In the dark medieval ages, attempts were made to throttle free thinking by the onslaught of fundamentalism. Inspite of the upsurge of fundamentalism, liberal pluralistic character of India couldn’t be subjugated for long.
The Bhakti and Sufi movements developed in the fourteenth century; which were openly critical of the then prevalent puritanism and ostentation in the practice of religion and stressed on simplicity of values. They abhorred the then prevalent antagonistic stance between Hinduism and Islam, which was polluting the secular fabric of India and imparted the teaching of one God. Again, the Indian society, with its assimilative character was receptive to those new ideas. Sikhism evolved as a religion in the fifteenth century from the Bhakti cult.
India’s pluralism always surfaced after its battles with narrow mindedness and elements of dissension. In the late eighteenth to mid nineteenth century, when the world was gearing up to great the modern era, India unfortunately, got plunged into the abysmal darkness of ignorance, religious bigotry and evil social customs.
However, soon enlightened visionaries and social reformers like Raja Rammohan Ray, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Henry Derozio, etc. influenced by the teachings imparted by the rational and scientific British education, which opened the windows of their minds, ushered in or at least encouraged many much needed social reforms that reinstalled the liberal character of Indian society
They were followed by Aurobindo Ghosh, Vivekananda, Tagore, Dayanand Saraswati, etc. Many of these illustrious men were instrumental in the origin and culmination of the Bengal Renaissance, from where many great ideas flowed and eventually, spread through Indian society.