Social and Religious Movements and Tribal and Peasant Movement


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Social and Religious Movements/Tribal and Peasant Movement

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Socio-Religious Reforms












Tribal and Peasant Movement

Social and Religious Movements • India in the 19th century witnessed a series of reform movements undertaken in various parts of the country which were oriented toward a re-structuring of the Indian society along modem lines. • Impact of modern Western culture soon gave birth to a new awakening in India. • Western conquest exposed the weakness and decay of Indian society. • Thoughtful Indians began to look for the defects of their society and for ways and means of removing them. • While large number of Indians refused to come to terms with the West and still put their faith in traditional Indian ideas and institutions, others gradually came to hold that modern Western thought provided the key to the regeneration of their society. • They were impressed in particular by modem science and the doctrines of reason and humanism. • The new social groups-the capitalist class, the working class, the modern intelligentsia-demanded modernisation since their own interests demanded it. • Attempts to explore India’s past by the first generation of British rulers helped to sharpen educated classes’ consciousness of their own existence. • Early reformers were groping to find suitable answers. But the agenda for the modernization was not set by the western influence because the logic for reform was sought to be located within India’s past. HINDU REFORM MOVEMENTS/ BENGAL RENAISSANCE • Reform movements which took deep roots within Bengal have often been also termed as Bengal Renaissance. • Bankim Chandra Chatterji and Bipin Chandra Pal referred to developments in the 19th century Bengal as a period of Renaissance. • It may not be proper to compare European Renaissance with developments in Bengal as the context was entirely different and the patterns not too similar. • The features which were referred to while talking of a Bengal Renaissance may be clubbed under three major categories, i.e. historical rediscovery, linguistic and literary modernization and socio-religious reforms. Raja Rammohan Roy and Brahmo Samaj • Raja Rammohan Roy from Bengal was the most notable reformer of the modern times. • Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born in 1772 in Radhanagar in Burdwan districtin West Bengal and died in Bristol in England. • He is considered as the first ‘modern man’ as he was the pioneer of socio-religious and political reformmovements in modern India. • He studied numerous languages – Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, English, French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, etc. in order to study the various religious scriptures in their original. • He believed in monotheism i.e. doctrine of the unity of God-head and opposed idol-worship. • In 1803 he published a Persian treatise named ‘Tuhfat-ul Muwahidin’ or ‘A Gift to Monotheists’ wherein he explains his concept of monotheism. • He was among the first to bring political questions in the ambit of public debate. • His Atmiya Sabha, founded in 1814, discussed important social and political questions of the time. In 1828, its enlarged edition was called the Brahmo Sabha which was renamed Brahmo Samaj later on. • He started touching upon many burning social issues of the time including the widely-prevalent practice of becoming sati. • He rallied support to the efforts of William Bentinck (Governor General) for abolition of this custom and wrote extensively for the cause. • In 1829, the custom of sati was formally abolished. He also condemned polygamy and many other forms of subjugation of women. • Roy was also an advocate of modern education. He opened an English school as well as a Vedanta college (1825). • He was a firm believer in the concept of one God. He was opposed to idolatry and found Upanishads as the basis of true Hinduism. • He wished to purify Hinduism by removing all kinds of evils that had crept into it over centuries. • After Roy’s death in 1833, the Brahmo Samaj started getting disorganized. Debendranath Tagore • Brahmo Samaj was given a definite shape and popularized beyond the city of Calcutta under the leadership of Debendranath Tagore who joined in 1842. • A year later, he wrote Brahmo Covenant. This Covenant was a statement of the creed of the Samaj and made a list of the duties and obligations of its members. Keshab Chandra Sen • Keshab Chandra Sen (1838-84) who joined the Samaj in 1858 took the activities of the Samaj beyond Bengal and into UP, Punjab, Madras and Bombay. • Keshab Chandra Sen radicalized the Samaj by attacking caste system, underlining women’s rights, promoting widow remarriage and raising the issue of caste status of Brahmo preachers which was earlier reserved for Brahmans. • He laid stress on universalism in religion. • His radicalism brought him into opposition with Debendranath. • In 1866, the Samaj was formally divided into Adi Brahmo Samaj (headed by Debendranath) and the Brahmo Samaj of India (headed by Keshab Chandra). Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar • Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, a Bengali reformer actively raised the issues related to women. • He was an active proponent of education of girl child as he believed that lack of education was the real cause underlying all their problems. • With the help of an Englishman named Bethun, he set up many schools devoted especially to girl child. • He forcefully attacked child marriage and polygamy. • He was a strong advocate of widow remarriage. • It was due to his active mobilization of support that the Widows’ Remarriage Act was passed in 1856 legalizing all widow remarriages. He arranged many such remarriages. • He set a personal example when his son Narayan also married a widow. Ramakrishna Mission • During the late 19th century, another notable reform movement in Bengal, which soon spread to other parts of the country, was the Ramakrishna Mission. • The movement began under an ascetic and priest Gadadhar Chatterjee or Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa (1836-86). • He preached universality of all religions and favoured preserving beliefs and rituals of Hinduism. • Among his important disciples was Narendra Nath or Swami Vivekananda who accepted Ramakrishna as his guru in 1885. Swami Vivekananda • He spread the message of spiritual Hinduism in America and Europe during his tour of 1893-97. • He established Ramakrishna Mission in 1897 and set up a Math at Belur. • He died at a young age of forty in 1902. • Vivekananda was opposed to degeneration in religion, manifold divisions, caste rigidities, practice of untouchability, superstitions etc. • He pointed out that the present condition of Hindus was due to their ignorance which was helped by their being a subject race. • He attempted to establish Hindu spiritual supremacy vis-à-vis the selfish civilization of the West. • He believed that India had to learn work ethics, forms of organization and technological advances from the West. Arya Samaj • The most profound reform movement which can be also termed as revivalist movement in the late 19th century India was the Arya Samaj. • It started in the western India and the Punjab, and gradually spread to a large part of the Hindi heartland. • It was founded by Dayanand Saraswati (1824-83). • In 1875, he wrote Satyarth Prakash (or the light of truth) and in the same year founded the Bombay Arya Samaj. • The Lahore Arya Samaj was founded in 1877. Subsequently, Lahore became the epicentre of the Arya movement. • Dayanand opposed a ritual-ridden Hindu religion and called for basing it on the preaching of the Vedas. Only Vedas, along with their correct analytical tools, were true. • He attacked puranas, polytheism, idolatry and domination of the priestly class. • He adopted Hindi for reaching out to the masses. • He also opposed child marriage. • He was fiercely opposed to multiplicity of castes which he thought was primarily responsible for encouraging conversion of lower castes into Christianity and Islam. • After Dayanand’s death in 1883, the Samaj lay scattered. • Most important attempt to unite the Samaj and its activities was the founding of the Dayanand Anglo Vedic Trust and Management Society in Lahore in 1886. • In 1886, this society opened a school with Lala Hansraj as its principal. However, some leaders of the Samaj like Munshi Ram (Swami Shraddhanand), Gurudatt, Lekh Ram and others were opposed to Anglo Vedic education. • They argued that the Arya Samaj’s educational initiative must focus on Sanskrit, Aryan ideology and Vedic scriptures and should have little space for English learning. • This militant wing thought that Dayanand’s words were sacrosanct and his message in Satyarth Prakash could not be questioned. • While the moderate wing led by Lala Hansraj and Lajpat Rai pointed out that Dayanand was a reformer and not a rishi or sadhu. • Conflicts also arose over the control of the DAV Management Society. • These differences finally led to a formal division of the Arya Samaj in 1893 when Munshiram broke away along with his supporters to initiate a gurukul-based education. Therefore, after 1893 the two wings of the Arya Samaj were – DAV group and Gurukul group. • Munshi Ram and Lekh Ram devoted themselves to popularizing of the teachings of the Vedas and began an Arya Kanya Pathsala at Jalandhar to safeguard education from missionary influence. • In 1902, Munshi Ram founded a Gurukul at Kangri in Haridwar. This institute became the centre of the gurukul education wing of the Arya Samaj in India. It was here that Munshi Ram adopted sanyas and became Swami Shraddhanand. • The two wings of the Arya Samaj, i.e. DAV wing and the Gurukul wing had differences on the question of education but were united on important political and social issues of the time. • The Arya Samaj as a whole opposed conversion of Hindus to Islam and Christianity and therefore advocated re-conversion of recent converts to Hinduism. This process was called shuddhi. • They also advocated greater usage of Hindi in Devanagari script. • In the 1890s, the Arya Samaj also raised the issue of cow slaughter and formed gaurakshini sabhas (or the cow protection societies) for protection of cows. • The Arya Samaj led a prolonged movement against untouchability and advocated dilution of caste distinctions.

