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Old NCERT Summary (Bipan Chandra): Growth of New India - Religious & Social Reform After 1858- 1 | History for UPSC CSE PDF Download

INTRODUCTION

  • THE RISING tide of nationalism and democracy, which led to the struggle for freedom, also found expression in movements to reform and democratise the social institutions and religious outlook of the Indian people. Many Indians realised that social and religious reformation was an essential condition for the all-round development of the country on modern lines and for the growth of national unity and solidarity. The 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 not only heightened the consciousness of the backwardness and degeneration of Indian society but further strengthened the resolve to reform.
  • After 1858, the earlier reforming tendency was broadened. The work of earlier reformers, like Raja Rammohan Roy and Pandit Vidyasagar, was carried further by major movements of religious and social reforms.

RELIGIOUS REFORM
Filled with the desire to adapt their society to the requirements of the modern world of science, democracy and nationalism, and determined to let no obstacle stand in the way, thoughtful Indians set out to reform their traditional religions, for religion was in those times a basic part of peoples life and there could be little social reform without religious reform. While trying to remain true to the foundations of their religions, they remodeled them to suit the new needs of the Indian people.

BRAHMO SAMAJ

  • The Brahmo tradition of Raja Rammohan Roy was carried forward after 1843 by Devendranath Tagore, who also repudiated the doctrine that the Vedic scriptures were infallible, and after 1866 by Keshub Chandra Sen. The Brahmo Samaj made an effort to reform Hindu religion by removing abuses and by basing it on the worship of one God and on the teachings of the Vedas and Upanishads even though it repudiated the doctrine of the infallibility of the Vedas. It also tried to incorporate the best aspects of modern western thought.
  • Most of all it based itself on human reason which was to be the ultimate criterion for deciding what was worthwhile and what was useless in the past or present religious principles and practices. For that reason, the Brahmo Samaj denied the need for a priestly class for interpreting religious writings. Every individual had the right and the capacity to decide with the help of his own intellect what was right and what was wrong in a religious book or principle. Thus the Brahmos were basically opposed to idolatry and superstitious practices and rituals, in fact to the entire Brahmanical system. They could worship one God without the mediation of the priests. The Brahmos were also great social reformers. They actively opposed the caste system and child-marriage and supported the general uplift of women, including widow remarriage, and the spread of modern education to men and women.
  • The Brahmo Samaj was weakened by internal dimensions in the second half of the 19th century. Moreover, its influence was confined mostly to urban educated groups. Yet it had a decisive influence on the intellectual, social, cultural and political life of Bengal, and the rest of India in the 19th and 20th centuries.

RELIGIOUS REFORM IN MAHARASHTRA

  • Religious reform was begun in Bombay in 1840 by the Parmahans Mandali which aimed at fighting idolatry and the caste system. Perhaps the earliest religious reformer in western India was Gopal Hari Deshmukh, known popularly as Lokahit wadi, who wrote in Marathi, made powerful rationalist attacks on hindu orthodoxy. and preached religious anti social equality.
  • He also said that if religion did not sanction social reforms then religion should be changed, for after all religion was made by human beings and scriptures, written long ago. might not remain relevant to later times.

    Later the Prarthana Samaj was started with the aim of reforming hindu religious thought and practice in the light of modern knowledge. It preached the worship of one God and tried to free religion of caste orthodoxy and priestly domination.

  • Two of its great leaders were R G. Bhandarkar, the famous Sanskrit scholar and historian, and Mahadev Govind Ranade (1842-1901). It was powerfully influenced by the Brahmo Samaj. Its activities also spread to south India as a result of the efforts of the Telugu reformer, Viresalingam. One of the greatest rationalist thinkers of modern India, Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, also lived and worked in Maharashtra at this time. Agarkar was an advocate of the power of human reason. He sharply criticised any blind dependence on tradition or false glorification of India’s past.

