Raja Rammohun Roy and the Brahmo Movement!
Raja Rammohun Roy had studied Persian and Arabic, and it was the inner meaning of Hinduism and Islam that drew him to monotheism and that led to his aversion for idolatry.
A Brahmin himself, he peeped into the inner substance of brahmanical Hinduism to discover the existence of one omnipotent being.
According to him, the refined ideals of Vedanta were the eternal source of Hindu spiritualism. “To turn the mind of India to the truths of Vedanta became the prime-motive of Rammohun Roy.”
On August 20, 1928, he founded the Brahmo Sabha, which stood for the “worship and adoration of the eternal unsearchable and immutable being”. It admitted no image, statue or sculpture, carving, painting or the likeness of anything. Thus Rammohun began the first great religious reform movement of the 19th century. Since religion was the most dominating force in the Indian society, reform of religion meant also the reform of society to an extent.
Rammohun endeavoured to rouse opinion against the evil practice of sati which was later abolished. A pioneer of modernism, Rammohun realised the value of Western education and established two English schools. After his death, Devendranath Tagore took over the leadership of the Samaj in 1843. He took up a bold front on two aspects.
Inside Hinduism, his was the reformist movement on the ancient moorings of religion as embodied in the Vedas. Outside, he expressed his ruthless opposition to the Christian missionaries for their criticism of Hinduism and attempts at conversion.
Gradually there came about a philosophical transformation of the Brahmo Samaj movement, regarding the question of ‘infallibility of the Vedas’.
The younger members of the Sabha led by Keshabchandra Sen began to advocate more radical social changes. Child marriage, polygamy and kulinism were denounced; emancipation of women and widow marriage was strongly advocated.
Finally, in 1866, Keshabchandra Sen and his followers left the parent body and formed the Brahmo Samaj of India. Thereafter the parent organisation came to be known as the ‘Adi Brahmo Samaj’.
A second schism took place in 1978 as Keshabchandra Sen gave his daughter in marriage when his daughter was only 14 years of age. This generated a controversy and a new organisation named ‘Sadharan Brahmo Samaj’ was formed. After this schism the Brahmo movement lost much of its earlier novelty and purpose.