PRARTHANA SAMAJ • The Prarthana Samaj was founded in 1867 in Bombay by Dr. Atmaram Pandurang. • It was an off-shoot of Brahmo Samaj. • It was a reform movement within Hinduism and Justice M.G. Ranade and R.G. Bhandarkar joined it in 1870 and infused new strength to it. • Mahadev Govind Ranade, also ran the Deccan Education Society. • Several members of the Prarthana Samaj had earlier been active in the Paramhansa Mandali. • This Samaj denounced idolatry, priestly domination, caste rigidities and preferred monotheism. • It also concentrated on social reforms like inter-dining, inter-marriage, widow remarriage and uplift of women and depressed classes. • Apart from Hindu sects, it also drew upon Christianity and Buddhism. • It sought truth in all religions. • Drawing inspiration from the Maratha Bhakti saints of the medieval period, Ranade sought to establish the concept of one compassionate God. PARAMHANSA MANDALI • Many important reform movements arose during the 19th century western India. • Reformers like KT Telang, VN Mandalik and RG Bhandarkar glorified India’s past. • There were some who led a direct attack on social evils like caste system and encouraged widow remarriage, e.g., Karsondas Mulji and Dadoba Pandurang. They formed Manav Dharma Sabha in 1844 and Paramhansa Mandali in 1849. • The Mandali carried its activities secretly. • Its members took a pledge that they would abandon all caste distinctions. • The Mandali declined after 1860 as its membership and activities lost secrecy. THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY • Madam H.P. Blavatsky laid the foundation of the movement in the Unites States in 1875 and later Colonel M.S. Olcott joined her. • In 1882 they shifted their headquarters to India at Adyar. • The members of this society believe that a special relationship can be established between a person’s soul and God by contemplation, prayer, revolution. • The theosophical movement came to be allied with Hindu renaissance. • The society believes in re-incarnation, Karma and draws from the philosophy of the upanishads and Samkhya, yoga and vedanta schools of thought. • After the death of Olcott in 1907 Annie Besant was elected as its President. She had joined the society in 1889. • The society under Besant concentrated on the revival of Hinduism and its ancient ideas and in order to provide 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. YOUNG BENGAL MOVEMENT • Its founder was Henry Vivian Derozio, who taught at the Hindu college between 1826 and 1831. • His followers were known as the Derozians and their movement as the Young Bengal Movement. • The movement attacked old traditions and decadent customs, advocating women’s rights and education and educating the public on the current socio-economic and political questions through press and public associations. • They carried on public agitation on public questions like freedom of the press, trial by jury and protection of peasants, etc. OTHER REFORM MOVEMENTS IN BRIEF • In Western India Prof D.K. Karve took up the cause of widow remarriage and in Madras Veerasalingam Pantulu made Herculean efforts in the same direction. • Prof. Karve opened a widow’s home in Poona in 1899. He set up the Indian Womens University at Bombay in 1916. • B.M. Malbari started a crusade against child marriage and his efforts were crowned by the enactment of the age of consent Act, 1891. • In 1849 J.E.D. Bethune founded a girl’s school in Calcutta. • All India women’s conference was organised in 1936. • Radha Soami Satsang was founded by Tulsi Ram. • Deva Samaj was founded by Shiva Narain Agnihotri. • Nadwah-ul-ulama was founded by Maulana Shibli Numani in 1894 in Lucknow. • Justice movement was started in 1915-16 by C.N. Mudaliar, T.M. Nair and P. Tyagaraja Chetti in Madras. It was against the predominance of the Brahmins in education, government services and politics. • Ezhava movement was launched by Sri Narayan Guru. He started the movement of untouchable Ezhava against the Brahmin dominance in Kerala. He rejected the caste system and developed the concept of one caste, one religion and one God for mankind. His disciple Ayappan made it into no religion, no caste and no God for mankind. • In Kerala, the Nairs started movement against the dominance of Nambudari Brahmins. C.V. Raman Pillai organised the Malyali Memorial. He wrote a novel Martanda Verma to show the military glory of the Nairs. Padmanabha Pillai founded the nair service society in 1914. • In 1873, Satya Sodhak movement was launched