Socio-religious reform movements in Hindus

Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772 – 1833) & Brahma SamajRaja Ram Mohan Roy (1772 – 1833) & Brahma Samaj

  • Born in 1772 in the Hooghly district of Bengal.
  • Title Raja was given by Mughal Emperor Akbar II.
  • Considered as the first ‘modern man of India’ & pioneer of socio-religious reform movements in modern India.
  • Studied the teachings of the Upanishads, the Bible & the Koran.
  • Excellent command over many languages including English, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, French, Latin, Greek & Hebrew.
  • Published a Persian treatise named ‘Tuhfat-ul-Muwahidin‘ or ‘A Gift to Monotheists’ in 1803.
  • In 1815, he established the Atmiya Sabha.
  • Also established the Brahmo Samaj at Calcutta in 1828 in order to purify Hinduism & to preach monotheism.
  • Favored the remarriage of widows, female education and women’s right to property.
  • Also protested against the child marriage & female infanticide.
  • Believed in the equality of mankind & monotheism.
  • Opposed idol-worship & supremacy of Brahmin priests.
  • Wrote a book called ‘Precepts to Jesus
  • In 1817, he founded the Hindu College (now Presidency College, Calcutta) along with David Hare, a missionary. He also set up schools for girls.
  • Rammohan Roy started the first Bengali weekly Samvad Kaumudi & edited a Persian weekly Mirat-ul-akbar in 1822.
  • In the same year Rammohan & Dwarakanath Tagore jointly started a newspaper called Bangadatta.
  • In 1825 he started the Vedanta College at Calcutta.
  • Most remembered for helping Lord William Bentinck to declare the practice of Sati a punishable offence in 1829.
  • In 1831 he went to England to argue the case of Mughal Emperor Akbar II before the Board of Control.
  • He stood for the freedom of the press. Rammohan died in Bristol in England in 1833.

Debandranath TagoreDebendranath Tagore (1817- 1905)

  • Established the “Tattvabodhini Sabha” (1839) at Calcutta to propagate Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s ideas.
  • Formally joined the Brahmo Samaj in 1843 & reorganized it.
  • Formed the Indian Reform Association in 1870.

First Split in Brahmo Samaj

  • Keshav Chandra Sen promoted the Samaj in 1857 & became the right hand man of Debendranath.
  • Later problems raised between Debendranath & Sen in matter of casteism.
  • In 1866 Sen formed new organization known as “Brahmo Samaj of India”.
  • And parent body come to be known as “Adi Brahmo Samaj”.
  • Debendranath spread the message of Brahmo Samaj in other parts of India including Bombay & Madras.
  • Debendranath influenced the British government to enact the Native Marriage Act of 1872 which legalized Brahmo marriages.

Second Split in Brahmo Samaj

  • Occurred in 1878 when a group of Sen’s followers under Ananda Mohan Bose & Shivanatha Shastri left him.
  • And formed the “Sadharana Brahmo Samaj”.


  • Violation of the Native Marriage Act by Sen himself.

Manav Dharam Sabha

  • Durgaram Mancharam & other participants included Dadoba Panderung, Dinmuni Shanar, Dalpatram Bhagubai and Damodar Das. They founded the Manav Dharam Sabha at Surat in 1844.
  • Held open meetings every Sunday.
  • As part of its programme, they challenged magicians & the reciters of incantations to demonstrate their skills.
  • Also criticized caste but took no direct action against the institution.

Paramahansa Mandli

  • Closely linked to “Manav Dharam Sabha” & to the leadership of Dadoba Panderung.
  • Dadoba outlined his doctrine in the Dharma Vivechan (1848) & it denied the polytheism, the caste system & the Brahmanical dominance of knowledge.
  • Formed in 1849 & met in secret.
  • Ram Bal Krishna Jayakar became first president of the mandali.
  • Branches of the organization were established at Poona, Ahmednagar and Ratnagiri.

Social reformerPrarthana Samaj

  • Founded in 1867 in Bombay by Dr. Atmaram Pandurang under the guidance of Keshab.
  • An off-shoot of Brahmo Samaj.
  • Concentrated on social reforms like inter-dining, inter-marriage, widow remarriage, uplift of women & depressed classes.
  • Justice M.G. Ranade & R.G. Bhandarkar joined it in 1870 and infused new strength to it.
Social reformerArya Samaj & Swami Dayanand Saraswati
  • Founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in 1875.
  • His motto was ‘go back to the Vedas’.
  • Cndemned idol worship & preached unity of God
  • First to use the terms; Swarajya Swabhasha and Swadharma & first to consider Hindi as a national language.
  • His views were published in his work ‘Satyartha Prakash’.
  • Accepted the doctrine of Karma but rejected the theory of niyati (destiny).
  • Pleaded for widow remarriage and condemned child marriages.
  • Started the Shuddhi movement to convert non-Hindus to Hinduism.
  • First Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) School was founded in 1886 at Lahore.
  • Lala Hans Raj, Pandit Guru Dutt & Lala Lajpat Rai were prominent leaders of the other section who stood for the spread of English education and established a number of DAV schools & colleges for both boys and girls.
  • Political slogan was ‘India for the Indians’.
  • Spiritual slogan was “Go back to vedas”
Social reformerRamakrishna Paramhansa (1836 – 1886) & Mission
  • Originally known as Godadhar Chattopadhay & born in 1836 in Hoogly district, WB.
  • A priest at the Kali temple in Dakshineswar near Calcutta.
  • Emphasised that Krishna, Hari, Ram, Christ, Allah are different names of the same God.
  • Teacher of Swami Vivekananda.

