Chapter – 10 Religious Reform Movements in Modern India: Aligarh Movement and Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Reform Movements Among Parsis (For CBSE, ICSE, IAS, NET, NRA 2022)

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Theosophical society has played an important role in the history of the religion, society and culture of modern India. It was founded in the USA in 1875 by a Russian spiritualist Madame H. P. Blavatsky and an American Col. H. S. Olcott.

  • Its objective was to promote studies in ancient religious, philosophies and science, develop the divine powers latent in man and form a universal brotherhood of man.
  • The society was introduced to India in 1879 and its headquarters were set up ay Adyar near Madras in 1886. Its influence spread under Annie Beasant in 1893 that played an important role in India՚s struggle for freedom.
  • She and her associates advocated the revival and strengthening of the ancient religious of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism.
  • Annie Beasant՚s movement was a movement led and supported by westerns who glorified Indian religious and philosophical traditions. This helped Indians to recover their self-confidence.
  • Branches of the Theosophical Society were opened all over India and its journal Theosophist had a wide circulation.
  • The society gave a helping hand in social and religious reform, especially in south India. Most of the work done by it was influenced by Annie Besant.

Aligarh Movement and Sayyid Ahmad Khan

  • The Aligarh Movement was largely responsible for the Muslim revival that followed. It provided a focal point for the scattered Muslim population in different parts of the country.
Aligarh Movement
  • It gave them a common fund of ideas and a common language- Urdu. A Muslim press was developed for the compilation of works in Urdu.
  • Sayyid Ahmad՚s efforts extended to the advocated the removal of the purdah. He was also against polygamy.
  • Syed Ahmed Khan rightly felt that isolation would harm the Muslim community and to prevent that he did his best to create a link with the progressive cultural forces of the outside world.
  • There were several other socio-religious movements which in one way or the other helped the national awakening of the Muslims.

Reform Movements Among Parsis

  • Religious reform began among the Parsis in Mumbai in the middle of the 19th century. In 1851, the Rehnumai Maz ′ dayasan Sabha or Religious Reform Association was founded by Nauroji Furdonji, Dadabhai Naoroji, S. S. Bengalee and others.
  • They started a journal Rast Goftar, for the purpose of social-religious reforms among the Paris.
  • They also played an important role in the spread of education, specially among girls.
  • They campaigned against the entrenched orthodoxy in the religious field and initiated the modernization of Parsi social customs regarding the education of girl՚s marriage and the social position of women in general.
  • In course of time, Parsis became socially the most westernized section of Indian society.

Religious Reform Among Sikhs

  • Religious reform among the Sikhs was started at the end of the 19th century when the Khalsa College started at Amritsar.
  • Through the efforts of the Singh Sabhas and with British support, the Khalsa College was founded at Amritsar in 1892.
  • This College and schools set up as a result of similar efforts, promoted Gurumukhi, Sikh learning and Punjabi literature as a whole.
  • In 1925, a law passed which gave the right of managing Gurudwaras to the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee.

Impact of the Reform Movement

  • The British wanted to appease the orthodox upper section of society. As a result only two important laws were passed.
  • Some legal measured were introduced to raise the status of women. For example Sati was declared illegal.
  • Infanticide was declared illegal. Widow Remarriage was permitted by a law passed in 1856.
  • Marriageable age of girls was raised to ten by a law passed in 1860.
  • A law passed in 1872, sanctioned inter-caste and inter-communal marriages. The other law passed in 1891, aimed at discouraging child marriage.
  • Increasingly, the reforms took recourse to propaganda in the Indian language to reach the masses.
  • They also used novels, dramas, short stories, poetry, the Press and in the thirties, the cinemas too spread their views.

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