RAMAKRISHNA AND VIVEKANANDA

  • Ramakrishna Parmahamsa (1834-86 was a saintly person who sought religious salvation in the traditional ways of renunciation, meditation and devotion (bhakti). In his search for religious truth or the realisation of God, he lived with mystics of other faiths, Muslims and Christians. He again and again emphasised that there were many roads to God and salvation and that service of men was service of God, for man was the embodiment of God.
  • It was his great disciple, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), who popularised his religious message and who tried to put it in a form that would suit the needs of contemporary Indian society. Abode all, Vivekananda stressed social action. Knowledge unaccompanied by action in the actual world in which we live was useless, he said. He too, like his guru, proclaimed the essential oneness of all religions and condemned any narrowness in religious matters. Thus, he wrote in 1898; “For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems , Hinduism an d Islam is the only hope’. At the same time, he was convinced of the superior approach of the Indian philosophical tradition. He himself subscribed to Vedanta which he declared to be a fully rational system.
  • Vivekananda criticised Indians for having lost touch with the rest of the world and become stagnant and mummified. He wrote: ‘The fact of our isolation from all other nations of the world is the cause of our degeneration and its only remedy is getting back into the current of the rest of the world. Motion is the sign of life.”
  • Vivekananda condemned the caste system and the current Hindu emphasis on rituals and superstitions, and urged the people to imbibe the spirit of liberty, equality and free-thinking.
  • Like his guru, Vivekananda was also a great humanist. Shocked by the poverty, misery and suffering of the common people of the country.
  • The only God in whom I believe, the sum total of all souls, and above all, my God the wicked, my Cod the afflicted, my God the poor of all races.
  • In 1897 Vivekanand founded the Ramakrishna Mission to carry on humanitarian relief and social work. The Mission had many branches in different parts of the country had carried on social service by opening schools, hospitals and dispensaries, orphanages., libraries, etc. It thus laid emphasis not on personal salvation but on social good or social service.

SWAMI DAYANAND AND THE ARYA SAMAJ

  • The Arya Samaj undertook the task of reforming Hindu religion in north India. It was founded in 1875 by Swami (1824-83). Swami Dayannd believed that selfish and ignorant priests had perverted Hindu religion with the aid of the Puranas which, he said, were full of false teachings. For his own’ inspiration, Swami Dayanand went to the Vedas which he regarded as infallible, being the inspired word of God, and as the fount of all knowledge. He rejected such later religious thought as conflicted with the Vedas. This total dependence on the Vedas and their infallibility gave his teachings an orthodox colouring, for infallibility meant that human reason was not to be the final deciding factor. However, his approach had a rationalist aspects because the Vedas, though revealed were to be rationally interpreted by himself and others, who were human beings. Thus individual reason was the decisive factor.
  • He believed that every person had the right of direct access to God. Moreover, instead of supporting Hindu orthodoxy, he attacked it and led a revolt against it. The teaching she derived from his own interpretation of the Vedas were consequently similar to the religious and social reforms that other Indian reformers were advocating. He was opposed to idolatry, ritual and priesthood, and particularly to the prevalent caste practices and popular Hinduism as preached by brahmins. He also directed attention towards problems of men as they lived in this real world and away from the traditional belief in the other world. He also favoured the study of western sciences. Interestingly enough, Swami Dayanand had met and had discussions with Keshab Chandra Sen, Vidyasagar, Justice Ranade, Gopal Hari Deshmukh and other modern religious and social reformers. In fact, the ideas of the Arya Samaj with its Sunday meeting resembled the practices of the Brahmo Samaj and the Prarthana Samaj in this respect.
  • Some of Swami Dayanand’s followers later started a network of schools and colleges in the country to impart education on western lines. Lala Hansraj played a leading part in this effort. On the other hand, in 1902, Swami Shradhananda started the Gurukul near Hardwar to propagate the more traditional ideals of education.
  • The Arya Samajists were vigorotts advocates of social reform and worked actively to improve the condition of women, and to spread education among them. They fought untouchability and the rigidities of the hereditary caste system. They were thus advocates’ of social equality and promoted social solidarity and “consolidation. They also inculcated a spirit of self-respect and self-reliance among the people. This promoted nationalism. At the same time, one of the Arya Samaj’s objectives was to prevent the conversion of Hindus to other religions.
  • This led it to start a crusade against other religions. This crusade became a contributory factor in the growth of communalism in India in the 20th century. While the Arya Samaj’s reformist work tended to remove social ills and to unite people, its religious work tended, though perhaps unconsciously, to divide the growing national unity among Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs and Christians. It was not seen clearly that in India national unity had to be secular and above religion so that it would embrace the people of all religions.

THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY

  • The Theosophical Society was founded in the United States by Madam H.P. Blavatsky and Colonel H.S. Olcott, who later came to India and founded the headquarters of the Society at Adyar near Madras in 1886. The Theosophist movement soon grew ‘in India as a result of the leadership given to it by Mrs. Annie Besant who had come to India in 1893. 
  • The Theosophists advocated the revival and strengthening ancient religious of Hinduism Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. They recognised the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul. ‘They also preached the universal brotherhood of man. As religious revivalists, the Theosophists were not very successful. But they made a peculiar contribution to developments in modern India. It was a movement led by westerners, who glorified Indian religious and theosophical traditions. This helped Indians recover their self-confidence, even though it tended to give them a sense of false pride in their past greatness.
  • One of Mrs. Besants many achievements in India was the establishment of the Central Hindu School at Benaras which was later developed by Madan Mohan Malaviya into the Benaras Hindu University.

SYED AHMAD-KHAN AND THE ALIGARH SCHOOL

  • Movements for religious reform were late in emerging among the Muslims. The Muslim upper classes had tended to avoid contact with western education and culture, and it was mainly after the Revolt of 1857 that modern ideas of religious reform began to appear. A beginning in this direction was made when the Muhammed an Literary Society was founded at Calcutta in 1863. This Society promoted discussion of religious, social and political questions in the light of modern ideas and encouraged upper and middle class Muslims to take to western education. The most important reformer among die Muslims was Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-98). He was tremendously impressed by modern scientific thought and worked all his life to reconcile it with Islam. This he did, first of all, by declaring that the Quran alone was the authoritative work for Islam and all other Islamic writings were secondary. Even the Quran he interpreted in the light of contemporary rationalism and science. 
  • In his view any interpretation of the Quran that conflicted with human reason science or nature was in reality a misister-pretation. Nor were religious tenets immutable, he said. If religion tenets change with time, it would become fossilised as had happened in India. All his life he struggled against blind obedience to tradition, dependence on custom, ignorance and irrationalism. He urged the people to develop a critical approach and freedom of thought So long as freedom of thought is not developed, there can be no civilised life,” he declared. He also warned against fanaticism, narrow mindedness, and exclusiveness, and urged students and others to be broadminded and tolerant. A closed mind, he said, was the hallmark of social and intellectual backwardness.
  • Sayyid Ahmad Khan was a great believer in religious toleration. He believed that all religions had a certain underlying unity which could be called practical morality. Believing that a persons religion was his or her private affair, he roundly condemned any sign of religious bigotry in personal relations. He was also opposed to communal friction. Appealing to Hindus and Muslims to unite.
  • Moreover, Hindus, Parsis and Christians had freely contributed to the funds of his college whose doors were also open to all Indians. For example, in 1898, there were 64 Hindu and 285 Muslim students in the college. Out of the seven Indian teachers, two were Hindu, one of them being a Professor of Sanskrit. However, towards the end of his life, he been to talk of Hindu domination to prevent his followers from joining the rising national movement. This was unfortunate, though basically he was not a communalist. He only wanted the backwardness of the Muslim middle and upper classes to go. His politics were the result of his firm belief that immediate political progress was not possible because the British.
  • Government could not be easily dislodged. On the other hand, any hostility by the officials might prove dangerous to the educational effort which he saw as the need of the hour. He believed that only when Indians had become as modern in their thinking and actions as the English were, could they hope to successfully challenge foreign rule. He, the refore, advised all Indians and particularly the educationally backward Muslims to remain aloof from politics for some time to come. 
  • The time for politics, he said, had not yet come. In fact, he had become so committed to his college and the cause of education that he was willing to sacrifice all other interests to them. Consequently, to prevent the orthodox Muslims from opposing his college, he virtually gave up his agitation in favour of religious reform. For the same reason, he would not do anything to off end the government and, on the other hand, encouraged communalism and separatism. This was, of course, a serious political error, which was to have harmful consequences in later years. Moreover, some of his followers deviated from his broad-mindedness and tended later to glorify Is lam and its past while criticizing other religions.
  • Sayyid Ahmads reformist zeal also embraced the social sphere. He urged Muslims to give up medieval customs ways of thought and behaviour. In particular he wrote in favour of raising women’s status in society and advocated removal of purdah and spread of education among women. He also condemned the customs of polygamy and easy divorce.
  • Sayyid Ahmad Khan was helped by a band of Joyal followers who are collectively describe as the Aligarh School. Chiragh Au, the Urdu poet Altaf Husain Hali, Nazir Ahmad and Maulana Shibli Nomani were some of the other distinguished leaders of the Aligarh School.
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FAQs on Old NCERT Summary (Bipan Chandra): Growth of New India - Religious & Social Reform After 1858- 1 - History for UPSC CSE

