National Renaissance in India is a term used to mark the period of cultural and intellectual revival which took place from the late 18th century to the early 20th century.
This movement is led by various reformers. The important reformers are Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda etc. These reformers sought to modernize India while also preserving its cultural heritage.
Characteristics of the National Renaissance
- A renewed interest in Indian culture and tradition.
- Focus on modernization and social reform.
- Abolition of caste, Sati, female infanticide etc.
- Encouraging Window remarriage and Female education.
- A rise of a new national literature and art.
- Development of new educational institutions.
- Brahmo Samaj was founded by Raja Rammohan Roy in 1828 at Calcutta. Its idea was to purify Hinduism and preach monotheism.
- In 1815, Raja Rammohan Roy established the Atmiya Sabha, later it was developed into Brahmo Sabha in August 1828.
- He combined the teachings of the Upanishads, Bible and Koran and preached the concept of only one God.
- The work of Atmiya Sabha was carried on by Maharishi Debendranath Tagore (father of Rabindranath Tagore), who renamed it Brahmo Samaj.
- Raja Rammohan Roy is remembered for helping Lord William Bentinck to declare the practice of Sati a punishable offence in 1829.
- He adopted a Muslim boy. In 1817, he founded the Hindu College along with David Hare, a missionary. He also set up a school for girls.
- He started the first Bengali weekly Samvad Kaumudi and edited a Persian weekly Mirat-ul-Akhbar. He died in Bristol England in 1833.
Brahmo Samaj Principles
- He protested against child marriage and female infanticide. He supported widow remarriage, female education, and women’s right to property.
- He supported intercaste marriages and preached monotheism, the concept of one god. All gods are the same.
Vivian Derozio’s young Bengal movement ideas, objectives and teaching
- Henry Vivian Derozio was the founder of the Young Bengal movement. He was a teacher at Hindu College, Calcutta. He was born in Calcutta in 1809.
- He died of Cholera in 1833. His followers were known as Derozians and their movement is called the Young Bengal Movement.
- The Young Bengal movement year in the late 1820s and early 1830’s. Derozians attacked old traditions and decadent customs. They advocated women’s rights and education.
- They organized debates against idol worship, casteism, and superstitions.
Swami Dayanand Saraswathi and the Arya Samaj
- Arya Samaj founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswathi at Bombay in 1875. Swami Dayanand Saraswathi believed that Vedas were the source of true knowledge.
- His motto was “Back to the Vedas”. He was against idol worship, child marriage, and the caste system based on birth.
- He encouraged inter-caste marriage and widow remarriage. He started the Suddi movement to bring back converted people back to Hinduism.
- He wrote the book Satyartha Prakash which contains his ideas. Arya Samaj contributed much to education. The first Dayanand Anglo Vedic (DAV) School was founded in 1886 in Lahore.
- Arya Samaj also spread nationalism.
Arya Samaj Marriage
- Arya Samaj was against Child marriage. It encouraged intercaste marriage. Also, it encouraged widow remarriage.
- Prarthana Samaj was established in 1867 in Bombay. Prarthana Samaj was founded by Dr.Atmaram Pandurang. It was an offshoot of Brahmo Samaj.
Prarthana Samaj Principles and Objectives
- It tried to reform Hinduism. It mostly concentrated on social reforms like Inter Dining which is common dining of persons from various castes, religions, etc.
- It encourages widow remarriage, intermarriage, upliftment of women, and depressed classes. Justice M.G. Ranade and R.G. Bhandarkar joined in 1870 and Justice Ranade promoted the Deccan Education Society.
Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Mission
- Ramakrishna Mission was founded by Swami Vivekananda. The original name of Vivekananda is Narendranath Dutta (1863-1902).
- He was a disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Educated in Scottish Church College Narendranath took the Sanyasa and was given the name, Vivekananda.
- He preached Vedantic Philosophy. He was against the caste system and current Hindu emphasis on rituals and ceremonies.
- He participated at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago (USA) in September 1893 and talked about Hinduism. He founded the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur in Howrah in 1897.
- It was founded in New York (USA) in 1875 by Madam H.P. Blavatsky, a Russian lady, and Henry Steel Olcott, an American colonel.
- The main objective was to form a universal brotherhood of man without any distinction of race, colour, or creed and to promote the study of ancient religion and philosophies.
- They established headquarters at Adyar in Madras in 1882. After the death of Olcott, Annie Besant took the leadership of society.
- Annie Besant founded the Central Hindu School with Madan Malaviya at Benaras which later developed into the Benaras Hindu University.
Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
- He was a great educator, humanist and social reformer. Born in 1820 in Midnapur Bengal. He was Head Pandit of the Bengali Department of Fort William College.
- Vidyasagar founded many schools for girls. He helped J.D. Bethune to establish the Bethune School; he founded the Metropolitan Institution in Calcutta.
