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Modern History / Socio-religious Reform Movements

Important Socio Religious Reform Movements in India


    During the British rule, in addition to Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj, there were many individual persons and groups who have started many socio religious reform movements in India.



    Theosophical Society

    • Theosophical Society was set up in the year 1875 in New York and it was founded by Colonel Henry Olcott of US and Madame Helena Blavatsky of Russia.

    • The objective of Theosophical movement was to promote studies in Asian culture, religion, civilization and to do studies in occultism.

    • It was realized later that US is not suitable for these types of studies. In 1882, it was shifted from New York to Adyar near Chennai.

    • Till 1907, Colonel Olcott was the president of Theosophical Society. After that Annie Besant (Irish lady permanently settled in India) became the President.

    • Annie Besant started two journals, namely (i) New India and (ii) Commonweal.

    • Annie Besant started two colleges in India. In 1898, Central Hindu college was started in Varanasi. In 1916, it became Banaras Hindu University with the help of Madan Mohan Malaviya. In 1916, she started Besant Theosophical college in Madanapalle in the state of Andhra Pradesh. First Principal of this college was J.H. Cousins.

    Ramakrishna Movement

    • Ramakrishna Movement was started by Swami Vivekananda in the name of his mentor Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (whose original name was Gadadhar Chattopadhyay).

    • He started two organizations at Belur in Calcutta as headquarters, (i) Ramakrishna Math in 1886, which is a spiritual organization and (ii) Ramakrishna Mission in 1897, which is a charitable organization.

    • Swami Vivekananda started two Journals, (i) Prabuddha Bharata (in English) and (ii) Udbodhan (in Bengali).

    • In 1893 at Chicago, he gave a historical speech in Parliament of the World's Religions.

    • Vedanta societies were started by him in Europe and America and a number of foreigners became his disciples. Margaret Noble (Irish woman) left Ireland and settled at Belur. Vivekananda called her as Sister Nivedita. After the demise of Vivekananda, she became the head of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission at Belur.

    • Vivekananda says "Worship of Human is worship to God" and he preached "Daridra Devo Bhava".

    Henry Vivian Derozio

    • He was a lecturer in Hindu college of Calcutta.

    • He started a movement called "Young Bengal Movement". But the movement was confined to students of the college.

    • He started a journal called "Bengal Spectator".


    Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

    • Under his supervision, the first legal widow remarriage happened in India.

    • Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar contributed a lot to women's education and started 35 educational institutions for women, which includes Bethune college (1849) of Calcutta.

    • Bethune college was first women's college in India. Kadambini Ganguly, who is the first woman to graduate in India, was from this college.

    Dhondo Keshav Karve

    • In Bombay, D.K. Karve started a widow home to promote widow remarriages. He is also married to a widow.

    • He founded the Poona Women's University in 1916. It was the first university for women in India.

    • He was awarded Bharat Ratna after Indian independence.

    Gopal Hari Deshmukh

    • He was a judge in Maharashtra.

    • He started a journal called Lokhitwadi, after which he was called Lokhitwadi.

    Mahadev Govind Ranade

    • He is considered the greatest social reformer in Maharashtra.

    • He was a judge of Bombay High court. He was a member of Prarthana Samaj.

    • He had 3 associates of his movement

      • Pandita Ramabai Ranade - She started organizations called Poona Seva Sadan and Sharada Sadan (exclusive school for widows).

      • Gopal Ganesh Agarkar - He started Deccan Education Society. A number of schools and colleges were being established by this organization. Fergusson college, Pune is one among them.

      • Raghunatha Rao - He started a pledge movement against child marriages.

    Gopala Krishna Gokhale

    • In 1905, G.K. Gokhale started an organization called "Servants of India Society".

    • The important members of this organization were

      • Hridayanath Kunzru, who started an organization called Seva Samiti.

      • Narayan Malhar Joshi - In 1920, he started AITUC in Bombay. It was the first national level trade union. Lala Lajpat Rai was nominated as its first president.

      • Shriram Bajpai, who started an organization called Seva Samiti Boy Scouts Association.

    Behramji M. Malabari

    • He was the Vice Chancellor of Bombay University. He started a journal, Mahapap Bal Vivah and edited the journals like Indian Spectator, East and West and Voice of India.

    • In 1891, British Government passed "The Age of Consent Act". According to the Act, the minimum age for marriage was 12 for girls and 18 for boys. For the first time child marriages were prohibited.

    • He started an organization called Seva Sadan.

    Shiv Dayal Singh

    • In Agra, he started an organization called Radha Soami Satsang. A number of schools are run by this Satsang throughout India.

    Counter Reformation Movements

    • Dharma Sabha - It was founded by Radhakanta Deb in Calcutta in 1830. It was opposing Brahmo Samaj. It strongly supported the practice of Sati.

    • Bharat Dharma Mahamandala - It was started in 1887 at Haridwar by a Punjabi Brahmin, Pandit Din Dayalu Sharma against the College Group of Arya Samaj.