Short Essay on the 19th Century Renaissance in India

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Renaissance in India was a story of reviving India’s past as well as intrusion of west. It was a movement which faced the triangular challenges of the past, the modern and the alien.

The reformers did not altogether discard the past. Ranade has observed “The change which was we should all seek is thus a change from constraint of freedom, from credulity to faith, from authority to reason, from bigotry to toleration, from blind fatalism to sense the human dignity.” Further the socio-cultural awakening of the 19th century had the reflection on the national awakening in India and aimed at a transformation of medieval polity and religious outlook on a democratic foundation.

The principles of individual liberty and human equality became the main spirit behind the reform. The dominant features of socio-political thought in colonial India were liberalism, nationalism and rationalism. The reformers saw change not as a slow adaptive process, but as a positive value in itself. The religious reformers made it a point to extend the principle of individual liberty to the sphere of religion.

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The entire religious structure had to seriously face the test of rationality. The assertion of human dignity and conscience became the gospel of the awakening. In his master piece “The Renaissance of India” Aurobindo points out in nineteenth century had three aspects.

In the first place it aimed at a recovery of the old spiritual gospel contained in the sacred book of the country. Secondly, this reinvigorrated spritualy inspired fresh activity in the field of philosophy, literature, art, etc. thirdly, an attempt was made to deal in an original way with the modern problem in the light of new inspiration. Sir Jadunath Sarkar also characterised Renaissance at first as an intellectual awakening which profoundly affected our literature, education, thought and art.

In the next succeeding generation, it became a moral fierce and reformed the Indian society and religion. In the third generation, it brought about the economic modernization of India and ultimately the political emancipation. In India the intrusion of west changed the character of Renaissance in the 19th century from its traditional concept.

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