- He protested against child marriage and favoured window remarriage which was legalized by the Widow Remarriage Act (1856).
- He was given the title Vidyasagar, due to his support for the spread of education.
- Belonging to a low-caste family in Maharashtra. He did life lifelong struggle against upper caste domination and Brahmanical supremacy.
- He founded the Satyashodak Samaj in 1873, to fight against the caste system and he pioneered the widow remarriage movement in Maharashtra and worked for the education of women.
- Jyotiba Phule and his wife established the first girl’s school at Poona in 1851.
Muslim Reform Movement
- Muslim Reforms were started later because they avoided Western education in the beginning.
- The first effort was in 1863 when the Muhammad Literary Society was set up in Calcutta, to popularize the study of English and Western sciences.
- This movement was started by Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-98). It is for the social and educational advancement of the Muslims in India.
- He fought against medieval backwardness and advocated a rational approach toward religion.
- In 1866, he started the Mohammadan educational conference as a general forum for spreading liberal ideas among Muslims. He founded the modern school at Aligarh to promote English education among Muslims.
- This turned into Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College and the Aligarh University.
- Orthodox section of Muslims, Ulema organized the Deoband movement. It had two objectives one was to propagate pure teachings of the Koran and the Hadis to Muslims, another one was to keep alive the spirit of Jihad against the foreign rulers.
- The new Deoband leader Mahmud-ul-Hasan (1851-1920) sought to impart political and intellectual content to the religious ideas of the school.
Sikh Reform Movement
- Baba Dayal Das founded the Nirankari Movement, he insisted on the worship of God as Nirankar (formless).
- Namdari Movement was founded by Baba Ram Singh and his followers wore white clothes and gave up meat-eating.
- The Singh Sabhas were started in Lahore and Amritsar in 1870 and were aimed at reforming the Sikh society.
- They helped to set up the Khalsa College at Amritsar in 1892. They also encourage Gurmukhi and Punjabi literature.
- In 1920, the Akalis started a movement to remove the corrupt Mahants (priests) from the Sikh gurudwaras. Akalis organized themselves into a political party.
Parsi Reform Movement
- The Parsi religious reform association was founded in Bombay in 1851 by Furduni Naoroji and SS Bengalee. They spread the value of women’s education.
- They started to reform their marriage customs. Naoroji published a monthly journal, Jagat Mithra.
- He was one of the foremost saints of Tamil Nadu in the 19th century. Developing a deep interest in spiritual life, moved to Karunguli in 1858 and settled as a saint.
- His divine powers came to be recognized at the early age of eleven. In 1865 he founded the Samarasa Suddha Sanmargha Sangha for the promotion of ideals of establishing a casteless society.
- He composed Tiru Arutpa, Manu Murai Kanda Vasagam, and Jeeva Karunyam and then started constructing the Satya Gnana Sabai in 1872.
- He introduced the principle that God could be worshipped in the form of light.
Sri Vaikunda Swamigal
- Sri Vaikunda Swamigal was born in 1809 at Swamithoppu in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
- His original name was Mudichoodum Perumal and was called Muthukkuty. He preached against the caste system and untouchability.
- He condemned religious ceremonies. Many came to his place to worship him and slowly his teachings came to be known as Ayyavazhi.
- By the mid-19th century, Ayyavazhi came to be recognized as a separate religion and in the regions of South Travancore and South Tirunelveli.
- After his death, the religion was spread based on his teachings and the religious books Akilattirattu Ammanai and Arul Nool. Hundreds of Nizhal Thangals (places of worship) were built across the country.
Self-Respect Movement and Periyar E.V.R.
- Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy was a great social reformer. Furthermore, he cut down 1000 coconut trees on his farm during the anti-liquor campaign.
- In addition in 1924, he took an active part in the Vaikam Satyagraha.
- The objective of the Satyagraha was to secure for untouchables the right to use a road near a temple at Vaikom in Kerala.
- E.V.R. opposed the Varnashrama policy followed in the V.V.S. Iyer’s Seranmadevi Gurugulam.
- During 1920 – 1925, the Congrees Party stressed that Congress should accept communal representation. Subsequently, in 1925, he started the “Self-Respect Movement”.
- The aims of the ‘Self-Respect Movement’ were to uplift the Dravidians and to expose the Brahminical tyranny and deceptive methods by which they controlled all spheres of Hindu life.
- He denounced the caste system, child marriage, and enforced widowhood. Also, he encouraged inter-caste marriages.
- He conducted many marriages without any rituals. Such a marriage was known as a “Self- Respect Marriage.”
- He gave secular names to newborn babies. 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 at the Tamil Nadu Women’s Conference appreciating the noble service rendered by E.V.R. he was given the title “Periyar”.
- On 27 June 1970, the UNESCO organization praised and adorned with the title “Socrates of South Asia”.
The National Renaissance was a multifaceted movement and its legacy is still being remembered. It has great impact on Indian society and helped to shape modern India.