1. How did religious and social reform movements contribute to the growth of new India after 1858?
Ans. Religious and social reform movements played a crucial role in the growth of new India after 1858. These movements aimed to bring about social and religious changes, promote equality, and eradicate social evils prevalent at that time. They advocated for the upliftment of marginalized sections of society, such as women, lower castes, and untouchables. The reformers worked towards abolishing practices like Sati, child marriage, and untouchability. They also promoted education, modernization, and the spread of scientific knowledge. The efforts of these reform movements laid the foundation for a more inclusive and progressive society in post-1858 India.
2. Who were some notable religious and social reformers during this period?
Ans. Several notable religious and social reformers emerged during this period, contributing significantly to the growth of new India. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, often regarded as the "Father of Modern India," advocated for the abolition of Sati and worked towards the promotion of women's rights. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar championed the cause of widow remarriage and played a crucial role in the passage of the Widow Remarriage Act, 1856. Jyotirao Phule, a social reformer from Maharashtra, fought against caste-based discrimination and worked towards the upliftment of lower castes and untouchables. Swami Vivekananda, a spiritual leader and philosopher, played a significant role in the revival of Hinduism and the promotion of Vedanta philosophy.
3. What were the key social evils addressed by the religious and social reform movements?
Ans. The religious and social reform movements in India after 1858 aimed to address various social evils prevalent at that time. Some of the key issues that were addressed include: 1. Sati: The practice of burning widows alive on their husbands' funeral pyres was vehemently opposed by reformers, leading to its eventual abolition. 2. Child Marriage: Reformers worked towards raising the minimum age of marriage for girls and promoting the importance of education for women. 3. Untouchability: The practice of untouchability, which relegated certain sections of society to the lowest rungs, was challenged by reformers who advocated for equality and social integration. 4. Caste Discrimination: The reform movements also sought to challenge the rigid caste system and promote social equality by advocating for the upliftment of lower castes and untouchables.
4. What were the main objectives of the religious and social reform movements in India?
Ans. The religious and social reform movements in India after 1858 had several main objectives, including: 1. Abolition of social evils: The reformers aimed to eradicate practices like Sati, child marriage, untouchability, and caste discrimination from society. 2. Women's rights and empowerment: They advocated for the promotion of women's education, widow remarriage, and the improvement of women's social status. 3. Social equality: The reform movements sought to challenge the hierarchical social structure and promote equality among different sections of society. 4. Spread of education: The reformers emphasized the importance of education, both for men and women, as a means to bring about social and intellectual progress. 5. Modernization and scientific temper: They advocated for the adoption of modern ideas and scientific knowledge, encouraging a more rational and progressive outlook among the masses.
5. How did the religious and social reform movements contribute to the growth of a new India?
Ans. The religious and social reform movements played a crucial role in shaping the growth of a new India. They challenged traditional customs and social norms that hindered progress and advocated for social equality, women's rights, and education. These movements helped in creating awareness among the masses about the need for social reform and led to the enactment of several legislations aimed at eradicating social evils. The reformers' efforts paved the way for a more inclusive and modern society, laying the foundation for the growth of a new India that aspired to be progressive, egalitarian, and enlightened.
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