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CHAPTER 2: Religious and Social Reform Movements

CHAPTER 2: Religious and Social Reform Movements

The dawn of the nineteenth century witnessed the birth of a new vision—a
modern vision among some enlightened sections of the Indian society.
This enlightened vision was to shape the course of events for decades to
come and even beyond. This process of reawakening, sometimes, but not
with full justification, defined as the ‘Renaissance’, did not always
follow the intended line and gave rise to some undesirable by-products
as well, which have become as much a part of daily existence in the
whole of the Indian subcontinent as have the fruits of these reform
The presence of a colonial government on Indian soil played a complex,
yet decisive role in this crucial phase of modern Indian history. The
impact of British rule on Indian society and culture was widely
different from what India had known before. Most of the earlier
intruders who came to India had settled within her frontiers, were
absorbed by her superior culture and had become part of the land and its
people. However, the British conquest was different. It came at a time
when India, in contrast to an enlightened Europe of the eighteenth
century affected in every aspect by science arid scientific outlook,
presented the picture of a stagnant civilisation and a static and
decadent society.

Indian society in the nineteenth century was caught in a vicious web
created by religious superstitions and social obscurantism. Hinduism had
become a compound of magic, animism and superstition. The priests
exercised an overwhelming and, indeed, unhealthy influence on the minds
of the people. Idolatry and polytheism helped to reinforce
their position, and their monopoly of scriptural knowledge imparted a
deceptive character to all religious systems. There was nothing that
religious ideology could not persuade people to do.

Social conditions were equally depressing. The most distressing was the
position of women. The birth of a girl was unwelcome, her marriage, a.
burden and her widowhood inauspicious. Attempts to kill female infants
at birth were not unusual. Several women hardly had a married life worth
the name, yet when their husbands died they were expected to commit
sati which Raja Ram mohan Roy described as a ‘murder according to every
shastra. If they succeeded in overcoming this social coercion, they were
condemned as widows to life-long misery, neglect and humiliation.

Another debilitating factor was caste. It sought to maintain a system of
segregation, hierarchically ordained on the basis of ritual status. At
the bottom of the ladder came the untouchables or scheduled castes, as
they came to be called later, who formed about twenty per cent of the
Hindu population. The untouchables suffered from numerous and severe
disabilities and restrictions. The system splintered people into
numerous groups. In modern times it became a major obstacle in the
growth of a united national feeling and the spread of democracy.

It mayalso be noted that caste consciousness, particularly with regard to
marriage, prevailed also among Muslims, Christians and Sikhs who
practised untouchability, though in a less virulent form. The rules and
regulations of caste hampered social mobility, fostered social divisions
and sapped individual initiative. Above all, the humiliation of
untouchability militated against human dignity.

The establishment of colonial rule in India was followed by a systematic
attempt to disseminate colonial culture and ideology as the dominant
cultural current. Faced with the challenge of the intrusion of colonial
culture and ideology, an attempt to reinvigorate traditional
institutions and to realise the potential of traditional culture
developed during the nineteenth century.

Religious and Social Reform Movements 17
The impact of modern Western culture and consciousness of defeat by a
foreign power gave birth to a new awakening. There was an awareness that
a vast country like India had been colonised by a handful of foreigners
because of internal weaknesses within the Indian social structure and
culture. For some time it seemed that India had lagged behind in the
race of civilisation. This produced diverse reactions. Some English
educated Bengali youth developed a revulsion for Hindu religion and
culture, gave up old religious ideas and traditions and deliberately
adopted practices most offensive to Hindu sentiments, such as drinking
wine and eating beef.

The response, indeed, was varied but the need to
reform social and religious life was a commonly shared conviction.
During the last decades of the nineteenth century, the rising tide of
nationalism and democracy also found expression in movements to reform
and democratise the social institutions and religious outlook of, the
Indian people. Factors such as growth of nationalist sentiments,
emergence of new economic forces, spread of education, impact of modern
Western ideas and culture and increased awareness of the world
strengthened the resolve to reform.

The socio-cultural regeneration of the India of the nineteenth century
was occasioned by the colonial presence, but not created by it.

Social Base
The social base of this quest was the newly emerging middle class and
traditionally as well as western educated intellectuals, but there was a
significant contrast between the broacily bourgeois ideals derived from
a. growing awareness of contemporary developments in the West, and a
predominantly non-bourgeois social base.
nineteenth century intelligentsia searched for its model in the European ‘middle class’,
which, as it learnt through western education, had brought about the
great transformation in the West from medieval to modern times through
movements like the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and
democratic revolution, or reform. Yet its own social roots lay not in
industry or trade, increasingly controlled by British managing agency firms and their Marwari
subordinates, but in government service or the professions of law,
education, journalism or medicine—with which was very often combined
some connection with land in the shape of the intermediate tenures.

Ideological Base
The important intellectual criteria which gave these reform movements an
ideological unity were rationalism, religious universalism and humanism.
Social relevance was judged by a rationalist critique. Raja Rammohan
Roy upheld the principle of causality linking the whole phenomenal
universe and demonstrability as the sole criterion of truth. Akshay
Kumar Dutt, while proclaiming that ‘rationalism is our only preceptor”,
held that all natural and social phenomena could be analysed and
understood by purely mechanical processes. This perspective enabled them
to adopt a rational approach to tradition and evaluate the contemporary
socio-religious practices from the standpoint of social utility and to
replace faith with rationality. For instance, in the Brahmo Samaj the
repudiation of the infallibility of the Vedas was the result, while the
Aligarh movement emphasised reconciliation of Islamic teachings with the
needs of the modern age. Syed Ahmed Khan went to the extent of
emphasising that religious tenets were not immutable.

