19th Century Social Reformers Movement in India

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jul 28, 2022, 14:17

During the 19th Century, many Socio-Religious Reform Movements were being followed that were considered unacceptable in a cultured society. India was rigid, casteist, and tilting towards cultural decline due to evil social practices.

A notable few were child marriage, female infanticide, untouchability, the purdah system, polygamy, and caste discrimination. This article details the Socio-Religious Reform Movements that aimed to supersede them.

What is the Socio-Religious Reform Movement?

The 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement were reformist, revivalist, and other issue-based social movements.

They systematically eliminated the evil practices of society. While a few movements focused on modernization, others worked to protect the ancient Indian culture.

19th Century Social Religious Reform Movement Types

The 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement eradicated some of the worst evils of Indian society. Some of these prominent movements were:

Social Reform Movement in India

Year

Brahmo Samaj

1828

Aligarh Movement

1875

Prarthana Samaj

1863

The Theosophical Movement

1875

Ramakrishna Mission

1897

Satyashodhak Samaj

1873

Young Bengal Movement

1820

Widow Remarriage Association

1860

Brahmo Samaj

It is one of the socio-religious reform movements in India founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772 – 1833) in 1828.

  • The movement came into action to oppose unnecessary rituals, idol worship, belief in more than 1 god, caste pressure, and other social evils like Sati, polygamy, the purdah system, child marriage, etc.
  • Society also aimed to promote women's education and widow remarriage.
  • The Brahmo Samaj was also against following old Hindu superstitions.

Aligarh Movement

Another crucial socio-religious reform movement in the 19th century was the Aligarh movement. Sayyid Ahmed Khan founded it in 1875 at Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College.

  • The movement got established in the city of Aligarh.
  • The college later became Aligarh Muslim University. The main desire of launching this movement was to offer modern education to Muslims.

Prarthana Samaj

The third socio-religious reform movement in India is known as Prarthana Samaj. The movement was established by Keshub Chandra Sen In 1863.

  • The reform movement orated believing in only one god (monotheism) and condemned the domination of priests and caste supremacy in Bombay.
  • Veeresalingam, a Telugu reformer, spread the movement's activities in South India.
  • Another great leader was a philosopher known as Chandavarka, who encouraged Prarthana Samaj.

The Theosophical Movement

The next socio-religious reform movement was launched by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott in New York (later moved to Madras) in 1875.

  • Annie Besant is one of India's most popular social reformers associated with the Theosophical Movement.
  • It facilitated the concept of universal brotherhood, as explained in the Vedas and Upanishads.
  • The movement also promoted the study of Buddhist, Zoroastrian, and Hindu ideologies and emphasized the influence of supernational powers, known as occultism.

Ramakrishna Mission

The next socio-religious reform movement in the 19th century was the Ramakrishna Mission, founded in 1897 by Swami Vivekananda.

  • The main motive of this movement was to spread the teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Vivekananda's Guru, in Belur near Calcutta.
  • The mission aimed to resist untouchability and the caste system.
  • It propagated Vedanta and concentrated on the fact that all religions are universal.

Satyashodhak Samaj

Jyotirao Govindrao Phule explained the concept of the socio-religious reform movement, termed Satyashodhak Samaj, on 24 September 1873 in Maharashtra.

  • The reform movement campaigned against idol worship and the system of caste.
  • It supported logical thinking and denied following the priests.
  • A particular term for backward castes "'Dalit", was used by Govindrao Phule.

Young Bengal Movement

Henry Louis Vivian Derozio founded the Young Bengal movement in the 1820s. Louis was an Anglo-Indian professor in college in Calcutta.

  • He inspired his students to think freely and analytically.
  • Derozio spread the spirit of freedom, equality, and liberty among all.
  • He was the one to criticize the dominant practices of religion and interrupted changing the Hindu orthodox beliefs.

Widow Remarriage Association

The last socio-religious reform movement was the Widow Remarriage Association. It was started by Pandit Vishnu Shastri, founded in 1860.

19th Century Social and Religious Reform Movements Causes

Some of the critical factors that led to 19th Century Social and Religious Reform Movements were:

Colonial rule.

With the dawn of imperial rule, the English language got introduced. Simultaneously, many modern ideologies like liberty, equality, democracy, and justice impacted Indians greatly.

Increased Missionary Activity

Missionary activity was used to increase imperial power in India but was viewed as detrimental by Indians.

Rise of Nationalism

The English language ushered in awareness of the outside world. Indians learned the importance of nationalism which in turn led to reform moments.

19th Century Social and Religious Reform Movements - Prominent Leaders

Numerous leaders fought for and influenced positive change. The most important of those were:

  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy
  • Sayyid Ahmed Khan
  • Swami Dayanand Saraswati
  • Swami Vivekananda
  • Jyotirao Phule
  • Annie Besant
  • Pandit Vishnu Shastry
  • Debendranath Tagore.

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Effects of 19th Century Social and Religious Reform Movements

Many of the 19th Century Social and Religious Reform Movements faced initial resistance from conventional thinkers. But the founders were educated, intelligent, and forward-looking.

  • They steered through difficult paths, pushing their agenda deep into society.
  • These movements brought great benefits by eliminating significant evil social practices.
  • Child marriage, female infanticide, and untouchability became history because of these 19th-century social and religious reform movements.
  • The credit goes to the great leaders whose first bold step in an unfavourable situation brought in many favourable social changes.
  • Ultimately, the government adopted these practices as laws of the land, giving them the required legal sanction.

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Notably, the efforts for reform movements collectively called The Renaissance were launched when India was under colonial control with limited freedom for Indians.

  • British colonialism during the 18th and 19th centuries mirrored the weakness in Indian society.
  • It was to be fought over the next Century to bring back the glory of Indian culture.
  • The 19th Century Social and Religious Reform Movements came into being because of this and were instrumental in changing the cultural landscape of the time.

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FAQs on 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement

Q1: Who was the father of the Indian Renaissance during the 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement?

Raja Ram Mohan Roy, the Brahmo Samaj founder, is the father of the Indian Renaissance during the 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement.

Q2: What is the difference between reformism and revivalism in the 19th-century Socio-Religious Reform Movement?

Reformism focused on modernization (altering the primary system and structures of the society), whereas revivalism revived traditional Indian culture in the 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement.

Q3: What major issues in India led to the 19th-century Socio-Religious Reform Movement?

Child marriage, female infanticide, untouchability, the purdah system, polygamy, and caste discrimination were significant issues resulting in the 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement.

Q4 Which city showed the maximum impact during the 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement?

Calcutta (now Kolkata) showed the maximum impact during the 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement. Ramakrishna Mission and Young Bengal Movement are some of the movements in Calcutta.

Q5: Who founded the Arya Samaj during the 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement?

Swami Dayananda set up the Arya Samaj during the 19th Century Socio-Religious Reform Movement. It was a popular reform movement of Hindus whose main objective was to again establish the oldest Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, as they demonstrated truth.

Q6: What is the social and religious reform movement?

The socio-religious reform movement arose among Indians in all communities. These movements thrashed superstition, discrimination, and those holding the class of a priest. The main aim was to stop untouchability, caste system, the purdah system, Sati, early marriage, social imbalances and illiteracy.

Q7: What were the main components of the socio-religious reforms in India?

The Socio-Religious Reform Movement focused on general social issues, which got reformed for the betterment of the people. Some of these were -

  • Age of Consent Act, 1891.
  • Special Marriage Act, 1954.
  • Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
  • Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.