Ramakrishna Mission A social service & charitable society formed by Swami Vivekananda in 1897 at Belur.

Objectives: Carrying on humanitarian relief & social work through the establishment of schools, colleges, orphanages, hospitals, etc.


Ramakrishna Math A religious order or trust founded by Vivekananda in 1887 at Baranagar.

Objective: Bringing in to existence a band of dedicated monks who would propagate the teachings of Ramakrishna Paramhansa (the universal message of the Vedanta).

Though legally two distinct entities, with separate funds and finances, the Mission and the Math are in practice a single body.

Social reformerSwami Vivekananda (1863-1902)
  • Originally known as “Narendranath Datta” & born in 1863 in Calcutta.
  • Established a monastery in Baranagar in 1887 after the death of his guru.
  • Attended the “World Parliament of Religions in 1893” at Chicago & spoke at the “Congress of History of Religions” at Paris in 1900.
  • Emerged as the ” preacher of new Hinduism”.
  • Published two papers: the “Prabudha Bharata” in English & the “Udbodhana” in Bengali.
  • Preached the message of strength & self reliance.
  • Believed that “service to mankind is service to God”.
  • Founded the Ramkrishna Mission at Belur in Howrah in 1897.
Social reformerTheosophical Society
  • Founded in New York (USA) in 1875 by Madam H.P. Blavatsky, a Russian lady, & Henry Steel Olcott, an American colonel.
  • Shifted their headquarters to India at Adyar, Madras in 1882.
  • Believes in re-incarnation, Karma & teachings of upanishads, Samkhya, yoga & vedanta schools of thought.


  • Form a universal brotherhood of man without any distinction of race, colour or creed.
  • Promote the study of ancient religions and philosophies.
Social reformerAnnie besant
  • After the death of Olcott in 1907 Annie Besant was elected as its President.
  • She had joined the society in 1889.
  • Concentrated on the revival of Hinduism & its Hindu religious instruction.
  • She founded the Central Hindu University at Varanasi in 1898 which was later developed into the Benaras Hindu University by Madan Mohan Malaviya.
Social reformersYoung Bengal Movement
  • Founder by ” Henry Vivian Derozio”
  • He born in Calcutta, 1809
  • Taught at the Hindu college between 1826 & 1831. He died of cholera in 1831.
  • Followers were known as the Derozians & their movement as the Young Bengal Movement.
  • Derozians attacked old traditions & decadent customs.
  • Advocated women’s rights & their education.
  • Organized debates against idol worship, casteism & superstitions.
Social reformersPandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
  • A great educator, humanist & social reformer.
  • Born in 1820 in Midnapur, Bengal.
  • Head Pandit of the Bengali Department of Fort William College.
  • Firmly believed that reform in Indian society could only come about through education.
  • Founded many schools for girls.
  • Also founded the Metropolitan Institution in Calcutta.
  • Protested against child marriage & favored widow remarriage.
Social reformersMahatma Jyotiba Phule
  • Belonged to a low caste family in Maharashtra.
  • Waged a life-long struggle against upper caste domination & Brahmanical supremacy.
  • In 1873 he founded the “Satyashodak Samaj” to fight against the caste system.
  • Pioneered the widow remarriage movement in Maharashtra & worked for the education for women.
  • He & his wife established the first girls’ school at Poona in 1851.
  • Wrote Ghulam-giri in 1872 exposing the conditions of the backward castes.
Deva Samaj
  • Started in 1887 by Shiv Narayan Agnihotri at Lahore against to Brahmo samaj.
  • Religious text of this Samaj was Deva Shastra & the teaching Devadharma.
Social reformersSelf-Respect Movement & Periyar E.V. Ramaswamyr
  • Started by Periyar E.V. Ramaswamyr in 1925.
  • In 1921, during the anti-liquor campaign he cut down 1000 coconut trees in his own farm.
  • In 1924, he took an active part in the ” Vaikam Satyagraha”.
  • Objective of the Satyagraha was to secure for untouchables the right to use a road near a temple at Vaikom in Kerala.
  • He opposed the Varnashrama policy followed in the V.V.S. Iyer’s Seranmadevi Gurugulam.
  • He also criticized the caste system, child marriage & enforced widowhood.
  • Gave secular names to new born babies.
  • Attacked the laws of Manu, which he called the basis of the entire Hindu social fabric of caste.
  • Founded the Tamil journals Kudiarasu, Puratchi & Viduthalai.
  • On 27th June 1970 by the UNESCO organisation praised & adorned with the title “Socrates of South Asia”.

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