Many of the intellectuals abandoned, though in varying degrees, the
principle of authority in religion and evaluated truth in any religion
by the criteria of logic; reason or science. Swami Vivekananda held that
the same method of investigation which applies to other sciences should
form the basis on which religion is to> justify itself. Although, some
reformers tended to appeal to faith and ancient authority to bolster
their appeal, overall a rational and secular outlook was very much
evident in posing an alternative to prevalent social practices. For
instance, Akshat cited medical against child marriage. to the past was
to be used only as an aid and an instrument. Neither a revival of the
past nor a total :break with tradition was envisaged.

Though the reformers tried to reform their religions,
their religious perspective was universalistic. Raja Rammohan Jeligiar2
sasaalial embodiments of universal th was a defender of the basic and
universal principles of a religions-such as the monotheism of the
Vedas and– mall attacking polytheism ofand trinitarianism of
Christianity said that all had the same ‘din (faith) ever Keshub Chandra
SenTheld that:our position is not that truths are to be found all
religions, but that all establishes
The universalist perspective was an attempt part of social reformers to
contend with the influence religious identity on the social and
political outlook of the people which was indeed strong. However, under
the onslaught of colonial culture and ideology, instead of providing the
basis for the development of a secular ethos, universalism retreated
into religious particularism towards the second half of the nineteenth

The social reform movements were also an embodiment of a new humanitarian
morality which included the notion that humanity can progress and has
progressed, and that moral values are ultimately those which favour
human progress. An emphasis on the individual’s right to interpret
religious scriptures in the light of human reason and human welfare and
a general attack on priestly domination of religious practices
underlined the humanist aspect of religious reform movements.

Religious reformation was the major but not the exclusive concern of
these movements. Instead of other-worldliness and salvation, attention
was focussed on worldly existence. Because of the strong religious
coefficient of social practices and the fact that religion was the
dominant ideology of the times, it was not possible to undertake arty
social action without coming to grips with it
These movements embraced the entire cultural existence, the way of life
and all significant practices like language,
religion, art and philosophy.

The evolution of an alternative culturalideological
system and the generation of traa emerge as twin movement, which to reconstruct traditional knowledge,
cultivation of vernacular languages, creation of an alternate system of
education, defence of religion, efforts to regenerate Indian art and
literature, emphasis on Indian dress and food, attempts to revitalise
the Indian systems of medicine and to probe the potentialities of precolonial

These reform movements could broadly be classified in two categories—
reformist movements like the Brahmo Samaj, the Prarthana Samaj, the
Aligarh movement, and the revivalist movements like Arya Samaj and the
Deoband movement. Both the reformist and revivalist movements depended,
with varying degrees, on an appeal to the lost, purity of the religion
they sought to reform. The only difference between one reform movement
and the other lay in the degree to which it relied on tradition or on
reason and conscience.

The humanistic ideals of social equality and the equal worth of all
individuals which inspired the newly educated middle class had a major
impact on the field of social reform. This enlightened section of
society was disgusted with the prevailing social ills and inhuman social
practices. The social reform movements formed an integral part of the
religious reforms primarily because nearly all the effort towards social
ills like untouchability and gender-based inequity derived legitimacy
from religion in one way or the other. In later years though, the social
reform movement gradually dissociated itself from religion and, adopted
a secular approach. Also, earlier the reform movements had a rather
narrow social base—they were limited to the upper and middle classes and
upper castes who tried to adjust their modernised views with respect to
the existing social conditions. But later on, the social reform
movements penetrated the lower strata of society to revolutionise and
reconstruct the social sphere.

Religious and Social Reform Movements 21
In the beginning, organisations such as the Social Conference, Servants
of India Society and the Christian missionaries were instrumental in
social reform along with many enlightened individuals like Jyotiba
Phule, Gopalhari Deshmukh, K.T. Telang, BM. Malabari, D.K. Karve, Sri
Narayana Guru, E.V. Ramaswami Naicker and B.R. Ambedkar. In later years,
especially with the onset of the twentieth century, the national
movement provided the leadership and organisation for social reform.
To reach the masses, propaganda in Indian languages was the modus
operandi of the reformers who used a variety of media such as novels,
dramas, poetry, short stories, the press and, in the 1930s and later on,
the cinema to spread their views.
Broadly, the social reform movements had a two-joint—fight for
bstterfrtent of status of fo remove disability arising out of

Fight for Betterment of Position of Women The reformers had to work
against great odds. Women were generally accorded a low status, and were
considered to be inferior adjuncts to men, with no identity of their
own. Their desire to give expression to their talents and energies were
further suppressed by practices such as purdah, early marriage, ban on
widow-remarriage, sati, etc. Both Hindu and Muslim women were
economically and socially dependent, while education was generally
denied to them. The Hindu women had no right to inherit property or to
terminate an undesirable marriage. The Muslim women could inherit but
only half as much as men could, while in matters of divorce there was
no equality between men and women. Polygamy was prevalent among Hindus
as well as Muslims.

Their glorification as wives and mothers was the only way in which the
society recognised the contribution of women as members of society. The
struggle for the improvement of the status of women in the society was
considered to be vital, since a radical change in the domestic sphere—
where initial socialisation of the individual takes place
and where a crucial role is played by women—was the need of the hour.
There was a clear understanding that this change would translate into
reformed homes and reformed men, and that no country whose females were
sunk in ignorance could ever make significant progress in civilisation.
The social reform movements, the freedom struggle, movements led by
enlightened women themselves and, later, free India’s Constitution have
done much for the emancipation of women.

The reformers basically appealed to the doctrines of individualism and
equality, and argued, to bolster their appeal, that true religion did
not sanction an inferior status to women. They raised their voice
against degrading customs such as polygamy, purdah, child marriage,
restrictions on widow remarriage, and worked relentlessly to establish
educational facilities for women, to persuade the Government to enact
favourable legislations for women and in general to propagate giving up
of medieval, feudal attitudes.
Because of the indefatigable efforts of the reformers, a number of
administrative measures were adopted by the Government to improve the
condition of women.

