Social & Educational Reform Movements


Social & Educational Reform Movements

Period of renaissance came late into India. For the whole world it was the era of the 17th and the 18th century but in India it was the period of 19th century.

Many social reformers of that time in India build a consensus against the ongoing social evil practices prevalent in India. 

Feature of Socio Religious Movements are:

  • Against the priestly domination
  • Gave highest importance to education and was against the complete ignorance of Western Education
  • Emancipation of the social evils against the women
  • Most of the movements were reformist in nature

Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Brahma Samaj

  • He was a learned scholar who had read oriental as well as European languages.
  • In 1809 he wrote a book called “Gift to Monothesis” in which he gave several arguments against polytheism.
  • He criticized Idol worship, priest domination and Sati practice.
  • He devoted his entire life for fighting against Sati. With his effort William Bentick was finally convinced to make Sati illegal.
  • He established Brahma Samaj in 1828 which later changed its name to Brahmo Samaj.  
  • He established Vedanta College in 1825 where western Social Science & Indian philosophy was taught.
  • He was a political activist too. He condemned practices of Bengali zamindars , in favor of reduction of export duties on Indian goods and Indianisation of superior services.
  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy was also called the “Builder of Modern India”.

Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Arya Samaj

  • Dayanand Saraswati’s original name was Moolshankar. 
  • He considered Vedas as infallible and inexhaustible reservoir of knowledge.
  • Dayanand criticized Idol worship and caste system. He gave the message “Go Back to Vedas”.
  • He established Arya Samaj at Bombay in 1875 and later shifted its headquarters to Lahore.
  • The greatest contribution of Arya Samaj is in the field of education. 
  • Progressive sections of the Arya Samaj established established Dayanand Anglo Vedic School with English as the medium of instruction.
  • Whereas the conservatives established Gurukul Paathshala at Haridwar in 1902 with Sanskrit as the medium of instructions.
  • But during the late 19th century Arya Samaj shifted from reformism to revivalism. It started Cow Protection movement and Shuddhi movement.  

Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Mission

  • Ramakrishna Paramhansa was the teacher of Swami Vivekananda. 
  • Like his teacher , Swami Vivekananda emphasized on essential oneness of all religions.
  • Vivekananda appealed to the Indians to imbibe the spirit of liberty, equality and free thinking.
  • After coming from Chicago from the World Conference of Religions he established Ramakrishna Mission in 1897.
  • Objectives of the mission was to keep Indian away from the “Materialistic influences of the West”
  • Swami Vivekananda was a great humanist whose message was service to mankind is service to God.

Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan & Aligarh Movement

  • Reform Movement among the Muslims emerged late. This was because the early leaders within the Islamic society believed that western knowledge and culture could dilute the principles of Islam.
  • Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan tried to eliminate the evils of the Islamic society without diluting the tenets of Islam.
  • He established Mohammedan Anglo Oriented College at Aligarh in 1875 which later turned into Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. 
  • Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan criticized Polygamy and social ban on widow remarriage.
  • Sayyid Ahmed Khan interpreted Quran in the light of contemporary rationalism.
  • But towards the end of his life he began to talk of Hindu domination and want Muslim intelligentsia to stay away from the politics & national movement. 

Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar and Widow Remarriage

  • Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar was a great scholar and reformer.
  • He was against the priestly domination. In 1850 he became the principal of Sanskrit College and eventually opened the Sanskrit college to Non Brahmins.
  • Vidyasagar was a great crusader of Widow remarriage. And was against child marriage and polygamy. 
  • Because of his efforts Lord Dalhousie finally passed Hindu Widow’s Remarriage Act, 1856. 
  • He was the secretary of Bethune School (Founded in Calcutta and first Women’s school in India)  which was opened in 1849.

Limitations of the Socio Religious Movements:

  • Their reach was limited in nature. Vast majority of the population was illiterate at that point of time so it remain untouched by their ideas.
  • With the passage of time these movements tilted towards revivalism ( Shuddhi movement and cow Protection movement)

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