List of Important Socio Religious Reform Movements & Key Features

Atmiya sabha/Brahmo Samaj/Calcutta Unitarian Committee/Vedanta College

  • Associated Personality: Raja Ram Mohan Roy
  • Atimya Sabha (1815) and Brahmo Samaj (1828)
    • Supported monotheism & set up Atmiya Sabha to campaign against polytheism, idolatry, caste rigidities and declared Vedanta as the basis of reason.
    • Rejected missionary claim of superiority of Christianity and lack of rational thought in India. Vedantic monism, ideas of Koran and Unitarianism had great appeal to him.
    • Brahmo Samaj was against image worship and prayers, meditation and reading of Upanishads were part of daily activities.
  • Vedanta College (1825)
    • Established Vedanta college which offered both Indian and Western courses.
  • Calcutta Unitarian Committee (1821)
    • Jointly founded by William Adam and Rammohun Roy in 1821, sought to bring together prominent Brahmins who were friends of Roy’s and supporters of his agenda for the promotion of religious monotheism and social reform among Hindus with British and European residents of Calcutta who were Unitarian Christians.
  • Exposition of the Judicial System of India: In this essay, Raja Ram Mohan Roy criticised the high rents fixed by the British under the Permanent Settlement.
  • On Education: He opposed the decision of Committee of Public Instruction to establish Sanskrit College. He believed that India could only become modern through English education and knowledge of western societies.
  • Started an anti-Sati struggle leading to regulation of government in 1829 making Sati a crime.
  • Translated Upanishads into Bengali.

Manav Dharma Sabha

  • Associated Personality: Dadoba Pandurang, Durgaram Mancharam
  • A socio-religious organisation in Gujarat founded in 1844 in Surat.
  • It promoted monotheism, rejected casteism & idolatry, encouraged widow remarriage and expose superstitious elements in religions.
  • It had a very short life, as Dadoba Pandurang left for Bombay in 1846.

Paramhansa Mandali

  • Associated Personality: Dadoba Pandurang and Durgaram Mehta
  • A secret socio-religious group was established in 1849. First socio-religious organisation of Maharashtra.
  • They believed in monotheism and breaking caste rules. At their meetings, food cooked by lower caste people was taken by members and advocated women’s education and remarriage.

Tattva Bodhini Sabha/Brahmo Samaj

  • Associated Personality: Debendra Nath Tagore
  • He gave a new life to Brahmo Samaj.
  • Tattwabodhini Sabha or truth-teaching society(1839), to arrest Trinitarian Christian conversions in Bengal.
  • It also studied India’s past with a rational outlook.

Brahmo Samaj/Indian Reforms Association/Prarthana Samaj (Prayer Society)

  • Associated Personality: Keshab Chandra Sen
  • Keshab Chandra Sen was a champion of women’s rights. His ideology was a mix of religious and social ideas.
  • He established the Nava Vidhana in 1881 along with the newspaper New Dispensation to disseminate his religious ideas and philosophy.
  • Keshab witnessed a split in Brahmo Samaj with Keshab and his followers founding Adi Brahmo Samaj and setting up Sadharan Brahmo Samaj by his ex-followers.
  • Prarthana Samaj(1867)
    • It was founded in Bombay by Atmaram Pandurang with the help of Keshab Chandra Sen. Other prominent leaders associated with it were M G Ranade and R G Bhandarkar.
    • It took up the issues of caste system rejection, women’s education and widow remarriage.
  • Keshab Chandra Sen was instrumental in the foundation of Indian Reform Association which aimed at improving the life of peasants.

Arya Samaj

  • Associated Personality: Dayananda Saraswati
  • Vedas were most authentic religious texts of Hindus and all post-Vedic developments were to be rejected.
  • A Hindu revivalist movement. It started a Shuddhi Movement to convert non-Hindus to Hinduism.
  • It fixed the minimum marriageable age as 25 for men and 16 for girls and helped people in a crisis like floods. The samaj also established DAV Schools with an emphasis on western education.
  • Dayananda Saraswati’s views are collected in Satyarth Prakash. He gave the slogan ‘back to the Vedas’ and said they were infallible. He attacked Hindu orthodoxy.
  • Constitution of Arya Samaj drawn in 1875 provided for voluntary contributions of 1/100th part of one’s income to the Samaj. Money collected was spent on social services like famine relief and establishing educational institutions.
  • Dayanand Anglo-Vedic School set up in Lahore later developed into a college imparting English education on the principles of Vedas.

Sanskrit College Bethune School

  • Associated Personality: Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
  • He became principal of Sanskrit College and opened it to non-Brahmins to break priestly monopoly. He also served as Secretary of Bethune School, Calcutta which was the pioneer of higher education for women.
  • His actions supporting widow remarriage led to its legalisation.

Deva Samaj

  • Associated Personality: Shiv Narayana Agnihotri
  • Dev Samaj Movement was founded in 1887 in Lahore by Pandit Shiv Narayan Agnihotri. Before the founding of Dev Samaj, Agnihotri was a prominent member of Brahmo Samaj in Punjab region.
  • However, following a rift in Brahmo Samaj, Agnihotri founded the Dev Samaj  which was centred around his own personality.
  • He declared himself to be the God for members of Dev Samaj and adopted the title of Dev Bhagwan Aatma.
  • All caste restrictions were rejected, inter-dining and inter-marriage and vegetarianism was promoted.
  • He called for elimination of child marriage and called for educating females, widow remarriage.
  • Many Dev Samaj schools were opened in various parts of Punjab for both males and females.
  • Books: Ideas of Dev Samaj in Dev Shashtra in four volumes.