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

Female Infanticide
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. The Bengal regulations of 1795 and 1804 declared
infanticide illegal and equivalent to murder, while an Act passed in
1870 made, it compulsory for parents to register the birth of all babies
and provided for verification of female
Religious and Social Reform Movements 23
children for some years after birth, particularly in areas where the
custom was resorted to in utmost privacy.

Widow Remarriage

The Brahmo Samaj had the issue of widow remarriage high on its agenda
and did much to -popularise it. 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.
Similar efforts were made by Professor D.K. Karve in western India and
by Veerasalingarn Pantulu in Madras. Karve himself married a widow in
1893. He dedicated his life to the upliftment of Hindu widows and
became the secretary of the Widow Remarriage Association. He opened a
widows’ home in Poona to give the high caste widows an interest in life
by providing them with facilities for vocational training. He crowned
his work by setting up an Indian Women’s University at Bombay in 1916.
The right of, widows to remarriage was also advocated by B.M. Malabari,
Narmad, Justice Govind Mahadeo Ranade and K. Natarajan ‘among others.

Child Marriage
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.
Education of Women
The Christian missionaries were the first to set up the Calcutta Female
Juvenile Society in 1819. The Bethune School, founded by J.E.D. Bethune,
president of the Council of Education in Calcutta in 1849 was the first
fruit of the powerful movement for women’s education that arose in the
1840s and 1850s. Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was associated with
no less than 35 girls’ schools in Bengal and is considered one of the
pioneers of women’s education. Charles. Wood’s Despatch on Education
(1854) laid great stress on the need for female education. In 1914, the
Women’s Medical Service did a lot of work in training nurses and
midwives. The Indian Women’s University started by Professor Karve in
1916 was one of the outstanding institutions imparting education to
women. In the same year Lady Hardinge Medical College was opened in Delhi.

Health facilities began to be provided to women with the opening of
Dufferin Hospitals in the 1880s.
Participation in the swadeshi and anti-partition and the Home Rule
movements during the opening decades of the twentieth century was a
major liberating experience for the otherwise home-centred Indian women.
After 1918, they faced lathis and bullets and were jailed during
political processions, picketing, etc. They actively participated in
trade union and kisan movements, or revolutionary movements. They voted
in, stood for and got elected to various legislatures and local bodies.
Sarojini Naidu went on to become the president of the Indian National
Congress (1925) and later the governor of the United Provinces (1947-

After 1920, aware and self-confident women led a women’s movement. Many
organisations and institutions such as the All India Women’s Conference
(established in 1927) came up.

Legislative Measures in Free India

Free India’s Constitution provides legal equality to women and prohibits
any discrimination by the state on the basis of gender (Articles 14 and
15). The Specially marriageAs1125 permits intercaste and interreligious
marriage. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 abolished bigamy and permitte
issolution of marriage on specific grounds. The Hindu Succession Act
1956 made the daughter equal co-eir with son, thus abolishing
discrimination with respect to inheritance laws. The Hindu Adoption and
Maintenance Act enhanced the status of women in matters off adoption. was
amended in April 1976 to cover women who do not fall within the purview
of the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948. The Directive Principles of
State Policy provide for equal pay for equal work for both men and
women. provided for equal remuneration to men and women workers and
prevention of discrimination against women in matters of employment.

The Factories Act 1976 provided for establishment of creches where 30 women
(as against 50 previously) are employed. The Criminal bills passed by
Parliament 83 amended the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act and
Criminal Procedure Code to make laws against rape and other such crimes
against women much more stringent and also to add a new provision in the
Indian Penal Code to make cruelty against a woman by her husband and
other relations punishable. Traffic was amended and retitled as Immoral
TraffisErevestoril Act 1986 to cover all persons—male or female—who
are sexually exploited for commercial purposes. The Dowry Prohibition
amended in 1986 made the giving and taking of dowry an offence. In 1987,
an Act was passed making the glorification of sati a cognisable offence.
Struggle Against Caste-Based Exploitation
The original four-fold division of Hindu society got further sub-divided
into numerous castes (jatis) and sub-castes due to racial admixture,
geographical expansion and diversification of crafts which gave rise to
new vocations.

According to concept of Hindu chaturvarnashrama, the caste of a person
determined the status and relative purity of different sections of
population. Caste, determined who could get education or ownership of
landed property, the kind of profession one should pursue, whom one
could dine with or marry, etc. In general, the caste of a person decided
his/ her social loyalties even before birth. The dress, food, place of
residence, sources of water for drinking and irrigation, entry into
temples—all these were regulated by the caste coefficient.

The worst-hit by the discriminatory institution’ of caste were the
untouchables or the scheduled castes, as they came to be called later on
The disabilities imposed on the lower castes were humiliating, inhuman
and based on the antidemocratic principle of inequality by birth.

Factors which Undermined Caste Rigidities

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
equations. 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. The
administrative services were made open to all castes and the new
education system was on totally secular lines.
The social reform movements also strove to undermine caste-based
exploitation. From the mid-19th century onwards, numerous, organisations
and groups such as the Brahmo Samaj, Prarthana Samaj, Arya Samaj,
Ramakrishna Mission, the Theosophists, the Social Conference and
worked to spread education among the untouchables and remove
restrictions imposed on them from entering temples or using ponds,
tanks, etc. Although many of them defended the chaturvarna system, they
criticised the caste system, especially untouchability. The social
reformers attacked the rigid hereditary basis of caste distinctions and
the law of karma which formed the basis of the religio-philosophic
defence of the undemocratic authoritarian caste institution. They called
on people to work for betterment in the real world in which they lived,
rather than strive for salvation after death. For instance, the Arya
Samaj while crusading against disintegration of Hindu society into
myriad sub-castes, aimed at reconstructing it on the original four-fold
division and upholding the right of even, the lowest castes to study the

The national movement with its thrust against the forces which tended to
divide the society took inspiration from the principles of liberty and
equality. The national leaders and organisations opposed caste
privileges, fought for equal civic rights and free development of the
individual. The caste divisions were diluted, although in a limited
‘manner, because of mass participation in demonstrations, meetings and
satyagraha struggles. The Congress governments in various provinces
after 1937 did some useful work for the upliftment of the depressed
classes; for instance, free education for Harijans (untouchables) was
introduced in some provinces. The rulers of states like Travancore,
Indore and Devas themselves took the initiative in opening all state
temples by proclamation.

