped Bentinck outlaw sati.
He preached against female infanticide. He wanted equal
rights for women and female education.
second most important contribution - He
promoted western sciences and English education.
Roy was a gifted linguist He knew more than a dozen languages including
Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, English, French, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. A
knowledge of different languages helped him broadbase his range of
As a pioneer in Indian journalism, Roy brought out journals in
Bengali, Hindi, English, Persian to educate and inform the public and
represent their grievances before the Government.
for cooperation of thought and activity and brotherhood among nations.
His understanding of the international character of the principles of
liberty, equality and justice indicated that he well understood the
significance of the modern age.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
The great scholar and reformer, Vidyasagar's
ideas were a happy blend of Indian and western thought.
He was determined to
break the priestly monopoly of scriptural knowledge, and for this he
opened the Sanskrit College to non-brahmins. He introduced western
thought in Sanskrit College to break the self-imposed isolation of
Vidyasagar started a movement in support of widow remarriage which
resulted in legalisation of widow remarriage. He was also a crusader
against child marriage and polygamy.
one of the pioneers of higher education for women in India.
Bal Shastri Jambekar
brahminical orthodoxy and tried to reform popular Hinduism
the weekly Darpan in 1832, Students' Literary and Scientific Societies also called the Gyan
They had two branches — Marathi and Gujarati—and were
formed by some educated young men in 1848.
These Mandalis organized
lectures on popular sciences and social questions. One of their aims was
to start schools for girls.
The founders of
these Mandalis believed in one God.
They were primarily interested in
breaking caste rules. At their meetings food cooked by lower caste
people was taken by the members.
These Mandalis also advocated widow
remarriage and women's education.
B. Henry Derozia and
Young Bengal movement:
young Bengal movement. His followers were derozians. They
attacked idol worship, casteism and superstitions.
Movement was more progressive than any other of that
period. The derozians wrote poems about Nationalism and
love of the country, such things werent known before.
C. Swami Dayanand
founder of arya samaj. He believed Vedas were source of
true knowledge. He advocated “Back to the Vedas”.
attacked casteism, idol worship and child marriage. He
attacked inter caste marriage and widow remarriage.
first to put forth ideas like ‘Swadeshi’ and ‘India for
Indians’ and hence was called ‘Martin Luther of
D. Prathana samaj:
an off shoot of brahmo samaj. It was founded by Atmaram
Pandurang in Bombay.
promoted inter dining, inter caste marriage, widow
remarriage, upliftment of women and depressed classes.
was an integral part of it. He was also called
Nyaymurti. He wrote the book Rise of Maratha Power.
Poona Sarwajanik Sabha was started by him to criticize
legislative and administrative decisions.
was Narendranah Dutta. He was the follower of Ramakrishna
too was against superstitions and caste system.
founded Ramakrishna mission as a charitable and
Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Alcott.
main objectives were to form a universal brotherhood
of men and fight distinctions on grounds of race,
religion, color, caste and creed. They also promoted
study of ancient religion and philosophies.
took over the leadership from Alcott. She founded the
central Hindu school which later became Banaras Hindu
G. Jyoti Rao Phule:
founded Satyasodhak samaj to fight the caste
system i.e. free lower caste from oppression of brahmins.
He pioneered widow remarriage movement in Maharashtra.
and his wife Savitribai Phule founded the first girl’s
school in pune. His work was inspired by Thomas Paine.
Father of Indian Social Revolution.
sections of the ulemas organized the Deoband movement.
was to teach Muslims the lessons from Koran and hadis. To
keep alive the spirit of jihad amongst Muslims against
foreign rulers. The liberal interpretations of Islam
created a political awakening amongst Muslims.
Gopal Ganesh Agarkar:
Fergusson college and Deccan Education Society.
of Sudharak newspaper.
Anandvan, Bharat Jodo .Quit India movement.
for Narmada Bachao. Worked for lepers.
Gopal Hari Deshmukh:
Lokhitwadi. Believed that if religion sanctions evil then
religion should be changed as it’s a product of man. He said "If religion does not sanction social reform, then change
Awarded title of Raobahadur.
Vinayak damodar Sawarkar:
Swatantraveer Sawarkar. Founded Abhinav Bharat [extremist]
and Mitramela [moderates]. The Mitramela converted to
Abhinav Bharat soon.
Andaman and Nicobar.
known as Babasaheb Ambedkar. The father
of the Indian constitution.
established Bahishkrut Hitkarni Sabha  for education
of depressed classes and to uplift them socially and
started Mooknayak periodical with help of Shahu Maharaja.
temple entry movement, burning of Manusmriti and Mahad
water tank Satyagraha were highlights of his activism.
tried to pass the Hindu code bill to give freedom
and equal rights to women. But as the bill was rejected he
resigned and later went to Rajya Sabha.
founded independent labor party. He got doctorate in law
from Colombia University.
biography is named “Waiting
for a Visa”.
to Buddhism in October and died in December 1956. He was
awarded Bharat Ratna in 1990.
movement. Ideological follower of Gandhiji.