by Jyotiba Phule in Maharashtra to save the lower castes from the Brahmins. He wrote ‘Gulamgiri’ and ‘Sarvajanik Satyadharma Pustak’. His theory of exploitation of lower castes was focused on cultural and ethnic factor rather than on political and economic one. • The Mahars were organised by Gopal Baba Walangkar in late 19th century against Brahmins in Maharashta. Baba Bhim Rao Ambedkar became their leader in the 20th century. Under his leadership the Mahars started burning Manusmriti and tried to break with the Hinduism. • In 1932 Gandhiji founded the Harijan Sevak Sangh. • Ambedkar founded the Scheduled Castes Federation. REFORM MOVEMENTS AMONG MUSLIMS • There was a sense of loss of power among educated and elite Muslims of India. This happened mainly because of• Transfer of power from Mughals to British, and • Replacement of Persian by English as the language of employment and advancement in the new bureaucracy. Farazis Movement • The movement of the Farazis which arose among the peasants of early 19th century Bengal advocated return to pure Islam. • They followed the teachings of Shah Walliullah of Delhi (1703-63) who had, a century earlier, talked about regaining purity of Islam and objected to infiltration of non-Islamic customs among Muslims. • Founding leader of the Farazis, Shariat Ullah (1781-1839) preached religious purification and advocated return to the faraiz, i.e. obligatory duties of Islam, namely – kalimah (profession of faith), salat (or namaz), sawn ( or rozah), zakat (or alms to poor) and Hajj. He also preached tawhid or monotheism. • Another movement which arose among Muslims of Bengal was the Tariqah-i-Muhammadiyah under the leadership of Titu Mir who was initiated by Sayyid Ahmad Barelwi. This movement also talked about return to past purity. • Another movement which was more concerned about the decline in power of the ulema class (Muslim priestly class) arose at Deoband in the United Provinces. • Delhi School of Islamic Thought was derived from the Delhi College (currently Zakir Husain College) which had begun imparting a parallel education – Islamic as well as English. • Beginning 1830s, the college helped to foster a modern consciousness in the Muslim community. • The revolt of 1857 and consequent crackdown by the British forces ended this intellectual excitement. However, the urge for modernization could easily be felt among a section of Muslims. The Wahabi Movement • The Muslims lost their political power with the replacement of the Mughals by the East India Company. • The spread of Christianity and the Western culture were viewed as a threat to Islam. They resisted English education and remained aloof from Western influences. • The Wahabi movement was introduced in India by Syed Ahmed of Rae Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. • The Wahabi movement aimed at the purification of Islam and to return to the simplicity of religion. • In India the Wahibis did not restrict to the religious reforms only. • They aimed at the replacement of the British rule by the rule of the true believers. • The Wahabi movement took the nature of the political revolt. Sayyid Ahmad Khan • According to Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98) modern education was the most important path for improvement in the condition of Indian Muslims. • He called for the study of European science and technology. • In 1866, he formed the British Indian Association. • He stayed in England for more than a year during 1869-70. • On his return, he asked his Muslim brethren to adopt some positive features of the English society like its discipline, order, efficiency and high levels of education. • He pointed out that there was no fundamental contradiction between Quran and Natural Science and the new circumstances demanded dissemination of English language within an Islamic context. • He founded the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College at Aligarh in 1875 which went on to become the most important seminary for modern higher education among Muslims. • At the elementary level, students followed the standard government curriculum in a carefully constructed Islamic environment. In 1878, the college classes were also started and non-Muslims were also enrolled. • In 1886, Sayyid Ahmad Khan founded also the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental Educational Conference. • The Muslim graduates of Aligarh who numbered 220 during 1882-1902, provided lot of excitement to the Muslim intellectual world and in