Gandhi always had in mind the objective of eradicating untouchability by
root and branch. His ideas were based on the grounds of humanism and
reason. He argued that the Shastras did not sanction untouchability and
even if they did, they should be ignored since truth cannot be confined
within the covers of a book. In 1932, he founded the All India Harijan

With increasing opportunities of education and general
awakening, there were stirrings among the lower castes themselves which
gradually developed into a powerful movement in defence of their rights
and against upper caste oppression. In Maharashtra, Jyotiba Phule, born
in a low caste Mali family, led a movement against the brahrninical
domination of Hindu society. He accorded the highest priority to
education of lower castes, especially girls for whom he opened several
schools. Babasaheb Ainbedkar, who had experienced the worst form of
casteist discrimination during his childhood, fought against upper caste
tyranny throughout his life. He organized the All India Scheduled Castes
Federation, while several other leaders of the depressed classes founded
the All India Depressed Classes Association. Ambedkar condemned the
hierarchical and insular caste system and advocated the annihilation of
the institution of caste for the real progress of the nation. The
struggle of the depressed classes was rewarded with special
representation for these classes in the Government of India Act, 1935.

Others in the 1900s, the Maharaja of Kolhapur encouraged the non-brahmin
movement which spread to> the southern states in the first decade of the
twentieth century and was joined by the Kammas, Reddis, Vellalas, (the
powerful intermediate castes) and the Muslims.

During the 1920s in South India, the non-brahmins organized the Self-
Respect Movement led by E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker. There were numerous
other movements demanding lifting of ban on entry of lower castes into
temples; for instance Sri Narayana Guru in Kerala led a lifelong
struggle against upper caste domination. He coined the slogan “one
religion, one caste, one God, for mankind”, which his disciple Sahadaran
Ayyapan changed into “no religion, no caste, no God for mankind”.
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
free India. The Constitution of free India abolishes untouchability and
declares the endorsement of any disability arising out of untouchability
as unlawful. It also forbids any restriction on access to wells, tanks,
bathing ghats, hotels, cinemas, clubs, etc. In one of the Directive
Principles, the Constitution has laid down that “the state shall strive
to promote the welfare of the people by, securing and protecting as
effectively as it may a social order in which justice—social, economic
and political—shall inform all the institutions of the national life”.

Raja Rammohan Roy and Brahmo Samaj
Raja Rammohan Roy, the father of Indian Renaissance, was a man of
versatile genius. The Brahmo Samaj established by him was the earliest
reform movement of the modern type greatly influenced by modern western
As a reformist ideologue, Roy believed in the modern scientific
approach and principles of human dignity and social equality. He put his
faith in monotheism. He wrote Gift to Monotheists (1809) and translated
into Bengali the Vedas and the five Upanishads to prove his conviction
that ancient Hindu texts support monotheism. In 1814, he set up Atmiya
Sabha in Calcutta to campaign against idolatry, caste rigidities,
meaningless rituals and other social ills. Strongly influenced by
rationalist ideas, he declared that the Vedanta is based on reason and
that, if reason demanded it, even a departure from the scriptures is
justified. He said the principles of rationalism applied to other sects
also, particularly to the elements of blind faith in them. In Precepts
of Jesus (1820), he tried to separate the moral and philosophical
message of the New Testament, which he praised, from its miracle
stories. He earned the wrath of missionaries over his advocacy to
incorporate the message of Christ in Hinduism. He stood for a creative
and intellectual process of selecting the best from eastern and western
cultures, over which, again, he faced orthodox reaction. He founded the
Brahmo Sabha (later Brahmo Samaj) in order to institutionalise his ideas
and mission. His ideas and activities were aimed at political uplift of
the masses through social reform and to that extent can be said to have
had nationalist undertones.

Roy was a determined crusader against the inhuman practice of sati. He
started his anti-sati struggle in 1818 and he cited sacred texts to
prove his contention that no religion sanctioned the burning alive of
widows, besides appealing to humanity, reason and compassion. He also
visited the cremation grounds, organized vigilance groups and filed
counter petitions to the Government during his struggle against sati.

His efforts were rewarded by the Government Regulation in 1829 which
declared the practice of sati a crime. As a campaigner for women’s
rights, Roy condemned the general subjugation of women and opposed
prevailing misconceptions which formed the basis of according an
inferior social status to women. Roy attacked polygamy and the degraded
state of widows and demanded the right of inheritance and property for

Rammohan Roy did much to disseminate the benefits of modern education to
his countrymen. He supported David Hare’s efforts to found the Hindu
College in 1817, while Roy’s English school taught mechanics and
Voltaire’s philosophy. In 1825, he established a Vedanta college whei’e
courses in both Indian learning and Western social and physical sciences
were offered. He also helped enrich the Bengali language by compiling a
Bengali grammar book and evolving a modern elegant prose style.

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
study. 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. Asapalli cal activist,

Roy condemned oppressive practices of Bengali zamindars and demanded
fixation of maximum rents. He also demanded abolition of taxes on taxfree
lands. He called for a reduction Of export duties on goods abroad
and abolition of the East India Company’s trading rights. He demanded
the executive from the and Europeans and that trial be held
Roy was an internationalist’ with a vision beyond his times. He stood
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. He supported the revolutions of Naples
and Spanish America and condemned the oppression of Ireland by absentee
English landlordism and threatened emigration from the empire if the
reform bill was not passed.

