Ram Mohan Roy regarded as modern India’s first reformer and central figure in the cultural
He sought inspiration from the modern sciences of the west as well as from the ancient knowledge of
In 1809 he wrote in Persian his famous work Gift to Monotheism based on the principle of one supreme God.
He was convinced that to cure Hindu religion of its evils it was necessary to bring to the public knowledge the truth stated in the original Shastras.
For this purpose he published the Bengali translation of the Vedas and the Upanishads and demonstrated to the people that these texts preached only one God and idol worship had no place there.
In 1828 a new society called Brahmo Samaj was started which discarded idol worship, caste divisions and other many meaningless rites and rituals.
Rammohan Roy fought against all kinds of social evils.
He also demanded that women be given the right of inheritance and property.
He also advocated English language.
Later on Samaj expanded throughout the county.
Young Bengal Movement
A radical trend arose among the Bengal intellectuals during 1802-30.
The leader and inspirer was the young Anglo Indian Henry Vivian Derozio who taught at Hindu
College from 1826-1831.
Derozio promoted radical ideas through his class lectures and by organizing student societies for debates and discussions on various subjects.
His students collectively called the Young Bengal ridiculed all kinds of old traditions defied social and religious conventions and demanded freedom of thought and expression and education for women.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
Born in 1820 in Bengal Vidyasagar’s contribution is many sided.
He worked for the upliftment of women, for widow remarriage for women’s education and fought
against child marriage and polygamy.
Veda Samaj and Prathana Samaj
Formed along the lines of the Brahmo Samaj, the Veda Samaj of Madras and the Prathana Samaj of
Bombay were founded in 1864 and 1866 respectively.
An educated middle class had arisen there too and it sought the reform of society and religion.
The real force behind the Veda Samaj was K Sridharalu Naidu and behind Prathana Samaj, M.G Ranade and R Bhandarkar.
The Prathana Samaj emphasized more on social reforms.
Rama Krishna and Vivekananda
Ramakrishna Paramhansa, a priest at a temple in Dakshineshwar near Calcutta emphasized that there are many roads to God and salvation and that service of man was service of God, for man was the embodiment of God.
His great disciple, Swami Vivekananda popularized his religious message. However he also called for social action to remove poverty.
In 1896 Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission to carry on humanitarian relief and social work.
The mission had many branches in different parts of the country.
Vivekananda condemned the caste system and the current Hindu emphasis on rituals, ceremonies and superstitions and urged the people to imbibe the spirit of liberty, equality and free thinking.
The Arya Samaj founded in 1875 by Swami Dayanand Saraswati undertook the task of reforming
Hindu religion in north India.Swami Dayanand believed that there was only one God who was to be worshipped not in the form of images but as a spirit.
He held the Vedas to be infallible and the fountain of all knowledge.
Dayanand preached and wrote in Hindi. The Sayarth Prakash was his most important book.
The Arya Samaj made rapid progress in Central India, Rajasthan, and Gujarat and particularly in
Punjab where it became a very important social and political force.
The members of Arya Samaj were guided by ten principles of which the first one was studying the
The rest were tenets of virtue and morality.
Dayanand framed for his disciples a code of social conduct in which there was no room for caste distinctions and social inequality.
The Arya Samajis opposed child marriage and encouraged remarriage of widows.
A network of schools and colleges was established throughout northern India to promote the objects of
The Dayanand Anglo-Vedic School of Lahore which soon developed into a premier college of Punjab set the pattern for such institutions.
Dayanand’s emphasis on the super natural and infallible character of the Vedas seems to have risen from his ardent desire to give Hinduism a definite creed and equip it with a militant character.
Similar in nature was his mover for the reconversion of those Hindus who had been converted.
For this purpose a purificatory ceremony called Shuddhi was prescribed.
The society was founded in United States by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott who later came to
India and founded the headquarters at Adyar in Madras in 1886.
The Theosophical movement grew in India as a result of the leadership given to it by Mrs Annie
Besant who had come to India in 1893.
As religious revivalists the theosophists were not very successful.
But as a movement led by westerners who glorified Indian religion and philosophical tradition, it helped Indians recover their self –confidence.
One of Mrs Besant’s many achievements in India was the establishment of the Central Hindu School
at Benaras which was later developed by Madan Mohan Malaviya into Benaras Hindu University.
Sayyid Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh Movement
Movements for religious reform were late in emerging among Muslims.
The Muslim upper classes had tended to avoid contact with western education and culture and it was mainly after 1857 that modern ideas of religious reform began to appear.
A beginning in this direction was made when the Muhammaden Literary Society was founded at
Calcutta in 1863 by Nawab Abdul Latif.
It also encouraged upper and middle class Muslims to take western education.
The most important reformer among the Muslims was Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan .he appealed to his people to return to the original Islamic principle of purity and simplicity.
He declared that the Quran alone was the authoritative work for Islam and all other Islamic writing was secondary.
He advocated English education for the regeneration of Muslims in India.
He started building new schools and founded an association called the Scientific Society in 1864.
The society published urdu translations of English books on scientific and other subjects and an
English-Urdu journal for spreading liberal ideas on social reforms.
His greatest achievement was the foundation of the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh in 1875.
It mainly provided for education in the humanities and sciences through English medium.
He was opposed to the participation of Muslims of Muslims in the activities of Indian National
He wanted more time for the Muslims to organize and consolidate their position through good relations with British rulers.
Besides introducing modern education among the Muslims Sayyid Ahmad Khan advocated the removal of many social prejudices that kept the community backward.
The new awareness was reflected in the literature both in the content and style.
An easy prose style developed and became the medium of expression for various literary forms.
Scholars like William Carey, Gilchrist and Caldwell contributed a great deal in the preparation of grammar and compilation of dictionaries in modern Indian languages.
The theme of the new literature was predominantly humanistic. It stressed the freedom of man and equality of all.
The distinctive work of poet Rabindranath Tagore won him the noble prize.
The works of other literary figures like Bhartendu Harish Chandra, Prem Chand and Mohammad Iqbal were also highly acclaimed.