due course of time provided an able and modern leadership to the community. The Deoband School • The orthodox section among the Muslim ulema organised the Deoband Moovement. It was a revivalist movement whose twin objectives were: • To propagate among the Muslims the pure teachings of the Koranand the Hadisand. • To keep alive the spirit of jihad against the foreign rulers. • The new Deoband leader Mahmud-ul-Hasan (1851-1920) sought to impart a political and intellectual content to the religious ideas of the school. • The liberal interpretation of Islam created a political awakening among its followers. Ahmadiya Movement • The Ahmadiya movement was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahamad of Qadiyan (1839-1908) in 1889, who began his work as a defender of Islam against the polemics of the Arya Samaj and the Christian missionaries. • In 1889, he claimed to be Masih and Mahdi and later also to be an incarnation of the Hindu god Krishna and Jesus, returned to earth. • The movement was really a heresy well within the bounds of Islam as Ghulam Ahamad, though he called himself a minor prophet, regarded Muhammad as the true and great prophet whom he followed. • The Ahmadiya movement based itself, like the Brahmo Samaj, on the principles of at universal religion of all humanity. • Ghulam Ahmad was greatly influenced by western liberalism theosophy, and the religious reform movements of the Hindus. • The Ahmadiyas opposed Jihad or sacred war against non-Muslims and stressed fraternal relations among all people. • The movement spread western liberal education among Indian Muslims and started a network of schools and colleges for that purpose. Ahrar Movement • It was a movement founded in 1910 under the leadership of Maulana Muhammad Ali, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Hasan Imam, Maulana Zafar Ali Khar and Mazhar-ul-Haq in opposition to the loyalist policies of the Aligarh movement. • Moved by modern ideas of self-government its members advocated active participation in the nationalist movement. SIKH REFORM MOVEMENT Nirankaris • Baba Dayal Das (1783-1855) was the founder of this movement of purification and return. • In 1840s he called for the return of Sikhism to its origin and emphasized the worship of one God and nirankar (formless). • Such an approach meant a rejection of idolatry and also prohibition of eating meat, drinking liquor, lying, cheating, etc. • It laid emphasis on Guru Nanak and on Sikhism before the establishment of Khalsa by Guru Gobind Sing at Anandpur and this separated them from the Namdaris. Namdharis • It was founded by Baba Ram Singh (1816-1885) in 1857, who in 1841 became a disciple of Balak Singh of the Kuka movement. • The movement was founded on a set of rituals modeled after Guru Gobind Singh’s founding of the Khalsa with the requirement of wearing the five symbols but instead of the sword the followers were supposed to carry a stick. • The movement required the followers to abandon the worship of gods, idols, tombs, trees, snakes, etc. and abstain from drinking, stealing, falsehood, slandering, backbiting, etc. • Further the consumption of beef was strictly forbidden as protection of cattle was important. Singh Sabha • To strengthen Sikhism, a small group of prominent Sikhs led by Thakur Singh Sandhawalia and Giani Gian Singh founded the Singh Sabha of Amritsar on October 1, 1873. • The objectives of the Sabha were to restore Sikhism to its pristine purity, to publish historical religious book and periodicals, to propagate knowledge, sing Punjabi, to return Sikh apostles to their faith and to involve Englishmen in educational programme of the Sikhs. • Later the Singh Sabha Amritsar was emulated by a new organization, the Lahore Singh Sabha more democratic in nature. • After a while, the Singh Sabhas were overwhelmed by other organisation such as Khalsa Diwani and in 1920, by a struggle for control over Sikh places of worship. Gurudwara Reform Movements • Before 1920 the Sikh Gurudwara were governed by the Udasi Sikh mahants, who treated the Gurudwara offerings and other income of the Gurudwaras as their personal income. • The British government supported these mahants as a counterpoise to the rising tide of nationalism among the Sikhs. • Matter came to such a pass that the priest of the golden temple issued a hukmnama (injunction) against Ghadarites, declaring them renegades, and then honored General Dyer, the butcher of Jalianwala massacre with a saropa. • The Gurudwara Reform Movement launched an