Roy had David Hare, Alexander Duff, Debendranath Tagore, P.K. Tagore,
Chandrashekhar Deb and Tarachand Chakraborty as his associates.

Raja Rarnmohan Roy founded the Brahmo Sabha in August 1828; it was later
renamed, Brahmo Samaj. The Samaj, was committed to “th amcl ask rational
the Eternal, Unsearchable, Immutable Being who is the Author, Preseyver
of the Universe”. Prayers, meditation of the Upanishads were to be the
forms of worship and no graven image, statue or sculpture, carving,
painting, picture, portrait etc, were to be allowed in the Samaj
buildings, thus underlining the Samaj’s opposition to idolatry and
meaningless rituals. The long-term agenda of the Brahmo Samaj—to purify
Hinduism and to preach monotheism—was based on the twin pillars of
reason and the Vedas and Upanishads. The Samaj also tried to incorporate
teachings of other religions and kept its emphasis on human dignity,
opposition to idolatry and criticism of social evils such as sati.

Roy did not want to establish a new religion. He only wanted to purify
Hinduism of the evil practices which had
crept into it. Roy’s progressive ideas met with;strong opposition from
orthodox elements like Raja Radhakant Deb who organized the Dharma Sabha
to counter Brahmo Samaj propaganda. Roy’s death in 1833 was a setback
for the Samaj’s. mission.

Maharishi Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905), father of Rabindranath Tagare
and a product of the best m traditional Indian learning and western
thought, gave a new life to Brahma Samaj and a definite form and shape
to the theist movement, when he joined the Samaj in 1842. Earlier,
Tagore headed the Tattvabodhini Sabha (founded in 1839) which, along
with its organ Tattvabodhini Pat fika in Bengali, was devoted to the
systematic study of India’s past with a rational outlook and to the
propagation of Roy’s ideas. A new vitality and strength of membership
came to be associated with the Brahmo Samaj due to the informal
association of the two sabhas. Gradually, the Brahmo Samaj came to
include prominent followers of Roy, the Derozians and independent
thinkers such as Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Ashwini Kumar Datta.
worked on two the Brahmo movement- outside it resolutely oosed the
Christian missionaries for their criticism of the Hinduism and their
attempts at conversion. Thei-evitalised Samaj supporiea—Wi-d–ow
remarriarrTeiys education, abolition of improvement in ryots’ conditions
and temperence.

The Bramho Samaj experienced another phase of energy, vigour and
eloquence when Keshub Chandra Sen was made the acharyct by Debendranath
Tagore soon after the former joined the Samaj in 1858. Keshub was
instrumental in popularising the movement, and branches of the Samaj
were opened outside Bengal in the United Provinces, Punjab, Bombay,
Madras and other towns. Unfortunately, Debendranath did not like some of
. Sen’s ideas which he found too radical, such as cosmopolitanisation of
the Samaj’s meetings by inclusion of teachings from all religions and
his strong views against the caste system, even open support to intercaste
marriages. Keshub Chandra Sen was dismissed from the office of
acharya in 1865. Keshub and his followers founded the Brahmo Samaj of
India in 1866, while Debendranath Tagore’s Sarnaj came to be known as
the Adi Brahmo Samaj.

In 1878, Keshub’s inexplicable act of getting his thirteenyear-old
daughter married with the minor Hindu Maharaja of Cooch-Behar with all,
the orthodox Hindu rituals caused another split in Keshub’s Brahma Samaj
of India. Earlier, Keshub had begun to be considered as an incarnation
by some of his followers, much to the dislike of his progressive
followers. Further, Keshub had begun to be accused of authoritarianism.
After 1878, the disgusted followers of Keshub set up a new organisation,
the Sadharan Brahma Samaj.

A number of Brahmo centres were opened in Madras state. In Punjab, the
Dayal Singh Trust sought to implant Brahmo ideas by, the opening of
Dayal Singh College at Lahore in 1910.

According to H.C.E. Zacharias, “Raja Rammohan Roy and his Brahmo Samaj
form the starting point for all the various reform movements—whether in
Hindu religion, society or politics—which have agitated. modern India.”
The overall contribution of Brahmo Samaj may be summed thus—
(i) it denounced polytheism and idol worship;
(ii) it discarded faith in divine avataras (incarnations);
(iii) it denied that any scripture could enjoy the status of ultimate
authority transcending/ human reason and conscience;
(iv) it took no definite stand on the doctrine of;karma and
transmigration of soul and left it to- individual Brahmos to believe
either way;
(iv) it criticised the caste system. In matters of social reform,
the Samaj attacked many dogmas and superstitions. It
condemned the prevailing Hindu prejudice against going
abroad. It worked for a respectable status for women in
society—condemned sati, worked for abolition, of purdah
system, discouraged child marriages and polygamy, crusaded
for widow remarriage and for provision
of educational facilities, etc. It also attacked casteism and
untouchability though in these matters it attained only limited success.
Prarthana Samaj In 1863, Keshub Chandra Seri helped found the Prarthana
Samaj in Bombay. Earlier, the Brahmo ideas spread in Maharashtra where
the Paramhansa Sabha was founded in 1849. Here the emphasis was on
monotheism, on ‘works’ rather than on faith. They relied on education
and persuasion and not on confrontation with Hindu orthodoxy. There
was a four-point social agenda also: (i) disapproval of caste system,
(ii) women’s education, (iii) widow remarriage, and (iv) raising the age
of marriage for both males and females. The Prarthana Samaj had as its
prominent leaders Mahadeo Govind Ranade (1842-1901), R.G. Bhandarkar
(18371925) and N.G. Chandavarkar (1855-1923).

