The 19th century India renaissance was both an acceptance and rejection of western values


Immense intellectual and cultural stirrings characterised 19th century India. The impact of modern Western culture and consciousness of defeat by a foreign power gave birth to a new awakening.

There was awareness that a vast country like India had been colonised by a handful of foreigners because of internal weaknesses of Indian social structure and culture.

Thoughtful Indians began to look for the strengths and weaknesses of their society and for ways and means of removing the weakness. While a 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 elements of modern western thought had to be imbibed for the regenerations of their society.


They were impressed in particular by Modern science and the doctrines of reason and humanism. While differing on the nature and extent of reforms, nearly all 19th century intellectuals shared the conviction that social and religious reform was urgently needed.

The central figure in this awakening was Rammohan Roy, who is rightly regarded as the first great leader of modern India. Rammohan Roy was moved by deep love for his people and country and worked hard all his life for their social, religious, intellectual and political regeneration.

He was pained by the stagnation and corruption of contemporary Indian society which was at that time dominated by caste and convention. Popular religion was full of superstitions and was exploited by ignorant and corrupt priests. The upper classes were selfish and often sacrificed social interest to their own narrow interest.

Rammohan Roy possessed great love and respect for the traditional Philosophic system of the East; but, at the same time, he believed that modern culture alone would help regenerate Indian society. In particular, he wanted his countrymen to accept the rational and scientific approach and the principle of human dignity and social equality of all men and women. He also wanted the introduction of modern capitalism and industry in the country.


The Arya Samaj movement was an outcome of reaction to western influences. It was revialist in form though not in content. The founder, Swami Dayanand rejected western ideas and sought to revive the ancient religion of the Aryans. The Arya Samaj movement gave proud self-confidence and self reliance to the Hindus and under mined the belief in the superiority of the white Races and western culture.

While the Brahma Samaj and the Theosophical Society appealed to English educated elite only Dayanand’s message was for the masses of India also. The didactic rationalism of the Brahmo Samaj appealed to the intellectual elite in Bengal, while the average Bengali f found more emotional satisfaction in the cult of Bhakti and Yoga.

The teachings of Ramkrishna Mission are the based on ancient and traditional concepts amidst increasing westernization and modernisation. The Ramakrishna mission was esternization and modernisation. The Ramakrishna mission was westernization and modernisation. The Ramakrishna mission was conceived and founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1897, eleven years after the death of Ramakrishna.

The Theosophical Society was founded by Westerners who drew inspiration from Indian thought and culture. Madame H.P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) of Russo-German birth laid the foundation of the movement in the United States in 1875. Later Colonel M.S. Olcott (1832-1907) of the US Army joined her.


The members of this society believe that a special relationship can be established between a person’s soul and God by contemplation, prayer revelation etc. The Society accepts the Hindu beliefs in reincarnations, Karma and draws inspiration from the philosophy of the Upanishads and Somkhya Yoga, Vedanta School of thought. It aimed to work for universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.

The Society also seeks to investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man. The theosophical movement came to be allied with Hindu Renaissance. The Western educated progressive Parsis like Dadabhai Noroji, J.B. Wacha, S.S. Bengali and Noroji Furdonji founded Rahnumai Mazadayasnan Sabha (Religions Reform Association) in 1851.

The association had for its object. ‘The regeneration of social condition of the Parsis and the restoration of the Zoroastrian religious to its pristine purity’. Rast Goftar (Voice of Truth) was its weekly organ.

In defense of orthodox Hindusim and against the teachings of the Arya Samaj the Ramakrishna Mission etc. orthodox educated Hindus organised themselves. In 1890s various organisations were founded in different parts of the country in defend orthodox Hinduism. Among these were the Dahrma Maha Parishad in South India and the Dharma Maha Mandali in Bengal etc.


If Hindu minds had responded to Western influence with a desire to learn, the first reaction of the Muslim community was to shut them in a shell and resist western impact. The earliest organised Muslim response of Western influences appeared in from of the Wahabi movement (which may be more aptly being called the Walliulsah movement). It was essentially a revivalist movement. A legacy of the Revolt of 1857 was the official impression that the Muslims were the arch conspirators in 1857-58. The Wahabi political activities of 1860 and 1870 confirmed such suspicious. A section of Muslim community led by Syed Ahamad Khan was prepared to accept this stance of official patronage. These Muslims felt that Muslims community would forgo its rightful share in the administrative service if they shut themselves in a shell and resist modern ideas.

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