Subhash Chandra Bose:
‘Desh Nayak’. He was born in odissa and selected in ICS.
Upon Gandhijis advice worked under CR Das and joined
Khilafat and Non cooperation movements. He went to
called cancellation of the movement a national calamity.
He became CEO of Calcutta Corporation and contested
election of Bengal congress. He also went to jail during
civil disobedience movement.
criticized Gandhiji's ways and wanted congress to take
advantage of the WW-II; he was put under house arrest but
escaped to Kabul. He sought USSR help for the freedom
movement but USSR joined the allies and his plan failed.
started Azad Hind Radio with Nazi support. He went to
Berlin to setup a Free India center of Indian POW’s.
national planning committee to plan for development of
India. This was forerunner to the planning commission.
too was a prominent leader of congress. He was given the
title of ‘Sardar’ by women of Bardoli Satyagraha. He was
called the ‘Iron Man Of India’.
Gopal K Gokhale and Lokmanya Tilak
Gokhale was a moderate leader and known as the "Socrates of Maharashtra". He was inspired by Ranade and Gandhiji called him his political guru.
He founded the "Servants of India" society. The aim of the society was to train national missionaries for the
service of India; to promote, by all constitutional means, the, true
interests of the Indian people; and to prepare a cadre of selfless
workers who were to devote their lives to the cause of the country in a
Tilak was known as the "father of Indian Unrest".
He started the Home Rule league in Mumbai and also the Ganpati and Shivaji festivals in 1893.
She was a Brahmin women but converted to christianity to escape persecution from orthodox men.
She was conferred the title "Pandita" by Kolkata university.
She published book "Hindu High Caste Women". She opened Mukti Mission, Sharda Sadan and Arya Mahila Samaj where she helped Widows and helpless women.
Vitthal ramji Shinde
He was a social reformer who worked for equality to depressed classes. His ideas were influenced by Mahatma Phule.
He established "Depressed class mission."
His book - "India's untouchability question". "Athvani va anubhav" . "Bahishkrut bharat".
VB Phadke - Father of Indian armed struggle.
Phadke, a Chitpavan Brahman and a Commissariat Department clerk who had some
English education, seems to have been influenced by Ranade's lectures on drain of wealth, the
experience of the Deccan famine of 1876-77, and the growing Hindu revivalist mood among
Poona Brahman intellectuals.
In an autobiographical fragment written while hiding from the
police in a temple, Phadke later recalled how he had thought of reestablishing a Hindu Raj by
collecting together a secret band, raising money through dacoities, and instigating an armed
revolt through disrupting communications.
The outcome was a type
of social banditry, with the dacoits given shelter by the peasants. After Phadke's capture and life
sentence, a Ramoshi dacoit band under Daulata Ramoshi remained active till 1883, while we also
hear of a tribal Koli group committing 28 dacoities in seven months
Jagannath Shankar Shet - "Architect of Mumbai", "Justice of Peace", "Uncrowned emperor of Mumbai".
A Parsi social reformer, M. Malabari, founded the Seva Sadan in 1885.
organisation specialised in taking care of use women who were exploited
and then discarded by society.
It catered to all castes and women with
education, medical and welfare services.
Deva Samaj Founded in 1887
Founded in 1887 at Lahore by Shiv Narain Agnihotri, this sect
emphasised of the soul, the suremac of the uru, and the need for good
It called for an ideal social behaviour such as not accepting bribes,
avoiding intoxicants and non-vegetarian and keeping away from violent
Radhakant Deb founded this sabha in 1830. An orthodox society, it stood
for the preservation of the status quo in socio-religious matters,
opposing even the abolition of sati.
. However, it favour of western
education, even for girls
Mahamandala An all-India organisation of the orthodox educated Hindus,
it stood for a defence of orthodox Hinduism against the teachings of
the Arya Samaj, the Theosophists, and the Ramakrishna Mission.
organisations created to defend orthodox Hinduism were the Sanatana
Dharma Sabha (1895), the Dharma Maha Parishad in South India, and.
Dharma Mahamandaii in Bengal.
. These organisations combined in 1902 to
form the single organisation of Bharat Dharma Mahamandala, with
headquarters at Varanasi. This organisation sought to introduce proper
management of Hindu religious institutions, open Hindu educational
institutions, etc. Pandit Madan -Mohan Malaviya was a prominent figure
in this movement.
Tulsi Ram, a banker from Agra, also known as Shiv DayalSaheb, founded
this movement in 1861. The R. d. i , one supreme being supremacy of the
Spiritual attainment, they believe doeg not call for renunciation of the
They consider all religions to be true. While the sect has
no belief in temples, shrines and sacred places, it considers as
necessary duties, works of faith and charity, service and prayer.
Sri Narayana Guru Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Movement
This movement was an
example of a regional movement born out of conflict between the
depressed, classes and upper non-Brahmin castes.