Young Bengal Movement and Henry Vivian Derozio (1809-31) During the late
1820s and early 1830s, there emerged a radical, intellectual trend among
the youth in Bengal, which came to be known as the ‘Young Bengal
Movement’. A young Anglo-Indian, Henry Vivian Derozio, who taught at
the Hindu College from 1826 to 1831, was the leader and inspirer of
this progressive trend. Drawing inspiration from the great French
Revolution, Derozio inspired his pupils to think freely and rationally,
question all authority, love liberty, equality and freedom, and oppose
decadent customs and traditions. The Derozians also supported women’s
rights and education. Also, Derozio was perhaps the first nationalist
poet of modern India.

The Derozians, however, failed to have a long-term impact. Derozio was
removed from the Hindu College in 1831 because of his radicalism. The
main reason for their limited success was the prevailing social
conditions at that time, which were not ripe for the adoption of radical
ideas. Further, support from any other social group or class was absent.
The Derozians lacked any real link with the masses; for instance, they
failed to take up the peasants’ cause. In fact, their radicalism was
bookish in character. But, despite their
Religious and Social Reform Movements 35
limitations, the Derozians carried forward Roy’s tradition of public
education on social, economic and political questions. For instance,
they demanded induction of Indians in higher grades of services,
protection of ryots from oppressive zamindars, better treatment to
Indian labour abroad in British colonies, revision of the Company’s
charter, freedom of press and trial by jury.

Later, Surendranath Banerjee was to describe the Derozians as “the
pioneers of the modern civilisation of Bengal, the conscript fathers of
our race whose virtues will excite veneration and whose failings will be
treated with gentlest consideration”.

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar The great scholar and reformer, Vidyasagar’s
ideas were a happy blend of Indian and western thought. He believed in
high moral values, was a deep humanist and was generous to the poor. In
1850, he became the principal of Sanskrit College. 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
Sanskritic learning. Also, as an academician, he evolved a new
methodology to teach Sanskrit. He also devised a new Bengali primer and
evolved a new prose style.

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. He did much for the cause of
women’s education. As government inspector of schools, he helped
organize thirtyfive girls’ schools many of which he ran at his own
expense. As secretary of Bethune School (established in 1849), he was
one of the pioneers of higher education for women in India.
The Bethune School, founded in Calcutta, was the first fruit of the
powerful movement for women’s education that arose in the 1840s and
1850s. The movement had to face great difficulties. The young students
were shouted at and abused and sometimes even their parents subjected to
social boycott.

Many believed that girls who had received western education would make
slaves of their husbands.
Bal Shastri Jambekar One of the pioneers in Bombay, he attacked
brahminical orthodoxy and tried to reform popular Hinduism He started
the weekly Darpan in 1832, Students’ Literary and Scientific Societies Also called the Gyan
Prasarak Mandalis 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.

Paramhansa Mandalis Founded in 1849 in Maharashtra, 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. Branches of Paramhansa Mandalis
existed in Poona, Satara and other towns of Maharashtra.
Satyashodhak Samaj and Jyotiba Phule
Jyotiba Phule belonged to the Mali (gardener) community and organized a
powerful movement against upper caste domination and brahminical
supremacy. Phule founded the Satyashodhak Samaj (Truth Seekers’ Society)
in 1873, with the leadership of the Samaj coming from the backward
classes, Malis, Telis, Kunbis, Saris and Dhangars. The main aims of the
movement were (i) social service, and (ii) spread of education among
women and lower caste people. Phule’s works, Sarvajanik Satyadharma and
Gulamgin, became sources of inspiration for the common masses. Phule
used the symbol of Rajah Bali as opposed to the, brahmins’ symbol of
Rama. Phule aimed at the complete abolition of the caste system and
socio-economic inequalities; he was against Sanskritic Hinduism. This
movement gave a sense of identity to the depressed communities as a
class against the brahmins, who were seen as the exploiters. Phule
opened, with the help of his wife, a girls’ school at Poona and was a
pioneer of, widow remarriage movement in Maharashtra.
Religious and Social Reform Movements 37
Gopalhari Deshmukh Lokahitawadi, He advocated a reorganisation of Indian
society onrationalpmcIples and modern, humanistic,. secular values. He
attacked Hindu orthodoxy and supported social and religious equality. He
said, “If religion does not sanction social reform, then change

Gopal Ganesh Agarkar A strong advocate of the power of human reason, he
criticised from the blind dependence on tradition and false
glorification of the past.

The Servants of India Society Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the liberal leader
of Indian National Congress, founded the Servants of India Society in
1905. 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
religious spirit. After Gokhale’s death (1915), Srinivasa Shastri took
over as president:

Social Service League Another Gokhale follower Narayan Malhar Joshi
founded the Social Serince League in Bombay with an aim to secure for
the masses better and reasonable conditions of life and work They
organized many schools, libraries, reading rooms, day nurseries and
cooperative societies. Their activities also included police court
agents’ work, legal aid and advice to the poor and illiterate,
excursions for slum dwellers, facilities for gymnasia and theatrical
performances, sanitary work, medical relief and boys’ clubs and scout
corps. Joshi also founded the All India Trade Union (1920).

The Ramakrishna Movement The didactic nationalism of the Brahma Samaj
appealed more to the intellectual elite in Bengal, while the average
Bengali found more emotional satisfaction in the cult of bhakti and
yoga. The teachings of Ramakrishna Paramhansa (1834-86), a poor priest
at the Kali temple in Dakshineshwar, Calcutta, formed the basis of the
Ramakrishna Movement.
Two objectives of the movement were—(i) to bring
into existence a band 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, and (ii) in
conjunction with lay disciples to carry on preaching, philanthropic and
charitable works, looking tapon all men, women and children,
irrespective of caste, creed or colour, as veritable manifestations of
the Divine. Parainhansa himself founded the Ramakrishna Math with his
young monastic disciples as a nucleus to fulfil the first objective. The
second objective was taken up by Swami Vivekananda after Ramakrishna’s
death when he founded the Ramakrishna
Mission in 1897. The headquarters of the Mission are at Belur near

Paramhansa sought salvation through traditional ways of renunciation,
meditation and bhakti amidst increasing westernisation and
modernisation. He recognised the fundamental oneness of all religions
and emphasised that Krishna, Hari, Ram, Christ, Allah are different
names for the same God, and that there are many ways to God and
salvation. Paramhansa’s spirituality and compassion for the suffering
humanity inspired those who listened to him. He used to say, “Service of
man is the, service of God.”

