The 19th century witnessed the growth of intellectual awakening in India. This awakening produced remarkable changes in religion, society, and culture of India. During this period Indians lost confidence in their culture and were dazzled by western culture, blindly accepted western dress, manners and thought. But around the same time a new reformist thought began to influence Indian life in every sphere. It worked to bring about a constructive change in Indian life and culture.
The period during which it happened was called Indian Renaissance. Indian Renaissance brought about a significant change in Indian life and culture. The Renaissance of the 19th century injected new spirit and new ideas into the mind of Indians. They now thought seriously about their progress and development. Modern Indians gladly accepted the challenge of the west and tried to adapt India Society to modern conditions and the best example of these synthesis was Ram Mohan Ray, who examined every Indian tradition and custom rationally and contributed a great deal to the process of modernisation of India.
The Indian Renaissance not only influenced our literature, education and thinking; it also had a profound impact on our religions and society. In the beginning of 19th century there was a new awakening in Bengal as a result of new thought. This awakening was confined to the English educated youth of Bengal. This group was known as “Young Bengal”. Henry Vivan Derozio was the leader of the Young Bengal Movement. But this movement did not have any permanent impact as it lacked organisational ability and a constructive programme of reform.
Raja Rammohan Roy was the best representative of rational thought which was the direct result of Young Bengal Movement. He wanted to reform Hinduism in such a way that it might have a rational basis for all its principles and practices. He laid stress on the essential assimilation of three religions – Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. He founded the reformist movement in India and wanted to modernise India as early as possible. He was called the “Prophet of Modern India”.
Raja Rammohan Ray was born in 1774 in a wealthy family of Bengal. As a student he learnt Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit. In 1803, he published his first book, Tohfal-ul-Mohiddin, in which he criticised idol worship. In 1815 he founded the Atmiya Sabha. He was opposed to idol worship, ritualism, blind faith and superstitions. In order to give a proper shape to his ideas, he founded Brahmo Samaj on 20th August 1828. In 1833 he died in England.
Main Principles of Brahmo Samaj :(teachings)
1) The Samaj laid emphasis on the worship of one God, who is omnipresent.
2) It laid stress on the chanting of Vedic hymns and the Upanishads.
3) In founding the Brahmo Samaj Ram Mohan’s aim was to purify Hinduism and to worship one God.
4) There was no place in Brahmo Samaj for idol worship, animal sacrifice and ritualism.
5) The Brahmo Samaj prescribed for the non-sectarian worship of one true God.
6) Brahmo Samaj was not a separate religion.
7) Rammohan Roy espoused the cause of Hinduism by re-interpreting the Vedas and Vedanta.