Ramakrishna Mission (1897)

  • Associated Personality: Swami Vivekananda
  • Initiated to spread the message of Vedanta with its headquarters at Bellur, Calcutta.
  • Swami Vivekananda addressed the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.

Dharma Sabha British India Association

  • Associated Personality: Radhakant Deb
  • Founder President of British India Association in 1851.

Bharat Dharma Maha Mandala

  • Associated Personality: Madam Mohan Malviya
  • An orthodox Hindu organisation in Varanasi.

Narayana Guru Dharma Paripalana Movement(Temple Entry Movements)

  • Associated Community: Ezhava community
  • Aimed at caste rigidities started among Ezhavas of Kerala.

Vaikom Satyagraha 1924 (Kerala)

  • Associated Personality: K P Kesava TK Madhavan George Joseph
  • Aimed at opening Hindu temples to untouchables.

Matua Mahasangha (1860)

  • Associated Personality: Harichand Thakur
  • A religious reformation movement that originated in East Bengal and is popular in West Bengal. Members of untouchable Namasudra community were motivated to join a sect called Matua.
  • This sect opposed caste oppression and attracted members of other marginalised communities.
  • Thakur’s followers consider him God, an avatar of Vishnu

Vokkaliga Sangha

  • An anti-Brahmin organisation in Mysore.

Justice Movement  

  • Associated Personality: C N Mudaliar, T M Nair, Tyagaraja
  • Began in Madras to secure jobs and representation for non-Brahmins.

Madras Presidency Association/Self-respect Movement

  • Associated Personality: E V Ramaswamy Naicker
  • Founded in 1917 to demand separate representation of lower castes.
  • Self-Respect movement was anti-Brahmin in nature.

Indian (National) Social Conference

  • Associated Personality: M G Ranade and Raghunath Rao
  • Its first session was held at Madras in 1887.

Servants of India Society (1905)

  • Associated Personality: G.K Gokhale
  • Aim was to train national missionaries for service to India.

Social Service League/All India Trade Union Congress(AITUC)

  • Associated Personality: N M Joshi
  • He founded AITUC in 1920 and Social Service League in Bombay.

Seva Sadan (1885)

  • Associated Personality: Behramji M. Malabari
  • Established for the welfare of women.

Widow Remarriage Association

  • Associated Personality: Vishnu Shastri Pandit

Wahabi Movement

  • Associated Personality: Shah Waliullah
  • It was an Islam revivalist movement. Other such movements include Faraizi and Ahmadiyya movements.

Aligarh Movement

  • Associated Personality: Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
  • This movement emerged as a liberal trend in Muslim intelligentsia.
  • Sir Syed’s progressive ideas are propagated through Tahdhib-ul-Akhlaq.

Deoband School

  • Associated Personality: Mohammad Qasim Nanotavi and Rashid Ahmed Gangohi
  • The school aimed to train religious leaders for Muslim community.
  • It was seen as a revivalist movement organised by the Ulema.

Anjuman-i-Punjab (1865)

  • Associated Personality: Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner
  • Also known as Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.
  • It was a voluntary society aimed at development of vernacular literature and dissemination of popular knowledge in vernacular medium.

Sri Guru Singh Sabha (1872)

  • Founded by leading Sikh public figures and traditional intellectuals to check the increasing popularity of Christianity, Muslims and Hindus. (Maharaja Dalip Singh, son of Ranjit Singh, converted to Christianity in 1853).
  • Aimed to revive teachings of Sikh gurus and made efforts to repress increasing factionalism within Sikh community. They tried to establish strict norms and codes of conduct to be followed by Sikhs.
  • Tried to increase literacy and popularise religious written in Gurumukhi script to make teachings of gurus available to ordinary Sikhs.
  • Activities of Singh Sabha led to formation of a unified, homogenised Sikh identity.

Satnami Movement

  • Associated Personality: Guru Ghasidas
  • Earlier Satnampanth was founded by Bir Bhan in Narnaul district of Haryana. Satnamis revolted against Aurangzeb in 1672 representing peasants, artisans and untouchables. Satnamis did not believe to bow their heads in front of other humans.
    Guru Ghasidas (1756-1850) was founder of Satnampath in early 19th century in Chhattisgarh.
  • Teachings of Guru Ghasidas
    • Believed in equality of individuals: Ghasidas preached against the rigid caste system and superiority of brahmans.
    • Against idol worship: He was against idol worship as he believed idol worship propagated caste superiority of certain castes.
    • Love for animals: Satnamis against treatment of animals and satnamis even do not use cattle in farming.
    • Simplicity: Ghasidas argued for simple life and respect for others.
    • Cultural significance: Message of satnamis was spread through Panthi dance form in the region.
  • Books: Message of Ghasidas is found in ‘Sapt Siddhant’ which is a collection of his sayings. 

Young Bengal Movement (1820s-1830s)

  • Associated Personality: Derozio
  • Derozio taught at Hindu College, Calcutta.
  • Surendra Nath Banerjee describes Derozians as pioneers of modern civilizations of Bengal.

Theosophical Movement

  • Associated Personality: H P Blavatsky and M S Olcott
  • This movement came to be allied with Hindu renaissance. It accepted Hindu beliefs such as reincarnation, Upanishads and Vedanta.
  • Annie Besant is associated with this movement and was elected as the President of the Theosophical Society in 1907.

Rahnumai Mazdayasna Sabha

  • Associated Personality: Naoroji Furdunji, K R Kama, S S Bengalee and Dadabhai Naoroji
  • Aimed at the regeneration of the Parsi and Zoroastrian religions. It also believed in the upliftment of Parsi women.
  • The message of reform was spread by its newspaper Rast Goftar.
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