Narendranath Datta (1862-1902), who later came to be known as Swami
Vivekananda spread Ramakrishna’s message and tried to reconcile it to
the needs of contemporary Indian society. He emerged as the preacher of

Certain spiritual experiences of Ramakrishna, the
teachings of the Upanishads and the Gita and the examples, of the Buddha
and Jesus are the basis of Vivekananda’s message to the world about
human values. He subscribed to the Vedanta which he considered a fully
rational system with a superior approach. His mission was to bridge the
gulf between ararnartha (service) and vyavahara (behaviour), and between
spirituality believed in the fundamental oneness of God and said, “For
our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and
Islam, is the only hope.” Emphasising social action, he declared that
knowledge without action is useless.

He lamented the isolationist tendencies and the touchme-
not attitude of Hindus in religious matters. He frowned at religion’s
tacit approval of the opptession of the poor by the rich. He believed
that it was an insult to God and humanity to teach religion to a
starving man. He called upon his countrymen to imbibe a spirit of
liberty, equality and free thinking.

Vivekananda was a great humanist and used the Ramakrishna Mission for
humanitarian relief and social work. The Mission stands for religious
and social reform. Vivekananda advocated the doctrine of service—the
service of all beings.
is itself is religion. service, the Divine exists within man.
Vivekananda was for using technology and modern science in the service
of mankind. Ever since its inception, the Mission has been running a
number of schocies. It offers help to the affected ofcalamities like
famines, floods and epidemics. a worldwide organisation. It is a deeply
religious body, but it is not a proselytising body. It does not consider
itself to be a sect of Hinduism. In fact, this is one of the strong
reasons for the success of the Mission. Unlike the Arya Samaj, the
Mission recognises the utility and value of image worship in developing
spiritual fervour and worship of the eternal omnipotent God, although
it emphasises the essential spirit and not the symbols or rituals. It
believes that the philosophy of Vedanta will make a Christian a better
Christian, and a Hindu a better Hindu.

At the Parliament of Religions held at Chicago in 1893, Swami
Vivekananda made a great impression on people by his learned
interpretations. The keynote of his opening,address was the need for a
healthy balance between spiritualism and materialism. Envisaging a new
culture for the whole world, he called for a blend of the materialism of
the West and the spiritualism of the East into a new harmony to produce
happiness for mankind.

Vivekananda never gave a political message; still, he
infused into the new generation a sense of pride in India’s past, a new
faith in India’s culture, and a rare sense of confidence in India’s
future. His emphasis was not only on personal salvation, but also on
social, good and reform. About his place in modern Indian history,
Subhash Bose wrote: “So far as Bengal is concerned Vivekananda may be
regarded as the spiritual father of the modern nationalist movement.”
Dayanand Saraswati and Arya Samaj.

The Arya Samaj Movement, revivalist in form though not in content, was
the result of a reaction to western influences. Its founder, Dayanand.
Saraswati (or Mulshankar, 1824-83) was born in the old Morvi state in
Gujarat in a brahmin family. He wandered as an ascetic for fifteen years
(1845-60) in search of truth. The first Arya Samaj unit was formally set
up by him at Bombay in 1875 and later the headquarters of the Samaj were
established at Lahore.

Dayanand’s views were published in his famous work, Satyarth Prakash
(The True Exposition). Dayanand’s vision of India ineuded a classless
and casteless society, a united India (religiously, socially and
nationally), and an India free from foreign rule, with Aryan religion
being the common religion of all He took inspiration from the Vedas and
considered them to be “India’s Rock of Ages”, the infallible and the
true original seed of Hinduism He gave the slogan “Back to the Vedas”.
He had received education on Vedanta from a blind teacher named Swami
Virajananda in Mathura. Along with his emphasis on Vedic authority, he
stressed the significance of individual interpretation of the scriptures
and said that every person has the right of access to God.

He criticised
later Hindu scriptures such as the Purcinas and the ignorant priests for
perverting Hinduism. Dayanand launched a frontal attack on Hindu
orthodoxy, caste rigidities, untouchability, idolatry, polytheism,
belief in magic, charms and animal sacrifices, taboo on sea voyages,
feeding the dead through shraddluzs, etc. Dayanand subscribed to the
Vedic notion of chaturvarna system in which a person was not born in any
caste but was identified as a brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya or shudra
according to the occupation the person followed.

The Samaj fixed the minimum marriageable age at twenty-five years for
boys and sixteen years for girls. Swami once lamented the Hindu race as
“the children of children”. Intercaste marriages and widow remarriages
were also encouraged. Equal status for women was the demand of the
Samaj, both in letter and in spirit The Samaj also helped the people in
crises like floods, famines and earthquakes. It attempted to give a new
direction to education. The nucleus for this movement was provided by
the Dayanand AngloVedic (D.A.V.) schools, established first at Lahore in
1886, which sought to emphasise the importance of western education.
Swami Shraddhanand started the Gurukul at Hardwar in 1902 to impart
education in the traditional framework.

Dayanand strongly criticised the escapist Hindu belief in maya
(illusion) as the running theme of all physical existence and the aim of
human life as a struggle to attain moksha (salvation) through escape
from this evil world to seek union with God. Instead, he advocated that
God, soul and matter (prakriti) were distinct and every individual
t is the or t e eterna
trinci•les overni uman coffin uct. us e attac ed the prevalent
popular belief that every individual contributed and got back from the
society according the principles of niyati (destiny) and karma (deeds).
He held the world to be a battlefield where every individual has to
should be clearly understood that Dayanand’s slogan of ‘Back to the
Vedas’ was a call for a revival of Vedic learning and Vedic purity of
religion and not a revival of Vedic times. He accepted modernity and
displayed a patriotic attitude to national problems.

