Chapter – 10 Religious Reform Movements in Modern India: Common Characteristics of Religious and Social Reform Movements

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The Indian society in the first half of the 19th century was caste ridden, decadent and rigid. It followed certain practices which are not in keeping with humanitarian feelings or values but were still being followed in the name of religion.

Common Characteristics of Religious and Social Reform Movements

  • From the late 19th century a number of European and Indian scholars started the study of ancient India’s history, philosophy, science, religious and literature.

  • This growing knowledge of India’s past glory provided to the Indian people a sense of pride in their civilization.

  • It also helped the reformers in their work of religious and social reform for their struggle against all type of inhuman practices, superstitions etc.

  • Since they had become associated with religious beliefs, therefore most of the movements of social reform were of a religious character.

  • They worked for abolition of castes and untouchability, purdah system, sati, child marriage, social inequalities and illiteracy.

Brahmo Samaj and Raja Rammohan Roy

  • Men and women enjoy certain rights and freedom today. Among the great reformers of this period, Raja Rammohan Roy deserves special mention.

  • He presented a fine combination of East and the West. A man of great literary talent and well versed in Indian culture, he also made special effort to study Christianity and Islam so that he could deal with them with understanding.

Image of Brahmo Samaj and Raja Rammohan Roy

Image of Brahmo Samaj and Raja Rammohan Roy

Image of Brahmo Samaj and Raja Rammohan Roy

  • His main pre-occupation was how to rid the Hindu religion of image worship, sacrificial rites and other meaningless rituals.

  • His greatest achievement in the field of religious reform was a setting up in 1828 of the Brahmo Samaj.

  • The Brahmo Samaj was an important organization of religious reforms. It forbade idol-worship and discarded meaningless rites and rituals.

  • Raja Rammohan Roy’s greatest achievement was the abolition of Sati in 1929.

  • He realized that the practice of Sati was due to the extremely low position of Hindu women. Therefore he stated working as a stout champion of women’s rights.

  • He was also deeply opposed to the caste system that prevailed in Indian society. A humanist and democrat to the core, he wrote and talked against the caste system.

  • The Brahmo Samaj stood for the principles of individual freedom, national unity, solidarity and collaboration and the democratisation of all social institutions and relations.

  • It thus became the first organised vehicle for the expression of national awaking and inaugurated a new era for the people of India.

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