It was started by. Sri
Narayana, Guru Swamy among the Ezhavas of Kerala, who were a caste
of toddy-tappers and were considered to be untouchables.
were the single largest caste group in Kerala constituting 26 per cent
of the total population. Sri Narayana Guru initiated a programme of
action—the Sri Narayana Guru Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogarn—in 1902
Main objectives were to
admission to public schools
recruitment to government services
access to roads and entities
The movement as a whole
brought transformative structural changes such as upward social
mobility, shift in traditional distribution of power and a federation of
'backward castes' into a large conglomeration.
Indian National Social Conference Founded by M.G. Ranade and Raghunath Rao
conference met annually from its first session in Madras in 1887 at the
same time and venue as the Indian National Congress.
attention on the social issues of importance; it could be called the
social reform cell of the Indian National Congress, in fact.
conference advocated inter-caste marriages, opposed polygamy and
kulinism. It launched the "Pledge Movement" to inspire people to take a
pledge against child marriage.
Wahabi/Walliullah Movement :
Shah Walliullah (1702-62) inspired this
essentially revivalist response to western influences and the
degeneration which had set in among Indian Muslims.
He was the first
Indian Muslim leader of the 18th century to organize Muslims around the two-fold ideals of this movement:
desirability of harmony among the
four schools of Muslim jurisprudence which had divided the Indian
Muslims (he sought to integrate the best elements of the four schools)
recognition of the role of individual conscience in religion where conflicting interpretations were derived from the Quran and the
. The movement
fizzled out in the face of British military might in the 1870s.
Titu Mir's Movement
Mir Nithar Ali, popularly known as Titu Mir, was a disciple of Sayyid
Ahmed Raebarelvi, the founder of the Wahabi Movement.
Titu Mir organized
the Muslim peasants of Bengal against the Hindu landlords and the
British indigo planters.
The movement was not as militant as the British
records made it out to be; only in the last year of Titu's life was
there a confrontation between him and the British police. He was killed
in action in 1831.
The movement, also called the Fara'idi Movement because of its emphasis
on the Islamic pillars of faith, was founded by Haji Shariat-Allah. Its
scene of action was East Bengal, and it aimed at the eradication of
social evils among the Muslims of the region.
The Fara'idis organized a paramilitary forces armed with
clubs to fight the Hindu landlords and even the police. Dudu Mian was
arrested several times, and his arrest in 1847 finally weakened the
It was based on
liberal principles. It described itself as the standard-bearer of Mohammedan
Renaissance, and based itself, like the Brahmo Samaj, on the principles
of universal religion of all humanity, opposing jihad (sacred war
The movement spread western liberal education
among the Indian Muslims. However, the Ahmadiya Movement, like Baha'ism
which flourished in the West Asian countries, suffered from mysticism.
NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF REFORM MOVEMENTS
Qne of the major limitations of these religious reform movements was
that they had a narrow social base, namely the educated and urban
middle classes, while the needs of vast masses of peasantry and the
urban poor were ignored.
The tendency of reformers to appeal to the greatness of the past and, to
rely on scriptural authority encouraged mysticism and
fostered pseudo-scientific thinking while exercising a check on hill
acceptance of the need for a modern scientific outlook.
But, above all,
these tendencies contributed, at least to some extent, in
compartmentalising Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Parsis, as also alienating
high caste Hindus from low caste Hindus.
An overemphasis on religious and philosophical ,as aspects of
heritage,got somewhat magnified by insufficient emphasis on other
aspects of culture—art, architecture, literature, music, science and
To make matters worse, the Hindu reformers showered their praise
of the indian past to its ancient period and looked upon the medieval
period of Indian history (Rise of Islam) essentially as an era of decadence.
This succeeded to create a notion of two separate peoples, on the one hand; on the
other, an uncritical praise of the past was not acceptable to the low
caste sections of society which had suffered under religiously
sanctioned exploitation precisely during the ancient period.
the past itself tended to be placed into compartments on a partisan
basis. Many in the Muslim middle classes went to the extent of turning
to, the history of West Asia for their traditions and moments of pride.
Religious movements failed to enter the phase of secular movements and continued in their old form appealing only to a particular religion.
By the 1880s, the total number of English-educated Indians was approaching the 50,000 mark, if
the number of matriculates may be taken as a rough indicator (only 5000 as yet had B.A.
The number of those studying English went up fairly rapidly from 298,000 in 1887 to
505,000 in 1907, while the circulation of English-language newspapers climbed from 90,000 in
1885 to 276,000 in 1905.
A 'microscopic minority', as the British never tired of pointing out (the
literacy figures even in 1911 were only 1 per cent for English and 6 per cent for the vernaculars),
this emerging social group enjoyed an importance far in excess of its size
gave its beneficiaries a unique capacity to establish contacts on a country-wide scale. English educated
Western education did bring with it an awareness of world currents and
ideologies, without which it would have been difficult to formulate conscious theories of
At the same time, the alienating and divisive effects of education through a foreign
medium were evident enough from the beginning, and have persisted right up to the present day.
The early research of Anil Seal and John Broomfield made it very fashionable for a time to
consider the English-educated as 'elite-groups' defined basically by their upper-caste status. It is
certainly true that the traditional 'literary' castes tended to take more easily to the new education.
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