The ten guiding principles of the Arya Samaj are—
(i) God is the primary source of all true knowledge;
(ii) God, as all-truth, all-knowledge, almighty, immortal,
creator of Universe, is alone worthy of worship;
(ii) the Vedas are the right ee s, an t at human beings are
controlled by
42 A Brief History of Modern India
books of true knowledge;
(iv) an Arya should always be ready to accept truth and abandon untruth;
(iii) dharma, that is, due consideration of right and wrong,
should be the guiding principle of all actions;
(iv) the principal aim of the Samaj is to promote world’s wellbeing
in the material, spiritual and social sense;
(v) everybody should be treated with love and justice;
(vi) ignorance is to be dispelled and knowledge increased;
(ix) one’s own progress should depend on uplift of all
(x) social well-being of mankind is> to be placed above an
individual’s well-being.

The Arya Samaj’s social ideals comprise, among others, the fatherhood of
God and brotherhood of Man, equality of all sexes, absolute justice and
fairplay between man and man and nation and nation. Dayanand also met
other reformers of the time,Keshub Chandra Sen, Ishwar Chandra
Vidyasagar, Ranade, Deshmukh, etc. The work of the Swami after his death
was carried forward by Lala Hansraj, Pandit Gurudutt, Lala Lajpat Rai
and Swami Shraddhanand, among others.

The Arya Samaj was able to give self-respect and selfconfidence to the
Hindus which helped to undermine the myth of superiority of whites and
the western culture. In its zeal to protect the Hindu society from the
onslaught of Christianity and Islam, the Samaj started the shuddhi
(purification) movement to reconvert to Hindu fold the converts to
Christianity and Islam. This led to increasing communalisation of social
life during the 1920s and later snowballed into communal political

Seva Sadan
A Parsi social reformer, M. Malabari, founded the Seva Sadan in 1885. The
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 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 violemt
actions. Its teachings were corn fled

Dharma Sabha
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 favouretion of western
education, even for girls.

Bharat Dharma
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. Other
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.

Radhaswami 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
worldly life. 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. The Ezhavas
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.
The SNDP took of admission to public schools uitment to :government
services, (iii) access to roads and entriliesz. 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.

Vokkaliga Sangha
This Sangha in Mysore launched an anti-brahmin movement in 1905.

Justice Movement
This movement in Madras Presidency was started by C.N. Mudaliar, T.M.
Nair and P. Tyagaraja to secure jobs and representation for the non-brahmins in the legislature In 1917, Madras Presidency Association was
formed which demanded separate representation for the lower castes in
the legislature.

Self-Respect Movement
This movement was started by E.V. kaMaswamRarcrer, a Balija Naidu, in
the mid-1920s. The movementaimed at nothing short of a rejection of the
brahmanical religion and culture which Naicker felt was the prime
instrument of exploitation of the lower castes. He sought to undermine
the position of brahmin priests by formalising weddings without brahmin

Aravippuram Movement
On the occasion of Sivarathri in 1888, Sri Narayana Guru, despite
belonging to a lower caste, installed an idol of Siva at Aravippuram in
Kerala in his effort to show that the consecration of a god’s image was
not a monopoly of the brahmins. On the wall of the temple he got
inscribed the words, “Devoid of dividing walls of caste or race, or
hatred of rival faith, we all live here in brotherhood.” The event
inspired several socio-religious reform movements in the South,
especially the Temple Entry Movement.

Temple Entry Movement
Significant work in this direction had already been done by reformers
and intellectuals like Sri Narayana Guru, N. Kumaran Asan, T.K. Madhavan
etc. In 1924, Vaikom Satyagraha led by K.P. Kesava, was launched in
Kerala demanding the throwing open of Hindu temples and roads to the
untouchables. The satyagraha was reinforced by jathas from Punjab and
Madurai. Gandhi undertook a tour of Kerala in support of the movement.
Again in 1931 when the Civil Disobedience Movement was suspended, temple
entry movement was organized in Kerala. Inspired by K. Kelappan, poet
Subramaniyam Tirurnambu (the ‘singing sword of Kerala’) led a group of
sixteen volunteers to Guruvayur. Leaders like P. Krishna Pillai and A.K.
Gopalan were among the satyagrahis. Finally, in 1936 the Maharaja of
Travancore issued a proclamation throwing open all government-controlled
temples to all Hindus. A similar step was taken by the C.
Rajagopalachari administration in Madras in 1938.

Indian Sr :al Conference Founded by M.G. Ranade and Raghunath Rao, the
conference met annually from its first session in Madras in 1887 at the
same time and venue as the Indian National Congress. It focussed
attention on the social issues of importance; it could be called the
social reform cell of the Indian National Congress, in fact. The
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: (i) 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);
(ii) recognition of the role of individual conscience in religion
46 A Brief History of Modern India
where conflicting interpretations were derived from the Quran and the
The teachings of Walliullah were further popularised by Shah Abdul Aziz
and Syed Ahmed Barelvi who also gave them a political perspective. India
was considered to be dar-ul-Harb (land of the kafirs) and it needed to
be converted to dar-ulIslam (land of Islam). Initially the movement was
directed at Sikhs in Punjab but after the British annexation of Punjab
(1849), the movement was directed against the British. 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.
Faraizi Movement
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 innovations current among the Muslims of the region. Under the
leadership of Haji’s son, Dudu Mian, the movement became revolutionary
from 1840 onwards. He gave the movement an organisational system from
the village to the provincial level with a khalifa or authorised deputy
at every level. 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
movement. The movement survived merely as a religious movement without
political overtones after the death of Dudu Mian in 1862.
Ahmadiya Movement
This movement was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed in 1889. It was based on

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
against non-Muslims). 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.