agitation for freeing the Gurudwaras from these corrupt mahants and for handing over the Gurudwaras to a representative body of Sikhs. • Under the growing pressure of the nationalist and Gurudwara agitators, the Gurudwaras came under the control of an elected committee known as the Shiromani Gurudwara Prablandhalk Committee, in November 1920. • The movement for liberation of Gurudwaras soon turned into Alkali movement, which later on got divided into three streams, namely moderate nationalist reformers, pro-government loyalists and political organ of Sikh communalism. PARSI REFORM MOVEMENT • The Parsi Religious Reform Association was founded at Bombay by Furdunji Naoroji and S.S. Bengalee in 1851 with funds provided by K.N. Kama. • Furdunji Naoroji became its President and S.S. Bengali its secretary. • Naroji Furdunji edited in 1840s the Fam-i-Famshid, a journal aimed at defending the cause of Zoroastrianism. • He also wrote a number of pamphlets and published the book Tarika Farthest in 1850. • All these events led to the formation of a socio-religious movement designed to codify the Zoroastrian religion and reshape Parsi social life. • In 1851 a small group of educated Parsis formed the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Sabha (Parsi Reform Society) • In 1850 Bengali started publishing a monthly journal Jagat Mitra and the Jagat Premi in 1851. • The sabha’s journal Rast Goftar was the main voice of the movement. • The leaders criticized elaborate ceremonies at betrothals, marriages and funerals and opposed infant marriage and the use of astrology. • But the activities of the sabha divided the Parsis into two groups: those who advocated radical change and those who wished only limited altercations in rituals and customs, organized under the Raherastnumi Mazdayasnan in opposition to the radicals. SELF-RESPECT MOVEMENT AND PERIYAR E.V. RAMASWAMY • Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy, a great social reformer took an active part in the anti-liquor movement and Vaikam Satyagraha in 1924. • He was the leader of the self-respect movement. It was a popular movement, which occurred in Tamil Nadu in 1925.It had two aims: • Demanding the sanction of more concessions and privileges (which would cause discrimination against the Brahmins) to surpass Brahmins in education and social status. • Achieving ‘Swayam Maryada’ or self-respect. • This movement formed a part of the many social reforms occurred during that period. • Its main approach was to improve upon the socio-economic conditions of the low castes Tamils. Later it had profound implications. • The main objectives of this movement were inculcation and dissemination of knowledge of political education; Right to lead life with dignity and self-respect and do away with the exploitative system based on superstitions and beliefs. • Abolition of the evil social practices and protection of women rights. Establishment and maintenance of homes for orphans and widow and opening of educational institutions for them. • This movement gained popularity in no time and became a political platform. • He attacked the laws of Manu, which he called the basis of the entire Hindu social fabric of caste. • He founded the Tamil journals Kudiarasu, Puratchi and Viduthalai to propagate his ideals. • In 1938 the Tamil Nadu Women’s Conference appreciated the noble service rendered by E.V.R. and he was given the title “Periyar”. • On 27th June 1970 by the UNESCO organisation praised and adorned with the title “Socrates of South Asia” IMPACT OF REFORM MOVEMENTS • These reformist played a prominent role in the social life of the 19th century. • One may mention such names as Pandita Ramabai in western part, Sister Subbalaksmi in Madras and Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain in Bengal. • Reform movements helped the growth of a modern middle class which was conscious of its rights. • Some Indian reformers also protested British attempts to pass those laws which they thought interfered with their religion and society. • This was evident in the case of the Age of Consummation of marriage by raising the age of consent from 10 to 12. • Some of these reform movements, by raising issues which were in conflict with interests of other communities or were revivalist in nature, also worked towards polarization along communal lines.

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Social and Religious Movements and Tribal and Peasant Movement

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