Characteristics, Significance & Limitations of Socio Religious Reform Movements

Characteristics of Socio-Religious Reform Movements

  • Reform movements were confined to a particular region. Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj had branches in different parts of the country, yet they were more popular in Bengal and Punjab respectively than anywhere else.
  •  These movements were confined to particular religions or castes.
  • These movements emerged at different points in time in different parts of the country. E.g., in Bengal, reform efforts were afoot at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but in Kerala, they came up only towards the end of the nineteenth century.
  • Despite this, there was considerable similarity in their aims and perspectives.
  • Leadership: Many of the leaders of these movements were educated, middle-class individuals who were committed to the cause of social and religious reform. They were often well-versed in Western ideas and values and used this knowledge to promote change in Indian society.
  • Goal: All the movements were concerned with the regeneration of society through social and educational reforms even if there were differences in their methods.
    • Emphasis is on universal outlook.
    • Focus on caste and gender discrimination: Caste was opposed as an institution and was considered against the basic idea of equality. They unambiguously advocated the abolition of the caste system, as evident from the movements initiated by Jyotiba Phule and Sri Narayana Guru.
    • Emancipation of Women and Downtrodden.
    • Emphasis on Humanism resulted in the Improvement of the underprivileged and the backward classes.
    • Propagation of concept of self-respect and self-reliance among Indians to check the malpractices of Indian religion.
    • Therefore, the Indian Renaissance became an essential part of Indian Society during India’s freedom struggle, which gradually created rationalism and humanism.

Significance Of Socio-Religious Reform Movements

In the evolution of modern India, the reform movements of the nineteenth century have made very significant contributions. They stood for the

  • Democratization of society,
  • Removal of superstition and abhorrent customs,
  • Spread of enlightenment and
  • Development of a rational and modern outlook.
  • These reform movements touched all segments of society. E.g.,
  1. Ahmadiyya movement, under the inspiration of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, opposed jihad, advocated fraternal relations among the people and championed Western liberal education.
  2. Aligarh movement tried to create a new social ethos among Muslims by opposing polygamy and by advocating widow marriage. It stood for a liberal interpretation of the Quran and the propagation of Western education.
  3. Various movements focused on interpretation of Vedas for right set of practices which dealt with idol worships to women’s rights.
  • An attempt to change the then-prevalent values of society is evident in all these movements. The attempt was to transform the hegemonic values of a feudal society and to introduce values characteristic of bourgeois order.

Limitations Of Socio-Religious Reform Movements

  • These reform movements were primarily urban phenomena.
  • Reform movements were limited to upper castes and classes. (except for Arya Samaj, and the lower caste movements). For instance, the Brahmo Samaj in Bengal was concerned with the problems of the Bhadralok and Aligarh movement with those of the Muslim upper classes. The masses generally remained unaffected.
  • Reformers had great faith in the British sense of justice and wanted to fashion India just like 19th-century Britain.
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